Notebook: Notre Dame readies for Kentucky in Elite Eight
Mike Monaco | Friday, March 27, 2015
No. 3 seed Notre Dame battles No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
36 – Years since Notre Dame last appeared in the Elite Eight. The Irish lost to Michigan State, 80-68, on March 18, 1979, in the regional final in Indianapolis. The previous year, Notre Dame topped DePaul in the regional final to reach the Final Four, where it lost to Duke.
33 – The most wins by an Irish team in program history. Notre Dame piled up 33 victories in the 1908-09 season. A win Saturday would give the Irish 33 for this season.
30 – Points scored by former Irish forward Luke Harangody in Notre Dame’s 77-67 win over Kentucky in the 2009 NIT quarterfinals, the last postseason meeting between the two teams.
21 – Now in his sixth season as Kentucky’s head coach, John Calipari has landed 21 McDonald’s All-Americans. Irish head coach Mike Brey has coached six McDonald’s All-Americans, including sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson, during his 15 seasons in South Bend. Calipari has nine McDonald’s All-Americans on this year’s roster, five of whom do not start.
6-foot-9 — Average height of Kentucky’s starting lineup, which includes 7-foot junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein, 6-foot-11 freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns and 6-foot-10 freshman forward Trey Lyles. Only one Notre Dame player that tall (6-foot-10 junior forward Zach Auguste) has appeared in the NCAA tournament this year.
121.9 — Notre Dame’s offensive efficiency rating, according to kenpom.com, the third-highest in the country.
84.7 — Kentucky’s defensive efficiency rating, according to kenpom.com, the best in the country.
Kentucky starting sophomore guard Aaron Harrison, who injured his left ring finger in the win over West Virginia on Thursday night, told reporters Friday he’s a little sore, but the injury won’t be a big factor against the Irish.
“We are America’s team tomorrow. There’s no question about it.” — Irish head coach Mike Brey on facing the Wildcats.
“You just know you’re going to have to bring your A-game. When a team is that dominant, you can’t mess around with the game. You can’t come out and not be ready to play from the jump.” — Irish senior guard Jerian Grant, on Friday, on watching Kentucky roll past West Virginia on Thursday.
“I don’t think we’re going to change our game plan. I don’t think doubling down is something that we’re necessarily going to do because you’ve got to box them out, and you’ve got to be in position to box them out.” — Irish senior guard/forward Pat Connaughton on defending Kentucky’s post players.
“I didn’t get to see the game obviously. My staff came in and said, ‘Oh, my gosh. They went bonkers.’ And I said, ‘Like how?’ ‘Like every way you could go.’” — Calipari on Thursday, on Notre Dame’s second-half performance Thursday night against Wichita State.
“They beat our brains in. I know how good a coach [Brey] is. I know how good their team is.” — Calipari, on Thursday night, recalling Notre Dame’s 64-50 win over the Wildcats in Nov. 2012 at Purcell Pavilion.
“We’re just going to have to lock down defensively and play up to competition and just raise our game.” — Lyles, on Friday afternoon, on facing Notre Dame’s offense.
“We can’t really worry about the past. We have to worry about the game tomorrow. We just know they can really score the ball.” — Kentucky sophomore guard Andrew Harrison, on Friday, when asked about Notre Dame’s history of toppling No. 1-ranked teams. The Irish have defeated eight teams ranked first in the AP poll.
“What I’ve seen in the last five games is that they’re really defending. They’re playing more physical. They’re playing tougher. Their rotations are tighter, and I think that’s why they’ve gone on this run because now they can get to 75, 80, and they make it hard for you to do it now.” — Calipari, on Friday, on Notre Dame’s defensive improvement.
“I don’t know if someone has to play a perfect. My team knows that every team that’s left playing can beat us. We know that. … We’re not perfect. We’re undefeated. We should have lost five or six games.” — Calipari on Friday.
Notre Dame and Kentucky tip off Saturday night at 8:49 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.