Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish open up their postseason on Thursday evening, closing out the ACC Tournament's quarterfinal round with a showdown against sixth-seeded Miami- Florida at Greensboro Coliseum.
The winner of this game will move into Friday's semifinal round and take on either NC State or Duke.
Mike Brey's Irish were in the hunt for the regular-season crown all season long, but finished just behind champion Virginia (16-2) and Duke (15-3), with a still impressive 14-4. The team's 26 total wins is tied for the third-most in school history and its regular-season win total is the most for Notre Dame since the 1908-09 team (33). Notre Dame is still seeking its first ACC Tournament win, after getting bounced in its only game played last year.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes had a decent season, as one of six teams in the ACC with at least 20 victories. They added a 21st victory on Wednesday, with a 59-49 win over Virginia Tech in second-round action. Miami is just two years removed from its only ACC Tournament title. The team comes into this postseason with an 12-9 record in this event and remains a dark-horse to make a strong run here.
These two teams met once in the regular season with Notre Dame earning a 75-70 win at home. With the victory, Notre Dame now holds a 9-8 edge in the series all-time.
Miami got immediate contributions from Texas-transfer Sheldon McClellan and Kansas State-transfer Angel Rodriguez this year, keying the team's successful season. Sheldon shoots an impressive .500 from the floor and leads the 'Canes in scoring at 14.8 ppg. Rodriguez is productive in several areas, averaging 12.1 ppg, while leading Miami in both assists (412 apg) and steals (56). Center Tonye Jekiri (8.6 ppg) is a defensive force, leading the conference in rebounding (10.2 rpg). Jekiri was named to the All-ACC Defensive Team, and all three players were tabbed All-ACC Honorable Mention.
It wasn't the prettiest game, but Miami was able to earn a 10-point win over Virginia Tech in Wednesday's tournament action, despite shooting a modest .426 in the game overall and only having Rodriguez see 10 minutes of action (sprained wrist), his first since Feb. 28. McClellan led the charge 16 points in the victory. Davon Reed added 10, while Jekiri just missed a double-double with nine points and eight boards.
The Irish haven't won an ACC Tournament game yet, but they certainly have the personnel to rectify that this year, starting with All-ACC First-Team selection Jerian Grant (16.8 ppg, ACC-best 6.7 apg). The talented senior guard was a candidate for ACC Player of the Year, but was definitely not the only player on the Notre Dame roster that was relied upon. Fellow senior Pat Connaughton (12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg) earned third-team honors this year and plays much bigger than his 6-5 frame would suggest. Other players of note for the Irish include Demetrius Jackson (12.5 ppg), Zach Auguste (12.5 ppg) and Steve Vasturia (9.4 ppg).