Staff Predictions: NCAA tournament 2018
Observer Sports Staff | Saturday, March 24, 2018
Editor’s Note: A version of this story was previously published March 13.
Elizabeth Greason — Assistant Managing Editor
While many were calling Muffet McGraw crazy for scheduling a 9,800-mile road trip to start the season, it could pay off now, as the Irish will have to travel to Spokane, Washington, for their regional, should they advance to the Sweet Sixteen. And Notre Dame’s side of the bracket is stacked to say the least, but its run to this point this season has been a Cinderella story, so who’s to say that’s going to come to an end now? It is unfortunate that the Irish and Connecticut fall on the same side of the bracket, because the only team who will put an end to the this fairytale run is the the perennial thorn in Notre Dame’s side: the Huskies.
Prediction: Notre Dame loses to UConn in the Final Four.
Daniel O’Boyle — Sports Writer
Maybe if statistical analysis in women’s basketball was a little better, if Ken Pomeroy made team ratings for the women’s game as well and if the tournament committee didn’t instead put too much weight on the flawed RPI, the Irish would have been a No. 2 seed instead.
But Notre Dame’s bracket as a No.1 seed may be harder than the one they would have seen as a No. 2. Traveling to Spokane instead of a third-straight trip to Lexington will be tough, not least because second-seeded Oregon will have an effective home advantage in the Pacific Northwest. Led by sophomores Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard and with a Final Four run in 2017 already under their belt, the Ducks will be a monumental challenge for the Irish. They might just be able to sneak past the Irish and back to the Final Four.
Prediction: Notre Dame loses to Oregon in the Elite Eight.
Alex Bender — Sports Writer
As we enter the 2018 NCAA tournament, Notre Dame finds itself in familiar territory, sitting as one of the top seeds when action gets underway Friday evening. Last year’s tournament saw Notre Dame as a No. 1 seed as well with its run coming to an end at the hands of the No. 2 seed Stanford. So how far can we expect the Irish to go this season? For at least the first weekend, there should be little trouble for this team. Only one No. 16 seed has ever defeated a No. 1 seed, and Notre Dame is simply too strong a team to become the second ever when they take on CSUN. What follows is a matchup with either San Diego State or Villanova, and again Notre Dame’s strength and depth should be able to carry it.
As they continue through their region, the Irish are the more talented team in every matchup, so it would seem likely they will make it to at least the Elite Eight where a potential matchup with Oregon awaits. This could make for a difficult game for the Irish, especially given that the game will be playing closer to home for the Ducks in Spokane, Washington. However, Notre Dame will ultimately get over this hump and return to the Final Four for the first time since 2015. This, however, may be the end of the road for the Irish when they match up with UConn in the semifinals. This is a Huskies team that defeated Notre Dame earlier this season and is currently seeking revenge for their defeat in last year’s tournament.
Prediction: Notre Dame loses to Connecticut in the Final Four.
Charlie Ortega Guifarro — Sports Writer
Notre Dame is undeniably a great team, even without four key players in the rotation. The team however, has been defeated twice by a Louisville team that has moved the ball well. The ACC finals could have very well gone differently if Notre Dame had even one extra day of rest but the Cardinals made the most out of Notre Dame’s fatigue — the Irish played three-straight days with essentially a six-player rotation. With that said, Notre Dame has enough talent and grit in its current roster to get past the first three rounds comfortably. The biggest issue for the Irish will be in the Final Four in which they can predictably expect to face No. 1 UConn. The Huskies are the best team in the nation right now and an even more dangerous team than Louisville. The shorthanded Irish will give it their all but, will fail to meet the energy and intensity of UConn.
Prediction: Notre Dame loses in the Final Four to UConn.