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North Carolina v NC State

by Sharon Thorsland

The season has reached a critical point for North Carolina. The Tar Heels have just four regular season games remaining to try and turn things around and make the NCAA Tournament. Who would have thought we’d be saying that against this UNC squad, which played in the national championship game last season and started this season ranked Number One? But another loss, this one to NC State on Sunday, leaves the Tar Heels sitting at 16-11, just 8-8 in the ACC, and likely on the wrong side of the line for March Madness. Now they travel to South Bend tonight for a match-up with Notre Dame, tip-off is set for 9:00 on WBT. The Fighting Irish are having their own issues this season, they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games, including a two-point loss to Virginia on Saturday, and are just 10-17 on the year, 2-14 in conference play. This is the second match-up between these teams, the Tar Heels won 81-64 back in January.

Notre Dame is led by big man Nate Laszewski, who has averaged over 18 points over the last five games. Graduate guard Trey Wertz teams with freshman JJ Starling, who has been impressive this season averaging over 11 points a game. Dane Goodwin and Ryan Cormac are both threats from three – the Irish are hitting the third-most 3-pointers in the ACC at nine per game. Freshman big man Ven-Allen Lubin has been coming on strong. He’s made four straight starts now, turning in double figures in three of them. He’ll have his hands full with Armando Bacot, though, who continues to lead the ACC in rebounding and is fourth in scoring. The Irish didn’t have an answer for Bacot in the first match-up, when he had 21 points and 13 rebounds.

One thing Notre Dame is doing well now is taking care of the basketball. The Irish lead the nation with just 8.7 turnovers per game. The Tar Heels have not been good in that category, and when they play sloppy they generally lose. They’ll need to value every possession tonight if they want to secure a much-needed win.