Without even dissecting what happened in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night, let’s just ask the question: Can No. 3 Notre Dame (32-5) beat No. 1 Kentucky (37-0) in the Elite Eight on Saturday?
“No,” CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein said on Tiki and Tierney. “No.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that was arguably the most definitive two-word answer in the history of CBS Sports Radio.
Really, Mr. Rothstein? The Irish don’t have any chance whatsoever?
“They’d have to make 14 threes, 15 threes,” Rothstein said. “I want to say before we get into this – this is the most amazing thing. We were talking about this last night on TV. Kentucky beat a Bob Huggins-coached team last night – a team that won 25 games – by 30 points, and the potential No. 1 pick in the draft didn’t have a made field goal.”
That potential No. 1 pick is Karl-Anthony Towns, who shot 0-of-3 from the floor and had one point in 13 foul-plagued minutes against West Virginia.
It didn’t matter. The Wildcats had five players score between 12 and 14 points and doubled up the Mountaineers, 78-39.
If anyone takes down Kentucky, it might be the greatest upset since Villanova beat Georgetown for the national championship in 1985.
“Against certain teams, you have to have the makeup to be able to go over the top,” Rothstein said. “Notre Dame has that, but I don’t think Notre Dame is going to have the size (to beat Kentucky) if they have a bad shooting game.”
Against the Wildcats, that’s certainly a possibility.
“Kentucky has the capabilities defensively,” Rothstein said. “It’s not like Notre Dame’s going to exploit everything. Willie Cauley-Stein is going to be able to guard Pat Connaughton.”
Connaughton, a 6-5 senior, had 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in Notre Dame’s 81-70 win over Wichita State on Thursday. Demetrius Jackson, a 6-1 sophomore, had 20 points and three assists, while Zach Auguste, a 6-10 junior, had 15 points, six rebounds and one block. Sophomore guard Steve Vasturia scored 15 as well.
That’s 66 points. That foursome is likely going to have to equal – or surpass – that mark to beat Kentucky.
The Wildcats – arguably the most imposing defensive team in college basketball history – are going to make that difficult. That includes Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who combined for 25 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals against West Virginia.
“The Harrisons are chastised more than any other pair of guards we’ve seen in college basketball,” Rothstein said. “These guys aren’t good, they’re exceptional defenders. Andrew Harrison is hands down the most chastised player in college basketball. I’m watching the game last night, and I said, ‘You know what? If you took Andrew Harrison off Kentucky and you put him on anther team, he’s Kris Dunn.’ That’s just from talking to people in practice and watching them work out. That’s the way it is. These guys can’t catch a break.”
Kentucky and Notre Dame tip off Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET.