NCAA Preview: Notre Dame vs. Michigan

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – If Michigan goes to its 1-3-1 defense, the Irish must attack the gaps in the middle and along the baseline, which would open things up for Auguste, Colson.

Game 33: No. 6 Notre Dame (21-11) vs. No. 11 Michigan (23-12)
Date: March 18, 2016
Place: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, N.Y.
Time: 9:40 ET
TV: CBS
Opponent nickname: Wolverines
Head coach: John Beilein (38th year overall): 665-397 -- 189-122 in 9th year at Michigan; 104-60 in 5 years at West Virginia; 100-53 in 5 years at Richmond; 89-62 in 5 years at Canisius.
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
2014-15 record (16-16, 8-10)

HISTORY VS. MICHIGAN

Whereas Notre Dame’s history with the Michigan football program since 1978 is frequent and well-documented, the rivalry on the hardwood is, well, not much of a rivalry.

Michigan and Notre Dame first squared off in 1922. They’ve met just 22 times with the Wolverines winning 15, including 12 of the last 14. The last time they played was 2006 in the NIT. Since 1972, the vast majority of the games played have come in the post-season.

The most memorable game was in the 1974 NCAA tournament when 25-2 Notre Dame – ranked No. 2 in the country and led by freshman sensation Adrian Dantley – lost to No. 12 Michigan, 77-68, in second-round action of the NCAA tournament in Tuscaloosa.

BREY VS. BEILEIN

Mike Brey and John Beilein squared off seven times when Notre Dame and West Virginia were in the Big East. Brey held a 6-1 advantage over Beilein with three wins at Purcell Pavilion, two in Morgantown, and a one-point Big East tournament victory. Brey’s only loss to Beilein came at West Virginia in 2006, and that was a one-point setback.

That shouldn’t be construed as a coaching mismatch. Beilein took the Wolverines to the 2013 national championship game where they fell to Louisville. He’s led two other Elite Eight charges – one at Michigan and one at West Virginia.

AUGUSTE’S TIME IS MARCH

Irish big man Zach Auguste has made a habit of playing some of his most impressive basketball when it matters the most – the month of March.

• As a sophomore, he scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Notre Dame’s otherwise forgettable first ACC tournament appearance against Wake Forest.

• Auguste was the heart and soul of the Irish charge through the ACC and NCAA tournaments last year, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the ACC championship game against North Carolina. Six of those rebounds were on the offensive end. Auguste, a career 61.5 percent free-throw shooter, converted 8-of-9 versus the Tar Heels.

• Auguste scored 25 points in Notre Dame’s opening-round NCAA tournament victory over Northeastern.

• He made all six of his field-goal attempts and finished with 15 points in the victory over Wichita State to advance to the Elite Eight.

• Auguste scored 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds in the narrow loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

• Last week in the ACC tournament, Auguste scored 19 points and snagged 22 rebounds – the second-most in ACC tournament history – in Notre Dame’s come-from-behind victory over Duke.

Tonight, Auguste has a great opportunity against a nondescript Wolverine front line, provided he can handle the double-teams that Michigan will throw at him.

“I think that’s something we’re going to try to use to our advantage,” said Auguste of the perceived edge the Irish have against Michigan’s front line.

“I want to be as confident as I can be, as aggressive as I can be, but at the same time, play within myself. Don’t play outside my game, and play with high energy and passion.”

CRUCIAL CLOSEOUTS; THE RUNNING GAME

Michigan averages 24.9 three-point attempts per game and 9.4 made three-pointers, which is an impressive 38.0 percent shooting.

It’s a fine line for the Irish defense, which wants to close out on those long-range bombs without yielding lane penetration by over-aggressively attacking the three-point shot. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – an 8.5 scorer for the season who is averaging 14 points per game over the last five -- sliced up the Tulsa defense Wednesday night.

“They’re similar with their offensive philosophy to us – skill guys that can make shots,” Brey said. “They spread the floor out. Guarding the three-point line definitely is going to be key.

“We look back at some of the notes we used to make in preparation for West Virginia when John was there and you kind of get back to some of those points of emphasis, especially defensively.”

The Irish would love to keep Michigan in the frigid shooting zone that it currently finds itself. The Wolverines have converted just 18-of-71 three-pointers (25.3 percent) in the last three games, including 6-of-21 and 6-of-25 versus Indiana and Purdue respectively in the Big Ten tournament, and another 6-of-25 Wednesday night in the NCAA tournament play-in game against Tulsa.

If the Irish can continue Michigan’s cold shooting from distance, it could lead to some crucial fast-break points.

“We want to run,” Brey said. “We want to play faster. We want to get the ball down the court. That started with the N.C. State game. We did it at times in D.C. and I thought it helped us.

“We don’t want to all of a sudden walk it up and grind. We’ve got to be good in the half court because the NCAA tournament many times comes down to half-court basketball. But getting some easy buckets in transition really helps this particular team.”

BEILEIN’S 1-3-1 PRESS

The Michigan head coach is known for his change-up zone defense, which few teams employ and even fewer that do it as well as Beilein’s squads.

The 1-3-1 aggressively attacks from the wings to create double teams high and away from the basket, hoping to force opponents into the natural inclination to throw long, diagonal passes across the lane to relieve the pressure. The end result often is a stolen pass.

Interestingly, the Wolverines’ did not use the 1-3-1 in Wednesday’s victory over Tulsa. But it’s in the arsenal and a real weapon through the years for Beilein.

“It’s always been a staple of what John Beilein has done,” Brey said. “Will we see it more? Maybe. We have to be ready for that. That’s always been his change to go to that 1-3-1.

“They actually played a little 2-3 (vs. Tulsa), so we have to be prepared. Will they play us more zone because of Bonzie (Colson) and Zach (Auguste)? We have to be ready for that.”

A key to a successful approach versus a 1-3-1 is to make those high double-teams costly. That means using the entire half court to find relief.

“You need to attack those gaps,” Brey said. “You have to flatten it. Getting a touch in the corner, getting a short-corner touch and getting a touch in the middle of it is important.

“Bonzie has been a great middle-of-the-zone guy for us for two years, no matter what zone it is. Then, when you have your shot, be ready to take it. Also, don’t be afraid to drive the 1-3-1. Our guards need to be ready to drive.”

Line: Notre Dame by 3 ½
Prister/O’Malley Prediction: Notre Dame 77, Michigan 69


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