Midwest Regional action pits Irish against Huskies

Mar 19, 2015 - 2:36 PM Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Second-round action of the NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday, starting with an afternoon matinee in the Midwest Region, featuring the third-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish taking on the 14th-seeded Northeastern Huskies at CONSOL Energy Arena.

The winner of this game will move into Saturday's third round against either Butler or Texas.

Mike Brey's Irish enter the tournament following a stellar season. The team's 29 total wins are the second most in school history and a Final Four run could help the team eclipse the school record of 33 wins in 1908-09. Notre Dame finished in third place in the ACC this season (14-4), but came out on top in the ACC Tournament, topping North Carolina, 90-82 in the title game. Notre Dame is making its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last five years and its 34th all-time.

Northeastern is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991, and eighth overall, after tying for the Colonial Athletic Association regular- season title (12-6) and then securing the league's tournament crown and its automatic bid. The Huskies' 23 victories are the most in a season since the 1986-87 campaign when the team won 27 games. Bill Coen's squad posted a 12-win turnaround from last year (11-21), its best mark since a 13-game swing between the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons.

The Fighting Irish routed the Huskies in the only previous meeting between the two programs, a 72-45 decision in 1997 in South Bend.

Continuity has been a real strength for Northeastern this season, which saw the same starting five in 33 of the team's 34 games. The team has also enjoyed great efficiency shooting the basketball, getting it done at a 48.6-percent clip from the floor overall, including a 38.8-percent effort from long range.

Senior forward Scott Eatherton has been outstanding this season. Eatherton picked up all-conference honors and shoots a stellar 59.4 percent from the field (10th nationally), while averaging team-highs in scoring (14.6 ppg), rebounding (6.4 rpg) and blocked shots (43). Juniors David Walker and Quincy Ford are a potent one-two punch from the perimeter, netting 13.4 and 10.4 ppg, respectively. The pair have combined for 121 of the team's 200 3-pointers this season. Sophomore T.J. Williams (9.7 ppg) and junior Zach Stahl (8.3 ppg) round out the starting five.

Notre Dame has more than enough firepower to contend with Northeastern and pretty much everyone else in the nation for that matter. The Irish rank 11th nationally in scoring at 78.8 ppg and do so on 51 percent shooting (second nationally). The 3-pointer is a big weapon in the arsenal, with Notre Dame shooting just under 40 percent from behind the arc and averaging over eight makes from long range per game.

The team is led by one of the nation's premier playmakers in All-American Jerian Grant. The junior guard can both score (16.8 ppg) and distribute (6.6 apg) at a high rate. The scoring pool is deep for Notre Dame, as three other players enter the postseason with averages over 12 points per outing. Pat Connaughton is a jack-of-all trades. He ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.8 ppg, thanks in large part to his .436 efficiency from 3-point range (88- of-202), while leading the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg). Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste can fill up the basket as well, at 12.5 and 12.4 ppg, respectively.

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