No one thought Notre Dame was going to be good this year, at least this good. The Irish weren’t even ranked in the Top 25 until the second week in December — nine Games into the season. They’ve proved a lot of people wrong and are one of the better teams in the ACC. They’ll travel to a feisty NC State team, that already has some big wins at home.
The Wolfpack have some upsetting non-Conference losses against the likes of Purdue and Wofford, but they have picked up their play a bit in the new year. They almost won back-to-back home Games against Duke and North Carolina, but fell late to the Tar Heels by two points. In their other Conference home Games, they won easily against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame lost Zach Auguste for only one Game, but he’s back and started on Thursday. Their only two losses are against Providence and to the undefeated Virginia. This isn’t a deep team, but the starters play great together. They haven’t played many true road Games on the year and they haven’t won any of them easily. They beat UNC by one point and Georgia Tech by three. This Game should be close most of the way.
The name of the Game is scoring and that’s one of the things Notre Dame does best. But the first task for NC State will be to stop Zach Auguste from dominating. In Games that he gets going, Notre Dame is close to unbeatable. He is a difference maker around the rim and averages 13.7 points per Game. From there, they’ll have to limit the open shots from Pat Connaughton and company. Notre Dame has five guys that have made at least 26 three-pointers on the year and Connaughton has 51.
If none of that is working for them, it falls to Demetrius Jackson to make plays and NBA talent Jerian Grant to do what he does. There probably isn’t anyone in the country that can guard Grant 1-on-1, he’s that good.
NC State has to play solid defense, get back on fast breaks and rebound well. If they do those things, they’ll have a solid shot at the upset. Notre Dame is not a great rebounding team as the 6’5″ Connaughton leads them with 8.3 boards per Game.
The Wolfpack are built in a similar mold and don’t have a lot of size either, but they are a better rebounding team. Beejay Anya is a big kid, listed at 300 pounds, and he averages 2.9 blocks per Game. Kyle Washington had Four blocks against Duke and was a huge defensive presence in that Game.
Much like Notre Dame, NC State gets most of its scoring from other spots on the floor. Trevor LAcey (17.1 PPG) and Ralston Turner (13.7 PPG) can Scoreand shoot, with the best of them and they are one of the main reasons this team has done better in Conference play.
This Game should be up-and-down, fast paced and close throughout. We’ve already seen NC State compete with top teams on their home cOurt and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them grab an upset here. But it’s going to take a lot of defense against the best shooting offense they’ve seen this year.
Our Prediction – NC State by 5