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This week in the ACC: North Carolina gets signature win over Notre Dame, North Carolina State remains undefeated

Also, Louisville plays UConn in a highly anticipated non-conference matchup while Clemson finishes toughest stretch of their season.

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Duke v North Carolina
North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell led the Tar Heels to their first major win of the season against Notre Dame last weekend.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With January winding to a close, the ACC had big upsets this past weekend, with a big slate of games coming on Thursday. Let’s recap the week that was and go through the games to see this week.

North Carolina defeats Notre Dame in major upset

On Sunday, the unranked North Carolina Tar Heels upset then-No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 78-73. In the win, the Tar Heels went on a 28-17 run in the third quarter to break an otherwise rather even game in their favor. But Notre Dame made their inevitable run to reclaim the lead once again when Arike Ogunbowale made a shot to give the Irish a 65-63 lead with just 4:34 left in the game. But the Tar Heels were able to respond and were able to come away with the win.

For the Tar Heels, senior guard Paris Kea scored a season-high 30 points to lead Carolina to their biggest win of the season and espnW’s National Player of the Week honors. Marina Mabrey led the Irish with 20 points, but loss caused Notre Dame to fall to No. 5 in the national rankings.

Women’s basketball doesn’t have too many upsets of unranked teams beating top-ranked teams, as is the case with the men’s game. So, this one was special. North Carolina was just 10-9 before this past week’s 81-69 win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 24 and the aforementioned win over Notre Dame. The Tar Heels are still just 3-4 in conference play, but a strong finish in the regular season and conference tournaments could help the Tar Heels clinch their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.

NC State remains the only undefeated team in Division I

The No. 8 North Carolina State Wolfpack is 20-0 overall, 7-0 in ACC play and the only NCAA Division I team without a single loss this season.

At first glance, the Wolfpack haven’t played as tough of a schedule as some of their opponents. In fact, they have yet to play a ranked opponent all season. So, is NC State simply scheduling cupcakes? Not really.

Some of the teams they played had disappointing seasons of their own. For example, NC State played Atlantic 10 team George Washington on Nov. 23. The Colonials made the NCAA Tournament in 2018, but they are 8-12 this season after playing a difficult non-conference schedule. GW is now third in the A-10 with a 5-2 conference record.

Meanwhile, some intra-conference teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season, like the Duke Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers, are in the middle of their most disappointing seasons in quite some time. NC State hasn’t played the ACC’s other ranked teams, like No. 24 Florida State, No. 18 Syracuse, No. 5 Notre Dame or No. 3 Louisville yet. But the Wolfpack will play these four teams in February so the pundits will finally be able to figure out just where this team stands — cupcakes or not cupcakes.

Meanwhile, it’s important to notice that the Wolfpack have persevered through injuries. Graduate student guard Kaila Ealey was ruled out for the season due to a knee injury before the season began, and redshirt junior Grace Hunter tore her ACL in the Wolfpack’s 63-51 win against Duke on Jan. 3. Graduate student guard Kiara Leslie has stepped up in the meantime, leading the Wolfpack with 15 points and 3.1 assists per game.

ACC games of the week

Here are the ones to watch in the ACC this week:

No. 3 Louisville Cardinals (19-1, 7-1 ACC) vs. No. 2 UConn Huskies (18-1, 7-0 AAC)

When: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY | TICKETS

How to watch: ESPN

Notes: The ACC will have one of its top teams in a marquee non-conference matchup for the second consecutive week. In this game, the Cardinals’ top WNBA Draft prospect Asia Durr will look to make a big performance against the nation’s best all-around women’s basketball program. Like most years, UConn has at least one prospect who figures to be a WNBA Draft lottery pick, namely senior guard Katie Lou Samuelson. In addition to Samuelson, forward Napheesa Collier also projects to be a first round pick. If you are a WNBA fan, this matchup could feature at least three of next season’s highest profile rookies.

Miami Hurricanes (18-4, 6-1 ACC) at No. 24 Florida State Seminoles (17-3, 5-2 ACC)

When: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL | TICKETS

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Notes: The in-state rivals will play each other for the first time tonight. What makes this year’s Miami vs. Florida State rivalry even more intriguing this year is that both teams have been ranked in the top 25 at various points this season. Florida State is hosting this game and is ranked, but Miami is still more than capable of winning it.

No. 3 Louisville Cardinals (19-1, 7-1 ACC) at Clemson Tigers (14-6, 5-2 ACC)

When: Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC | TICKETS

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Notes: The Clemson Tigers are heading into the last game of their toughest three-game stretch of the season. In their last game on Jan. 24, they narrowly lost to No. 8 NC State, 54-51. Despite the loss, Clemson held NC State to just 38.3 percent shooting from the floor and forced them to commit 21 turnovers. If the Tigers can repeat such a defensive effort against the Cardinals this weekend, they could walk away with upsets, whether it’s this game or against Notre Dame on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET!

Elsewhere in the ACC

  • No. 18 Syracuse (16-4, 5-2) junior guard Tiana Mangakahia isn’t jut the Orange’s leading scorer at 15.9 points per game. She’s also averaging 7.9 assists per game this season and has the second most total assists in the country. Last season, she actually averaged more assists per game. If she can keep this up for the remainder of her career along with her scoring numbers, Mangakahia should also be a nice pickup for a WNBA team looking for a point guard.
  • The Virginia Tech Hokies (13-7, 0-7) looked like this season’s surprise ACC team when conference play started. But they remain in free fall after falling to 0-7 in conference play. They will play Pittsburgh (9-12, 0-7) on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, who’s also winless in the ACC. So the losing streak will come to an end for one of these teams.

Full ACC Schedule