Irish make 16th Sweet 16 appearance

Austin Carr averaged 52.5 points per game in the 1970 NCAA tournament while Dick Rosenthal scored at a 25.3 clip in the 1954 NCAA tournament. Head coach Digger Phelps who led the Irish to six straight Sweet 16s, including a trip to the Final Four (1978) and Elite Eight (1979).

When Notre Dame takes on Wichita State Thursday night at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, it will mark the 16th time the Irish have reached the stage in the NCAA tournament in which just 16 teams remain.

Once in the previous 15 journeys to the Sweet 16, the Irish have gone on to participate in the Final Four. That came in 1978 when Digger Phelps led Notre Dame into the Checkerdome in St. Louis where the Irish fell to Duke – pre-Mike Krzyzewski.

Four of those 15 previous Sweet 16 journeys ended at the Elite Eight level, including 1979 – the year after Phelps’ ground-breaking trip to the Final Four – when the Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans eliminated the Irish en route to the national title.

The first four Elite Eight trips came in a six-year span in the 1950s under head coach John Jordan. Another 12 years would pass until head coach John Dee took Notre Dame to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, due largely to Washington, D.C. product Austin Carr, who would go on to become the school’s all-time leading scorer and one of college basketball’s all-time greats.

When Notre Dame first went to the NCAA tournament in 1953, just 22 teams made the Not-So-Big-Dance. Thus, it took just one victory to advance to the final 16 teams in the country, and a mere two victories to land in the Elite Eight.

Consolation games also used to be a part of the early years of the NCAA tournament, which would go by the wayside the year after Notre Dame’s Final Four appearance. Seeding came into play beginning with the 1978-79 season as the field expanded from 32 to 40 teams.

Here are Notre Dame’s 15 previous trips to the final 16 and beyond, starting with the most recent:

2003 (24-10): Sweet 16
• Teams: 65
• National champions: Syracuse
• ND seed: No. 5 West Region
• Results: W70-69 vs. No. 12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee; W68-60 vs. No. 4 Illinois; L88-71 vs. No. 1 Arizona.
• ND captains: Matt Carroll, Jere Macura, Dan Miller
• Notes: Mike Brey’s third year at Notre Dame would prove to be his only Sweet 16 appearance in his first 14 seasons, and it wasn’t necessarily one of his best regular seasons. Once conference play began, the longest winning streak was four games, and the Irish lost the last three regular-season games and four of the last six. But the Irish strung together a couple of victories in the NCAA tournament for their first Sweet 16 appearance in 16 years.

Matt Carroll led the way with a 19.5 scoring average while Torin Francis paced the team in rebounding (8.4) for the first of four straight seasons. Chris Thomas, a sophomore, would finish his career No. 3 on the all-time Notre Dame scoring list with 2,195 points.

As the No. 5 seed in the West Region opening in Indianapolis, the Irish were the beneficiary of a missed put-back by UW-Milwaukee to preserve the opening-game victory with Thomas scoring 27 points and Francis scoring 23 with 14 rebounds.

Notre Dame led Illinois at halftime, 47-34, and secured the 68-60 victory over Bill Self’s squad. Transfer Dan Miller scored 23 points and Thomas notched 17 with Francis snagging 14 rebounds.

That proved to be the end of the road as the Irish went to Anaheim and fell to Arizona, which scored 53 points in the first half and led by 13 at the break, despite Francis’ 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Thomas’ 20 points.

1987 (24-8): Sweet 16
• Teams: 64
• National champions: Indiana
• ND seed: No. 5 East Region
• Results: W84-71 vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee St.; W58-57 vs. No. 4 TCU; L74-68 vs. No. 1 North Carolina.
• ND captains: Scott Hicks, Donald Royal
• Notes: This would prove to be Digger Phelps’ last hurrah with the Irish after leading Notre Dame to four Sweet 16s, a Final Four and an Elite Eight in six successive seasons in the ‘70s.

David Rivers scored 27 points and made 10-of-11 FTs, and Donald Royal tossed in 24 points in the victory over Middle Tennessee State. Notre Dame made only one three-point field goal, but committed just six turnovers.

David Rivers scored 24 of Notre Dame’s 58 points in the one-point victory over the Horned Frogs. The Irish made 9-of-10 FTs while TCU made all 12 of its attempts.

The Irish trailed 36-26 at halftime vs. North Carolina and never could quite recover. David Rivers (23 points) and Donald Royal (19) led the way. The Tar Heels shot 65.4 percent from the field. J.R. Reid led the Tar Heels with 31 points on 15-of-18 shooting.

1981 (23-6) Sweet 16
• Teams: 48
• ND seed: No. 2 East Region
• National champions: Indiana
• Results: W54-45 vs. No. 10 James Madison; L51-50 vs. No. 6 BYU
• ND captains: Tracy Jackson, Kelly Tripucka, Orlando Woolridge
• Notes: Early-season victories over No. 7 Indiana and No. 2 Kentucky propelled the Irish into the top 10. Notre Dame won 14-of-15 near the end of the regular season, but dropped its finale to No. 2 DePaul.

After a low-scoring victory over James Madison in the first game of the NCAA tournament with Tracy Jackson leading the way (21 points, 12 rebounds), the Irish built a 28-18 lead over BYU at halftime. Danny Ainge led the furious Cougars comeback. His driving, length-of-the-court layup upended the Irish, who failed to maximize one of the great trio of captains in Irish history.

1979 (24-6): Elite 8
• Teams: 40
• ND seed: No. 1
• National champions: Michigan State
• Results: W73-67 vs. No. 8 Tennessee; W79-71 vs. No. 5 Toledo; L80-68 vs. No. 2 Michigan State.
• ND captains: Bruce Flowers, Bill Laimbeer
• Notes: This squad ranked among the nation’s top three the entire regular season, including a stretch of nearly a month in the top spot before losing the last two games of the regular season.

Kelly Tripucka led the way with 21 points in the opening-game victory over Tennessee. The Irish led Toledo by 10 at halftime as Tripucka once again paced the Irish with 24 points.

Notre Dame then ran into the Magic Johnson/Greg Kelser-led Spartans. Kelser scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Johnson tossed in 19 points and dished out 13 assists. Bill Hanzlik and Tracy Jackson each scored 19 points for the Irish.

1978 (23-8): Final 4
• Teams: 32
• National champions: Kentucky
• Results: W100-77 vs. Houston; W69-56 vs. Utah; W84-64 vs. DePaul; L90-86 vs. Duke; L71-69 vs. Arkansas (consolation)
• ND captains: Duck Williams, Dave Batton
• Notes: The Irish opened the season ranked No. 4 in the country and remained among the nation’s top 10 the entire season, yet the Irish lost three of their last seven regular-season games heading into the NCAA tournament.

Duck Williams led the way with 19 points in the easy victory over Houston to start the post-season. Kelly Tripucka led four players in double figures in the second-round victory over Utah.

The Irish put it all together in the Midwest Regional finals against Davie Corzine and DePaul. Notre Dame scored 47 points in the second half and out-scored the Blue Demons by 16 points over the final 20 minutes in the 20-point victory. Tripucka led four players in double figures with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

In the Final 4 in the Checkerdome in St. Louis, the Irish trailed, 43-39 at halftime, but shot their way back into the game with a 57-point second half. But it wasn’t enough as the Blue Devils – led by Mike Gminski’s 29 points, Gene Banks’ 22 and Jim Spanarkel’s 20 – shot 54.7 percent from the field and made 32-of-37 FTs.

1977 (22-7): Sweet 16
• Teams: 32
• National champions: Marquette
• Results: W90-83 vs. Hofstra; L79-77 vs. North Carolina
• ND captains: Billy Paterno, Ray Martin, Toby Knight
• Notes: After winning the first seven games of the season, the Irish dropped four in a row and five out of six to the likes of Kentucky, Princeton, Villanova, Marquette and UCLA. The Irish then closed the regular-season with a 14-2 mark, including a 93-82 victory over No. 1-ranked and 29-0 San Francisco.

Duck Williams led five players in double figures with 25 points in the opening-round victory over Hofstra. But Phil Ford scored 29 points for North Carolina, helping the Tar Heels overcome a 10-point halftime deficit and sending the Irish home from the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season.

1976 (23-6): Sweet 16
• Teams: 32
• National champions: Indiana
• Results: W79-78 vs. Cincinnati; L80-76 vs. Michigan
• ND captains: Adrian Dantley, Billy Paterno
• Notes: In his third and final season with the Irish, Adrian Dantley averaged 28.6 points per game to become the second 2,000-point scorer in Notre Dame history while averaging 10.1 rebounds per game.

Dantley tossed in 27 points and Duck Williams added 22 to lead the Irish past Cincinnati by a point in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. But Michigan forced Notre Dame into 23 turnovers to advance to the Elite Eight over the Irish.

Dantley’s final game in a Notre Dame uniform saw him convert 12-of-19 from the field for 31 points, closing out his brilliant Notre Dame career with 2,223 points – second only to Austin Carr.

1975 (19-10): Sweet 16
• Teams: 32
• National champions: UCLA
• Results: W77-71 vs. Kansas; L83-71 vs. Maryland; L95-87 Cincinnati (OT-consolation)
• ND captains: Dwight Clay, Peter Crotty
• Notes: The longest winning streak of the season was a mere five games as the Irish struggled at times following the departure of John Shumate and Gary Brokaw. Adrian Dantley averaged career highs in points (30.4) and rebounds (10.2), but the Irish lost December games to powerhouse Indiana, UCLA and Kentucky – successively.

The Irish won 11 of their last 13 regular-season games and defeated Kansas in the opening round of the NCAA tournament – their second victory of the season over the Jayhawks as Dantley pumped in 33 points. But Notre Dame fell to Maryland for the second time of the season as the Terrapins forced the Irish into 21 turnovers. Point guard John Lucas tossed in 24 points to lead Maryland.

1974 (26-3): Sweet 16
• Teams: 25
• National champions: North Carolina State
• Results: W108-66 vs. Austin Peay; L77-68 vs. Michigan; W118-88 vs. Vanderbilt (consolation)
• ND captains: Gary Novak, John Shumate
• Notes: With freshman Adrian Dantley joining veterans John Shumate, Gary Novak, Gary Brokaw, Dwight Clay and Ray “Dice” Martin, the Irish won their first 12 games of the season, including the legendary 71-70 victory over No. 1 UCLA, which snapped the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak. A week later, UCLA handed Notre Dame a 94-75 loss in Pauley Pavilion.

Notre Dame bounced back from the one-sided loss in Westwood to run off 12 more victories in a row. The regular season ended on a down note, a 15-point loss at Dayton, and after a one-sided victory over Austin Peay in the first game of the NCAA tournament, No. 12-ranked Michigan – led by Campy Russell’s 36 points and 18 rebounds – upended the Irish, 77-68, putting a close to one of the greatest seasons in Notre Dame history.

1971 (20-9): Sweet 16
• Teams: 25
• National champions: UCLA
• Results: W102-94 vs. TCU; L79-72 vs. Drake; L119-106 vs. Houston (consolation)
• ND captains: Austin Carr
• Notes: The incredible Notre Dame career of Austin Carr came to a close with a disappointing second-game loss to Drake after the Irish had advanced with a 102-94 opening-round victory over TCU in which Carr made 20-of-34 shots from the field and 12-of-15 free throws to finish with 52 points. Drake limited Carr to 11-of-27 shooting, and his 26 points weren’t enough in the 79-72 loss.

Carr averaged 37.9 points per game his final season with the Irish, converting 51.5 percent of his field-goal attempts and 81.1 percent of his free throws. The 6-foot-3 Carr averaged 7.3 rebounds per game during his career. He finished with a school-record 2,560 points and a 34.6-point average.

1970 (21-8): Sweet 16
• Teams: 25
• National champions: UCLA
• Results: W112-82 vs. Ohio U.; L109-99 vs. Kentucky; L121-106 vs. Iowa (consolation)
• ND captains: Austin Carr
• Notes: Statistically, this was Austin Carr’s greatest season – his junior year – when he averaged 38.1 points per game while shooting an incomparable 55.5 percent from the field and 82.6 percent from the line. It also marked his season-high in rebounds per game at 8.1.

The Irish recorded a rare victory at Indiana during the regular season, lost to No. 1 Kentucky by two points in Louisville, and defeated No. 3 West Virginia in New Orleans.

But after defeating Ohio U. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with Carr scoring 61 points on 25-of-44 shooting from the field – which still stands as a Notre Dame single-game and NCAA tournament record – the Irish fell to No. 1-ranked Kentucky, 109-99, despite Carr’s 52 points. Notre Dame then gave up 121 points in a consolation-game loss to Iowa with Carr scoring 45, giving him a three-game total of 158 points.

1958 (20-8): Elite 8
• Teams: 24
• National champions: Kentucky
• Results: W94-61 vs. Tennessee Tech; W94-87 vs. Indiana; L89-56 vs. Kentucky
• ND captains: Bob Devine, John McCarthy
• Notes: This team would mark the last to advance as far as the Sweet 16 for 12 seasons, and it would reach the Elite Eight by knocking off mighty Indiana to do so.

After Tom Hawkins scored 30 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and co-captain John McCarthy added an equally-impressive 20 points and 21 rebounds in a decisive victory over Tennessee Tech, the Irish took an 11-point halftime lead over Indiana and cruised to a 94-87 win over the Hoosiers with the one-two punch of Hawkins-McCarthy combining for another 60 points and 22 rebounds.

The Wildcats of Kentucky, however, were on their way to a national title as all five starters scored in double figures while the Irish shot just 28.2 percent from the field in the 33-point loss.

1957 (20-8): Sweet 16
• Teams: 23
• National champions: North Carolina
• Results: W89-77 vs. Miami (Ohio); L85-83 vs. Michigan State; W86-85 vs. Pittsburgh (consolation)
• ND captains: John Smyth
• Notes: After a 9-7 start to the season, Notre Dame strung together nine victories to close out the regular season on a high note. The Irish jumped on Miami (Ohio) in the first half of the opening round of the NCAA tournament, taking a 16-point lead before securing an 89-77 victory with Tom Hawkins, John Smyth and John McCarthy all scoring at least 22 points.

The Irish would drop a tough one to No. 11 Michigan State, 85-83, before claiming the consolation game against Pittsburgh. The season announced the arrival of the sophomore Hawkins, who averaged 20.6 points and an unfathomable 17.3 rebounds per game. When he finished his Notre Dame career two years later, he was the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,820) and rebounder (1,318).

1954 (22-3): Elite 8
• Teams: 24
• National champions: LaSalle
• Results: W80-70 vs. Loyola (La.); W65-64 vs. Indiana; L71-63 vs. Penn State
• ND captains: Dick Rosenthal
• Notes: It was just the third year of the John Jordan era at Notre Dame, but the Irish had established themselves as a national power, led by captain (and future Notre Dame athletics director) Dick Rosenthal, who averaged 20.7 points per game as a senior.

After losing to No. 1-ranked Indiana in December, and then falling nine days later to Bradley, the Irish went unscathed over their final 16 regular-season games. That earned them a date with Loyola (La.) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Rosenthal tossed in 31 points, giving them another shot at the Hoosiers in Iowa City. Rosenthal scored another 25 points in the 65-64 upset, only to fall in upset fashion themselves a day later to Penn State, 71-63. Rosenthal averaged 25.3 points in the three NCAA tournament games.

1953 (19-5): Elite 8
• Teams: 22
• National champions: Indiana
• Results: W72-57 vs. Eastern Kentucky; W 69-57 vs. Pennsylvania; L79-66 vs. Indiana
• ND captains: Norb Lewinski
• Notes: John Jordan’s second season in South Bend served notice that the Irish were formidable with a one-point win at home over Indiana as well as victories over No. 12 UCLA and No. 6 Holy Cross.

For the first time since the inception of the NCAA tournament in 1939, the Irish took part, lifting a self-imposed ban on post-season play. Joe Bertrand’s 23 points and Dick Rosenthal’s 17 led the way in an opening-round victory over Eastern Kentucky. Jack Stephens joined Bertrand and Rosenthal in pacing the Irish in scoring against Pennsylvania to get the Irish to their first Elite Eight.

But it was too much Don Schlundt in the bid to reach the Final Four as the Indiana standout tossed in 41 points in the Hoosier’s 79-66 victory over the Irish.


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