Representing the #3 and #7 seeds of the Midwest bracket, the 31-5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the 30-4 Wichita State Shockers in the round of 16. Both teams are moving on due to winning their previous games but Wichita State did so in much more impressive fashion. The Shockers beat the # 2 seeded Kansas Jayhawks by 13 points while Notre Dame held on to beat the # 6 seeded Butler Bulldogs in overtime. The Shockers have a deep team and share the ball extremely well as all 5 starters scored in double digits against Kansas and the team had 13 assists. Notre Dame only used 2 players off the bench in the game against Butler and more than half their points were scored by 2 players. Guards Steven Vasturia and Jerian Grant combined for 36 of the Irish’s 67 points and 9 of their 12 points scored in overtime. Notre Dame will need to find more offensive help if they wish to move on.
Notre Dame is the higher seed in this game but is actually the underdog as Wichita State is a 1 point favorite. Jerian Grant is the Irish’s best player and had a complete game against Butler with 16 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. He will need his teammates to step up like they have been if they wish to move on. Steve Vasturia scored an efficient 20 points against Butler making 6 out of 11 shots and forward Zach Auguste grabbed 13 rebounds and is capable of big scoring nights down in the paint. Scoring points against Wichita State is no easy task as they have limited their opponents to just 56.7 points per game this year. Notre Dame’s Defense is also solid as they were able to block 8 shots and make 4 steals against a Butler team. Pat Connaughton has been playing outstanding defense as he has 6 blocks in only 2 games so far this tournament including 4 against Butler.
Wichita State looked real impressive with their wire to wire win over the higher ranked Jayhawks. They looked very sharp offensively and defensively the entire game. They scored 78 points including 49 in the second half and were led by Tekele Cotton who scored 19 points and Fred Vanvleet who added 17 points and 6 rebounds. As a team they shot 49 % from the floor and made 10 out of the 20 3 pointers they took. Vanvleet also played spectacular defense by making 4 steals and even blocking a shot. Their bench is deeper than Notre Dame’s and they had 9 players play significant minutes compared to the Irish who only had 7 players.
Wichita State has covered the spread in each of their first two tournament games and Notre Dame hasn’t covered either game. Wichita State has the deeper team and can keep players fresh down the stretch where Notre Dame doesn’t have that luxury as 4 players had to play more than 40 minutes against Butler.
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