Men’s Basketball Capsules
Observer Sports Writers | Friday, March 22, 2013
Notre Dame’s 3-point shooting could be the difference between celebrating a difficult Sweet 16 trip and mourning another early exit. When Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Cam Biedscheid are finding their range, the offense is more fluid and allows the inside game to become much more effective. Against a hot offensive team like Iowa State and a tough defensive squad like probable second-round opponent Ohio State, having the ability to score from the perimeter is key to success.
How Notre Dame defends Iowa State’s outside shooting will be the key to whether the Irish can avoid the upset. The Cyclones are one of the nation’s most prolific teams from beyond the arc, ranking No. 1 in the nation with 9.8 3-pointers per game and to 79.6 points per game, the nation’s fourth-best mark. The difference in this matchup will be whether Notre Dame’s perimeter defenders can force the Cyclones into bad jump shots. If the Irish win the battle behind the arc, they should be able to advance over the Cyclones.
The Irish have a well-documented history of struggling in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame lost to No. 10 seeds in each of the last two years, and the No. 11 seed the year before that. Whether the Irish can shake off their recent history and make a run at the Sweet 16 (with a potential date with No. 2-seeded Ohio State looming in the way) is yet to be seen, but Notre Dame has to break the habit of losing to scrappy, athletic, lower-seeded teams first.
Notre Dame faced fellow Big East foe Cincinnati twice in Big East play, winning each matchup (66-60 on the road and 62-41 at home), while Iowa State lost a 78-70 contest to the Bearcats on the Cyclones’ home floor. Both Notre Dame and Iowa State hosted and defeated BYU, with the Irish prevailing 78-68 at New York’s Barclays Center on Nov. 17 and the Cyclones winning 83-62 on Dec. 1. The Irish came from behind to beat the Cougars on a neutral floor while the Cyclones eased to a 21-point victory.
AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT
The Irish were inconsistent during the regular season, in large part due to their inability to get production out of everyone in the lineup in each game. If Notre Dame is going to make it to the Sweet 16, not only will it need strong performances from its leaders (Atkins, Grant and Jack Cooley), but role players like Connaughton, Biedscheid and Garrick Sherman will have to step up as well. Teams in the NCAA tournament are too good to be beaten by one or two players – it takes a team effort to string wins together.