Day 1 - Old Dominion vs. Notre Dame
There’s a good chance a No. 11 could take down a No. 6 in first-round action at the NCAA Tournament when Old Dominion squares off with Notre Dame.
The Monarchs may be a No. 11 seed out of the Colonial Athletic Association, but they’re no pushovers. Why else would the oddsmakers only list the Fighting Irish as a slim 2-point favorite at Bovada in this game?
Old Dominion got through the regular season with a 26-8 record before rolling through the CAA conference tournament to earn their place in the Big Dance. The highlight of the season was the Monarchs’ surprising upset win over the then-No. 11 ranked Georgetown Hoyas. The Monarch went into Georgetown as an 8.5-point underdog and came away with a 61-57 win.
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The Monarchs may be a mid-major school but they play with the physicality and defensive skill of the Big East teams Notre Dame has been clashing with since January. Leading the way for Old Dominion is standout forward Gerald Lee. The 6-10 forward from Finland led the Monarchs in scoring this season, averaging 14.6 points per game. Lee could be one of those players that shines in the tournament and leads a mid-major deep into the Big Dance.
The Monarchs aren’t all about Lee though. Their roster is an experienced group who have been through the complete circuit with an NCAA Tournament stop in 2007, a CBI stop in 2008, and a CIT berth last season, which they won. They limited their opponents to a miniscule 57.1 points per game this season with a physically-dominating defense which could be a lethal weapon against teams in the tournament used to playing at a fast pace.
The Fighting Irish weren’t a lock to even make the Big Dance late in the season before going on a solid run and making it to the semifinals in the Big East Tournament. Notre Dame’s season can really be classified into two parts: Before and after the knee injury to Luke Harangody.
Before Harangody went down the Irish relied heavily on the big scorer, but they weren’t winning a lot of games. When Harangody went down with a knee injury that kept him out a month the Irish went through a complete change, focusing heavily on defense and a slower-tempo game. The Irish scored considerably fewer points, but they started winning because they successfully shut down their opponents. With Harangody back the Irish will need to find a way to successfully integrate him into the new system if they’re going to go deep into the Tournament.
Harangody’s absence this season also proved he doesn’t have to do it alone. Tim Abromaitis has a deadly shot from three-point range and guard Tory Jackson has developed into a superb playmaker, averaging nearly six assists per game. With Harangody’s added inside presence the Irish offense will be hard to stop, even for the Monarchs’ tight defense.