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Notre Dame Basketball: Virginia Preview

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Notre Dame will look to get the monkey off its back against Virginia.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-3, 6-1 ACC) take on the No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers (15-3, 5-2 ACC) on Tuesday night. The Irish come in riding high, winners of eight of the last nine. If there is one team in the ACC that has given Notre Dame’s fits, it’s been Virginia. The Irish are 0-4 in ACC play against the Cavs. This very well could be Notre Dame’s toughest matchup in ACC play.

Game Notes

  • Notre Dame trails the all-time series, 1-9.
  • Notre Dame’s only win over UVA came in 1981. The Irish took down a Ralph Sampson-led Virginia team in Chicago, 57-56.
  • Notre Dame lost last season’s contest, 77-66, in Charlottesville.
  • Notre Dame is ranked 18th in the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings, while Virginia is ranked 6th.
  • Virginia is 6th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 18th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
  • Notre Dame is 9th in offensive efficiency and 62nd in defensive efficiency.
  • Notre Dame has four players (Matt Farrell, Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson, V.J. Beachem) averaging at least 14.0 PPG for the first time since 2001 (Graves, Thomas, Humphrey, Carroll).
  • Vegasinsider.com has Notre Dame as a one-point favorite.

When: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, 8 p.m. ET.

Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame, Ind.

How to Watch: ACC Network or WatchESPN.

No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers (15-3, 5-2 ACC)

Over the last three seasons, Virginia has a record of 89-21, including two 30-win seasons in 2014 and 2015. Head coach Tony Bennett has turned UVA into one of the best programs in the ACC. Despite numerous losses to the NBA and graduation, the Cavs keep winning — this year is no different. Virginia lost starting guard Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey from last year’s Elite Eight team. But here they are, right back in the thick of it in the ACC.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Senior point guard London Perrantes leads this group. The Cavs go as he goes. It should be one dandy of a matchup between him and Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell.

Virginia was expecting the services of Memphis transfer Austin Nichols this season, but Bennett dismissed him just one game into the season.

Outside of Perrantes, Virginia doesn’t have too many guys that make you say “Wow!” on the stat sheet. Marial Shayok and Kyle Guy are Virginia’s second and third leading scorers at 10.0 and 8.3 PPG respectively.

This team is going to beat you with defense and hustle. That defense will be put to the test on Tuesday against a high flying Notre Dame attack.

Three Weaknesses

Scoring: Virginia can have trouble scoring the basketball. They have just two players that average double digit figures. The Cavaliers average just 69.9 points per game, which ranks them 248th nationally. Their defense is so good they can afford getting by with 69 points per game.

Free throw shooting: I’m starting to wonder if there are any good free throw shooting teams in the ACC other than Notre Dame. Virginia shoots 69.4 percent from the charity stripe - 179th nationally. Notre Dame is the nation’s best free-throw shooting team at 82.9 percent per game.

Offensive Rebounding: One of the reasons Virginia’s defense is so good is that they rarely crash the offensive glass in an effort to get back on defense. The Cavaliers rank 196th in offensive rebounding percentage, hauling in just 26.8 percent of offensive boards.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

Scoring Defense: Points are hard to come by against Virginia. The Cavaliers rank first nationally in opponent points per game, allowing teams to score just 53.2 points per contest. UVA limited West Virginia and Florida State, two of the highest scoring teams in the country, to 66 and 60 points, respectively.

Transition Defense: As you can imagine since Virginia doesn’t crash the offense glass, they do a great job at limiting transition opportunities for their opponents. Teams are getting 42 percent of shots at the rim in transition, and are shooting just 51.5 percent on those shots. Notre Dame is very good in transition, but as Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch points out UVA has shut down the Irish in that department.

Three-point Shooting/Defense: Tuesday night’s matchup will feature two great three-point shooting teams. Virginia is shooting 39 percent from three - 12th nationally. Notre Dame is shooting 41 from three - 8th nationally.

Virginia also does a good job of defending the three. They surrender just six three-point makes per game.

Cavaliers to Watch

London Perrantes - 6’2”, Guard, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned before, Virginia goes as Perrantes goes. He’s a big part of what the Cavaliers do. If you can shut him down, you’ll essentially be cutting the monster off at the head. Perrantes is leading UVA in scoring at 11.7 points per game. He’s also their leading producer of assists, as he’s dishing out 3.9 assists per game. The senior guard has stepped his play in ACC play. In seven ACC contests he’s averaging 14.4 points, 3.4 assists and is shooting 45 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three. Defending him from three will be key - 51 percent of his shots come from three-point land.

Kyle Guy - 6’3”, Guard, Freshman

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Guy, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2016, is the hired gun off Virginia’s bench. He’s shooting 48 percent from three-point land. Guy is only playing about 18 minutes per game, but he’s still the team’s third leading scorer at 8.3 points per game. Notre Dame will have to keep tabs on him whenever he comes in the game, because he can fill it up quickly from the outside.

Isaiah Wilkins - 6’7”, Forward, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Wilkins is Virginia’s best rebounder. He leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game. He only scores 6.4 points per game, but he’s a very efficient scorer - especially around the rim. He’s getting 54.9 percent of his shots at the rim, and converting on 71 percent of those shots. Wilkins will also have the task of guarding Bonzie Colson.

Pick to Click

Bonzie Colson - 6’5”, Forward, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

I really like this matchup for Colson. He missed much of the first half against Syracuse, but still managed to record a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds. The ACC’s leading rebounder seems to always get his numbers, even against long and athletic teams like Syracuse and Florida State. Virginia isn’t as big as those teams, so I think Colson should be able to add to his conference leading 12 double-doubles.

Prediction

Notre Dame 70 - Virginia 66

I think this will be Notre Dame’s toughest game all year. The Irish seem to have trouble with the way UVA plays. With this game being at Purcell Pavilion though, I think Notre Dame should be able to make one or two more plays to put them over the top.

Virginia has a great defense and Notre Dame has a great offense. One is going to have to give on Tuesday night. I believe it’ll be a little bit of both. Notre Dame won’t score as much as they do, and UVA will give up a little more than they usually do.

V.J. Beachem needs to keep up his hot play. There is no question Notre Dame is much better team when Beachem is at the top of his game.

Matt Farrell should play a key factor. Virginia does a good job of defending the three-point shot, but Farrell has ability to drive the lane and find open three-point shooters.

Notre Dame will need to find away to get some transitions points against the Cavaliers. They can’t make this a grind-it-out, half court type of game. If the Irish can stay away from that, they should come away with a victory.

All stats from TeamRankings.com, HoopMath.com, KenPom.com, ESPN.com, UND.com