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NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 5 Notre Dame Vs. No. 4 West Virginia

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STORY: Notre Dame, West Virginia Match Strength Vs. Strength

STORY: Notre Dame Vs. West Virginia: 10 To 1

PODCAST: Notre Dame-West Virginia Preview With Mike Casazza

BGI VIDEO: Notre Dame Players Preview West Virginia

BGI VIDEO: Mike Brey Previews West Virginia

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Junior guard Matt Farrell will be key Saturday against West Virginia's press defense.
USA Today Sports Images

NO. 5 NOTRE DAME (26-9) vs. NO. 4 WEST VIRGINIA (27-8)

What: NCAA Tournament Second Round

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. (19,200)

Time/TV: 12:10 p.m./CBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

Matchup History: Saturday is the 40th all-time meeting between Notre Dame and West Virginia. The Irish hold a 27-12 advantage in the series, including a 17-6 mark as members of the Big East.

Last Meeting: The two teams last met Feb. 22, 2012 at Purcell Pavilion with Notre Dame beating WVU 71-44. Jerian Grant scored 20 points and Notre Dame made eight of its 11 3-point attempts, shooting 61 percent from the field. The following season, the Mountaineers left the Big East to join the Big 12. In 2013, Notre Dame joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Quotables

“Obviously the last two years, having that experience has helped us a lot. You saw yesterday first round, close game, we were pretty poised. We've been in those situations before, and I think those two losses in the Elite Eight drives this team, especially since the end of last year. The three who are up here, and the guys in the locker room knows what it felt like to lose, and that's kind of pushed us this year to try to take it a step further, and I think we just have to continue to take it one game at a time.” — Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia on the team’s experience

“This town is a good ND town. Over 17 years, I've run into people from here that are big ND fans, whether alums or subway alums. I hope they can get out of jail by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow to come to our game, because they're rolling today, I can tell you that much. Matter of fact, we have some extra bail money just to make sure we can get them out. We know what happens with the Irish on a day like today.” — Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey on the fan support in Buffalo on St. Patrick’s Day

“Mike's one of the better coaches in our game. You know, Mike's a guy who can pretty much take anybody and make them pretty good. And, you know, they didn't always play the way they're playing now. He does a great job of adapting style of play to personnel. And they do a great job of — they've got great ball movement, they've got great spacing. They can score it at the goal, which is kind of imperative in our game, to be able to figure out a way to score it somehow.

“I was just telling them, our game's about numbers, you know? 1 on 0 is the best number, and we are generally pretty good at those. Then, you know, 2 on 1, and 3 on 2, we're not quite as good at. When you're 5 on 5, it's hard to score, so that's why everybody does all of the things they do, ball screens, single-doubles, staggers, flairs, whatever, they've got to try to create a 5 on 4, so that you've got numbers. When you add the spacing that they do, they have great spacing, that makes them a hard team to guard.” — West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins

PREGAME NOTES

Notre Dame As Underdogs: Head coach Mike Brey’s team has been dangerous as the Vegas underdog this season. The Irish are currently listed as three-point underdogs against WVU, but hold a 7-2 record against the spread in their last nine games. According to OddsShark, West Virginia is 23-6 in games this season as the favorite, including wins in nine of its last 10 games.

WVU Holds On: The Mountaineers got a little scare from Bucknell in the first round, ultimately coming away with an 86-80 victory. It was the most points in an NCAA Tournament game for the Mountaineers since 1982. WVU only forced 13 turnovers against the Bison, down from its season average 20.3, best in the country. This year’s WVU tournament has similarities to the 2010 team that made the Final Four. The Mountaineers opened that year’s NCAAs in Buffalo with a pair of wins.

Crashing The Glass: Similar to ACC opponents North Carolina and Louisville, the athletic Mountaineers are among the best teams in the country on the offensive glass. WVU rebounds 37.8 percent of its misses, sixth-best in the nation. The smaller Irish are vulnerable in that area, allowing opponents to grab 30.7 percent of their misses this season, 244th in the country. It’s a team effort on the glass for the Mountaineers, as no one player dominates individually. Senior forward Nathan Adrian leads the way at 6.1 rebounds a game.

Free Throw War: West Virginia makes just 68 percent of its attempts, 259th out of 351 Division I teams and eight-worst among the 68 tourney teams. The Mountaineers also don’t get to the free-throw line at an elite level, getting just 20.2 percent of their points from the line (156th). And despite their 14-of-21 showing at the line against Princeton, the Irish are still the nation’s No. 1 free-throw shooting team at 79.5 percent.

Matchup to Watch: Notre Dame junior guard Matt Farrell will face one of the toughest opposing point guards in the country Saturday in WVU junior Jevon Carter. The 6-2, 200-pounder does not dominate in the scoring column (13 a game), but he does a little bit of everything (5.0 rpg, 3.9 apg). Carter is shooting 37.4 percent from 3, and the Mountaineers will likely need his long range shooting against the Irish. Carter isn’t a superb half-court defender, meaning Farrell should have an easy time getting into the lane and finding shooters.

LINEUPS

Projected Notre Dame Starters:

35 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, Jr.) – 17.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 201, Sr.) – 14.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg
5 Matt Farrell (6-1, 178, Jr.) – 14.2 ppg, 5.4 apg
32 Steve Vasturia (6-6, 212, Sr.) – 13.2 ppg, 3.3 apg
0 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 202, So.) – 4.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Top Reserves:

2 T.J. Gibbs (6-3, 200, Fr.) – 4.7 ppg, 1.7 apg
4 Matt Ryan (6-7, 228, So.) – 3.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg
23 Martinas Geben (6-10, 255, Jr.) – 3.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg
1 Austin Torres (6-7, 241, Sr.) – 1.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Projected West Virginia Starters

45 Elijah Macon (6-9, 240, Jr.) – 6.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg
11 Nathan Adrian (6-9, 235, Sr.) – 9.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg
23 Esa Ahmad (6-8, 225, So.) – 11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
2 Jevon Carter (6-2, 200, Jr.) – 13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.9 apg
4 Daxter Miles Jr. (6-3, 200, Jr.) – 8.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg

Top Reserves:

12 Tarik Phillip (6-3, 195, Sr.) – 9.5 ppg, 3.1 apg
15 Lamont West (6-8, 215, Fr.) – 5.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
20 Brandon Watkins (6-9, 225, Sr.) – 4.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg
0 Teyvon Myers (6-2, 185, Sr.) – 6.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg
50 Sagaba Konata (6-8, 250, Fr.) – 4.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg
3 James Bolden (6-0, 160, Fr.) – 3.6 ppg, 0.8 rpg

PREDICTION

Notre Dame 68, West Virginia 67

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