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Notre Dame Fighting Irish Will Make Deep NCAA Tournament Run

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

By the day, it seems like the ACC conference is getting better and better. At the top of the league, six teams are currently ranked inside the top 25. Furthermore, four of those teams are ranked in the top 10, making the conference season a virtual dogfight on a daily basis.

One of those teams, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, might be the best team in the league after a thrilling 77-73 victory over the Duke Blue Devils. The Irish are 20-2 overall and have dropped just one league game, a six-point loss to the Virginia Cavaliers.

Unlike the Cavaliers, the Irish are a juggernaut offensively. The Irish are in the top 10 in both points per game (81.9) and field-goal percentage (521) in the country. Along with that, the team has shown a solid ability to distribute the basketball, ranking 30th in the nation in assists per game at 15.5.

Sure, the Cavaliers are one of the best defensive teams in the country, but in the NCAA tournament, the team might lack a go-to scorer or the ability to win a shootout. Going into every game, the Irish have a multitude of weapons that can put the ball in the bucket every night. The team is led by two seniors, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, who average 17.1 and 13.9 points per game, respectively. Grant also leads the team in assists (6.2) and is one of the best players in the country. Connaughton leads in rebounding (8.3) and can stretch the floor with his team leading 128 three-pointers. Either of the two can be the difference in a tight game in the NCAA tournament.

However, if those guys were to have off nights, the Irish can still count on other players to step up. Junior Zach Auguste is averaging 13.7 points per game, while sophomore Demetrius Jackson is shooting an impressive 52.3 percent from the field to average 13.4 points. The scary thing for the Irish is any of the combination can have rough nights shooting and still be supplemented enough to earn a victory. The team is very much a “pick your poison” basketball team with all the threats to put points on the scoreboard.

Some might look at the loss to the Cavaliers as a reason the Irish are not an elite team in the country, much less the best team in the conference. The fact is most teams are not as good defensively as the Cavaliers, and barring a matchup down the road, the Irish won’t have to deal with the pesky Cavaliers in the NCAA tournament.

Instead, opposing teams should be the ones who are worried. The Irish will be a matchup nightmare for virtually any team they face from here on out. The team has every makings of a deep run into the tournament: a strong coach, senior leadership and multiple scoring options. Do not be surprised at all if the Irish are the flag bearers of the conference and find themselves in the Elite Eight or even the Final Four. They have every ingredient to do so, and should only continue to get better.

Michael Costeines is the ACC basketball Blogger for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MCosteines, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.