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Princeton

vs.

Notre Dame

March Madness

1st round Pick

3/16/17

Things officially start Thursday with Notre Dame against Princeton in the first game of the Round of 64 being played in Buffalo. Princeton hasn't lost since December, while Notre Dame has made a name for itself as an elite tournament team, as seen in a recent deep run in the ACC tourney. The Fighting Irish were favored by -7 points at 5Dimes Sportsbook early in the week.

The Tigers haven't lost in a while, but that mainly has to do with playing in the Ivy League. In non-conference, they lost to most of their relevant competition with a home loss to St. Joseph's showing that. They're better defensively, but again, a lot of that has to do with the Ivy League. As for the Irish, they have one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, turning it over the least amount per possession in the country. Princeton has had a good season, but stopping Notre Dame from doing what it did in the ACC tournament will be tough.

Notre Dame will have the athleticism edge, but the main advantage will be with Bonzie Colson, who is probably the smallest big man in the nation. Colson averaged a double-double in the ACC with 17.5 points and 10.2 boards per game and while Princeton will have size on him, that probably won't matter. Colson always faces guys that are bigger than him and more often than not has success. His ability to stretch the bigs like Pete Miller and Will Gladson is going to be problematic. The issue for Princeton is that it doesn't have the bigs to attack Colson on the other end with neither Miller nor Gladson being great offensive options.

On the perimeter, the Irish are full of smart players that can shoot the ball. Matt Farrell is as efficient as they come, while Steve Vasturia is a bigger version of him. Senior VJ Beachem has stepped into the team's role as second-leading scorer and hasn't had many issues with 15 points per game. And while no one else averages that much, Notre Dame usually gets some production from the likes of Rex Pflueger or Matt Ryan or any other bench member.

On the other end, Princeton's problem with never getting to the foul line could be what costs them. Notre Dame rarely commits fouls and Princeton rarely forces the action. If the Tigers can't get Notre Dame into foul trouble, it will be tough to win this game. But as seen on their winning streak, it's not out of the question as they continued to find ways to win. Similar to Notre Dame, Princeton has a balanced group of scorers led by Steven Cook, who will likely draw the defense of Vasutria. Devin Cannady's main role is to chuck up threes and he's done a good job of that this season with 79 made three-pointers. But the difference will be if point guard Spencer Weisz and Myles Stephens can fulfill their roles. Weisz has to lead the offense and will likely see a lot of Farrell defending him, while Stephens could see a lot of time at the five if Princeton decides to go small to match Notre Dame.

Either way, the Irish have a sound edge on almost every area of the court and that starts with Colson. Princeton could give them some fight if Stephens has any success as a stretch-five to match Colson, but that's a tall ask. The Irish will get their points, and it's whether you believe the Tigers can score just as many to determine what team to back against the spread.

Princeton may be worth a look for the first half plus the points. But as the 2nd hald moves along, depth should become an issue and the Irish should pull away. Notre Dame -6.5

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