Notre Dame and Michigan have a longstanding rivalry on the football field, but they haven’t faced off in basketball in 10 years. That will change on Friday night when the two teams meet in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Fighting Irish are the No.6 seed in the East region, going 21-11 overall and 11-7 in the ACC. The No.11 Wolverines barely made the field, needing a win in Wednesday’s opening round to earn a spot in the first round.
After a 22-12 regular-season record, Michigan earned a 67-62 victory over Tulsa in the play-in game. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zak Irvin led the Wolverines with 16 points, giving them some momentum entering Friday’s game.
The Wolverines have not been the same team since leading scorer Caris LeVert went down for the season with a leg injury. The team went 5-7 before Wednesday’s game, going 2-5 against ranked opponents. Without their top player in the lineup, Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr. and Duncan Robinson have looked to make up for his absence, all averaging between 11.2 and 11.9 points per game on the year.
LeVert might have the highest draft stock of any player in Friday’s game, though Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson could be a first-round pick and be taken ahead of LeVert. Jackson has done a fine job replacing Jerian Grant, who was one of college basketball’s best players a year ago. Jackson is averaging 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
All of Notre Dame’s starters are averaging more than 11 points per game, including Zach Auguste, who averages a double-double with 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest. Michigan will have to be wary of V.J. Beachem, who hits 43.2 percent of his three-pointers.
Notre Dame hasn’t played since they lost to North Carolina by 31 points in the ACC Tournament. They’ve lost four of their last seven games, though they did get a victory against Duke in the conference tournament.
The Irish are looking to make a deep tournament run after doing so last year. Notre Dame reached the Elite Eight in 2015, ending their trend of premature March Madness exits. They hadn’t reached the second weekend of the tournament since 2003, and Notre Dame has the worst winning percentage against the spread of any tournament team since 1996, according to OddsShark.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have made Notre Dame a three-point favorite against Michigan, via vegasinsider.com, and the over/under is 143 points. The Irish are 7-12 against the spread in their last 19 tournament games, and the total has exceeded the over/under in just four of those contests.
Michigan missed the tournament last year after reaching the Elite Eight in 2014. They lost the national championship game to Louisville in 2013.
Start Time: 9:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream: NCAA March Madness Live
Prediction: Notre Dame over Michigan, 70-63