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Forecasting Notre Dame-Princeton
- Updated: March 15, 2017
The NCAA Tournament is almost here, and the 5-seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish will kick off their quest to reach a third straight Elite Eight and beyond when they take on 12-seed Princeton on Thursday in Buffalo.
My quick take is that I think the Irish will beat both Princeton and West Virginia to reach the Sweet 16 (assuming the Mountaineers don’t get upset like last year). I think Notre Dame would have a real shot against Gonzaga, but I’m still debating whether to advance the Irish past the Bulldogs in my bracket.
Here’s a breakdown of how the Irish matchup with their first opponent.
Who they are:
The Princeton Tigers are very similar to the Irish in terms of their style of play. Princeton ranks 11th in offensive turnover percentage while the Irish are no. 1 (per KenPom). 45.9% of Princeton’s shots come from three-point range and they make 38.1% of them. The Irish take 40.9% of their shots from three and make 38.6% of them.
Both teams are in the bottom 50 in bench minutes, both don’t foul often, and both make free throws at a very high rate. Both teams start a skilled 6’5 player at “center”: Bonzie Colson for the Irish and Myles Stephens for the Tigers. And lastly, both teams boast very experienced rosters.
Why The Irish Should Be Nervous
Only 13 teams in the nation shoot a higher percentage of their shots from three than Princeton. Three is worth more than two, and if Princeton has a hot shooting game, the Irish could be in trouble.
Princeton also plays at the 336th fastest pace in the nation per KenPom (among 351 teams). At 220th, the Irish don’t speed things up too much either. As a result, one should expect this game to have relatively few possessions, and games with fewer possessions tend to produce a greater likelihood of upsets.
Princeton Player To Watch: Myles Stephens
I already mentioned how Stevens is kind of Princeton’s version of Bonzie Colson. He’s coming off a season-high 23 points against Yale in which he showcased his ability to score both in the paint and from three.
The Irish are around 7-point favorites in this game. Princeton is a solid team, and it is very possible the Irish will have a really tough game on their hands, but I don’t think Princeton will give the Irish enough problems to pull off the upset. The Tigers shouldn’t hurt Notre Dame on the boards and don’t have an advantage in terms of athleticism. In the end, Princeton is sort of a “lite version” of Notre Dame; they play a similar style, but in the end, Notre Dame is flat out better at this style and a better team.
The Irish are experienced, battle-tested, and most importantly playing well as of late. I’m confident this team will walk away with a victory.
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