There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the 7-10 matchup in the South Region between the better-than-expected Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the worse-than-expected Xavier Musketeers.
Notre Dame-Xavier State Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier in South Region
- Notre Dame-Xavier Date: Friday, March 16th
- Notre Dame-Xavier Tip Time: 9:40 ET
- Notre Dame-Xavier Location: Greensboro
- Notre Dame-Xavier TV: TBS
- Notre Dame-Xavier Announcers: Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg
- Notre Dame-Xavier Point Spread: Notre Dame -2.5
- Tickets: Notre Dame-Xavier Tickets
- Tickets: All Greensboro Sessions
- Tickets: South Regional Tickets in Atlanta
Notre Dame-Xavier Analysis and Prediction
Of all the games in the region, I think this has the most upset potential.
I loved the Musketeers early in the season, but the Crosstown Brawl set them back and I’m still not sure they have truly recovered. However, they started to show signs of life in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and strong backcourt play is always important in March, which bodes well for a Xavier team with two senior guards, Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, who ooze toughness and aren’t afraid to take big shots.
The other key factor here is X’s three-point defense, which is in the Top 30 nationally and could slow down a Notre Dame offense that is at its best when long-range jumpers are falling. The Musketeers also have a strong defensive rebounding percentage, and they’ll need it to keep Jack Cooley off the offensive glass.
Predicted Winner: Xavier
Notre Dame Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 22-11 (13-5 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 9-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Connecticut, Detroit, Louisville, Marquette, South Florida (2), Syracuse, West Virginia (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Indiana, Louisville, Missouri
- Player to Watch: Jack Cooley (6’9” F, Jr.) – 12.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 61.2 FG%
Notre Dame Bottoms Line:
The Irish rebounded from a slow start and the early season loss of star forward Tim Abromaitis to win 13 Big East games.
They rank just outside the Top 50 in offensive efficiency, but they slow the pace and keep games close. Notre Dame takes great care of the basketball, but they are very reliant on the three-point shot. On defense, the Irish don’t put their opponents on the free throw line often and are solid defensively against both two- and three-pointers.
Mike Brey plays essentially a six-man rotation with three players scoring at least 12 points. Jack Cooley has grown into a legit double-double threat and shoots over 61 percent from the field. He also has one of the top offensive rebounding percentages in the country and boasts a high free throw rate. Guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins both dish out over four assists per game and can create plays in late shot clock scenarios. Senior Scott Martin gives the Irish another versatile player, while Pat Connaughton and Alex Dragicevich are both streaky shooters from beyond the arc.
Xavier Musketeers Team Capsule
- Conference: Atlantic 10
- Record: 21-12 (10-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 5-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Purdue, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Vanderbilt
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Gonzaga, Long Beach State, Memphis, Saint Louis (2), Temple
- Player to Watch: Tu Holloway (6’0” G, Sr.) – 17.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.6 spg
Xavier Bottoms Line:
Xavier’s brawl with Cincinnati in December earned them plenty of negative press, and the team really struggled even after the suspensions had passed. However, they rebounded for a run to the A-10 Final, which solidified their tournament bid.
While the Musketeers were once touted as a potential Final Four squad, their final offensive and defensive efficiency numbers aren’t particularly impressive, as they rank outside the Top 60 on both ends of the floor. Their best attributes are a low turnover rate and a solid ability to get to the free throw line, but the Musketeers have struggled to consistently make shots and aren’t strong on the offensive glass.
Senior guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons shoulder the load on offense, as both players score at least 15 points per game with Lyons hitting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. Holloway leads the team in assists and steals and isn’t afraid to attack the basket and draw contact, as evidenced by his high free throw rate. If the game is tight late, one of these guys will end up taking the big shot.
Kenny Frease is the team’s top low post threat and averages around nine points and six rebounds, with solid rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor. Freshman Dez Wells is an explosive athlete who can make highlight reel plays and is shooting over 55 percent on two-pointers. Guard play is often critical in March, which certainly makes Xavier an interesting team.
Related: Jump to our South Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama