Notre Dame's first game in the National Invitational Tournament with Alabama-Birmingham featured the return of Mike Davis to the state of Indiana, Notre Dame's second round contest will feature the return of another well-known Indiana product.
Notre Dame (19-14) defeated UAB 70-64 in the first round, setting up a second-round matchup with New Mexico on Wednesday. The first-ever meeting between the two schools will also bring back former Indiana star and former Iowa head coach Steve Alford to his home state.
Alford has a 45-20 record in two years at New Mexico after a 24-9 season that was capped with another NIT appearance a year ago.
The winner of the Notre Dame-New Mexico game will face either Creighton or Kentucky in the tournament's quarterfinals. But the Irish need to get by the Lobos first.
New Mexico (22-11), the No. 3 seed in Notre Dame's bracket, defeated Nebraska 83-71 in its first round game on St. Patrick's Day.
The Lobos finished in a three-way tie for the Mountain West regular season title, but their NCAA Tournament hopes ended when they were upset by Wyoming in the first round of the conference tourney.
The victory was sweet revenge for the Cowboys who lost to New Mexico 74-73 in the regular season finale, giving the Lobos a share of the league title. New Mexico made just three of its 23 three-point field goal attempts in the Mountain West quarterfinal loss while Wyoming drained 10 of its 19 threes.
The Lobos are 11-3 in their last 14 games and had won five straight before the loss to the Cowboys. They average 74.0 points and allow just 65.9, but like Notre Dame's previous opponent, there is a big difference between the Lobos at home and on the road.
New Mexico is 15-2 at home and just 6-6 on the road, but the Lobos did manage to win at Wyoming when the league title was on the line.
New Mexico is a young team, but relies on a balanced offensive attack that has all four of its upperclassmen averaging double-digits in points. Senior guard-forward Tony Dandridge leads New Mexico with 15.2 points while senior forward Daniel Faris averages 12.0, senior guard Chad Toppert 10.8 and junior forward Roman Martinez 10.7.
Faris and Martinez lead the Lobos with 6.4 rebounds apiece while Dandridge hauls in 4.1 a game and sophomore point guard Dairese Gary leads the Lobos with 4.1 assists per contest. The game at the Joyce Center will a homecoming of sorts for Gary who is a graduate of Concord High School in nearby Elkhart (IN).
Gary also contributes 7.9 points per game while his freshman backcourt mate Phillip McDonald is scoring 7.2 points per contest.
The Lobos résumé includes three wins over the RPI's top 32 teams. New Mexico defeated Utah, who earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, 77-71 earlier this month and also has victories over BYU, who is an eight seed in the Tournament, and San Diego State, who was one of the last teams left out of the tourney.