(7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (10) Xavier Musketeers
Notre Dame appeared to be in big trouble in the early going of this season after their only returning starter Tim Abromaitis suffered a torn ACL which ended his season just two games in. Luckily for the Fighting Irish other players were able to step up and Notre Dame continued to be a force throughout the course of the season. Jack Cooley has been magnificent leading the team in scoring with 12.4 PPG and rebounding with 9.0 RPG. Notre Dame also gets major contributions from guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. Both average over twelve points and four assists a game. Notre Dame does have areas to be concerned about. Only six of their wins have come on the road or at a neutral site, and that includes the Big East tournament game that was gifted to them by USF. They also have proven they can lose to anybody with bad losses to Rutgers, St. Johns, Maryland, and Georgia.
Xavier looked as if they could be an elite team in the country during the early portion of their 2011-2012 campaign. The Musketeers started off 8-0 but after a physical altercation at the end of a win against the Cincinnati Bearcats they just weren’t the same. Despite having a somewhat disappointing season in conference the Musketeers looked crisp in the A10 Tournament. With tournament wins against formidable opponents Dayton and Saint Louis they proved they are back to form and are an undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament. Xavier has an excellent backcourt in Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. Holloway averages 17 PPG along with 5.1 APG while Lyons puts up 15.5 PPG and 2.7 APG. The Musketeers average just 63 points a game so if you can keep Holloway and Lyons in check they don’t have any other dominant scoring threats. Xavier shoots the ball well from 3 and defends the perimeter just as well so if the Musketeers are going to win look for the play from the perimeter to be the reason. Xavier is very deep with 10 players averaging over 10 minutes played a game, a welcomed advantage for the Musketeers who face off against a Notre Dame 8 man rotation.
The Pick: Notre Dame- 66 Xavier- 62
The Fighting Irish have proven they can go toe to toe with top competition acquiring seven wins against RPI top 50 teams. Look for Cooley to be a problem for Xavier, and the Irish to win the battle of the big men. Xavier’s back court will put up good numbers but be contained enough for the Irish to pull out a close one.