It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
5. Notre Dame (25-9, 12-6/ACC)– Mike Brey has his program humming, coming off back-to-back Elite Eight appearances and two straight appearances in the ACC title game. Unlike their football brethren, the basketball Irish always seem to fly under the radar, despite the fact that the program has been making national noise for quite some time now.
This group is no exception, as ND won 12 games in the toughest conference in America. Bruising forward Bonzie Colson is one of the most underrated players in the nation, as he led the Irish in scoring (17.5 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 per). V.J. Beachem, Matt Ferrell and Steve Vasturia are all capable scorers, as well.
The Irish can light up the scoreboard, and they’ll do that against the undersized Tigers.
12. Princeton (23-6, 14-0/Ivy)–The Tigers earned their way into the field by going a perfect 16-0 in the Ivy League. They ran through the regular season unbeaten, and then won the first-ever Ivy League tournament by knocking off Penn in the Palestra (in overtime) and then defending champion Yale in the title game.
Princeton enters the Dance on a 19-game winning streak, erasing a 4-6 start to the season that included losses to BYU, Lehigh, VCU, Cal and Monmouth (all respectable).
The Tigers aren’t very big or athletic (what else is new), but they shoot the 3-ball extremely well, and that’s what’s carried them through these past 19 games.
Sophomore guard Devin Cannady (13.7 ppg) leads the team in scoring. He shoots the 3 at 42%.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame has had a history of struggling with capable underdogs, losing to Winthrop in 2007, Old Dominion in 2010, and Florida State in 2011. But we don’t expect the same to happen this year. With Colson, Veachem and Ferrell leading the way, we think the Irish have too much for the Tigers to overcome. How about this for a bold prediction: Notre Dame wins in a barnburner, then edges West Virginia and Gonzaga, before falling to Arizona in its third straight Elite Eight.