Preview: No. 6 Butler vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

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This third-round match-up pits two Indiana schools separated by just 150 miles. The winner claims a spot in the Sweet 16 and the pride of being the last Indiana team to be alive in the tourney. Notre Dame holds a 71-69 all time series lead, but the Bulldogs have won the last six meetings.  Notre Dame’s last win against Butler came in 1989. The ACC tournament champs look to stay on track and keep winning, but Butler is known for being a team’s nightmare in March. Chris Holtmann has his
Bulldogs are playing tough even though his interim head coaching tag was only removed in January.

Also worth noting is that guard Pat Connaughton for the Fighting Irish will garner the record for most games played in a Notre Dame uniform after tonight, after he decided to return for his senior season after being chosen in the MLB Draft.

Key to the Game

Butler will have to defend the team with the second best field goal percentage in the nation.  Notre Dame, which shoots 51 percent, can light it up as it has shown all season, averaging 79 points per game.  Butler has used defense to get to where it is as it held Texas to just 48 points in the second round. The Bulldogs are allowing 60 points a game on the season.  Butler will want to keep the game at its pace and make Notre Dame play at its level.  The game will depend on whether Notre Dame is slowed by Butler or whether the Irish can keep pace and put up their points to win.

X-Factor

Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant is one of the best players in the country.  The senior guard has not only averaged 16.8 points per game, but also has an ACC-leading 6.6 assists per game.  He is the key cog in Notre Dame’s attack having a part in 43 percent of all Notre Dame scores this season. The senior guard also has the second most steals in the ACC with a total of 57 on the season.  If Grant is on his game, then it could be a long night for the Bulldogs. Don’t look for him to be subbed at much as he plays the most minutes in the ACC and played the entire 40 against Northeastern.

Prediction

This will be one that could come down to the wire. Butler has only lost one game all season to a team that was not in the tournament, but the Bulldogs will have their hands full with Grant and the Irish attack. Northeastern gave Notre Dame all it had and Butler will do the same with a much better team.  I can see this game going either way, but I am taking with the Fighting Irish to win this game, 68-63.

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