The Big East Conference received the most bids in the 2013 NCAA Tournament (8), and we’re going through team-by-team previewing each one from the lowest seed to the highest.
Seed line: #7 in the West Region
First opponent: #10 Iowa St. Cyclones
Time of first game: Friday, March 22 at 9:45 PM on CBS
Player to watch: Jack Cooley – The 6-foot-9 senior is arguably the best all-around rebounder in the country, but he gets very little recognition for his efforts on the national platform. He pulls down 17.4% of available offensive rebounds (3rd in the country) and 24.2% of available defensive rebounds (45th in the country). Look for Cooley to push around the smaller-sized Cyclones in their round 1 game and give Ohio St. all they can handle if they make it to the weekend.
What to know: The Fighting Irish looked much better (from a playing standpoint, not necessarily from a visual standpoint for some) when they switched to their electric ‘Shamrock Shake’ uniforms last week for the Big East Tournament. However, it wasn’t enough for them to get by Louisville in the semifinals. Nevertheless, Notre Dame has shown throughout the season that they can hang with some of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately, they can be wildly inconsistent. Losses to St. John’s and Providence aren’t terrible losses, but they are games that they should win. And not to mention they needed overtime to beat DePaul in both of their meetings. Their offense is one of the most efficient in the country (12th), but it is also incredibly slow (320th). And their defense isn’t anything to write home about as it is below average when compared to the rest of the tournament field. The pieces are there from a player talent standpoint and their blinding jerseys (granted that they are wearing them) certainly can’t hurt, but this team has struggled to get to the second weekend for most of the last decade under Coach Mike Brey (once, in 2003, they got to the second weekend in the past decade, and have gone one-and-done three times).
Tournament prospects: Past performance does not guarantee future results, so there is no reason to believe their past struggles in the first weekend indicate future disappointment. However, their opponent/s for the first weekend does suggest another poor showing. The Irish’s opening round game against Iowa St. on Friday night seems to be an evenly matched fight. Both teams tout top-15 efficiency adjusted offenses (Iowa St. 8th and Notre Dame 12th), but the Cyclones play up-tempo, while as already noted above – the Irish stick to their patented slow ‘burn’ offense. These teams are also similar on the defensive end, in that they are below average as both notably struggle as forcing turnovers (Iowa St. is 255th in the country at forcing turnovers while Notre Dame is 326th). The real challenge for the Irish, if they are to get by Iowa St., would come on Sunday when they are almost assured to see Ohio St. The Buckeyes flew under the radar for most of the year as they had their early season struggles, but they have quickly become one of the hottest teams in the nation – winning eight in a row, including the Big Ten Tournament championship. This would be a tall order for Notre Dame, if they even get that far that is.