College Basketball Odds, Picks and Predictions for North Carolina vs. Notre Dame (Wednesday, Jan. 5)
Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images. Pictured: Dontrez Styles (UNC)
- The red-hot North Carolina Tar Heels travel to Notre Dame to take on Mike Brey's Irish.
- The Tar Heels dropped 91 points in their last outing against Boston College, but still have to fix their defensive issues.
- Jim Root still likes UNC to win and breaks down how he's backing it on Wednesday night.
North Carolina vs. Notre Dame Odds
|North Carolina Odds|
-110o / -110u
|Notre Dame Odds|
-110o / -110u
The ACC is eating itself.
After a disappointing non-conference season, Tuesday night saw two of the league’s better at-large candidates — Virginia Tech and Florida State — lose key games. Teams like Wake Forest, Syracuse, Louisville and Miami (FL) all likely can still go dancing, but it’s an uphill road.
Behind Duke, only North Carolina stands as a “likely” at-large team at this stage. The tricky part, though, is avoiding losses in dangerous road games, such as this one.
Notre Dame has had its share of struggles, but the Irish are capable of beating anyone on the right night — just ask Kentucky.
The Tar Heels look like they are starting to fire on all cylinders. At Boston College on Sunday, UNC blanketed the host Eagles from the opening tip. The Heels exhibited a consistent level of defensive intensity that has come and gone so far this year.
That was certainly the concern early in the year. UNC’s defense got gashed by everyone, from Brown to Tennessee and several opponents in between. If the Heels can bring energy on that end for 40 minutes — heck, even 38 — their offense is potent enough to carry them.
In taking over for Roy Williams, Hubert Davis made a concerted effort to modernize the offense (read: embrace the 3P line). UNC is shooting 40.0% from deep this year, the seventh-highest percentage in the country. In the last eight years, UNC never ranked higher than 84th.
UNC is frequently playing two point guards simultaneously, and both Caleb Love and RJ Davis have thrived as a result. The two can share ball-handling and creation duties, allowing the other to seek scoring opportunities.
As UNC trends up, the Irish arrow points the other direction.
Notre Dame has an identity crisis. Under Mike Brey, the Irish have long been a deadly offensive squad with shooters all over the floor. Like UNC, Brey typically has multiple ball-handlers through whom he can copious middle ball screens. The trade-off in the past has been a dismal defense for a team lacking athletes.
This year, the defense remains a bummer. Unfortunately, the fireworks display on offense has fallen off, as well, like when your neighbor buys a few meager ones for the 4th of July.
Prentiss Hubb — the senior leader at point guard — has been a shell of himself, basically getting supplanted by freshman phenom Blake Wesley.
Poor Dane Goodwin is doing all he can — shooting 48.1% from deep and 92.3% from the free throw line — but his teammates have been unable to follow his lead.
Yale transfer Paul Atkinson Jr. has given the Irish an interior scoring presence, but his inability to stabilize the defense in the same way has proven costly.
North Carolina vs. Notre Dame Betting Pick
A gambling principle I often rely on is that teams can only be so good or so bad (basically, a cousin of “buy low, sell high”). This matchup would appear to have some of those traits, but I view it differently.
North Carolina has only just begun its rise in the rankings. The resurgent defense and lethal perimeter assault have opened up an intriguing upside for the Heels, and this is a terrific matchup in which to continue that ascent.
Notre Dame’s shaky defense should have major problems against Armando Bacot and Brady Manek inside. Even with Dawson Garcia — UNC’s talented third big man — likely to miss the game after a freak head injury against BC, the Tar Heels’ frontcourt is the superior unit.
And with the way Love and Davis have seized the reins as dual point guards, UNC has an advantage at that spot, as well.
It all adds up to me backing the short road favorite.
Pick: North Carolina -2.5 (Play to -4)
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