Notre Dame Has A Major Opportunity Against Virginia
Notre Dame takes a four-game win streak into the Commonwealth of Virginia this evening. Stretching that win streak to five would be a major resume booster for the Fighting Irish, who are fighting to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.
Beating Virginia has been a major struggle for the Irish, who are just 2-13 all-time against the Cavaliers, and just 1-8 since joining the ACC. Notre Dame has never beaten Virginia on the road (0-5), and its only victory over the Cavaliers since joining the ACC came in the league tournament back in 2017.
Virginia is the defending national champion, but heading into this matchup the Cavaliers are on the tournament bubble. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Virginia as an 11-seed, which gives the Irish a chance to pick up a much-needed road win over what most consider a tournament team.
A win over Virginia would also move Notre Dame into a tie for fifth place with the Cavaliers. It would also give Notre Dame a second straight road win before it heads to No. 7 Duke on Saturday.
This game will be a matchup of contrasting styles, with the Notre Dame offense coming in ranked 25th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, and Virginia ranking 3rd in defensive efficiency. The Cavaliers rank in the bottom half of the country in offensive efficiency and Notre Dame’s defense ranks just 125th, but this game will be determined by Notre Dame’s ability to put the ball in the basket.
Prior to its 61-57 victory at Clemson on Sunday night, Notre Dame had scored at least 80 points in five straight games.
A key to Notre Dame’s strong offensive performance in recent weeks has been the play of TJ Gibbs. The senior guard has scored 16.5 points per contest in his last 11 games. During that stretch he has shot 55.8-percent from the floor and 48.3-percent from behind the arc. Gibbs has averaged 2.5 made triples per game and has dished out 31 assists and turned it over just 14 times during that stretch.
Gibbs has averaged just 9.5 points in four previous contests against the Cavaliers, which makes tonight an opportunity for him to not only change the narrative for the Irish team, but also for him.
Senior guard Rex Pflueger is averaging just 5.8 points per game, and he’s been held scoreless five times this season, reaching double figures just five times. The good news is two of those three double-digit games have come in the last three contests, including an outstanding 18-point performance in the win over Clemson.
Pflueger went 6-8 from the floor and tied a career-high with four made three pointers in the win over the Tigers. Him knocking down open shots against Virginia will open up a lot for the offense in this matchup.
Sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb has struggled during the current four-game win streak, averaging just five points per game while going just 6-31 from the floor. Notre Dame will need him to protect the basketball against the Cavaliers, and when open he needs to knock down shots.
The game will air on ESPN2 and is slated to start at 9:00 PM (Eastern).