Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 6:00 PM
The basketball world was denied a third North Carolina/Duke meeting in the 2015-16 campaign when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame upset the Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. That may be for the best for Duke fans because Coach K’s bunch doesn’t have the depth to shine over three games in three days! Now they have a week to get ready!
Can Notre Dame stay with the Tar Heels Friday evening when both are in back-to-backs? Let’s run through some numbers and see how Friday’s first ACC semifinal will likely play out…
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
N. Carolina: 119.2 per 100 possessions (#7 in the nation)
Notre Dame: 119.6 per 100 possessions (#4 in the nation)
You regulars know that JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats in college basketball focus on the publicly available data from kenpom.com. Ken Pomeroy’s “adjusted” numbers reflect pace and strength of schedule. Both North Carolina and Notre Dame have FANTASTIC offenses when you adjust for context. Those are amazing rankings when you’re talking about more than 300 teams being measured. Carolina is seen as having the much better offense because of raw scoring. But, that’s an illusion created by their fast pace. On a per-possession basis, both teams are virtually equally efficient. Notre Dame patiently gets good looks and cashes them in.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
N. Carolina: 95.4 per 100 possessions (#25 in the nation)
Notre Dame: 104.5 per 100 possessions (#189 in the nation)
This is where Carolina becomes a national power, while Notre Dame falls back to potential spoiler. Carolina gets a lot of stops and forces a lot of turnovers. Notre Dame is HORRIBLE at preventing people from getting good looks. You saw that late in regulation yesterday. Duke got a GREAT look at the game winning shot only to miss the mark. Notre Dame is very unlikely to go deep with such a poor defense. Though, they did shoot well enough last year to go deep with a much better team. Huge edge to the Tar Heels on this side of the floor. Remember that #189 is unimpressive nationally, but really ugly once you focus only on tournament caliber teams. Notre Dame has one of the worst “major” conference defenses of any Dance-bound school.
N. Carolina: #40
Notre Dame: #317
This is why media coverage of these teams, and likely your perceptions of the teams, is so out of whack. Carolina plays racehorse basketball because they like to fly at the basket to challenge defenses. Notre Dame slows things way down. As a result, too many people think Carolina has a poor defense…and Notre Dame a great defense. You have to adjust for pace! Obviously, Carolina will try to push tempo to get dunks and layups. Notre Dame’s only hope is to slow things down and then hit some treys. We’ve mentioned often during the regular season that the HOME team usually forces its preferred pace on a game. In playoff-style basketball on neutral courts, it’s usually the SUPERIOR team that’s able to do so. That favors Carolina here.
Against the Spread
N. Carolina: 14-17-1
Notre Dame: 14-14-1
The problem with just taking Carolina in the matchup is that the market always prices them at perfection. They’re a highly regarded team in the national championship race. They HAVE to play great to cover pointspreads. Your job as handicappers here is to determine whether or not oddsmakers have properly calibrated NC’s advantages. They’re the clear favorite. Are they favored by the right amount? Can you trust them to stay focused against an opponent that may not get their juices flowing the way Duke does?
JIM HURLEY could have a very strong selection here based on what his on-site sources report about Carolina’s mindset. If the number’s right…NETWORK will pass the game and jump on something else from the nightcap, or from Kansas City (Big 12), Indianapolis (Big 10), Nashville (SEC), Las Vegas (Pac 12) or the mid-major events scattered around the nation.
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Back with you Saturday and Sunday to preview additional marquee matchups. The way the schedule is set up…that’s probably something from the Big 10 and SEC depending on how the matchups fall each day. Then, next week…we’ll do what it takes to get you ready for top matchups in the Big Dance.
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