NCAA March Madness Predictions: Xavier vs Notre Dame
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
by Mike Stewart
No. 7 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish rebounded from a rough start to finish third in the Big East during the regular season, following with a trip to the semifinals of the conference tourney.
Xavier Musketeers, though considered one of the country's most disappointing teams, quietly played its way back into the NCAA tournament field with a solid 12-7 finish that included a run to the Atlantic 10 tournament final.
The 10th-seeded Musketeers defeated Cincinnati and Georgia by double digits earlier this season, while the Fighting Irish lost to both. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Xavier, 15-3, including an 83-71 win when the schools last met in the first round of the 2001 NCAA tournament.
Xavier Musketeers (21-12): Ranked as high as eighth in the nation during the first month of the season, the Musketeers went into a tailspin after a brawl marred the end of their blowout win over Cincinnati on Dec. 10. They lost five of their next six games before regrouping over the season's final weeks. Xavier, which attempted more free throws than any team in the Atlantic 10, is led by the explosive backcourt of senior Tu Holloway (17.0 ppg, 5.1 apg, 1.5 spg) and junior Mark Lyons (15.5 ppg). Xavier has committed exactly as many turnovers this season (420) as it has forced.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-11): The Fighting Irish found their footing after losing senior star Tim Abromaitis (knee) for the season, riding a slower pace and a stifling defense to a school-record nine-game Big East winning streak. Notre Dame has not shot consistently well, ranking in the bottom half of the Big East in field-goal percentage (43.2) and 3-point percentage (32.9). Junior PF Jack Cooley earned first-team all-conference honors, leading the Irish with 12.4 ppg and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 61.2 percent from the field.
NCAA BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Fighting Irish 66,Musketeers 58.
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