Any team that relies on the long-ball are playing a game of risk-and-reward. And there are plenty of them. But rarely do two equally deadly three-point squads meet on a public stage, like Wichita State and Notre Dame did Thursday.
You could even say that their matchup was a battle of carbon copies.
Both teams start four guards, and both rode a hot streak from deep into their Sweet 16 matchup. The Shockers were fresh off an upset of in-state rival Kansas, while the Fighting Irish escaped with a three-point win over Butler. And both have only five losses on the season, yet experts believe they were under-seeded due to their unpredictability.
Unpredictability. The hallmark of teams that depend on the three.
That's what we saw in Notre Dame's 81-70 win over Wichita State, which pitted together two squads that had averaged better than 36 percent from outside the arc this season.
On a good day, three-point shooting can win you a conference championship and carry you to the Elite Eight, as it did for the Fighting Irish during their eight-game winning streak. On the worst days, well...then you have the Shockers tourney exit.
On a hot shooting night, a good three-point team can be near unstoppable.
That was the type of day for Notre Dame, which matched a high-tempo offense with continued strong shooting to survive another round.
All 6-foot-1, 195 pounds of Demetrius Jackson was busy Thursday, as the sophomore guard scored 20 points while draining four from deep. Pat Connaughton added 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Steve Vasturia and forward Zach Auguste each had 15.
Simply put, it was the Fighting Irish's night. They rifled in 9-of-19 three-pointers on 47.4 percent shooting, better than their season average of almost 39 percent.
Notre Dame shot 75 percent in the final frame, leaving Wichita State behind after the Shockers took their only lead of the game shortly at the beginning of the second half.
Next up is Kentucky, which dominated West Virginia. The Fighting Irish could struggle against the Wildcats' bigs, but could also find success by raising the tempo and shooting well again from deep.
And then, of course, there's Wichita State's performance.
The Shockers went 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) from deep despite having drained half of their three-point attempts in their last game, that upset over the Jayhawks.
It was a dismal performance, despite the strong play of junior guard Fred VanVleet. Though he too was rusty from long, missing all three of his three-pointers, he still managed to score 25 points.
Still, without their trusty shooting barrage, the Shockers looked shockingly normal. And that's what Notre Dame should be worried about.
Because everything gets harder against still-undefeated Kentucky.
And if the shots aren't falling, Notre Dame doesn't have the roster to pound it inside with the big boys. Then again, that might be a risk they are willing to take.
After all, it's got them this far. Live by the three, die by the three.
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