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ND Women’s Basketball

ACC tournament presents gauntlet of top teams for Irish

| Thursday, March 3, 2022

On Friday night Notre Dame women’s basketball will begin ACC tournament play as they travel to Greensboro, North Carolina to take on Georgia Tech. 

The Irish’s matchup with the Yellow Jackets is a rematch of a mid-February thriller in Atlanta. Notre Dame pulled away in overtime in the first matchup, defeating Tech 72-66 for the team’s first ranked road win of the season.

Georgia Tech offers a tough first round opponent for this Irish team, particularly on the defensive end. The Yellow Jackets have kept 13 different conference opponents under 60 points this season. They also have a strong out of conference record, with stifling wins over current AP Top 25 teams Georgia and UConn.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Ramblin’ Wreck are less consistent. They don’t have a single player averaging over 12 points per game, but rather four who average more than 10. In 11 different games they’ve failed to eclipse 60 points themselves. In their first round match against Wake Forest on Thursday, Tech managed just 45 points (though they held the Demon Deacons to 40). In the first matchup between the squads, Notre Dame’s offense controlled the pace of the game and forced the Yellow Jackets to match. It took overtime for the Irish to pull away, but when it mattered most Notre Dame took control. If the Irish offense, which sputtered against Louisville in the teams’ regular-season finale, is able to once again dictate the game’s pace, the Irish should be able to advance to the semifinals. 

Looming in the semifinals, however, is presumably second-seeded Louisville. The Cardinals gave the Irish fits in each of the teams’ prior matchups, with Notre Dame losing by 26 points and 22 points respectively. Currently ranked No. 4 in the country, Louisville is a talented and high-flying team that can beat opponents in multiple ways. The Cardinals dominated the Irish in the post in their first matchup, and shot the lights out in the second. Head coach Niele Ivey will need to find answers for the high-scoring offense the Cardinals will throw at her and her squad if the Irish want to pull a semifinal upset.

Should the Irish upset Louisville, one more national power would likely loom in the final. On the other side of the bracket is No. 3 North Carolina State, the tournament’s top seed. The Wolfpack have lost one conference game all year, though it was to the Irish at Purcell Pavilion. A double-double by graduate student forward Maya Dodson led the way for the Irish that night, and Notre Dame would likely need another elite performance from their top post player to take down North Carolina State a second time.

Notre Dame’s potential run through three ranked opponents is as daunting as any, but its benefits to the Irish heading into the national tournament could be significant. If Notre Dame makes the tournament final, they’ll see two of the top contenders for the national title. That experience will be invaluable against any top teams they may face in March Madness.

Friday’s game tips off at 8 p.m. against the Yellow Jackets in the Greensboro Coliseum. The game will be televised regionally.

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