The #5 seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish will begin their road to the Final Four on Thursday March 16th at 12:15 PM when they take on the #12 seeded Princeton Tigers at the KeyBank Centre in Buffalo, NY.
Notre Dame is coming off a loss in the ACC tournament finals against the Duke Blue Devils, who made a late push to put the Irish out of reach of their second ACC title.
Regardless of the outcome, the Irish are going dancing, and have been seeded in the West Region.
The quadrant includes teams such as the Gonzaga Bulldogs at the #1 seed, who dominated the West Coast Conference, finishing the season with a 32-1 record, and the Arizona Wildcats, who came away victorious in the Pac 12 tournament final.
“Thrilled to be back in this thing again (NCAA Tournament) and we are kind of making it an annual event, which is what you want your program to be doing” said Coach Mike Brey right after Selection Sunday. “To not sweat on Selection Sunday, which we haven’t in a long long time, is good for the blood pressure and the hair line”.
The Irish are also accompanied by a fellow ACC foe, in the Florida State Seminoles, who will tango with the fan-favourite Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the opening round. The Eagles made a big run back in 2013, making it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.
In addition to the teams mentioned above, West Virginia, Xavier, Maryland and Northwestern are all seeded in the West division, with Northwestern making their first ever tournament appearance.
Notre Dame will be taking on the Princeton Tigers in the round of 64, and while the Tigers are only a 12th seed, five-seeds have been known to be sent home early by the twelves.
Just take Purdue and Baylor from last year’s NCAA Tournament. Both teams played great in their respective conferences. Purdue was even close to winning the Big 10 Title against Michigan State. But none the less, the Boilermakers and the Bears were sent home early. Purdue was upset by Little Rock, while Baylor was sent home by Yale.
Can an Ivy league team upset a 5th seeded team two years in a row?
“I erase seed lines, all that stuff, we erase all that, we got our little mini bracket” said Coach Brey who is very focused on Princeton.
While the Ivy league conference tournament is not as vigorous as say the ACC tournament, the Tigers won their semi-final match against Penn in overtime, while cruising to the tournament title by 12 points against Yale.
Princeton complied a 23-6 overall record this year and went undefeated in the Ivy league. Some of their more notable losses came against the likes of the BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears and Monmouth Hawks, all of whom earned post-season berths of their own.
Princeton is led by senior forward Steven Cook and sophomore guard Devin Cannady who both average 13.7 points per game with Cook pulling down an average of 5.1 rebounds per game.
Lucky for the Irish, the Tigers’ tallest forwards, who check in at 6-11, are all averaging less than three points a game. Cook, one of the Tigers’ leading scorers, checks in at 6-5 and will be tasked with guarding first team all-ACC forward Bonzie Colson, who is averaging 17.5 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game.
While I do not doubt this game will close, I believe the Irish will come out on top thanks to a big shooting performance by VJ Beachem and a strong inside game by Bonzie Colson.
Prediction: Notre Dame 85, Princeton 71
– R. Scarfone