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#1 UNC vs #8 Notre Dame

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What: Maui Invitational Championship
Where: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, HI
When: Tuesday, November 26th, 10:00 PM
TV: ESPN
Records: UNC 5-0; Notre Dame 4-0

Epic battle of All-American centers? Only if Hansbrough plays.

Tyler Hansbrough will be a gametime decision as they will wait until warmups to see how his ankle responds.  Apparently that is the main concern now and not the much talked about shin which initially sidelined him.  The way Roy talks, I think they are comfortable with the shin healing up but want to make sure this ankle issue does not become something more.  Thus the caution which would not be bad in itself if the other Tyler was not sitting on the bench with a heavily wrapped wrist full of screws and plates.  There is a question of whether UNC's interior plays, all of two of them, can handle Luke Harangody if Hansbrough does not play.  I am not sure it matters what Harangody does if the rest of the defense shuts off other avenues of getting points.  The other question is whether Roy cares in light of the bigger picture.  Yes, Roy wants to win as much as anyone but he also wants to win a national title more, something that cannot be done without Hansbrough.  So we will know when we know.  I think the odds are he plays but then again I have not seen his ankle today.

There is a tendency in the media to get wrapped up with the two All-Americans facing off and usually when that happens the peripheral players end of deciding the game.  This will be a matter of competiting styles with the Irish more than willing to play slower since they are not a deep team.  Three ND players see north of 30 minutes per contest with two others over 20.  However if the game versus Texas is an indicator, Mike Brey was willing to all five of his starters 30 minutes or more with a trio of key players at 37, 39 and 40 minutes respectivelt, including Harangody.  Therein lies the advantage for UNC.  If the Heels can dictate pace then I think they can win by double digits.  Tory Jackson will be a handful at guard for Ty Lawson but by the 2nd half Lawson will be on fresher legs if the pace is quick and Jackson plays 39 minutes like he did against Texas.  The same goes for Harangody.  No one on UNC's team is averaging more than 26 mins.  In theory, this being their 3rd game and having blown Oregon out last night, the Heels should be the fresher team from the start and remain so for the duration.

Make no mistake this will be a tough game but it should really come down to a matter of UNC's five being better than Notre Dame's five.  UNC has to control the pace and also the backboard while keeping with the low turnover theme of the season.

UNC 84 Notre Dame 70