The third round of the NCAA Tournament concludes when #2 seed Notre Dame battles #10 seed Florida State at 9:40 eastern at the United Center in Chicago. The winner earns themselves a trip to the Sweet 16 to play the winner between Purdue and VCU.
The Fighting Irish enter the game now 27-6 overall and come off a tough 69-56 win over 15th seed Akron in their first game on Friday. Ben Hansbrough led Notre Dame with 15 points. Tim Abromaitis scored 14 and Scott Martin added 11 to help ND to the win. The Irish’s biggest advantage came on the boards where they outrebounded the Zips 41-32. Carleton Scott collected 14 rebounds by himself tying a career high. The one thing they must improve upon is taking care of the ball. Notre Dame committed 14 turnovers, many of them unforced. It was an uninspired effort for most of the game until they finally took control about halfway through the second half.
With a victory against the Seminoles, Notre Dame would earn their second sweet 16 tournament appearance under Mike Brey in seven NCAA tournament appearances. Their last sweet 16 run came back in 2003 when they knocked off Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Illinois before falling to Arizona. This game marks the fifth trip to the round of 32 under Brey as well with only 2007’s loss to Winthrop and last year’s loss to Old Dominion serving as first round exits for ND.
The Seminoles come into the contest 22-10 overall and finished 11-5 in the ACC good enough for third place in the conference. They lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals when a last second buzzer beater from Derwin Kitchen was waived off after a replay review. FSU advanced to face the Irish with a 57-50 win over the #7 seed Texas A&M giving them their first NCAA tournament win since 1998.
The key for Florida State this season has been their defense. They lead the NCAA in field goal percentage defense allowing teams to shoot just .362 from the field this year. In fact, only two teams shot better than 50 percent from the field against FSU this season. They held A&M to only .314 shooting in their game on Friday. If they can finish the season as the best field goal percentage defense it will be the second year in a row they acheived that feat marking the first time a school has done that since Georgetown pulled it off in 1990 and 1991.
Offensively, the Seminoles will rely on their All-American candidate forward Chris Singleton. Singleton returned to the FSU lineup against Texas A&M after missing more than a month with a broken foot. In 16 minutes of action against the Aggies, he scored five points to go with two rebounds, a steal and a block. Overall this season, Singleton led the Seminoles averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season.
With a win, Florida State will advance to the sweet 16 for the fourth time in school history and the first time since 1993. Notre Dame and Florida State have never met in basketball.
This game should be a dandy. I expect this one to come down to the wire. Notre Dame’s bread and butter is their shooting, particularly behind the arc, but Florida State’s strength is not allowing their opponents to shoot that well. This could be a very slow paced, grind-it-out affair. Anticipate a low-scoring contest that could come down to the final possession. Notre Dame is experienced with this type of game, harkening back to their “burn” offense from last season. They are the better team, and I expect them to find a way to win.
Notre Dame – 58
Florida State – 54
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