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Notre Dame Basketball

Hoops Preview: (5) Notre Dame vs (4) West Virginia

March 18, 2017

(5) Notre Dame (26-9) vs (4) West Virginia (27-8)

Date: March 18
Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York
Time: 12:10 p.m. ET
TV: CBS - Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, and Allie LaForce

Quick Facts

- Notre Dame has never won its first two games in three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
- In NCAA Tournament games decided by five points or less, the Irish are 5-1 in their last six games.
- Mike Brey and Bob Huggins will be meeting for the 10th time. Brey leads the series 5-4.
- Notre Dame’s senior class has 97 wins over the past four years, which matches the school record.
- Matt Farrell has hit a three-pointer in 25 straight games.

The Starters

Notre Dame
Matt Farrell: 14.2 ppg, 2.1 apg, and 5.4 apg
Rex Pflueger: 4.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, and 1.6 apg
Steve Vasturia: 13.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 3.3 apg
VJ Beachem: 14.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 0.8 apg
Bonzie Colson: 17.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg, and 1.6 apg

West Virginia
Jevon Carter: 13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 3.9 apg
Daxter Miles Jr.:  8.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, and 1.6 apg
Esa Ahmad: 11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 1.8 apg
Nathan Adrian: 9.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 2.9 apg
Elijah Macon: 6.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 0.5 apg

How They Matchup

(National Rank)
Scoring Offense: WVU: 82.1 ppg (20) – Notre Dame: 77.5 ppg (79)
Scoring Defense: WVU: 66.7 (49) – Notre Dame: 68.9 ppg (90)
Rebound Margin: WVU: 2.8 (93) – Notre Dame: -1.7 (256)
Field-Goal Percentage: WVU: 45.8% (96) – Notre Dame: 43.0% (136)
Three-Point Percentage: WVU: 36.3% (112) – Notre Dame: 38.5% (36)
Three-Pointers Made: WVU: 7.5 (158) – Notre Dame: 9.3 (29)
Free-Throw Percentage: WVU: 68.0% (261) – Notre Dame: 79.5% (1)

Those who follow college basketball know about the West Virginia press and those who casually follow will quickly find out the aggressive Mountaineer defense on Saturday. It’s an intriguing matchup for multiple reasons, but something will have to give in the second round matchup.

Notre Dame enters the game leading the country averaging just 9.3 turnovers a game, while West Virginia leads the nation in forcing 20.2 turnovers a night. It’s not a shock the Mountaineers also lead the nation with 10.3 steals a game.

"Their defense creates and turns it to their offense, and that's something that they're really known for," said Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia. "The way we play, we do a great job handling the ball, give credit to Matty (Farrell) and our guards to make great decisions. So for us I think for us the challenge is just going to be making the right decisions and not rushing. I think that's something we've been very good at all season long, so just taking our time, making the right decision, and I think we'll be able to get some good shots."

The good news for the Irish is the fact there will be a good chance at least four ball-handlers will be on the floor at a given time. I’d lump Bonzie Colson into that category as he can handle the ball better than most big men who have his role in the press break. However, Farrell has been loose with the ball at times, so it will be crucial for him to control the ball on Saturday.

"We've kind of compared them to Florida State a little bit," said Farrell. "Being in the passing lanes, contesting full-court pressure. I think there's is a little more difference, a little more havoc, I would say, or reckless, you got guys everywhere. We just need to stay poised with the ball. We need guys to be receivers. Everybody that's on the floor needs to be a receiver. We need to be strong with the ball."

When it comes to the roster, both teams aren’t the biggest team, which likely bodes well for the Irish. I would expect Brey to give Colson some early looks down low similar to the Princeton game, assuming the Irish can handle the press. However, it will be about getting into a flow offensively and Notre Dame will need the Big Four to be active in the scoring column.

"I've got really pretty sharp guys and high basketball I.Q. guys, so I think our thing is, you know, when we get through it, are we looking to attack," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "We can't play man-to-man the whole game. We got to make them play against something different to kind of maybe change their rhythm, since they change your rhythm with full-court pressure."

If Notre Dame can force West Virginia to back off the press with hitting open shots early, then I think the Irish can take control of the game. It’s going to be interesting to see if the Irish try to push the tempo or slow things down. They have shown the ability to play either style this year, but lately, it’s been a little slower.

"We're not the fastest," stated Brey. "If you look at our pace, we have been kind of a situational running team. I think what we do is we've gotten to do a good job when we don't have numbers in transition, we kind of back that thing out and make you guard us for a while.

"We're going to have to be disciplined with that. Now that's easier said than done because they're really good in the half court. They face guarding you, they just run and trap you there. So, finding the rhythm in this game, I think, is going to gee a feeling-out process us tomorrow in the first half."

Another point of emphasis for Notre Dame will be making sure the Mountaineers stay off the offensive glass. West Virginia averages 14.4 offensive rebounds a game, which is good for 5th in the country. It’s stating the obvious as any team can’t afford to give up second-chance points in March, but in this game, the Irish are likely to have a few more turnovers than normal, so eliminating second-chance buckets will only help that much more.

Notre Dame 81
West Virginia 77
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Hoops Preview: (5) Notre Dame vs (4) West Virginia

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