Friday’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Louisville in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament didn’t just keep the Irish from advancing to their first Big East Final, it also cost them a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Irish will enter the Big Dance as the 2nd seed in the Southwest bracket.
Despite losing out on one of the tourney’s top seeds, Notre Dame received a nice consolation prize of playing the first two rounds in nearby Chicago. The Irish will tip off as one of the early games on Friday against Akron at the United Center in their quest for advancing past the Sweet 16 for the first time in the Mike Brey Era.
Should Notre Dame get past Akron on Friday, they will face the winner of the Florida State and Texas A&M game on Sunday.
Even without a #1 seed, Notre Dame received a favorable draw with it’s bracket. The Irish avoided being paired in a bracket with the tournaments #1 overall seed Ohio State and can reach the Sweet 16 by winning two games just 100 or so miles from campus.
The third seeded Purdue Boilermakers could meet Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 if both advance as they are expected to do.
A few familiar faces are on the opposite side of Notre Dame’s bracket with conference rivals Georgetown and Louisville both playing in the Southwest bracket as well. In order for Notre Dame to have a chance to face either Big East foe, they’d need to advance to the Elite 8. Notre Dame has beaten Georgetown
Before Friday night’s loss, the Irish had been on a roll as winner’s of 11 of their final 12 games including wins over Tournament teams UConn, Villanova, Cincinnati, Marquette, and Pitt. In fact, that impressive stretch was enough to put the Irish in the conversation for a #1 seed, but the selection committee gave the nod to Pitt even though Notre Dame beat the Panthers on their home court at the end of January.
For Notre Dame to make a deep run in the Tournament, the Irish will need Ben Hansbrough to play as he did down the stretch in the regular season and shake off the poor outing he had Friday night in the Garden. Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year, shoot a dreadful 3 of 16 from the field against Louisville including a miss at the end of regulation that would have won the game for the Irish. Another performance like that and the Irish will likely still be looking for their first Final Four appearance since 1978.
We’ll have more on Notre Dame’s tournament chances throughout the week.