Pick – Analysis
With the play-in Games out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. ACC Tournament winners Notre Dame received a 3-seed and will get a feisty, experienced team out of Northeastern. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the Irish are playing their best basketball of the season.
Notre Dame wasn’t given much of a shot to win the ACC Tourney, but managed to pull off two upsets on their way to the title. This is a team that has beaten Duke twice, but with only Michigan State and Purdue wins on its non-Conference resume, was out of the running for a better seed. The Irish have surprised since the beginning of the season and no one really projected they would be this good. Mike Brey took his squad and played a certain kind of basketball that has led to UND being one of the most efficient in the country. The Irish can match anyone on the scoreboard, their only problems are on the defensive end, where they lack size and depth at times.
Northeastern battled in the Colonial Conference and ended up winning the regular season, as well as the Tourney title despite a 12-6 record (23-11 overall). This team has experience against bigger schools, granted not to the same ability as the Irish. The Huskies grabbed wins at Florida State and Richmond in non-Conference play. They do have some bad losses in Conference play to the likes of Drexel, Delaware and Elon, but they made it out.
To keep up with Norte Dame, Northeastern will need to score. The Huskies play at a different pace, so they don’t Scoreas many points as the Irish, but they play smart on the offensive end.
These two teams are kind of built in the same mold, but obviously of different calibers. They both shoot well, lack size and have trouble rebounding. Northeastern leans on senior forward SCott Eatherton (14.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG) to run the show. He shoots at almost a 60% clip and has a number of post moves. This won’t be an easy cover for either Zach Auguste or Bonzie Colson. Eatherton could find success, which would help his team’s shot at keeping this close. If double teams are needed at all, the Huskies also have a couple knockdown shooters in David Walker (13.4 PPG) and Quincy Ford (10.4 PPG).
But we all saw what Notre Dame did to Duke. If they single-team the big man down low, they’ll be able to contest any shot on the outside. For the Huskes to cover, Walker and Ford will need to hit some shots. Ford is coming off a 22-point performance, while Walker averages 37 minutes per Game and runs the show for his team. If Demetrius Jackson can keep him in check, that’ll be trouble.
On the other end, stopping the NBA-level talent of Jerian Grant (16.8 PPG) is going to be a major problem. Northeastern hasn’t faced anyone of Grant’s skill all season and if they give extra focus to him, the Irish have a few shooters that can make threes. And it’s unlikely Eatherton will be able to deal with Auguste defensively down low.
If Notre Dame wasn’t coming off an ACC Tournament title run, this may be a different story, but this is going to be hard for Northeastern to keep it close. It starts with big man Eatherton, and they’ll definitely need to hit some shots to have a shot to cover.