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Notre Dame

vs.

West Virginia

College Basketball

March Madness

Pick

3/18/17

This is the matchup everyone expected and it’s the matchup we’ll get with West Virginia against Notre Dame, the Big 12 against the ACC. Two contrasting styles face off in this one, but it should be fun either way with the Mountaineers opening as slight -3 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

West Virginia played one ACC team this season, traveling to Virginia in early December and upsetting the Cavaliers 66-57. As for the Fighting Irish, they only met with Big Ten teams and also lost to Villanova on a neutral court in non-conference play. Both teams have beaten high quality teams this season and have the ability to make a run in this tournament.

The best stat for this game is that West Virginia’s press forces the most turnovers per possession in the country, while Notre Dame’s methodical approach gives it up the least amount. So what will break? The Irish haven’t seen a press like this all season because no one presses as much as WVU, but they’ve at least played a team like Louisville that presses a ton and plays a lot of on-ball defense. To get past that press, Notre Dame has a number of guys that can handle the ball from Matt Farrell at point to Rex Pflueger and Steve Vasturia that both have size to see over guys like Jevon Carter or Tarik Phillip.

Even if the press doesn’t work, a big advantage for the Mountaineers is on the offensive glass where they are again one of the best in the nation. That could be extremely problematic for a Notre Dame team that plays 6-foot-5 Bonzie Colson at center more often than not. While Colson is a great rebounder, he can’t account for all of the WVU players that attack the glass like Nathan Adrian and Elijah Macon to go along with the guards. If Notre Dame can’t box out, then West Virginia’s bread-and-butter will work to perfection.

Of course, the advantage for the Irish is that if they beat the press anyone on their roster can shoot and fill it up, outside of big man Martinas Geben. This could lead to a lot of open threes for the Irish, which is how Bucknell stayed tight with WVU in the first round, making nine three-pointers. To win this game, Notre Dame will need to box out on the defensive end and make shots through Farrell, Vasturia and second-leading scorer VJ Beachem. Colson is dealing with a bit of an ankle injury and didn’t look his best in the first game so that won’t help things.

But while Colson has averaged a double-double this season, West Virginia conveniently has a number of guys to match-up with the smaller big man from Adrian to Macon or even Esa Ahmad. The Irish will stay around in this game as long as they hold onto the ball, but West Virginia has the athleticism to match up with them on every area of the court, something Princeton couldn't do. The Mountaineers are favored because they’re deeper and arguably looked better in the first round. However, Notre Dame has been doubted before, yet this group continues to surprise with its backs up against the wall, especially in the last couple tournaments.

Our Pick - Notre Dame +3

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