Notre Dame has not been a good NCAA Tournament team this decade, which the Irish look to change starting with their Big Dance opener Thursday against Northeastern in Pittsburgh. The Irish are -12.5 on 5Dimes NCAA basketball odds with a total of 141.
Huskies Return After 24 Years
Northeastern (23-11) is the No. 14 seed in the Midwest Region and making its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance but first since 1991. The Huskies, who won just 11 games last season, finished in a four-way tie for first in the regular season in the Colonial Athletic Association and beat top-seeded William & Mary 72-61 in the conference tournament championship game on March 9 in Baltimore. Incidentally, William & Mary remains one of only five of the original Division I teams to have never participated in the NCAA Tournament along with Army, Northwestern, St. Francis (NY) and The Citadel.
The Huskies never trailed in the game against William & Mary and shot 59.1 percent (26-44), including 60 percent (12-for-20) from beyond the arc. Quincy Ford led Northeastern with a season-high 22 points and was 8-for-10 from the field. He was named the CAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. NU hit a season-high 12 3-pointers. The Huskies improved to 15-0 when shooting 50 percent or better and 13-0 when scoring 70 points or more this season. Northeastern was just the fourth team in CAA history to beat both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds en route to a title. Northeastern's 23 wins are the most for the team in a season since the 1986-87 team won 27 games.
In seven previous trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies have a combined record of 3-7. They’ve lost their opening game the last four appearances (1985, 1986, 1987, and 1991). This is the second-ever meeting between Northeastern and Notre Dame. They played in South Bend on Nov. 25, 1997, an Irish blowout win.
At Bovada, Northeastern is 500/1 to win the NCAA Tournament and 150/1 to win the Midwest Region, but before making it to the top, remember that whoever wins this match will have to meet the winner of Butler vs. Texas. The Huskies are 18-16 against the college basketball betting spread this season and 14-9 'over/under.'
Irish Riding High off ACC Title
Notre Dame, the Midwest's No. 3 seed, is back in the NCAAs after missing out last season. The Irish (29-5) won their first ACC Tournament title on Saturday, 90-82 over North Carolina in Greensboro. Star Jerian Grant led the way with 24 points while Pat Connaughton added 20. The Heels actually led by eight points with just under 10 minutes remaining, but the Irish went on a 24-2 run. The night before that, Notre Dame upset Duke for the second time this season. ND is just the eighth team in the past 35 years to beat the Tar Heels and Blue Devils twice each in one season. The last was Florida State in 2011-12, and those Seminoles were knocked out in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
The Irish can score with anyone, ranking 12th nationally in points (78.8 ppg) and second in shooting (.510 from the field) but sometimes have issues on defense, ranking 139th nationally in defensive efficiency and 250th in rebounding. They aren't a big team, with the 6-foot-5 Connaughton as the team's starting power forward. Center Zach Auguste is the only rotation player who stands taller than 6-foot-7.
Since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003, the Irish have won only two games in five NCAA Tournament appearances. Five of those losses came when the Irish were the higher-seeded team, and four were by double digits.
Northeastern and Notre Dame had three common opponents early this season. The Huskies won 76-73 at Florida State on Nov. 18 and beat Navy 68-44 at a neutral site. They lost at Massachusetts, 79-54 on Nov. 26. The Irish routed visiting Navy 92-53 on Nov. 16, beat UMass 81-68 at a neutral site on Nov. 22 and beat visiting Florida State 83-63 on Dec. 13.
The Irish are 25/1 on NCAA Tournament odds to win the tournament and 9/1 to take the Midwest Region. They are 15-11 against the spread and 13-11 'over/under' at sportsbooks.
NCAAB Free Pick: Give the points and go 'over' the total wiht your NCAA Tournament picks. Northeastern is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 after an ATS win. Notre Dame is 5-0 ATS in its past five games overall. The 'over' is 9-3 in the Huskies' past 12 after a win. The 'over' is 9-4 in the Irish's past 13 neutral-site games.