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NCAA Preview: Notre Dame vs. Indiana

In-state rivals Notre Dame and Indiana meet for the first time in almost a decade with a shot at advancing to the Sweet 16 on the line.

NCAA Tournament: No. 1-seeded Notre Dame (32-1, 16-0 ACC) vs. 9th-seeded Indiana (21-11, 12-6 Big Ten)
Date: March 21, 2016
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN2/ESPN3/WatchESPN
Opponent nickname: Hoosiers
Head coach: Teri Moren
Location: Bloomington, Ind.
How They Got Here: Notre Dame eliminated 16th-seeded North Carolina A&T, 95-61, in the first round of the tournament. The 9th-seeded Hoosiers, who received an at-large bid, knocked off Georgia, 62-58.

IT’S A COMPETITIVE THING

Notre Dame and Indiana haven’t played since Dec. 3, 2006, but have remained competitive off the court … on the recruiting trail. Three years ago, the Hoosiers signed a guard from Pennsylvania by the name of Karlee McBride, whose older sister Kayla was in the midst of working on an All-America career at Notre Dame. The younger McBride is averaging 7.3 ppg for the Hoosiers, and can shoot the three just like her big sister.

But in the last decade Notre Dame has won two key, in-state battles. In 2009, local product Skylar Diggins signed with the Irish and helped cement their position among the nation’s elite, where they remain to this day. Next season, Notre Dame will welcome Indiana native Jackie Young into the fold, who was recently named the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year and the Naismith National Player of the Year.

Indiana head coach Teri Moren is well aware of the impact.

“Let’s be honest, we’re not quite there yet with the recruits, especially in the state of Indiana,” Moren said. “One of the things we’re committed to, though, is recruiting the top kids in the state of Indiana and it’s always going to be a challenge to go up against a school and program like Notre Dame and get some of the top kids out of the state.”

BEING COMPETITIVE – PART II

Even though it’s been a while, the Irish and the Hoosiers have squared off 10 times. Notre Dame holds a 6-4 edge, but Indiana won the most recent matchup. That 2006 meeting resulted in a 54-51 Hoosier victory at the Purcell Pavilion. Nine of those 10 games have been decided by single digits, including four that ended up being one-possession games.

Second-year Indiana head coach Moren hasn’t been quite as close in her previous coaching stints versus the Irish. Her Indiana State squad suffered a 99-34 loss to Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion in the Preseason WNIT quarterfinals on Nov. 13, 2011, and NCAA Div. II program Indianapolis lost 84-59 on Nov. 1, 2005 in an exhibition game at Purcell Pavilion.

GET TO THE POINT

Indiana’s sophomore point guard, 5-foot-8 Tyra Buss, is averaging 18.9 points per game and has made 252 trips to the free-throw line (where she is connecting on 77 percent). By comparison, Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner leads her team in trips to the charity stripe with 130 … and she’s a forward. Needless to say, Buss knows how to manufacture points and she’s not afraid to get physical to do it.

“Well, Buss (has gotten) to the free-throw line (252 times this season), which is amazing,” noted Irish head coach Muffet McGraw. “She really drives the ball well. She’s on attack mode all the time. We’ve got to be alert. Our rotations have to be really good. We’ve got to be able to find her and slow her down in transition, which is really hard to do. I don’t think anyone has been successful at it all year long. So I think that she’s the key to their team.”

Buss’s Notre Dame counterpart is junior Lindsay Allen, who has been the team’s steadying influence all season long. Allen is averaging just under half of Buss’ point production (8.6 points per game), but it’s usually not necessary for Allen to carry the scoring load. In the first round Allen had just one point but 10 assists while six other Irish players had double-digit scoring efforts in the rout.

It’s been 33 years since the Hoosiers have advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament, so the young, post-season inexperienced squad might have a tough time keeping it close down the stretch. In the end, like it has all year, Notre Dame’s balance and depth will keep the Hoosiers from winning another tournament game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 82, Indiana 68


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