ScarecrowGrin’s Elite Eight Game Previews: 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame is coming off one of their best performances of the year as they defeated #7 Wichita State in the Sweet sixteen 81-70. What looked like a close game soon became a second half massacre. The Fighting Irish shot 75% (18-of-24) from the field (6-of-8) from the three in a very impressive performance. Although Sophomore Guard Demetrius Jackson led the Irish with 20 points, this victory was without a doubt a team effort. Notre Dame had four players score double figures……and none of them was Guard Jerian Grant. Notre Dame is fired up and Coach Mike Brey has them believing they can tear down some more nets. Unfortunately the next net they must tear down has a pack of Wildcats standing in the way.
As impressive as Notre Dame looked, Kentucky looked outright unstoppable in their annihilation of #5 West Virginia 78-39, yes you read that right 78-39. Kentucky(37-0) is the undefeated undisputed #1 team in the NCAA and they are showing no signs of weakness. From the very tip-off Kentucky came out swinging with a blue onslaught of talent and they never let up. Monster dunks, alley-oops, and blocked shots (7)was the only thing that kept the crowd interested. This team is focused on their quest and our relentless in their pursuit to immortality
Notre Dames Strengths
Notre Dame can flat out shoot the ball. Ranked #2 in the nation (.510) (.390) from the three line and 12th in the nation with ppg (78.8). This is the one area Kentucky is outmatched. Kentucky showed they may be human as they Ranked 40th in the nation(.460) and a lower (.344) from the three. If there was ever a game that Notre Dame needs to live up to those numbers, now is the time.
2. Seniority Kentucky may play like grown men, but this is a team packed with freshman. Notre Dame may be able to expose this. Although the Elite Eight is uncharted territory for Notre Dame, Collegiate basketball isn’t. Guard Jerian Grant and Guard/Forward Pat Connaughton are both seniors that returned their final year for a shot at glory. They need to lead by example, they need to show the rest of their teammates what experience can really mean under the bright lights.
1. Height The Wildcats are the tallest team in the NCAA, with Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns and Dakari Johnson standing at least 6-10, you have Marcus Lee at 6-9. Kentucky also features three 6-6 guards, including twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison. “Kentucky is a whole different bag of tricks with their size,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey noted. This team is big and stretch the floor.
2. NBA Caliber As we all know Calipari does not recruit students for their academic prestige and commitment to higher education. Calipari searches for the countries best for a one and done run to a title before they move on the NBA. With nine former composite five-star recruits and one four-star prospect, the roster is a who’s who of players that have been on the NBA’s radar for a long time. As far as pure NBA draft prospects are concerned, this could be the deepest college basketball team of all time.
Notre Dame Weakness
The Irish have only one player at 6’10 Junior Forward Zach Auguste. Kentucky as I mentioned is the tallest team in the country and they play that way. Auguste will find himself in quick foul trouble and the Irish will be in trouble fast.
Play down to opponents It’s not easy to find a weakness in a team that is 37-0 and beats teams by an average of 21 points. However, there were some scares this team saw. The reason it happened? They believed in their talent a little too much. You need to have a killer instinct for 40 minutes every game. Sometimes they forget that and find themselves in trouble. With a great shooting team like Notre Dame that could lead to a huge upset.
Jerian Grant vs. Harrison twins
Jerian Grant needs to show why he was considered for Naismith Player of the Year. Leading the way for the Irish at 16.6 PPG and 6.7 APG, Jerian needs to step up big time nothing less than 20-25 points and 6-8 assists. The Harrison twins just need to set the tempos and make sure the bigs get fed down low. Control the flow, let the bigs do what they do and move on to victory.
Player to watch Bottom line…..Pat Connaughton.
He has been the absolute spark plug the Irish need. However, he needs to get his three ball game going. Connaughton is a .436 shooter from the three. In this tournament he has struggled, against Wichita State he was 2 for 5 and against Butler he shot a putrid 1 for 6. Connaughton has played very well all around, but if his team is going to win, he must find his range again.
No matter how we cut it, this is not going to be a flashback to 1991 (look it up). This game is going to be fun but this game will be one sided. Kentucky is too good, too big and too focused.
Kentucky 68 Notre Dame 55