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Notre Dame Men’s Basketball at Virginia Cavaliers Preview

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Just as they regain some confidence, Notre Dame has to go play Virginia on the road...uh oh

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team bounced back from their grotesque blowout loss to the Miami Hurricanes last week by taking down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Purcell on Sunday evening. T.J. Gibbs had himself a nice game after having really struggled in ACC play prior to that.

Now, the Irish are rewarded by having to travel to Charlottesville to take on the #4 Virginia Cavaliers, who are 21-2 and have only lost to the Duke Blue Devils this season. Virginia topped ND 82-55 when the teams squared off in Purcell in late January, and with this game in Charlottesville, it’s unlikely the result will be much different.

With that said, let’s still dive into the facts and figures and see what we should know about this match-up.

Quick Facts

  • Notre Dame and Virginia will be meeting for the 15th time, with the Cavaliers leading the all-time series 12-2 (per Alan Wasielewski, Associate Athletics Communication Director)
  • Junior forward John Mooney has 15 double-doubles this season and is averaging a double-double with 14.2 ppg and 10.8 rpg. He is the only ACC player averaging a double-double and one of just 6 major conference players in the country to do so (per Alan Wasielewski)
  • Mooney recorded his 15th overall double-double against Georgia Tech last weekend, which was also his 9th in ACC play. Since ND joined the ACC in 2013-2014, the single-season high for double-doubles in ACC play is 13 by UNC’s Brice Johnson (2015-2016) (per Alan Wasielewski)
  • Freshman Prentiss Hubb leads the team with 86 assists so far this season, and is the ninth true freshman in ND history to post 80-or-more assists during their rookie season. Should Hubb maintain his 3.6 assist-per-game average, he would become the 4th Mike Brey-era rookie to reach 100 assists in a season (per Alan Wasielewski)
  • Notre Dame finished off its four-game run through its annual home-and-home opponents in ACC play at 3-1 this season, pushing its record against Boston College and Georgia Tech to 19-5 overall since joining the league in 2013-2014 (per Alan Wasielewski)
  • With a 9.6 average, Notre Dame is 5th in the country in turnovers committed per game (per Alan Wasielewski)
  • Notre Dame is committing just 13.3 personal fouls per game, which is the lowest average total in the country (per Alan Wasielewski)
  • The Notre Dame freshman class (Robby Carmody, Chris Doherty, Dane Goodwin, Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski) has played 1,882 minutes this season, which is the most for any rookie class in the Mike Brey era. It is the 6th-most at ND since freshmen became eligible in 1972-1973 (per Alan Wasielewski)

Where: John Paul Jones Arena — Charlottesville, Virginia

When: Saturday, February 16th at 2:00 PM ET

How to Watch:

Virginia Cavaliers (21-2, 9-2 ACC)

Virginia is one of the best teams in the country — they’re ranked #4 in the AP Poll and are #2 overall in KenPom, sitting 5th in offense and 3rd in defense. I don’t feel the need to go into a ton more detail on that, since we covered how good they are in the preview for the game a couple weeks ago. The Cavaliers handle their business at an elite level on both ends of the floor.

To quickly recap their key players, the trio of Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Ty Jerome lead the squad, each scoring at least 13 points per game.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Guy is the junior Hoosier guard who can really do it all on offense, as he leads the team in scoring (14.8 ppg) and shoots a blistering 44% from long range despite taking nearly 7 such shots per contest. He also shoots 82% from the free throw line, 45% from the field, and adds 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Hunter is a sophomore wing who uses a fantastic combination of length (he’s 6’7”), athleticism, and versatile scoring ability to beat opponents in just about every way imaginable, averaging 14.7 points on 53% shooting, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He is seemingly as comfortable driving to the hoop as he is bombing shots from deep (45% shooter from out there), and is a good passer and decent ball handler to boot.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome is no slouch himself, averaging 13.2 points and a team-leading 5.2 assists per game while also chipping in 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 41% 3-point shooting. He, too, can score from all over, and is excellent at finding open teammates for easy buckets.

Besides those three, the Cavaliers have a number of other very talented guys who have really begun to come along as the season’s progresses. Mamadi Diakite has become a fantastic rim protector, averaging 1.4 blocks per game while also adding 7 points and 3.8 rebounds. He’s an efficient scorer, knocking down roughly 57% of his shots, and he hits 82% of his free throws and 46% of his threes (although he averages less than one attempt per game).

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

Braxton Key leads the team in rebounding and chips in some points as well, Jay Huff adds 7’1” height to go with very good shooting/scoring ability, and Jack Salt is a fantastic veteran to have in the paint to help clean up the boards and defend the interior with Diakite. Freshman guard Kihei Clark is a guy to watch as well — he’s been inconsistent (as are most freshmen) but has shown some real ability of late.

Overall, this Virginia team, like last time, has way too much talent for the Irish to handle — especially on the road. It will get ugly.

Wahoo to Watch

Kyle Guy, Guard, Junior

He’s just too good for the Irish to contain him, especially considering ND can’t JUST focus on him like they would be able to with someone like Ky Bowman on Boston College, for example. Guy will be efficient and score in bunches on his home floor, and will be leading the charge in an effort that will probably have the game effectively over by early in the second half, if not sooner.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Irish X-Factor

T.J. Gibbs, G, Junior

This team goes as he goes. He showed a refreshing mix of fire and fun as he had a nice bounce-back game against Georgia Tech last Sunday (20 points, 5 assists, 4 steals), so hopefully he can keep building on that and play another game where he’s loose, enjoying himself, and just making great plays. He’ll have his hands full on defense no matter who he’s guarding, and Virginia’s pack line defense will of course be tough for him to do a ton against, but hopefully Gibbs has found himself enough that he will be moderately effective and continue to build confidence, instead of having it wiped out entirely.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

I just don’t see any way the Irish even hang around against this team, especially on the road. I hope they prove me wrong, but I think that’s a pipe dream.

Virginia wins this one 84-61.