NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: Eric Atkins #0 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish pumps his fist after a play agaisnt the Louisville Cardinals during the semifinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

NCAA Tournament: Notre Dame Cruises Past Akron, Advances To Third Round

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NCAA Bracket Update: Notre Dame Tops Akron, 69-56

The No. 2 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish didn't have the easiest time in the world with No. 15 seed Akron in their first 2011 NCAA Tournament game, but they eventually got it done. The Fighting Irish used their typical stingy defense to get a 69-56 win.

The Zips were within four points at halftime, but Notre Dame was always in control. Ben Hansbrough scored 15 points to lead the way, though he was just 4-11 from the field. Quincy Diggs had 11 points to lead Akron, who won the Mid-American Conference title, but couldn't get over the hump in this one.

For more on this game, Notre Dame fans should visit Rakes of Mallow.

Here's the updated look at the Southwest region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.    

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Boston University, March 18, 6:50 p.m., TBS

No. 8 UNLV vs. No. 9 Illinois, March 18, 9:20 p.m., TBS

No. 12 Richmond def. No. 5 Vanderbilt, 69-66

No. 13 Morehead State def. No. 4 Louisville, 62-61

No. 2 Notre Dame def. No. 15 Akron, 69-56

No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Florida State, March 18, 4:10 p.m, TBS

No. 6 Georgetown vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth, March 18, 9:50 p.m., TNT

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 St. Peter's, March 18, 7:20 p.m., TNT

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NCAA Bracket Preview, Predictions: Notre Dame Vs. Akron

Recently, the NCAA Tournament bracket has given us some good 15-seed upsets of 2-seeds. That ain't happening here. Notre Dame plays an unselfish brand of basketball that makes it near upset proof when taking on a squad with less talent.  Akron fits that description.   

Mike Brey's group will run it's open post offense to perfection leaving Akron's front court chasing sharp-shooting bigs around the perimeter to no avail.  If this one becomes a yawner, then check your NCAA Tournament schedule here for other games.

Star Watch: Ben Hansbrough is the unquestioned leader of this team and it helps matters because he may be the most talented.  Hansbrough's shot credibility from beyond the arc helps create driving lanes and helpside defense is pulled away by deep shooting threats like forward Tim Abromaitis.  If your answer to Abromaitis' range is to put a guard on the senior big, he'll simply take your defensive munchkin down on the low boxes for a game of "mouse in the house".  It's usually a lose-lose for Irish opponents.

Prediction:  If you've watched this Irish club you'd know this is an experienced team on a mission.  They won't blow their one shining moment dreams on a team from the MAC.

Get your updated printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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