Hours before the Wisconsin Badgers were celebrating Bronson Koenig's game-winning shot, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish was punching its Sweet 16 ticket in similar fashion.
Wisconsin will be the fifth Big Ten team Notre Dame has faced this year. Before topping Michigan in round one, the Irish beat Iowa and Illinois while losing against Indiana in non-conference play. All four were decided by single-digits. Wisconsin and Notre Dame will tip at 7:27 p.m. ET on Friday on TBS .
Trailing by one against Stephen F. Austin in the final seconds, Notre Dame missed two shots before forward Rex Pflueger was able to get a tip-in to drop and give the Irish the win. The hard-fought Notre Dame win came days after the Irish turned a 12-point halftime deficit into a seven-point win over Michigan in the first round.
Notre Dame's up-and-down postseason performance has been a microcosm of the team's season. The Irish won nine of its first 13 conference games, including impressive wins over North Carolina, Louisville and Duke before stumbling to the finish line. Notre Dame then lost four of its final seven games with three of those losses coming by 18 or more points; the most notable being a head-scratching, 21-point loss to Florida State at the end of February.
The Irish's inconsistent play comes as a bit of a surprise as it returned five of its seven main rotational players from a team that made the Elite 8 the year before. Possessing another short rotation this season, Notre Dame is led by senior big man Zach Auguste and junior point guard Demetrius Jackson. The big-bodied Auguste averaged a double-double with over 14 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game -- 3.5 coming on the offensive end. Despite largely playing below the rim, Auguste has been prone to foul trouble over the course of his career. The winner of the position battle between Ethan Happ and Auguste will go a long way in deciding the game on Friday.
Jackson against Koenig will be the other premiere matchup on display. Jackson is a smaller point guard at right around 6'0, but makes up for it with immense athleticism, a respectable shot and good game sense. Jackson leads the team in points, assists and steals with 15.5, 4.7 and 1.2 per game, respectively.
V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia are the mainstays next to Jackson on the perimeter. Beachem at 6'8 is a wiry sniper that knocked down over 43 percent of his 5.5 three-point attempts per game. Vasturia is more multi-dimensional, helping to facilitate the offense while also providing a good shot from the outside and the size to work inside of it.
Notre Dame rounds out the rotation with a handful of players that have seen their playing time fluctuate throughout the year. The two most notable are sophomore guard Matt Farrell and sophomore forward Bonzie Colson. Colson, a valuable hustle player in the mold of Khalil Iverson, averaged over 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game before being replaced in the starting lineup for the two tournament games by Farrell. Wisconsin possesses much more size than Michigan and Stephen F. Austin, however, so Colson might see a return to the lineup on Friday.