Notre Dame is coming off a win over Wisconsin where they were down 56-53 with just 26 seconds remaining. After Vitto Brown hit a big 3-pointer to give Wisconsin the lead, it seemed like Notre Dame's tournament run was coming to an end.
But Demetrius Jackson stole the ball twice in the final seconds, helping push his team on an 8-0 run that secured Notre Dame's entrance into the Elite Eight. The final moments of that game displayed the resilience Coach Mike Brey sees in his team.
"I love our group. I love our will to win," Brey said. "We have found ways to continually make things interesting and we're excited about the challenge tomorrow ... We're still the toughest team left. We're the toughest thing left in this thing."
To avoid dipping into another toughness narrative, it's safe to say both Brey and his players feel like they have the mental fortitude to upset UNC, even while most people will be looking for the Tar Heels to advance.
When asked about Notre Dame's offensive efficiency over the past few seasons, Brey immediately talked about securing the basketball.
"We've always hung our hat on assist-to-turnover and taking care of the ball," he said.
But through his team's first three NCAA Tournament games, they have turned the ball over 41 times compared to 40 assists.
"That's why the rash of turnovers lately kind of bothers me."
In the ACC Tournament loss to UNC, turnovers were a huge issue, as the Fighting Irish gave the ball up 17 different times because of the Tar Heels' length and defensive activity.
That's why the lineup is going to look a bit different during this game than it did back in the ACC Tournament.
"It was hard to make a pass the way they contest in passing lanes," Brey said. "And we're going to have to be better finding people. I'm hoping Matt Farrell in the lineup to start the game helps us, because we have another ball-handler on the floor.
"We didn't start that way in Washington, D.C., and that's kind of helped and taken a little pressure off Demetrius that we have another ball handler on the floor to start a game."
Farrell has turned the ball over 0.6 times per game this season, while averaging 12.9 minutes per contest.
Notre Dame's players have surely not forgotten about the last time they played UNC in the ACC Tournament, regardless of what Brey says about "misplacing" the tape of the game or lighting it on fire.
The Fighting Irish scored their fewest points of the entire season after Jackson — who averages 15.5 points per game — shot just 1-of-10 from the field and finished with nine points. In addition, senior forward Zach Auguste tallied six points, while junior guard Steve Vasturia — who averages 11.4 points per game — didn't manage a point after shooting 0-for-6 from the floor.
And while players handled the question of revenge mildly during their press conference Saturday, making up for those performances is sure to be on their minds.
"We're looking forward to playing them again and kind of finishing business," Auguste said.