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Staff Predictions: Men’s Basketball

| Tuesday, March 14, 2017

NCAA_bracket_menLauren Weldon | The Observer

Alex Carson, Senior Sports Writer

Assuming both get past their first-round opposition, a matchup between Notre Dame and West Virginia would be the pivotal one in the West Region. If the Mountaineers get past the Irish, I like them to make a run to the Final Four. But I don’t see “Press Virginia” bothering a Notre Dame team that turns the ball over less often than anyone else in the country.

Gonzaga should navigate its pod fine, setting up a matchup between two of college basketball’s best players, Nigel Williams-Goss and Bonzie Colson. In a tight game, the Irish draw on their crunch-time experience to eke out a win against a team that hasn’t won a game by single digits in more than three months.

The journey for Notre Dame will end in a familiar spot, though, falling in the Elite Eight for the third straight season — this year to Arizona, led by Allonzo Trier and Finnish sensation Lauri Markkanen.

PREDICTION: Notre Dame loses to Arizona in the Elite Eight.

Marek Mazurek, Assistant Managing Editor

It’s hard to bet against Mike Brey in March as of late, as Notre Dame is quickly becoming the Michigan State of sticking around when it maybe shouldn’t.

The Irish beat No. 12 seed Princeton on Thursday and move on to face West Virginia. The Mountaineers play an aggressive press defense that could give Notre Dame problems, but the team’s strength is ball handling, so the Irish advance in a close one.

If the chalk holds up, the Irish would then play Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. The Bulldogs have too much height with two seven-footers in the starting lineup. Notre Dame has beaten taller teams before (see Florida State), but Gonzaga has better guards than the Seminoles, and the Irish fall just short of a third straight Elite Eight.

PREDICTION: Notre Dame loses to Gonzaga in Sweet 16.

R.J. Stempak, Sports Writer

Despite being seeded lower than expected, the Irish were fortunate enough to land in the easiest quarter of the bracket.

After a win in its first matchup with Princeton, Notre Dame will have to face a West Virginia team that relies on forcing turnovers — an area the Irish excel at limiting. With another win, the Irish will have a difficult time against No. 1 seed Gonzaga, but I predict the team will be able to overcome the Bulldogs. This team looks primed to a reach a third straight Elite Eight.

It will be tough for the Irish to make it past the finals of its region over Arizona. The Pac-12 tournament champion is led by the most dynamic big man in the country, Lauri Markkanen, to go along with its experienced guards. An Elite Eight exit would be yet another successful season for the Irish under head coach Mike Brey.

PREDICTION: Notre Dame loses to Arizona in the Elite Eight.

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