Rushed Reactions: #3 Notre Dame 81, #7 Wichita State 70

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.


Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton Are Moving On to the Elite Eight (USA Today Images)

  1. Time to recognize the IrishIt seems inconceivable that an ACC championship team could fly under the radar, but that is what Notre Dame has done for much of this season. While they were probably only the third best team in the ACC during the regular season, their ACC Tournament title was no fluke. The Irish might not get a ton of attention because they lack the name brand appeal in basketball that many of their ACC colleagues have — and to some degree they lack a recognizable star even if Jerian Grant is an All-American — but they have a good mix of experience, athleticism and size. That might not be enough to win on Saturday, but don’t be surprised to see this team in the game late.
  2. Take a minute to recognize Wichita State. Even though this team isn’t close to what it was last year, the Shockers managed to advance further than they did then thanks to a more favorable draw. We aren’t sure what Wichita State will bring back next year (primarily whether Gregg Marshall will return), but it has been a remarkable three-year run for the Shockers. They went to the Final Four in 2012 and nearly knocked off the eventual national champions. Last year they went undefeated for 35 games before running into an underseeded Kentucky team that was peaking at just the right time. This year was a bit more of a struggle than some may have expected, but they might have pulled off one of the most satisfying victories in the program’s history last weekend when they knocked off a Kansas program that refuses to play them in the regular season.
  3. The Irish are more than just Jerian GrantAs we mentioned earlier, the Irish probably have not received the respect they deserved this season. Grant has garnered some attention thanks to his family tree and some of his Vine-worthy highlights, but this team is a lot more than just the Jerian Grant Show. Zach Auguste provides a solid piece in the middle even if Saturday could be rough with Kentucky. Demetrius Jackson and Pat Connaughton both had big games for the Irish as well. All of them will need to have huge nights on Saturday if they hope to advance.

Star of the GameDemetrius Jackson, Notre Dame. There were so many ways to go with this today, which speaks to how well the entire Irish team played. We will go with Jackson, who almost played Fred VanVleet to a standstill (or maybe even outplayed him) with 20 points on 10 attempts while VanVleet scored 25 on 20 attempts. VanVleet needed to dominate for the Shockers to win this game, but he might have been outplayed by Jackson tonight.

Quotable. “We gave them too many easy looks inside.” — Fred VanVleet, with a seemingly simple quote that sums up how Notre Dame was able to exploit Wichita State’s defense tonight.

Sights & Sounds. While there was a certain tension in the air, you could sense that this was the undercard tonight with Big Blue Nation in Cleveland. The loudest cheer of the game came when the jumbotron showed Kentucky warming up and waiting in the tunnel.

Wildcard. Wichita State needed its stars (Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet) to come up big if it wanted to advance to the Elite Eight. While they both had their moments in combining for 34 points, they needed 30 shots to do so. Notre Dame was much more efficient on offense in part because they had more players they could rely on.

What’s Next? For Notre Dame, the Irish will await the winner of Kentucky/West Virginia (probably Kentucky). Wichita State will head back to Kansas with the potential to return a talented team, but will have to wait to see what happens with Gregg Marshall being courted by a variety of suitors. If he comes back, the Shockers remain a force next year and in the years to come.

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