With a guaranteed spot in the NCAA Mens Championship on the line, the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the University of Notre Dame (ND) will meet today at Greensboro Coliseum to decide the ACC Championship (8:30pm EST, Saturday).
Once again emerging as the best basketball conference, the ACC could send as many as seven teams to this year’s tournament. Of these teams, both Notre Dame and North Carolina were already considered locks based on their national rankings, #11 for the Fighting Irish (ND) and #18 for the Tar Heels (UNC) and their impressive regular season resume in the league’s toughest conference. That said, neither were anticipated to be meeting in the ACC title game. That honor belonged to two of the premiere teams not just in the ACC but in the country: #2 Duke and #3 Virginia
Virginia and Duke had been expected to meet in the ACC title game since the middle of the regular season. These two teams were the most dominant in the conference and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion they would go head-to-head to determine the conference’s champion and, on a more important note, the likely #1 seed in the Eastern Region of the upcoming nationwide tournament of 68.
But the Cavaliers of Virginia had stumbled to the finish line, dropping their last regular season game against Louisville. They still had a double bye, easily advancing past Florida State University to reach the semifinals. North Carolina proved to be too much however as the Tar Heels rebounded from a late season loss to Duke, coming back to perform as the UNC of old in their defeat of Virginia en route to the finals.
Up until the last seconds ticked off of the clock, it looked as if Duke could join their proverbial neighbors to the north in the championship. But just like UNC, Notre Dame truly came out to play and beat the Blue Devils for the first time this season.
Welcome to North Carolina
With the conference tournaments typically held at large, professional sport venues – the Big East playing at Madison Square Garden, the Big 10 at the United Center in Chicago, the SEC at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, it is very rare for a team to have a significant home field advantage. But not the ACC tournament and not North Carolina.
The state of North Carolina has long been known for its basketball excellence and passion. Michael Jordan was a UNC graduate after all and Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke became the first men’s coach to win 1,000 games. The state has produced tons of stars both in college and in the NBA, so it only makes sense that it would serve as the host of the ACC, a conference that boasts three North Carolina based teams in Duke, UNC and NC State.
When it comes to home field advantage, there is no doubt that the North Carolina based teams have it and that UNC has made the most of it thus far. While a good regular season team at home, UNC has always had a playoff pedigree as well.
But against Notre Dame, home field might not matter. The Irish defeated the Tar Heels earlier this year at Chapel Hill, doing so in a close one-point game back in January.
Grading the Resumes
North Carolina has always excelled as a team under head coach Roy Williams (pictured). They are former top teams in the country, Elite Eight staples and of course, ACC champions. This is their fourth trip to the conference finals in the last five years.
The Tar Heels are second in the NCAA in two key categories, rebounds and assists per game. Throughout the ACC tournament, the team’s ability to rebound and assist, has been a big factor in helping UNC get to the finals. Additionally, the Tar Heels are finally operating at full strength, doing so behind team leader Marcus Paige, who was the difference maker against Virginia in the semifinals.
It would seem that Notre Dame, who finished the regular season as the third best team in the ACC, behind only Duke and Virginia, also entered this year with a decent amount of postseason hopes.
Currently the team is 14th in the NCAA in points per game and second in the league in field goal percentage. Unlike UNC, who is defensive minded, the Irish are all about offense. This came in handy against a Duke team that also has been at its best this year on the scoring side of the ball.
Notre Dame vs North Carolina Betting Picks
This wasn’t exactly the match-up many were expecting, but it’s a good one nonetheless. These are two teams who are tournament bound and two teams who would certainly benefit by adding ACC Champions under their belt this year. While Notre Dame’s offense has been hot as of late and clicking on all cylinders, I can’t pick against the strength of UNC. The Tar Heels have found their game and have been playing their basketball as of late. So take UNC to get the win and cover the -3pts on the spread @ -110 betting odds with 5Dimes Sportsbook. Look for both of these teams to go far come March Madness.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.