Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-5 SU, 6-10 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (12-4 SU, 9-5-2 ATS)
When: Tuesday, January 15, 2019 – 9 PM ET
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UNC -14.5 (Mybookie Sportsbook)
Last Time Out: Notre Dame edged Boston College 69-66; North Carolina lost 83-62 to Louisville.
Scouting the Fighting Irish:
Even though they’re the ones coming off a win, the Irish are hurting. Notre Dame is down to just six scholarship players at this point and had to find a way to win without T.J. Gibbs against Boston College. Gibbs is supposed to be back to full strength for this game, but the Irish are still walking into this game shorthanded and trying to find solutions to allow them to compete in the ACC. Though Notre Dame has a solid record to its name, it’s always seemed like the Irish have been flirting with disaster this year, as evidenced when they barely escaped then-winless Coppin State on Dec. 29.
Scouting the Tar Heels:
Roy Williams admits it: he cannot figure out this North Carolina team. Are the Tar Heels the group that beat Gonzaga and won at N.C. State, or are they the team that got bludgeoned by Michigan and Louisville? Williams doesn’t know, and doesn’t look like he’s any closer to figuring it out after this past weekend’s baffling loss. He said all the right things publicly after getting crushed by the Cardinals, but behind closed doors, he’s not a happy man, and he shouldn’t be. When Luke Maye isn’t hitting from the outside and Coby White is turning the ball over regularly, North Carolina can be easily beaten.
Tempo. These teams couldn’t be much more different in how they’re going to play this game. North Carolina wants to get a rebound and push forward for a quick basket. Notre Dame has to slow the game down because it’s going to run out of energy if the game turns into a track meet. The question here is which team is going to be able to play the game at their preferred pace for longer stretches. If Notre Dame has to play at North Carolina’s pace in an effort to come back, this game is going to fall apart for the Irish in a hurry.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky vs. Georgia
Notre Dame will Cover if:
The Irish can get to the charity stripe. Unless it can slow the game down, Notre Dame is going to have a hard time doing much against North Carolina while the clock is moving, given how well the Tar Heels run. To have a chance, Notre Dame has to get points while the clock is stopped and four of its five players can catch a breather. The Irish have to attack the basket, hope to draw fouls from North Carolina and score while the clock isn’t moving. If they have to play against the Heels at a tempo faster than a walk, their task becomes much tougher.
North Carolina will Cover if:
The Tar Heels can get ahead early. In a game like this, North Carolina has a massive edge because it’s a much deeper team than its opponent. Virtually any team will have a depth advantage against an opponent with six quality players, but North Carolina is a very deep team, rotating 10 players on most nights. The Tar Heels’ task becomes much easier if they can play from ahead and wear down the Irish with their depth. Expect Carolina to come out sprinting from the opening tip as the Heels try to knock the Irish out of the game early.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This is a truly awful time for Notre Dame to come to Chapel Hill. Not only are the Irish out of their league in facing the Tar Heels, but there’s an excellent chance that North Carolina is going to come into this game in a very angry mood after hearing it from Roy Williams for the past three days.
Conversely, Notre Dame just doesn’t have the horses right now to hang with North Carolina in a difficult environment. The Irish haven’t shown that they can compete with top teams when they’re at full strength, and in this game, they’re going to be at something quite a bit less than that.
There’s no way that I’m going to trust a hobbled Notre Dame squad that was only middling in the first place against a North Carolina team that has the potential to be great. North Carolina remains an enigma, but it’s an enigma that I’m going to have to trust tonight. Give me the Tar Heels.
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