Welcome to the second week of our Big Win Tournament. Today we’ll meet seeds #23 through #29 and see how our Week One winner fares against seven more highly considered (at least by me) contests. For those of you new to the tournament, you can check out the concept and rules here.
Before we meet our new contestants, let’s look back at the week that was.
Week One Review
Week One started with our first eight big wins and culminated with two games against top-ranked teams butting heads. In the end, ND’s win over the top-ranked Hoosiers to reach the Elite Eight in 1954 squeaked out a narrow victory to advance.
Week Two Matchups
Further up and further in we go. Let’s meet our next seven seeds.
Our Week One winner will take on:
#23 Seed: Notre Dame 76, Stephen F Austin 75
March 20, 2016 — Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
What Happened: The Lumberjacks were the 2016 tournament darlings and were fresh off an upset of West Virginia in the first round. But Rex Pflueger picked a perfect time to score his only points of the game, tipping in a Zach Auguste miss with 1.5 seconds to go for the win and a spot in the Sweet 16.
Why It’s Here: SFA may not be the sexiest opponent, but the whole country was rooting for them against Notre Dame … a phenomena usually seen across what used to be Juniper Road from the Joyce Center. To come away with a win no matter the margin is outstanding.
#29 Seed: #15 Notre Dame 112, #17 Ohio 82
March 7, 1970 — NCAA Round 1, Dayton, OH
What Happened: Austin Carr scored 61 points in the win over the Bobcats, a record that may never be broken. He and Collis Jones outscored the entire Ohio team by themselves.
Why It’s Here: AC’s accomplishment is more individual than team, but it’s important to recognize the achievements when they happen, especially for the program’s standard-bearer.
#24 Seed: Notre Dame 92, #10 Marquette 71
December 2, 2002 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: Chris Thomas and Notre Dame dominated Dwayne Wade and 10th ranked and eventual Final Four member Marquette. The Irish would follow this win up with two more top-10 wins before the week was out.
Why It’s Here: That memorable week in 2002 was part of a memorable season that saw the Irish in the Sweet 16 for the first time in ages. This will be the first of many times we’ll see the Warriors in this poll.
#28 Seed: Notre Dame 60, #1 North Carolina 58
February 1, 1987 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: J.R. couldn’t Reid, or at least that’s what one of the many signs in the crowd said. The Tar Heels would get revenge in the NCAA tournament, but that day in South Bend David Rivers put an exclamation point on his recovery from his pre-season car accident by leading ND to the last-minute win.
Why It’s Here: Some people consider the 86-87 season one of Digger’s best and this maybe his best win against a #1. I’m not necessarily one of them, but this certainly was the Joyce Center crowd at its best.
#25 Seed: Notre Dame 79, #8 Maryland 67
December 7, 2002 — BB&T Classic, Washington, DC
What Happened: Five days after upsetting a top-10 Marquette team (see #24), Notre Dame took out the defending national champions in their own backyard. Freshman Torin Francis was perfect from the floor with 20 points, and Maryland transfer Danny Miller put 17 on his former team.
Why It’s Here: Texas was ranked higher at the time, but Maryland was the de facto home team, and Notre Dame completely took it to them.
#27 Seed: Notre Dame 80, #1 North Carolina 76
February 6, 2016 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: Bonzie Colson’s double-double helped ND overcome a 15-point UNC lead and hand the Tar Heels their second-straight defeat against the Fighting Irish.
Why It’s Here: Once again, North Carolina would get revenge later in the year, this time both in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. But in an up-and-down season, Notre Dame gave their home fans a big win against a full-strength Carolina squad.
#26 Seed: #8 Notre Dame 67, #1 Kentucky 61
December 27, 1980 — Louisville, KY
What Happened: After many years of losses at “neutral site” Louisville, Notre Dame took down Sam Bowie and the #1-ranked Wildcats behind 30 points from Kelly Tripucka.
Why It’s Here: If you ask long-time ND fans about Kentucky, prepare for invective. Adolph Rupp refused to come to South Bend, so for years, any games that weren’t part of Indianapolis tournaments were played at an alleged “neutral site” in Louisville, where Irish fans typically had a very difficult time getting in. To defeat a top-ranked Wildcat team there was sweet to say the least.
There are your Week Two participants. Voting for the first round ends Tuesday night, 11:59pm EDT.