Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-11 SU, 17-10-1 ATS) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (26-8 SU, 12-17-1 ATS), 12:25 p.m. EST, Thursday, March 18, 2010, New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Notre Dame -2/Old Dominion +2
A few weeks ago, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were out of the bubble discussion and had lost its best player, Luke Harangody, to an injury.
The Irish had lost three games in a row to Seton Hall, St. John’s and Louisville, and it didn’t look like there was any chance they could get an at-large bid. But after that, the Irish went on an improbable run without Harangody, winning their last four games of the regular season over Pitt, Georgetown, UConn and Marquette, two of which came on the road and three of which came over fellow NCAA tournament teams seeded No. 6 or better. When Harangody came back, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey decided to bring him off the bench for the rest of the season, making the senior forward the best sixth man in college basketball. In the Big East tournament, the Irish won their first two games over Seton Hall and Pitt before losing 53-51 to West Virginia in the conference tournament semifinals.
Their incredible run down the stretch with a number of high quality wins was enough to not only get the Irish into the NCAA tournament but get them a No. 6 seed, something nobody thought was possible a few weeks ago. With a balanced attack on offense and an increased defensive intensity, the Irish are now playing their best basketball of the season.
Old Dominion set itself up nicely going into conference play after playing a tough non-conference schedule and earning a signature victory at Georgetown. The Monarchs dominated CAA play with a 15-3 conference record but a loss to Northern Iowa in their BracketBusters game put them very much on the bubble if they weren’t able to win the CAA tournament and secure the automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. But the Monarchs left nothing in doubt by winning the CAA championship, defeating William & Mary 60-53 in the title game. They’ve now won five games in a row and eight of their last nine.
Notre Dame is one of the better teams in the country at taking care of the basketball, averaging about 10 turnovers per game. But they also only force about 10 turnovers per game, while Old Dominion forces more than 14 turnovers per game while committing about 12 per game. The Monarchs are a great rebounding opponents, grabbing more than nine boards more than their opponents per game. Notre Dame is an excellent 3-point shooting team, as Harangody, Tim Abromaitis, Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott and Tory Jackson are all dangerous weapons from beyond the arc. The Irish are knocking down 39 percent of their 3-point attempts and allowing opponents to shoot 35 percent, while Old Dominion is making 32 percent of its 3-pointers and holding opponents to 30 percent. Notre Dame is shooting 47 percent from the field and holding opponents to 44 percent, while the Monarchs are shooting 45 percent from the field and holding opponents to 40 percent.
Both of these teams rely heavily on executing well on offense and creating open shots. Both teams won’t turn the ball over much and will try to find open jumpers. Old Dominion is a very good rebounding team, so it will be important for Harangody, Scott and Abromaitis to play strong down low, limit ODU’s second chance points, and create second chance opportunities of their own.
These two teams are two of the most experienced teams in the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame has the slight edge at 2.72 years of experience per minute played, while Old Dominion averages 2.56 years of experience per minute played. Notre Dame has 12 road/neutral wins this season, while Old Dominion has 11.
Old Dominion is 4-1 ATS in its last five games following an ATS loss, 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against the Big East, 7-19 ATS in its last 26 neutral site games, 1-6 ATS in its last seven games as an underdog, and 0-8 ATS in its last eight neutral site games as an underdog. Notre Dame is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games following an ATS win and 8-0 ATS in its last eight games overall. The Irish are 4-0 ATS in their last four neutral site games.
Ryno’s Pick: Old Dominion? Cinderella? Yep!