The No. 7-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the No. 10-seeded Iowa State Cyclones in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday night in a round of 64 matchup in the 2013 NCAA Tournament's West Region.
Notre Dame finished 25-9 overall and 11-7 in the Big East Conference this season to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance, while Iowa State went 22-11, going 11-7 in the Big 12 to earn an invite as well.
While Mike Brey's Irish squad is favored to advance to Round 3, Fred Hoiberg's crew is arguably the hotter team at the moment, having won three of its last four games and six of its last nine overall.
With tipoff on the horizon, get set with everything you need to know for Friday's second-round clash between the Irish and Cyclones.
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
When: Friday, March 22, 2013
Game Time: 9:45 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Notre Dame (-1), according to Covers.com.
Notre Dame Player to Watch: Jack Cooley
One of the nation's top rebounders, Notre Dame senior Jack Cooley will be the player to watch for the Fighting Irish on Friday night in Dayton.
The 6'9" forward is averaging 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season for Mike Brey's squad and is shooting a scorching 57 percent from the field. In addition to providing a big-time presence on the offensive end and on the glass, Cooley is a tough defender who can block and alter shots on a consistent basis.
Cooley's leadership will be huge for Notre Dame on Friday and moving forward if it can get past Iowa State.
Iowa State Player to Watch: Tyrus McGee
Senior sharpshooter Tyrus McGee is one of the most lethal outside shooters in all of college basketball, hitting nearly 46 percent of his three-point attempts this season for Iowa State.
The Cyclones' second-leading scorer, McGee is averaging 13.2 points per game this season and launching six threes per game. He's also a clutch free-throw shooter, making close to 83 percent of his shots at the foul line in 2012-13.
Whether McGee is going 6-of-10 from downtown like he did against Kansas last month or 7-of-7 at the foul line like he did in a win over Oklahoma State two weeks ago, the senior guard is sure to make his presence felt on Friday.
Key Matchup: Irish Defense vs. Cyclones High-Scoring Attack
Which do you have more faith in?
Based on the pace and tempo of the game, viewers will be able to tell early on in Friday's game which team is in the driver's seat to advance.
Notre Dame and Iowa State play at much different speeds. While the Irish are content to play slow and dominate on defense and the boards, the Cyclones would prefer to get up tons of shots and light up the scoreboard.
The key number to keep an eye on for Iowa State will be 80. The Cyclones have only reached the 80-point mark in regulation in one of their 11 losses this season. Plus, Iowa State has only failed to score 80 or more points in six of its 22 wins this year.
Although it sounds crazy, if Notre Dame can keep Iowa State below 80 points for the game, then its chances of winning increase dramatically. On the other hand, if Iowa State can get hot early and find its rhythm as a team, then the Cyclones will be in a great shape to move on.
This is a difficult game to predict, as both teams are as close to even as you can get. While Notre Dame picked up impressive wins over Louisville and Marquette this season, Iowa State earned resume-boosting victories of its own over fellow tournament teams Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Although the Cyclones score more points than just about every team in the country, I look for defense to reign supreme in Dayton on Friday. Expect Notre Dame's physical, Big East style to wear down Iowa State over the course of 40 minutes.
Points don't come nearly as easily in the NCAA tournament, and a low-scoring game favors the Irish in my opinion. There's also the experience factor. While Iowa State is back in the Big Dance for the second straight year, the Irish are making their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
It's sure to be a close battle, but it's hard to imagine Notre Dame not edging Iowa State in the end.
Notre Dame 68, Iowa State 62
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game
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