The fifth seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-9, 12-6 ACC) squeaked out a win over Princeton on Thursday in NCAA Tournament first round action. Good thing for the Irish is that, in March it doesn’t matter how win, but if you win. They’ll now turn their focus to the fourth seeded West Virginia Mountaineers (27-8, 12-6 Big 12).
The Mountaineers have a good season to date. They pushed perennial power Kansas for the Big 12 title, but ultimately fell short. WVU also made a run to the Big 12 Tournament Championship game, but again fell to Iowa State.
The Irish and Mountaineers used to face each other frequently in the old Big East, so there should be some familiarity between these two programs.
- Notre Dame leads the all-time series 27-12
- The Irish won the last meeting, 71-44, in 2012 at Purcell Pavilion
- Mike Brey is 14-5 all-time vs. West Virginia, including a streak of 9 straight from 2001-2005
- This is West Virginia’s 28th NCAA Tournament Appearance
- This is the third straight season West Virginia has posted 25+ wins
- West Virginia is ranked fifth on KenPom.com. Notre Dame is 25th
- West Virginia ranks 25th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency
- First team All-ACC player Bonzie Colson went for 18 points and seven rebounds in Notre Dame’s first round win
- VegasInsider.com has West Virginia as the favorite at -2.5
When: Saturday, March 18, 2017, 12:10pm ET
Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, NY
How to Watch: CBS or NCAA March Madness App
Fouling/Free Throw Defense: The Mountaineers are one of the worst fouling teams in the country, as they average 20.4 fouls per game (285th NCAA). Because of this their opponents are getting to the line 22.2 times per game. Despite what some fans think after ND’s first round performance, the Irish are the best free throw shooting team in the nations and they should get more than enough chances to show that on Saturday.
Three-point Defense: WVU’s defense is very stout, no question about it. But there is one soft spot in their D and thats their perimeter defense. WVU’s opponents are shooting 35% from distance this season, which ranked 185th nationally. Teams are also getting three-point attempts 36% of the time against the Mountaineers.
Defensive Rebounding: If the ankle is good to go, Bonzie Colson should have ample opportunities to grab some offensive boards. WVU ranks 272nd in the country in defensive rebounding percentage.
Forcing Turnovers: We all know about “Press Virginia”. The Mountaineers are going to press the heck and force turnovers out of every opponent they play. The force over 20.3 turnovers per game, tops in the nation. Something will have to give though because Notre Dame is one of the nation’s best at not turning the ball over.
Transition Defense/Offense: All the turnovers WVU forces, lead to run outs, which leads to easy baskets. They are shooting 60% in transition this season — 35th nationally.
Because of the style they play, WVU gives up its fair share of transition opportunities (293rd NCAA), but they do a good job of not letting opponents convert. Teams are shooting just 51% in transition this season against WVU — which ranks 65th nationally.
Offensive Rebounding: The Mountaineers are near the top nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, as they haul in 37% of their opponents misses. Blocking out and cleaning up on the defensive glass will be imperative for the Irish.
Mountaineers to Watch
Esa Ahmad - 6’8”, Wing, Sophomore
- Team’s second leading scorer at 11.3 PPG
- Third on the team in rebounding at
- One of the few Mountaineers that can create his own offense
- Has 20+ point potential — has had two 20+ performances this season
- Good outside shooter at 37%
- VJ Beachem likely to garner the matchup
Jevon Carter - 6’2”, Guard, Junior
- WVU’s best offensive threat — leads the team in scoring at 13.0 PPG
- Led the Big 12 in steals per game at 2.6 per game
- WVU’s best distributor — averages 3.9 APG
- Can try and play “hero ball” at times.
- Has propensity to fall in love with the three-point shot
- Matt Farrell likely to matchup with Carter
Nathan Adrian - 6’9”, Forward, Senior
- Senior leader
- WVU’s best rebounder at 6.1 RPG
- Not the typical big man, does have decent mobility
- Not the best offensive threat, but has ability to step out and shoot the three
- Bonzie Colson likely to matchup with Adrian
Pick to Click
Matt Farrell - 6’1”, Guard, Junior
Despite missing some crucial free throws down the stretch, Farrell played very well on Thursday against Princeton. He went for 16 points on 6-9 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and 2 steals. If the Irish advance to the Sweet Sixteen, Farrell will play an integral part beating West Virginia’s press.
Notre Dame 79 - West Virginia 72
Looking at the numbers and thinking about it, this actually isn’t a terrible matchup for Notre Dame. West Virginia gets a good chunk of its offense off turnovers, and Notre Dame doesn’t turn the ball over that much.
Notre Dame also shoots foul shots incredibly well, and WVU puts its opponents on the line at a high rate.
If the Irish can come out and shoot the ball well and take care of the ball, I think they can come away with a victory here.
They will need to get more out of seniors Beachem and Steve Vasturia. The duo combined for 4-21 from the field against Princeton.
Oh and one last thing...I have a feeling WVU will wear their yellow unis, but if they dont...WEAR THE GOLD JERSEYS!