NCAA Tournament Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Duke center Marshall Plumlee (40) and Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste (30) grab for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

6. Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7/ACC)–The high-flying Irish aren’t quite as good as they were last season, when they came thisclose to upsetting previously unbeaten Kentucky and advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 1978. But many of the same players from last season’s squad are back, including beastly forward Zach Auguste, who was tremendous in that Elite Eight game last season, doing a commendable job against Kentucky’s bigs, including likely NBA Rookie of the Year Karl Anthony-Towns. The 6-10 senior was also unstoppable against Duke in the ACC tournament, putting up 19 points and 23 rebounds. He’s without a doubt someone to watch in this tournament.

6-1 junior guard Demetrius Jackson is another key for the Irish, as he puts up 15.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Three other players, 6-5 junior guard Steve Vasturia, 6-5 forward Bonzie Colson and 6-8 junior V.J. Beachem also average in double figures in scoring.

KEY STATS:

75.7 points per game (118th)

11. Michigan (22-12, 10-8/Big Ten)--The Wolverines probably cemented their NCAA Tournament spot after beating both Northwestern and top-seeded Indiana at the buzzer in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan does own four Top-50 wins, which the committee put a ridiculous amount of weight into, but they’re also 4-12 against top-50 teams. Still, head coach John Beilein has done a terrific job with this group, which lost its best player, senior guard Caris LeVert (16.5 ppg) to injury in December. LeVert returned for one game in February, but re-aggravated his left injury after just 11 minutes. He hasn’t played since.

In his absence, the Wolverines have turned to small-but-mighty guard Derrick Walton Jr. (11.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.5 apg), and 6-6 junior guard Zak Irvin (11.7 ppg, 3.1 apg). This team owns some quality wins, including home victories over Purdue and Maryland.

PREDICTION: Michigan gets past Tulsa thanks to some hot shooting and size on the perimeter, but Notre Dame’s Auguste and Jackson are too much to handle in the Round of 64. The Irish advance to the second round, where they’ll fall victim to Bob Huggins and his ‘Press Virginia’ defense.

Other tournament games:

EAST:
Which teams can beat No. 1 North Carolina?
8. USC vs. 9. Providence
5. Indiana vs. 12. Chattanooga
4. Kentucky vs. 13. Stony Brook
6. Notre Dame vs. 11. Michigan/Tulsa
3. West Virginia vs. 14. Stephen F. Austin
7. Wisconsin vs. 10. Pittsburgh
2. Xavier vs. 15 Weber State

SOUTH:
Who can beat No. 1 Kansas?
8. Colorado vs. 9. UConn
5. Maryland vs. 12. South Dakota State
4. California vs. 13 Hawaii
6. Arizona vs. 11. Wichita State or Vanderbilt
3. Miami (FL) vs. 14. Buffalo
7. Iowa vs. 10. Temple
2. Villanova vs. 15. UNC Asheville

MIDWEST:
How far will No. 1 Virginia advance?
8. Texas Tech vs. 9. Butler
5. Purdue vs. 12. Arkansas-Little Rock
4. Iowa State vs. 13. Iona
6. Seton Hall vs. 11. Gonzaga
3. Utah vs. 14. Fresno State
7. Dayton vs. 10. Syracuse
2. Michigan State vs. 15. Middle Tennessee State

WEST:
Is No. 1 Oregon really that good?
8. St. Joseph’s vs. 9. Cincinnati
5. Baylor vs. 12. Yale
4. Duke vs. 13. UNC-Wilmington
6. Texas vs. 11. Northern Iowa
3. Texas A&M vs. 14. Green Bay
7. Oregon State vs. 10. VCU
2. Oklahoma vs 15. Cal St. Bakersfield

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