NCAAB Odds, Picks UNC vs Notre Dame
Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images. Pictured: North Carolina’s RJ Davis.
North Carolina vs Notre Dame Odds
|North Carolina Odds|
-110o / -110u
|Notre Dame Odds|
-110o / -110u
Months ago, this game seemed poised to hold major NCAA Tournament implications. The North Carolina Tar Heels were the top-ranked team in the preseason AP Poll, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish returned the third-most experienced team in Division I and were coming off an NCAA tournament bid.
The game will still impact the NCAA Tournament but in a much smaller sense. The once highly-touted Tar Heels find themselves squarely on the bubble, if not on the outside looking in, with the Irish well outside postseason consideration.
In fact, both of these teams rank among the bottom 10 in against-the-spread record in the country this season. This is not an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, but two lead balloons fighting to remain afloat.
The Heels need the win to hold their position on the bubble, yet the Irish have a ripe chance to play spoiler.
How has the preseason No. 1 team found itself a few losses from missing the NCAA Tournament? Part of the answer here is disappointing performances by returning Tar Heels, but another, perhaps larger portion of blame belongs on the voters that fell in love with North Carolina in the offseason.
Yes, the Tar Heels played for a National Championship last season and returned four starters from that team, but that run in March overshadowed the issues we saw from North Carolina all year long. An overreliance on isolation and jump shots left the Heels offense listless at times until the shots fell in March.
The Tar Heels were also likely to regress this season based on some of their outcome luck last year. Carolina went 3-0 in overtime last season and faced sub-26% outside shooting in all but one of its NCAA Tournament wins.
The lone departure from that team’s starting lineup has proven critical as well. Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek was both a veteran leader and a pivotal cog of the Heels offense. Many, myself included, thought Northwestern transfer Pete Nance would ably fill Manek’s role.
While Nance is a better athlete than Manek, the gap in their shooting ability has been stark. Manek made 40% of his 243 long-range attempts last year. Nance has taken just 82 3s this year, hitting under 30% of those looks.
This difference has led to less spacing and more headaches for Carolina’s primary scoring options.
Those scorers — guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis, along with big man Armando Bacot — have underwhelmed. With all three returning as veterans, some expected production from each to boost.
Progression in college basketball, however, is rarely linear. All three have posted marginally better numbers, yet with Manek’s departure (and the loss of Dawson Garcia), there has been a void with a spark lacking in the Carolina attack.
Notre Dame didn’t have the lofty expectations lumped onto Carolina, yet there was some belief that this Irish roster could return to the NCAA Tournament after last season’s trip to the Round of 32.
Instead, this season has been a disaster. After rolling through five presumed cupcakes to start this season (apologies to Youngstown State), the Irish have lost 17 of their last 22 games, falling to 170th in KenPom‘s rankings. Notre Dame is just 1-10 in games against top-100 competition.
This wayward season led the school to announce that head coach Mike Brey would be retiring at season’s end. He seemed to disagree and clarified that he’d be leaving South Bend but would look for another coaching opportunity.
In his final season, the Irish have played some head-scratching basketball. Notre Dame ranks second in the nation in turnover rate, taking care of the ball better than almost anyone. In those possessions, however, the Irish don’t take advantage.
Notre Dame sits dead last in the ACC in free-throw rate and has essentially punted on the concept of offensive rebounds. Additionally, only 15 teams in the country score a higher percentage of their points from distance. Without the production at the rim or free-throw line to complement that shooting, the Irish offense lacks bite.
That’s how Notre Dame found a way to lose to Georgia by 15 while shooting 11-for-23 from long range. In two games against the Syracuse zone, Notre Dame shot 71 3s to just 10 free throws. That lack of aggression off the bounce doesn’t cut it in the ACC.
North Carolina vs Notre Dame Betting Pick
Fading both of these teams has been remarkably profitable this year. If you were not a Tar Heel believer, you’ve had a great season, especially lately. Carolina has covered in just one of its last seven outings.
That trend has to stop eventually, and Notre Dame is the perfect team to face when needing a win.
The last time these teams met, the Irish hung around for a while but ultimately had no answer for Bacot in the paint and lost by 17.
Both of these teams have been disappointing, yet Carolina still has a reason to win games. Notre Dame has a lame-duck coach and no postseason ambitions.
At the very least, the Tar Heels aren’t likely to no-show a game like this. If Carolina jumps to an early lead, I fear the same can’t be said of Notre Dame.
Pick: North Carolina -6 (Play to -8)
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