Some questioned if Notre Dame would get a one seed after they lost to Louisville, blowing a 14–point halftime lead in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Fortunately, the selection committee placed proper emphasis on who Notre Dame defeated throughout the season, fittingly slotting them among college basketball's most impressive resumes in 2011.
The team exudes confidence the way Mike Brey sports mock turtlenecks. The Irish are a classic undervalued top seed. They weren't expected to be this good, so in the eyes of the public, they couldn't possibly make a terrorizing run to the Final Four, right? Upset special in the second or third round coming right up, yes? Eh, the odds don't favor that. Let's see why.
Why they'll win it: Experience, of course. The common theme with this team is to joke about the median age hovering around 26. But with five seniors in the starting lineup, Notre Dame's been playing like a team out of the 1970s or '80s, the way it has beaten teams so well. The group has so much confidence because it's so comfortable in its skin. Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis are dangerous from deep, but Carleton Scott is the player Hansbrough has said is most vital to keeping the unit strong at its core.
Why they won’t: Too many lopsided losses. The Irish dropped six games this year, five by 12 points or more.
Players to watch: It's hard to not watch Hansbrough compose himself on the court. He could have a Jimmer-like moment on the big stage, certainly. And as noted above, Abromaitis is just as lethal from long range. Shutting them down involves both having an off night as much as any successful coaching strategy.
Best off the bench: Notre Dame doesn't go deep, but Eric Atkins is an efficient scorer, competent distributor and no stranger to the foul line. Great plug-him-in guy.
Soaring/slumping: Up: Hansbrough's been ascending ever since January, to be honest. Abromaitis is in the territory as well. There have been a few games when both have gone off. Down: It's a compliment to say Tyrone Nash falls into this category because, really, the Irish haven't seen disappointing play out of anyone lately. Nash is a victim of raised expectations.
Notable stat: 15.9 percent. That's how often Notre Dame turns teams over. Only eight teams force their opponents into fewer mistakes. None of those teams will be in the tournament.
Last time as a No. 1 seed: 1979, when some man named Digger Phelps was coaching.
Last time won a national championship: 1936 (pre-NCAA tournament).
All-time starting five: G: Austin Carr; F: Troy Murphy; F: Kelly Tripucka; F: Adrian Dantley; C: Paul Nowak.
Final thought: Burn, baby, burn? The burn offense is the ace up Notre Dame’s sleeve. The Irish can score with the best of them -- and run, too -- but no team has such a counter like Brey's. The burn offense is defined as this: burning out the shot clock until the final few seconds before taking a shot. It's used to take other teams, perhaps those who thrive off running and chaos, completely out of their element. It's a wonderful weapon to have, and Notre Dame has mastered it, even if they utilize it infrequently.