Having already participated in the craziest college basketball game of the season - a five-overtime win against Louisville - Notre Dame should be well-prepared for March Madness. Standing in their way is one of the most potent offensive teams in the nation, an Iowa State team that finished fourth in the Big 12 and twice gave Kansas all they could handle.
The Irish (25-9, 11-7 Big East) finished sixth in their last season as members of the nation's deepest conference and lost in the semifinals of the tournament to eventual champion Louisville. Notre Dame is fronted by double-double machine Jack Cooley, who also just happens to look like their old frontman. Cooley's 10.3 rebounds per game lead the Big East, and he pulls nearly one-third of the Irish's total rebounds. Juniors Garrick Sherman and Jerian Grant join the senior Cooley in bringing Notre Dame to the tournament for the fifth time in six years. They haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 2003, but this Irish team could make a run at it behind coach Mike Brey.
Iowa State (22-11, 11-7 Big 12) can just flat outscore you. They are fourth in the nation in scoring at 79.6 ppg and have four players averaging double digits, and two more averaging between nine and 10. The buckets can come from anywhere including leading scorer Will Clyburn and from put-back machine Marvin Ejim, who pulls 9.3 rebounds per game despite being listed at 6'6.
What this game comes down to is pace. If the Irish can get into their half-court set and let Cooley go to work, they should wind up in the next round. But if Michigan State transfer point guard Korie Luscious (5.7 apg) can get the Irish on their heels in transition, Notre Dame's big men will watch the ball fall through the net more than they can handle.
Game time/TV: 9:45 p.m ET, CBS
Location: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio