The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hit the hardwood on Friday night as they clash with the Iowa State Cyclones in the second round of the West Regional of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at University of Dayton Arena.
Notre Dame, the seventh seed in this region, finished the regular season in a tie for fifth place in the Big East Conference standings, sporting a record of 11-7 along with the Syracuse Orange. The Irish managed to pick up a couple of wins during the conference tournament, topping Rutgers (69-61) and then upsetting Marquette (73-65), before being thumped by Louisville (69-57) a week ago.
As for the Cyclones, the 10th seed who are representing the Big 12 Conference, they've split their last six games overall and finished up the regular season with an 11-7 league mark. Back in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year and the 15th time overall, ISU did manage to defeat Oklahoma in the conference tournament by a score of 73-66 before being crushed by seventh- ranked Kansas a week ago, 88-73.
Fred Hoiberg, a legend in his own right in Ames, is the 49th head coach to not only play in the NCAA Tournament but to also lead his alma mater to the event. Overall, this program has a record of 13-14 in the tournament.
In the postseason in one capacity or another for the 14th straight year, Notre Dame has an all-time mark of 31-36 in this particular tourney.
The Irish won the only previous meeting between these two teams in South Bend back in 1979 by a score of 87-77. The winner this time around will head to the third round of the tournament on Sunday versus the survivor of the Iona/Ohio State contest.
Recognized as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and also named to the All-Big 12 Second Team, Will Clyburn leads a quartet of double-digit scorers for the Cyclones with his 15.0 ppg. Clyburn is also second on the unit in both rebounding (7.1 rpg) and assists (70), which means he is capable of doing almost anything necessary to get the team into the win column. Tyus McGee is responsible for another 13.2 ppg and is the top perimeter shooter for ISU with his 90-of-197 effort behind the 3-point line. George Niang, who is on the verge of moving into fifth place on the school's scoring list for freshmen, checks in with 12.0 ppg, although his numbers could be even better if not for his five disqualifications. Melvin Ejim (11.2 ppg) was one of the leading rebounders in the league with 9.3 rpg, while Korie Lucious (9.9 ppg) was one of the best passers with close to six assists per contest.
Enjoying one of their most successful campaigns under head coach Mike Brey during this his 13th season in South Bend, Notre Dame has done the work without a true superstar. However, the team does have a number of consistent performers who are always there to lean on in Jerian Grant and Jack Cooley. Grant not only leads the team in scoring with 13.4 ppg, he is also first on the unit with 192 assists, which is one more than Eric Atkins (11.4 ppg) who is one of the top perimeter threats for the Irish with his 42.9 percent accuracy beyond the arc. Cooley (13.1 ppg) is shooting an impressive 57.2 percent from the floor these days, his 10.3 rpg making him one of only a handful of players in the nation who can say that they've averaged a double- double in 2012-13.