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Northeastern looks to shock ACC Champion Notre Dame

The Northeastern Huskies are preparing to do battle with the newly crowned ACC champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Thursday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Here's a look at how the Huskies will stack up against one of the nation's most storied athletic colleges.

Northeastern Athletics

Northeastern knows this won't be easy.

Heck, it wouldn't be easy for many teams in this year's NCAA Tournament to knock off a hot Notre Dame team who used a 26-3 run to defeat North Carolina in the ACC Championship game.

The No. 14 Huskies, champions of the Colonial Athletic Association, will face No. 3 Fighting Irish on Thursday at 12:15 p.m. in the first matchup of the second round.

What do the Huskies and Irish have in common? For starters, they both faced a few of the same opponents in the regular season.

Northeastern defeated Florida State in Tallahassee back in November, who Notre Dame also disposed of in December. Both teams also beat Navy, while Notre Dame took down UMass, who Northeastern fell to just before Thanksgiving.

Northeastern will have their hands full with the MVP of the ACC Tournament, Jerian Grant, who also leads the Irish with nearly 17 points and seven assists per game.

Grant is complimented with a plethora of sidekicks, with senior forward Pat Connaughton averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per contest. Both guard Demetrius Jackson and forward Zach Auguste turn in 11 points per game as well.

Notre Dame boasts a solid defense, allowing just 65 points per game in the offensively talented ACC. They do, however, struggle on the boards, grabbing only a tick over 32 rebounds an outing.

That's where Northeastern may be able to gain an edge against the Irish.

While the Huskies may not be world-beaters on the boards, they do have big man Scott Eatherton anchoring their front court and held opponents to 28 rebounds per game. Eatherton leads a team that rebounds by committee with six and a half boards per contest. The Huskies' other starting forwards Quincy Ford and Zach Stahl both average over five rebounds and the Northeastern starting guards both grab over three rebounds per game.

Eatherton will be a threat on the offensive end as well. He led Northeastern with just under 15 points per game and knows how to score easy baskets down on the low post.

While Eatherton will factor into any game the Huskies play, it may be Ford, the CAA Tournament MVP, who decides whether or not Northeastern puts Notre Dame on the ropes. Ford averaged 15 points in the tournament, including a 22-point, 8-10 shooting night in the CAA Championship. The wingman's 6'8" length is key to rising over smaller defenders both on the arc, where he shot 58 percent from in the CAA Tournament, and driving to the basket.

Northeastern used a recipe of inside and out to wear down opponents in the CAA. That won't work against the champion of arguably the most talented conference in the country. They will need to fire on all cylinders on Thursday afternoon.

It has been 24 long years since Northeastern has tasted the NCAA Tournament and even longer since their last win against LIU Brooklyn in the 1984 play-in round. They won't settle for a blowout, they have nothing to lose. At the least, expect the Huskies to be competitive into the second half.

Oh and the last three CAA teams to face the ACC in the big dance? The CAA won each time. George Mason topped UNC in their Final Four year of 2006, VCU beat Duke in 2007 and VCU defeated Florida State during their magical 2011 run.

It's always good to have history on your side.