Notre Dame-West Virginia-Princeton-Bucknell Pod Preview
Fresh off a 75-69 defeat in the ACC Tournament Championship against the Duke Blue Devils, Notre Dame learned its NCAA Tournament fate early Sunday evening.
The Irish, seeded fifth in the West Region, will take on the 12th-seeded Princeton Tigers on Thursday afternoon in Buffalo, N.Y.
Here’s a look at the Tigers as well as Notre Dame’s two potential second-round opponents, fourth-seeded West Virginia and 13th-seeded Bucknell.
In the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2011, the Tigers are coming in hot having won their last 19 games. A victory on Thursday afternoon would match the program's longest winning streak.
The Tigers are led by sophomore guard and Mishawaka, Ind., native Devin Cannaday and senior forward Steven Cook who both average just under 14 points per game. Sophomore Myles Stephens is coming off a career-high 23-point effort in the inaugural Ivy League tournament championship against Yale.
Princeton is a very strong defensive team, allowing just 61.5 points per game and relies heavily on the three-point shot on offense, which accounts for 40 percent of its points. Historically, the 5-12 games are where most of the upsets in the tournament occur and the Irish want to make sure they don't fall into that trap.
Ivy League teams also have had much success the last few seasons and Princeton is one that fits the profile of Harvard's and the Yale's as a team that wants to slow the game down and force their opponents into mistakes. Irish point guard Matt Farrell is going to be a huge key in this game because he'll need to push the pace to keep Princeton uncomfortable.
The pressure will be on Notre Dame as its contest will start off the first day of games on Thursday, but as the Irish have shown time and time again, they respond well to the pressure.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Bob Huggins' squad is coming off a tough 80-74 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament Championship, but they have had a very successful season including wins against Kansas and Virginia. However, as with most of the Big 12, West Virginia has been very up-and-down this season and often times doesn't look like the same team game to game.
Offensively, the Mountaineers are one of the best teams in the country, averaging over 80 points per game and shooting at a 46-percent clip. Jevon Carter leads the team in scoring at 13.1 per game and is one of the top guards in the Big 12. Nathan Adrian and Esa Ahmad are also solid secondary scoring options.
Defensively, they struggle a bit allowing nearly 70 points per game. However, they are one of the best teams in the country in forcing turnovers and due to the often-frantic ends to games in the NCAA tournament, the style could play right into their hands.
If this team meets the Irish in the second round, we could be in store for one of the games of the tournament with both teams able to score a lot of points.
Winners of the Patriot League Regular Season and Tournament titles, the Bison come into the NCAA tournament having won six straight games. This is their first NCAA appearance since 2013 and their seventh overall.
For the second time, Bucknell is faced with a Big 12 opponent in the tournament, the first being its stunning 64-63 upset of Kansas back in 2005.
Bucknell is 0-8 all-time against West Virginia.
The Bison are led by junior forward Zach Thomas was who a First Team All-Patriot League and Patriot League Tournament MVP selection. Thomas averages 16 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and shoots 47.7 percent from the field.
As common with many mid-major teams, Bucknell shoots very well as a team, over 48 percent and they also shoot 37.7 percent from three-point range.
This is a team that won't go away and likely will stay around at least until the second half. However, they might not be able to remain in striking distance until the end given their struggles at the guard spots and with West Virginia playing such a high-pressure defense, it's going to present big problems for the Bison.
Thursday Tip Info
#5 Notre Dame vs. #12 Princeton, 12:15 P.M., CBS
#4 West Virginia vs. #13 Bucknell, approx. 2:45 P.M., CBS