GAME NOTES: The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament will tip off on Wednesday afternoon with first-round action at Greensboro Coliseum, as the 13th-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the 12th-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The winner will advance to the second round on Thursday afternoon, where fifth-seeded Pittsburgh awaits.
Notre Dame had a rough go of it in its first year in the ACC, losing twice as many games as it won in league play at 6-12, while sitting at just 15-16 overall. Mike Brey's Irish also struggled on the road this season with a mere 2-10 mark outside of South Bend and enter the postseason with losses in four of the last five regular-season games.
Wake Forest showed flashes of strong play at 16-15 overall, but unfortunately for Jeff Bzdelik's squad, there just wasn't enough of them, especially in the ACC (6-12). The Demon Deacons did post marquee wins over local powers North Carolina and Duke, but 14 of the team's 16 total wins came at home in Winston- Salem. Wake did split its last four games to end the regular season, but that came after a seven-game losing streak that effectively buried the Demon Deacons in the conference standings.
In the only previous meeting this season, Wake Forest bested Notre Dame at home on Jan. 25 (69-56), to improve to 2-0 all-time against its new conference rival.
Notre Dame closed out the regular season with a heartbreaking 63-61 road loss at North Carolina, coughing up a late lead after climbing back from 14 down at the half. The impressive offensive performance (.481 FG percentage) was paced by Eric Atkins with 21 points and six assists, while Pat Connaughton tallied 17 points and 13 rebounds and Steve Vasturia netted 11.
The Irish have had their fair share of adversity with the loss of star guard Jerian Grant (19.0 ppg, 6.2 apg) after he was dismissed from the program after a dozen games. Still, others did step up and tried to fill the void, starting with fellow guard Atkins (13.9 ppg, 4.8 apg). Connaughton (13.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Garrick Sherman (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) were an effective duo both in the scoring column and on the boards. Notre Dame finished the year as the fourth- best scoring team in the league at 72.1 ppg. Unfortunately, that success didn't find its way to the other end of the floor, where the Irish finished 13th in scoring defense (70.2 ppg).
The Deacons' regular season ended on a down note with a 69-56 setback at Miami-Florida in which they were outshot from the field, 52 percent to 44.9 percent, and outrebounded by a lopsided 38-19 margin. Coron Williams was the lone player in double figures with 17 points, knocking down 5-of-8 from 3- point range, while Codi Miller-McIntyre handed out six assists.
Wake Forest averaged a modest 69.8 ppg this year, but does possess some depth, with three players averaging double digits. Miller-McIntyre is a solid playmaker at the point, pacing the team in both scoring (12.9 ppg) and assists (4.1 apg). Travis McKie (11.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Devin Thomas (11.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) add balance up front.
Although Wake Forest downed Notre Dame earlier in the season, the Deacons won't have their home crowd to back them up in this one. The Irish are the more talented team, as they showed going toe-to-toe with UNC last week, and should be able to put up enough points to advance.
Game Date and Time