UNC Basketball vs. Notre Dame: Game preview, info, prediction and more

The UNC Basketball program returns to the court on Monday for a quick turnaround in hopes of ending their losing streak

Another game, another heart-breaking loss for the North Carolina Tar Heels who saw their Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak reach five games on Saturday with the loss to Virginia at the Dean E. Smith Center. Now, UNC hits the road for a quick turnaround as they take on Notre Dame in South Bend on Monday.

With this five-game losing streak, the Tar Heels find themselves all alone in last place in the ACC and if they don’t want to finish there, they are going to have to start playing a lot better and find ways to close out games. That’s been the biggest problem for UNC who has lost their last four home games by a total of eight points. That includes back-to-back games at home in which the opposing team has scored the go-ahead bucket with less than a second left.

Ouch.

But Monday will serve as another opportunity to get into the win column a against a team that UNC held off in the second half to earn their first win of the season. However, Notre Dame has been playing better of late and enters this game at 15-10 and 6-8 in conference play.

The Fighting Irish have been able to dig themselves out of a tough start and last place in the ACC, something the Tar Heels are also trying to do.

After a four-game win streak, with three of those wins at home, Notre Dame has dropped two-straight including a one-point overtime loss to Virginia and a blowout loss on the road at Duke on Saturday. Both of those losses really put a dent in any slim chances that the Fighting Irish had to make the NCAA Tournament but with six games left, they could win out and potentially get hot at the right time for the ACC Tournament.

As for Carolina, well they are fighting for their NIT lives at the moment and it’s not looking good.

Whatever could go wrong has gone wrong for UNC and at this point, the countdown has begun for the 2020-21 season unless they can go on a miracle run. For UNC, it’s been the same old story of struggling to score and closing out games. They have been hit hard with injuries and senior wing Brandon Robinson has missed the past four games with an ankle injury he suffered at the end of the Boston College loss. That’s been a tough loss for the Tar Heels as they lost one of their leading scorers.

Key to the Game

Winning in the paint. The Fighting Irish are led by senior John Mooney who is having another good season in South Bend. Mooney is averaging 16.4 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. He’s Notre Dame’s best player and a guy you have to account for on every possession.

What makes Mooney so good is not only his post game but how he can extend his offense to the arc and get the big men on defense to come out of the paint on him. In the first matchup against UNC, Mooney scored just 10 points and grabbed 8 rebounds as the Tar Heels did a good job on him. The combination of Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot was solid and they will have to be again on Monday.

The Fighting Irish are a good rebounding team and if they can reach their season average of 37.9 per game, they will make life more difficult on UNC. A good post game also calls for more attention leading to kick outs for the shooters on the perimeter. Let’s see if UNC can stop that defensively.

Player to Watch

In the last two previews we went with sophomore forward Rechon “Leaky” Black. This time, let’s go to the post and focus on freshman Armando Bacot.

The 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 10.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, solid numbers in his first season. He’s shot over 50 percent from the field in three of his last four games and has also reached double-figures in points in his last three games. I feel like we haven’t really seen the best from Bacot yet despite a respectable freshman campaign.

The big man needs to continue to get better and string together some impressive games as this season closes out. That starts with a tough test against Notre Dame on Monday.

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What you need to know

What?  North Carolina 10-15 (3-11 in ACC) at Notre Dame 15-10 (6-8 in ACC)
When? Saturday, Feb. 17, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where? Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana
TV? ESPN
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-time series? UNC leads 25-7
Last meeting? UNC beat Notre Dame 76-65 in November of 2019.
Line? N/A
Prediction? Notre Dame 78, UNC 75