Notre Dame earns No. 3 seed in Midwest Region in NCAA tournament
Mike Monaco | Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Less than 24 hours after winning the ACC tournament as the conference’s No. 3 seed, Notre Dame earned the No. 3 seed Sunday in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament.
The Irish (29-5, 14-4 ACC) will face No. 14 seed Northeastern on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Notre Dame rode a second-half surge past North Carolina, 90-82, in Saturday’s ACC tournament final Saturday night after besting Duke, 74-64, in Friday’s semifinal in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“It’s the most confident I’ve been with a team going into the NCAA tournament,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “I think with the experience and what happened in Greensboro has given me that and them that.”
Kentucky headlines the bracket as the No. 1 seed in the region and the tournament’s top overall team. Kansas (No. 2 seed), Maryland (No. 4), West Virginia (No. 5), Butler (No. 6), Wichita State (No. 7) and Texas (No. 11) are also in Notre Dame’s region. Should the Irish top Northeastern, they would face the winner of Butler and Texas on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve already won one tournament. … Can we win the Pittsburgh tournament?” Brey said of his message to the Irish. “That’s all we’re thinking. I told them, ‘Don’t even look at the rest of the bracket.’”
Notre Dame has only faced Northeastern (23-11, 12-6 Colonial Athletic Association) once in program history. The Irish rolled the Huskies, 72-45, in 1997 in South Bend behind 24 points from Pat Garrity and 11 assists from then-freshman guard Martin Inglesby, now an Irish assistant coach.
Northeastern topped No. 2 seed UNC Wilmington and No. 1 seed William & Mary en route to the CAA’s automatic bid. The Huskies clinched their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1991.
The last time Notre Dame won an NCAA tournament game was the opening-round victory against Akron in 2011. Irish senior guard Jerian Grant, who redshirted that season in his first year in the program, was the only current Notre Dame player on the roster. As a No. 7 seed in 2012, the Irish lost to Xavier in their first game. Iowa State bounced No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the opening round in 2013. Asked if Notre Dame’s lack of recent NCAA tournament success weighs on him at all, Brey responded succinctly: “No.”
“This is a different team,” Irish senior captain and guard/forward Pat Connaughton said. “This is a team that, from the very beginning, we wanted to establish ourselves as a different team, as a completely new, almost reinvented, program.”
The Irish did just that, in part, by winning Notre Dame’s first-ever conference tournament championship over the weekend in Greensboro. Notre Dame’s last appearance in the Sweet 16, however, came in 2003, when the No. 5 seed Irish lost to No. 1 seed Arizona.
“We still want to rewrite history here at Notre Dame,” Grant said. “I feel like we’ve done something so far, but just to be able to go to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and get a chance to play against [Midwest No. 1 seed] Kentucky and do something special there, it would mean a lot.”
Notre Dame and Northeastern square off Thursday at 12:15 p.m. in Pittsburgh at Consol Energy Center. The game will be broadcast on CBS.
The full 68-team bracket for the NCAA tournament can be viewed here.