Notre Dame Opens At -5 Against State Rival Butler In Round Of 32
There were five teams from the state of Indiana selected for the NCAA Tournament and in a strange coincidence the committee placed all of them in the Midwest Region. Two of them will face off in the Round of 32 on Saturday in Pittsburgh: No. 6 Butler and No. 3 Notre Dame. The Irish opened as 5-point favorites at Bovada.
Irish Struggled In Opener
The Fighting Irish, the ACC champions, are a bit fortunate to have advanced. They squeaked by No. 14 Northeastern 69-65 on Thursday for their sixth straight victory. Zach Auguste scored 25 points and star Jerian Grant added 17. Out of timeouts, Northeastern passed the ball five times on its final potential game-tying possession. Zach Stahl frantically waved his arms when he fought his way open under the basket, yet no teammate saw him. Quincy Ford coughed up the ball.
The Irish have traditionally struggled in the tournament under Brey. They made only one Sweet 16 since 2001. Notre Dame outscored Northeastern 22-2 in transition Thursday. The Fighting Irish had scored 23 transition points in their past three NCAA tournament games combined (1-2). Notre Dame outscored Northeastern 17-0 in points off turnovers, including Auguste’s two game-clinching free throws after a Grant steal with two seconds remaining. The Fighting Irish are the third team in the last four NCAA Tournaments to allow zero points off turnovers (Syracuse – 2013 vs. Marquette; Louisville – 2012 vs. Florida).
The Huskies did so much else right. They had 33 rebounds to Notre Dame’s 17. They shot 49.1 percent from the field. They showed toughness and moxie and fought back from double-digit deficits, including 12 down with 6:02 left.
Butler Rolled Horns
Butler beat No. 11 Texas 56-48. Kellen Dunham scored 20 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer with 1:18 to play. The Bulldogs won despite going more than 10 minutes without making a shot and draining all of five field goals in the second half. Forward Roosevelt Jones had six points and four assists in 29 minutes. He left with a lower leg injury early in the second half but returned to hit a banking shot in traffic that gave the Bulldogs a 44-37 lead. Butler shot just 33 percent (16 of 48) but outscored Texas 20-8 at the free throw line.
Butler now has 12 NCAA Tournament wins since 2010. Only Kentucky & Florida have more during that span. The Bulldogs are 12-3 since 2010.
Notre Dame and Butler do have two common opponents this season in Providence and North Carolina. Butler lost early in the season at a neutral site to UNC 59-46. It won at Providence 68-64 in the regular-season finale. The Irish lost to Providence 75-74 in November at a neutral site. Notre Dame won at North Carolina 71-70 in January and beat the Tar heels 90-82 in the ACC Championship Game.
The winner of Saturday’s game will play likely No. 2 Kansas, No. 7 Wichita State or No. 10 Indiana — wouldn’t a matchup with the Hoosiers be fitting?
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