Survive and advance. The phrase every team lives by once the month of March rolls around, and this Notre Dame team is no exception. After just barely holding on to defeat a very bad Pitt squad, the Irish came back from over 20 points down to knockoff Virginia Tech. This most recent thrilling win sets Notre Dame up for a date with Duke in quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
Word was widely spread prior to the Virginia Tech game that if the Irish could not get the ‘W’, that their dreams of making the tournament were over. However, somehow, Notre Dame managed to comeback to continue their season. Unfortunately, the road gets no easier. In a matchup of last years ACC tournament championship game, ND will square off with a fully-rested #2 seeded Duke squad Thursday night. Thursday’s game marks the third game in as many days for the Irish, who are exhausted; as if facing Duke wouldn’t already be tough enough.
With last night’s win chances are that the NCAA selection committee will not be able to pass on a healthy Irish squad. However, Mike Brey and his boys know anything can happen in the month of March, and they will take no chances. With a win over Duke, Notre Dame’s ticket would surely punch it’s ticket. However, if the Irish get blown out by Duke as they did in January, they could be looking at playing in the NIT. Of course in the January 28th matchup the Irish were without both Farrell and Colson, but ND can still not afford to be ran over by the Blue Devils.
All of this raises a key question, is Notre Dame in the tournament, or have they not done enough? First, the case for ND being one of the 68 teams.
The facts are that Notre Dame was missing 2-3 of it’s best players in nearly 2/3 of it’s games this season. Bonzie Colson only played in 3 conference games, and missed half the season with a broken foot. Matt Farrell missed 5 games with a sprained ankle, and was less than 100% in many other games. Freshman star D.J. Harvey missed the last quarter of the season after a knee injury. Rex Pflueger battled illness and a variety of small injuries all season long. Head coach Mike Brey said it best himself as he commended his team for battling through the “most adversity of any team in the country”.
Notre Dame’s 20-13 overall record and 8-10 record in the ACC is mediocre at best. Yes, no one is gonna debate that. But when you take into account the adversity this team has truly gone through, on top of the ACC being insanely good, it’s not too shabby. The ACC currently boasts the #1 (Virginia), #5 (Duke), #12 (North Carolina), #19 (Clemson), and #24 (Miami) teams in the nation. Not to mention Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Louisville who can argue that they deserve to be ranked as well.
Notre Dame can compete with just about anyone in the country. It has been one possession away from beating the likes of Virginia, North Carolina and many more. But, it has also lost to the likes of Ball State, and Indiana. So, if you’re a member of the selection committee, where in the world do you seed them? Seed them too low, and a top seeded team will be upset, as no one will argue that a fully-healthy Notre Dame squad is easily a top-20 team. Seed them too high, and a team that has battled all year for it’s high-ranking could get the “small end of the stick”.
Lastly, you can always count on Notre Dame fans to show out in numbers, and bring in money. Notre Dame fans are everywhere, and are one of the most passionate bunches you’ll see in college sports. Notre Dame makes the tournament better. The Irish should be included.
As I mentioned above, there are many holes in the Fighting Irish resume that stand out. First, the losses to Ball State and Indiana. The Indiana loss could maybe be chalked up to a rivalry game that can go both ways, but BALL STATE?! Ball State University has not been represented in the NCAA Tournament since 2000. Ball State went 19-13 this season, and 10-8 in the MAC, which is not the greatest conference in the nation to say the least.
Another point that does not go in favor of the Irish making the tournament in their injury excuse. Yes, they injury bug did bite them, but every team is forced to go through injuries at some point in their season. That is the time when a team must rely on it’s depth, and when the Irish hit their injury plagued part of the season, depth was no where to be found. At one point the Irish were on a 7-game losing streak. Not impressive.
A final point that could go against the Irish is also one that was mentioned that could go in their favor. The strength of the ACC. As good as a conference is, the committee can not load the field full of one conference.
Overall, with all things considered, Notre Dame is a tournament team. The result of the game against Duke will surely affect ND’s seeding, but after knocking off VA Tech, the Irish have surely done enough to be included in March Madness 2018. Tonight, I see the Irish losing a close game to Duke simply because of fatigue and exhaustion from 3 games in 3 days. Duke 72 – Notre Dame 63. Notre Dame makes the tournament as a #12 seed.