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Notre Dame

at

North Carolina

College Basketball Pick

2/4/17

The wheels are starting to come off at Notre Dame, at least from a performance perspective. Once atop the conference standings and 16-2 overall, the Fighting Irish have hit a rough patch in the schedule, which mainly has to do with level of competition. They had success against mediocre ACC teams, but games against Virginia and Duke have shown they don't have the talent to be one of the best.

That's not the case for North Carolina, which is still considered one of the best teams in the country. While the Tar Heels lost last weekend at Miami, there's no harm in losing road games to decent teams. To go with that, they have yet to lose at Chapel Hill, which is where this game is. Every home ACC win had been by double digits until Pitt took them to the wire on Tuesday. On the other end, Notre Dame has played well on the road, beating that same Miami team and losing to Florida State by just three points. This one could be a bit different, though.

North Carolina's size is the biggest factor in this game and was the reason the Heels won this game 78-47 in the ACC tournament and 88-74 in the NCAA tournament a year ago. These aren't the same teams, but they are extremely similar to those 2016 versions, and to make matters worse, this Notre Dame team might be smaller without Zach Auguste down low. To go against the likes of Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley, Notre Dame has Bonzie Colson, VJ Beachem, Austin Torres and Martinas Geben.

That's just not a fair matchup as Geben and Torres rarely see the court with Geben at 15.2 minutes per game and even less in ACC play. That said, Geben will likely see more time in this game because Colson isn't the guy to mark Meeks. Colson will get Hicks to start, while Beachem had trouble containing Jayson Tatum in Monday's loss to Duke. Now, Beachem will either have to mark Hicks or Justin Jackson, who is similarly skilled to Tatum. Coming into this game off three-straight losses, this isn't the matchup that Notre Dame wanted.

And while the Irish have a solid backcourt with Steve Vasturia and an improved Matt Farrell, they still are inferior to Joel Berry, Nate Britt and Kenny Williams. While Notre Dame won the first matchup these teams played last year, the other two were blowouts for a reason and UNC will likely take the same route in this one. And given the Tar Heels's success at Chapel Hill this season, there's no reason to think this won't be another double-digit win.

To stay close, Colson will somehow need to hold his own in the paint defensively and work Hicks and Meeks as much as possible on the other end. If Colson isn't hitting his shots, it'll be hard for him to be effective. Outside of Colson, Notre Dame will need its shooters to come through between Beachem, Vasturia and Farrell. That's not out of the question given UNC's mediocre defense, but none of those guys have specific advantages in this game.

The Tar Heels should dominate the glass as usual and the only thing stopping this from getting ugly is the shooting of the Irish.

Our Pick - North Carolina by 11

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