Your Notre Dame Fighting Irish live to fight another day in the ACC tournament courtesy of some last-minute heroics from Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz, who combined for a block and a buzzer-beating three to send the Wake Forest Demon Deacons packing in the first round. The Irish recovered from a mostly-sloppy effort to execute when it counted, and now carry some great energy into a matchup with much tougher opponent: the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The good news is that the Irish showed earlier this season that they could hang with UNC, coming just short in a 66-65 loss in Chapel Hill on January 2. The closeness of that game spoke to both the talent on the Irish roster, which belies the team’s 11-14 record, and the team’s weaknesses in execution - the Irish had a seven-point lead late in the second half which they ended up choking away.
The primary challenge posed by North Carolina (16-9 overall, 10-6 ACC) is their offense, which has scoring potential all over the floor and up and down the roster, having exceeded 90 points in conference play on three separate occasions this season (once against the Louisville Cardinals and twice against the Duke Blue Devils). The Irish, who have struggled mightily on defense in recent weeks, will have to find some way to slow them down and keep up with North Carolina’s deep rotation. If they can do that, they stand a decent chance of outscoring the Heels, who have often been vulnerable on defense themselves this season.
Hot hands to watch for the Irish in this one include Juwan Durham, who recorded a double-double against Wake Forest and will be essential to Notre Dame’s defensive efforts on the interior against the likes of Armando Bacot and Day’ron Sharpe - the latter of whom torched the Irish on January 2; and Wertz, whose buzzer-beater put him in tying position with Durham as the leading scorer for the Irish on the day.
The pieces are there, and stranger things have happened in March. Am I telling you there’s a chance? Absolutely.
WHEN, WHERE AND HOW TO WATCH
WHEN: Wednesday, 3/10 @9:00 PM EST
WHERE: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
HOW TO WATCH: ACC Network
Bring all that never-say-die energy into the comment section for this one. Go Irish!