Kentucky Will See Best Offense All Season Vs. Notre Dame In Elite Eight
The prime-time Elite Eight matchup in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday -- shown on TBS -- should be a fantastic matchup as No. 3 Notre Dame, one of the best offensive teams in the country, faces No. 1 Kentucky, one of the best defensive teams in college basketball in years. Kentucky was a double-digit favorites in its first three games and is again at -11 at Bovada. The total is set at 136.
Notre Dame Can Fill It Up
The Irish, who rank second nationally in shooting percentage and 12th in points, beat Wichita State soundly 81-70 on Thursday in the Sweet 16. Demetrius Jackson scored 20 points and Notre Dame advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in 36 years. Jerian Grant had 11 assists, the most for any player in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and one shy of a career high. Grant's assists led to 27 points, the second-highest total for any player in the tournament (Kyle Collinsworth's 10 assists led to 28 points vs. Ole Miss).
The Irish (32-5) shot 75 percent (18-of-24) over the final 20 minutes. A 38-18 burst that turned a tight game into something else came after Wichita State took its first and only lead on a layup by Darius Carter with 16:37 to go. Wichita State couldn't keep up with Notre Dame's shooting, as the Irish outscored the Shockers by 17 points outside the paint in the second half. Notre Dame averaged 1.23 points per possession, the highest efficiency allowed by Wichita State this season. The Fighting Irish averaged 1.37 points per possession in the second half. A team of iron men, Notre Dame starters accounted for all but six of their team's points and played 182 of the game's 200 minutes.
If college basketball this season has a version of the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, it is Notre Dame. The Irish's offensive precision and emphasis on perimeter players (one starter taller than 6-5) will come face to face with Kentucky's defensive ferocity and length (all starters taller than 6-6).
Defense, Defense, Defense
Kentucky put on a total clinic on Thursday in a 78-39 destruction of No. 5 West Virginia to improve to 37-0. West Virginia shot only 24.1 percent (13-of-54) against the Wildcats and didn't eclipse 20 points until the 11:41 mark of the second half. At halftime, the Mountaineers had nearly as many fouls (14) as points (18). West Virginia's 39 points were the fewest ever in a Sweet 16 game (since 1975 tournament expansion to 32 teams).
Kentucky outscored West Virginia by 22 paint points. The Mountaineers had more shots in the paint blocked (7) than they made (6). West Virginia's 12 paint points are tied for the fewest by a team in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. UK's 39-point win matches the largest by any team in Sweet 16 history. Kentucky's plus-75 scoring margin through three games is the second-largest by an unbeaten team in the NCAA tournament.
On Jan. 19, 1974, an undefeated team of the ages arrived in South Bend, Ind. By the end of the day, John Wooden and Bill Walton and UCLA had lost their first game after 88 straight wins. On Saturday in Cleveland, history thunders toward Notre Dame basketball again.
Kentucky is now 5/7 at Bovada to win the national title and Notre Dame 14/1.
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