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Virginia Tech v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

North Carolina hosts Notre Dame on Tuesday night, looking to stay in contention to clinch the ACC regular season. It’s also senior night for the 7th ranked Tar Heels, and the final home game for Armando Bacot. Wait, did someone mention Tuesday night? I’m sure some Tar Heel fans are a little nervous now –four of UNC’s six losses this season happened on Tuesdays, including three straight in February. So can they break that streak versus the Fighting Irish? We’ll find out – tip-off is set for 7:00 on WBT.

Notre Dame (12-17, 7-11 ACC) is in its first year under new head coach Micah Shrewsberry. The former Penn State coach took over for Mike Brey, who “retired” after 23 seasons in South Bend. Shrewsberry lost a ton of talent to the transfer portal – nearly every player from last season’s team left, including current Tar Heel Cormac Ryan. They’ve got a very young team, with just one upperclassman in the starting lineup. So they got off to a bit of a rough start this season but things are starting to click – the Irish are coming off back to back wins over Wake Forest and Clemson, and have won five of their last six games. So you can be sure no one in Chapel Hill is looking past this team.

Most of ND’s success has come on the defensive end of the floor. The Fighting Irish allow just 65.4 points per game, that’s 22nd in the nation. The problem is they only score 63.6 points a contest. Freshman guard Markus Burton leads the team with over 17 points per game and has scored 80 over the past three games. He starts alongside the coach’s son, Braeden Shrewsberry, who chips in 10 points a contest and is threat from behind the arc, shooting over 37% from three. But they’re the only two players averaging in double figures. Freshman Carey Booth starts at center and can also knock down the three, while sophomore big man Kebba Njie leads the team in rebounds. Tae Davis is ND’s best defender and will be tasked with trying to slow down Davis, the Tar Heel guard who leads the league in scoring. Behind Davis, UNC averaging over 81 points a contest, and almost 88 a game at home. That’s over 20 more per game than the Irish give up.

UNC leads the all-time series with Notre Dame 29-9, including a 13-4 record in ACC play, and escaped with a four point win in South Bend a year ago. But this version of the Fighting Irish is particularly dangerous, and with the Duke showdown looming later this week, the Tar Heels are going to need to be focused and on top of their game to come away with a victory. I say they get it done – go Tar Heels!