Both Notre Dame teams got exactly what they deserved
A disappointing ACC Tournament showing hurt both the men's and women's teams
Notre Dame entered the ACC Tournament with high hopes on both the men's and women's sides. But the dreams of a conference championship for either team didn’t last very long.
After earning the double bye by finishing the regular season as the second seed in the ACC, the men’s team fell flat, giving up almost 90 points to eventual champion Virginia Tech in an 87-80 loss. While Prentiss Hubb and Cormac Ryan surprised with 23 and 20 points, respectively, leading scorers Blake Wesley, Dane Goodwin, and Paul Atkinson Jr. combined for just 25 points.
The Irish fell behind by 16 in the first half and could never make up the difference. Despite having more rebounds, more assists, and shooting a similar percentage as the Hokies, head coach Mike Brey’s team was never really a threat to win this one. And just like that, Notre Dame went from a tournament lock on the nine or ten-seed line to a bubble team, simply because they couldn’t win a single game in the ACC Tournament.
So then on Sunday, despite Brey’s adamant claims that his team was “in this sucker,” the Irish were on their edge of their seats as the Selection Show began. They didn’t have to wait long to hear their names called, but they did learn that their early exit from the ACC Tournament had proven costly: they are now heading to Dayton for a play-in game in the First Four. To make matters worse, they drew a sneaky good Rutgers team who has beaten Purdue, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
But can they complain? Yes, the Irish had a good regular season. Yes, they beat Kentucky and UNC. But they also lost to Boston College, lost two late season games to Florida State and Wake Forest, and didn’t manage to win a single game in the conference tournament. They have no room to complain, and they got exactly what they deserved.
Can they make a run? Absolutely. If they get past Rutgers, I like the matchup with Alabama for this Notre Dame team. Beyond that the road would be difficult, but who knows what madness will take place. It is March, after all.
The women’s team fared slightly better, as they at least won one game in the ACC Tournament. But that’s as far as they got.
After a dominant 71-53 win over No. 25 Georgia Tech, the Irish lost to a middle-of-the-pack Miami team that they should have beaten. The loss ultimately cost them the chance to host the first weekend of games, as they fell out of the top four seeds and will travel to Norman, Oklahoma as a five seed to play UMass.
This is a major blow for the women’s team, as they only lost one game at home all season but were just 9-6 on the road (one of these wins was a forfeit). Once again, however, they got exactly what they deserved after finishing the regular season 1-2.
One of these games – their only home loss of the season – was an embarrassing 86-64 drubbing at the hands of Louisville. Notre Dame came into the game ranked 14th and the Cardinals were ranked 4th, setting up for a great late season ACC showdown. It was anything but that, as the Irish found themselves down 31-3 at the end of the first quarter and 54-15 at halftime. The 22-point deficit at the final buzzer does not do the blowout justice.
They followed up this dismal showing with a lackluster ACC Tournament performance, costing themselves the chance to use their significant home court advantage to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. We will see if they are able to be better on the road in the postseason than they were in the regular season. If not, their time in the Big Dance will be short lived.
The men’s Tournament starts tonight with the First Four, and the Notre Dame men’s team will take the court tomorrow. Both the men’s and women’s teams have new life as March Madness begins, and Irish fans can only hope that they use this opportunity to forget about the recent past and return to midseason form. What were once both very promising seasons have taken a downturn in recent weeks, and it’s now or never for Notre Dame basketball.