The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team is a safe bet to play some type of role in March Madness next month, but took a temporary step back with a bad loss to Georgia Tech this past weekend. Despite a tough 63-32 road loss, the Fighting Irish remain one of the more intriguing sleepers going into the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, sporting an 18-8 record with slim hopes for an ACC title.
Their 18-8 record is a far cry from the dominant 32-6 team that gave Kentucky all they could handle in a 68-66 loss in the regional final in last season’s Big Dance, but a strong showing (9-5) inside the competitive ACC has proven their worth to this point. Notre Dame hasn’t simply been a run of the mill squad despite a few more losses than they’d like, as they’ve taken down the likes of North Carolina, Louisville, Iowa and Duke, while the explosive offense of Demetrius Jackson and the nightly double-double threat that is Zach Auguste legitimize the Fighting Irish as a strong force out of one of the nation’s best conferences.
Notre Dame’s solid list of wins against strong opponents and an impressive run through one of the nation’s top conferences has them in a good spot ahead of the tournament, as they rank 23rd in the country with four regular season games and an ACC tournament still to go. While the Fighting Irish can still add to their resume and boost their spot with some big wins to close out the regular season, it’s some of their losses that in a sense aid their case. Losing eight times is never helpful and Notre Dame certainly has some bad losses on their record, but losses to the likes of Virginia, Syracuse, Miami and Indiana are fairly understandable. Even tough losses to ACC rival Pittsburgh and Stony Brook (the best team in the American East at 23-5) look a lot worse than they actually are.
Suffice to say, Notre Dame looks ready to enter March Madness looking like a bit of a rogue team, as they have the talent and experience to out-play what otherwise looks like a pedestrian record. That alone could have Notre Dame enhancing the value of NCAA Tournament tickets, especially if they can finish the regular season strong and compete for the ACC regular season title and/or the ACC tourney title. If so, Notre Dame could quickly see themselves rising up the college ranks and earning a strong seed to get the Big Dance started.
To earn a favorable spot in the NCAA tournament, however, Notre Dame will still have to be on top of it’s game to close out the regular season, which consists of four more games against Wake Forest, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina State. Florida State and Wake Forest could be mild challenges with the games coming on the road, but neither team is even .500 inside the ACC. If the Fighting Irish can manage to not look too far ahead like they arguably did in a road loss to the Yellow Jackets recently, they should be able to get to 20-8 before they head back home to Purcell Pavilion at Joyce Center to close the year out with a tough matchup with the 12th ranked Hurricanes and an easier contest against the NC State Wolfpack.
The good news for Notre Dame men’s basketball fans? The only real hiccup here should be their battle with Miami, while Notre Dame tickets at Razorgator.com provide killer value for all four contests, with no game topping even $72 on average. The only one that comes close is Notre Dame’s home finale against the beatable Wolfpack on March 5th. The game providing the best value by far, however, is the home game just before that on March 2nd, where fans only have to pay $42 on average ($15 for the cheap seats) to watch a huge clash with ACC rival, the Miami Hurricanes.
Notre Dame isn’t exactly picking up where they left off a season ago, but after losing vital seniors Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant, a minor dip was to be expected. Luckily Fighting Irish fans still have a legit March Madness contender and regardless of how far they go in this year’s NCAA tourney, they can at least take solace in some well-priced tickets to close out the regular season.