ACC Tournament Final
Matchup: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Venue: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
Date/Time: March 14, 8:30 p.m. ET
Spread: North Carolina -3
The North Carolina Tar Heels have the chance to win their first ACC Conference Tournament title since 2008. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish can win their first in just their second season in the ACC. The Fighting Irish only have one conference tournament win in program history and they were 0-6 in Big East championship games. There’s a lot on the line for both teams in this game and North Carolina enters as a small favorite.
The Fighting Irish took their foot off the gas against Miami in their 70-63 quarterfinals win to make that game appear a lot closer than it actually was. They did the opposite against Duke. Mike Brey’s club took a 15-point lead into halftime and never let up. Duke got within four with three minutes left, but Notre Dame clamped down defensively and put the game away with good defense and a couple big baskets. It may end up being a blessing in disguise for Duke and Virginia that they don’t have to play another game before the NCAA Tournament.
Even though Notre Dame has some of the best senior leadership in the conference, it was freshman Bonzie Colson that stepped up in the spotlight. Colson tied a career high with 17 points and outshined Jahlil Okafor in the first half. It was a huge win for the Irish because Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton struggled from the floor, going 5-for-15 on the day. They were 12-of-13 at the free throw line, however. Demetrius Jackson moved into second on the team in points per game with his 15-point effort. Notre Dame was beaten badly on the glass, which is a concern on Saturday, but Duke couldn’t hit a shot. They were 3-of-17 from deep.
North Carolina’s route to this point has been most impressive. The Tar Heels had little trouble knocking off Louisville in their quarterfinal matchup and then they imposed their will on Virginia in the semifinals with a 71-67 win. Only Davidson scored more points against the Cavaliers in their 83-72 loss back on December 30. North Carolina had one win over a team ranked in the top 25 entering the tournament and it will take their third in three days to win the championship. North Carolina lost 71-70 earlier this season at home to the Fighting Irish.
The Tar Heels got a huge game from true freshman Justin Jackson. Jackson was 8-of-10 from the floor and wound up with a career-high in points with 22. The big key for North Carolina was that they got out in transition and sped up the game. As a result, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson had 14 and 13 points, respectively, and North Carolina shot 54.8 percent overall and 50 percent from deep. That strategy isn’t going to be as beneficial against Notre Dame, who also likes to get up and down the floor and fire up a lot of jump shots. This could be a back-and-forth game with a lot of momentum swings.
Notre Dame is now 28-5 on the season with a 14-11 record against the spread. The Fighting Irish are 12-11 to the over. North Carolina now has the best ATS record in the ACC with a 19-14-1 mark. They are 24-10 overall and 18-13-1 to the over.
Free College Basketball Pick: North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina’s win over Virginia was extremely impressive because it was a tough X’s and O’s matchup for the Tar Heels. This game is more of the style that they want to play. Duke couldn’t hit three-point shots and that’s why Notre Dame advanced. They played a good game, but their best players struggled and an unlikely hero was forced into action. This game sets up well for the Tar Heels and they should take care of business.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.