Representing the # 1 and # 3 seeds of the Midwest bracket, the 37-0 Kentucky Wildcats will take on the 32-5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night in the Elite Eight. Both of these teams are coming off very impressive wins against very good teams. Notre Dame scored 81 points in their 11 point victory over the Wichita State Shockers who just previously blew out the # 2 seeded Kansas Jayhawks 78 - 65. Kentucky absolutely destroyed the 5th seeded West Virginia Mountaineers by the score of 78 - 39.
Kentucky’s victory over West Virginia was by far the most impressive win of the tournament. They dominated both ends of the ball and this game was over almost right after it started as the Wildcats jumped out to an 18 to 2 lead and were up by 26 at halftime. Defensively, they held the Mountaineers to 24% shooting from the field including just 13% from 3 point range as they made 2 out of their 15 attempts. At halftime, the Mountaineers had only scored 18 points and didn’t reach the 20 point mark until 12 minutes left in the second half. Offensively they had 5 different players score in double figures led by Trey Liles who scored 14 points. Andrew Harrison added 13 points including 4 steals. The Wildcats played aggressive all night getting to the free throw line 32 times and made 26 of them.
A good sign for Notre Dame is that they were able to score 81 points against a solid Wichita State team when their leading scorer was not one of the 4 players to score in Double Digits. Jerian Grant, who averages 16.6 point per game, only scored 9 in this matchup but his teammates more than made up for his off night. Demetrius Jackson led the team with 20 points on a night where the Irish shot 75% in the second half making 18 out of their 24 field goal attempts. Pat Connaughton contributed with a double-double scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Defensively, they held the Shockers to 40% shooting including just 16 % from three point range as they only made 3 out of their 18 attempts.
This year’s Kentucky team is in the conversation as one of the best teams of all time. They have the chance to become the only team in history to finish a season with 40 wins with 0 losses. Notre Dame is not supposed to win this game, but they weren’t supposed to win the ACC tournament either. They beat both Duke and North Carolina in back to back games to capture the title. In the championship game against the Tar Heels, they put up 90 points. If there is a team left in the tournament capable of breaking through Kentucky’s top ranked defense, it is the Irish. Kentucky is 19-15-1 against the spread this year while Notre Dame is 16-13. This will be the only game of the Elite Eight where the spread is double digits, the question is, can the Irish hang around long enough to beat the spread and possibly win the game?
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