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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Through about mid-January, Notre Dame and North Carolina were two of the most overrated teams in the country. At that time, Carolina caught FIRE, starting an 11-game winning streak that continues to this day with the Irish visiting for ESPN’s Big Monday. The Heels are 9-2 ATS against the Vegas line in those games, with the number only recently catching up to their new level of play.

Notre Dame? They just keep struggling, having found a way to blow a cover as an underdog in overtime this past Saturday vs. Pittsburgh. That makes this TV showdown very tricky to handicap.

*Notre Dame is slumping, a bad road team, and is in a tough schedule spot after a “punch to the gut” loss just two days ago. Can you ask them to play well?

*North Carolina has failed to cover its last two games after the line finally adjusted. Are you asking them to climb an unrealistic hurdle by laying the points. This cat may already be out of the bag.

Let’s run the game through our key indicator stats for some additional guidance.


Computer Rankings

Notre Dame: #97 in Pomeroy, #83 in Sagarin

N. Carolina: #22 in Pomeroy, #23 in Sagarin

The computers agree that North Carolina is a top 25 team for the season. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin both have them in the same range as of press time. It should be noted though that Carolina is playing MUCH better than that over the past six weeks. So many teams are playing worse than their computer ratings right now (which you saw with all the losses by highly regarded teams Saturday). It’s nice to see a team playing better! Carolina is arguably top 10 caliber at the moment, given their win over Duke by more than the value of home court advantage within the streak. Notre Dame is top 100, but nowhere near tournament caliber this season. They enter with a 6-11 record in league play despite it being a relatively down year overall for the ACC.


Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Notre Dame: #34

N. Carolina: #47

Because Notre Dame plays slow basketball, there’s a tendency to think of them as having a bad offense and a good defense. That’s largely an illusion of pace (which has the media overrating their defense every season). When you adjust for tempo, Notre Dame actually has the more efficient offense believe it or not. That’s according to Pomeroy’s methodology, which accounts for pace and caliber of opponent. It’s North Carolina that’s surprisingly sluggish in the halfcourt…which is hidden from the media because they play such a fast pace.


Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Notre Dame: #205

N. Carolina: #21

Here we go…this is why there’s blowout potential. Notre Dame can’t guard anybody…which they try to disguise by holding the ball forever when they have it! North Carolina actually gets a lot of steals and a lot of stops…but their NBA style approach produces some high scoring games anyway. This is one of the biggest defensive mismatches we’ve seen in a big game preview this year in the NOTEBOOK. Be sure you’re aware of the reality in play in this matchup.


Pace Ranking

Notre Dame: #291

N. Carolina: #24

Here’s what we mean. Notre Dame walks the ball up, while North Carolina runs and guns. This is very likely to help the Heels Monday Night because the home team usually enforces its preferred pace on a game. Carolina will take Notre Dame out of its comfort zone. And, they’ll be doing that with a poor traveler who may have nothing left in the gas tank anyway.


Against the Spread

Notre Dame: 8-18-2

N. Carolina: 16-13

Remember that Carolina is 9-2 ATS in this recent 11-game straight up winning streak. That means they were 7-11 ATS before it began. Notre Dame has been extremely overrated all season, with oddsmakers being very stubborn about recognizing the debacle. The Irish qualify as one of the most overrated teams in all of college basketball.

Clearly, this game has a lot of blowout potential. Does the Vegas number properly reflect that reality? JIM HURLEY will make a final decision on that before posting his official plays for Big Monday. He’s also looking at Kansas State/Oklahoma State in the nightcap, and Xaiver/Seton Hall on FoxSports1. Plus, there’s an 8-game slate in the NBA that may impose its will on the portfolio with a best bet or two.

You can always purchase the top plays on the schedule right here at this website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about seasonal packages when you call. The tournaments start Tuesday with the first round of the Horizon League!

Speaking of that…we’ll preview the Horizon League tournament in our Tuesday edition of the NOTEBOOK. Then we’ll look at the Ohio Valley tournament on Wednesday, and the Missouri Valley tournament featuring possible #1 Dance seed Wichita State on Thursday.

The MADNESS is about to begin. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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