No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Notre Dame
NCAA tournament East Region championship game
When: 8:49 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Philadelphia
Projected starting lineups
Notre Dame (24-11)
G Demetrius Jackson 15.5 ppg, 4.7 apg
G Steve Vasturia 11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg
G Matt Farrell 2.4 ppg, 1.6 apg
F V.J. Beachem 11.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Zach Auguste 14.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg
North Carolina (31-6)
G Joel Berry 12.8 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Marcus Paige 12.3 ppg, 3.8 apg
F Justin Jackson 12.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
F Brice Johnson 16.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg
F Kennedy Meeks 9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Three things to watch
1. UNC’s dependency on its smaller lineup, and its effectiveness
If there’s one opponent that most dictates UNC’s use of its smaller, one-player-in-the-post lineup, it’s probably Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish aren’t a great natural match-up with UNC, what with its quicker lineup and reliance on screens and dribble penetration. The Tar Heels countered Notre Dame’s quickness with great success in their 78-47 victory against the Irish in the ACC tournament. UNC used its smaller lineup for about 10 ½ minutes in that game and outscored Notre Dame 26-7 during that span – including a 14-0 run during the final five minutes of the first half. UNC didn’t go small at all against Indiana on Friday night because the Tar Heels didn’t need to.
2. Whether Marcus Paige continues his success – in general and against Notre Dame
Bad news for Notre Dame on two fronts: One, Paige sure seems like he’s back to his old self, and he made a season-high six 3-pointers Friday night in UNC’s victory against Indiana. Second: Paige has torched Notre Dame, anyway, this season. In two games against the Fighting Irish, Paige has averaged 18.5 points and made nine of 15 3-point attempts. He broke out of his prolonged shooting slump earlier this season when he went 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line in UNC’s 80-76 loss at Notre Dame. Then Paige made four of his seven 3s in UNC’s victory in the ACC tournament. After one of those, he appeared to say that he was “back.” If he wasn’t then, he is now after what he did Friday night against Indiana.
3. Notre Dame’s lineup change with Matt Farrell starting
The first two times these teams played, Bonzie Colson, the 6-foot-5 sophomore forward, started for Notre Dame. And Colson has been effective in two games against UNC. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has adjusted his team’s lineup, though, and Matt Farrell, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, moved into the starting lineup in the NCAA tournament. His presence gives the Fighting Irish another capable ball-handler, in addition to Demetrius Jackson. Farrell could help alleviate some of the defensive pressure Notre Dame will face. “We didn’t start that way in Washington D.C.,” Brey said on Saturday, “and that’s kind of helped and taken a little pressure off Demetrius that we have another ball handler on the floor to start a game.”