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Countdown to the Madness: Bracketology, Big Games, and Bold Predictions

Feb 26, 2013, 2:32 PM EDT

Photo by Nam Y. Huh (AP)

The bracketology has begun for the NCAA women’s basketball national tournament, and nearly everything is in order. One confusion, however, results from complicated NCAA rules that dictate where in the country the first and second round games will be played (Source: Charlie Creme of ESPN). Baylor, Connecticut, and Stanford will each play their first two games at home, but the way things are currently looking, Notre Dame will play its first two games in Baton Rouge, potentially leading to a second round matchup against LSU at the Maravich Center–a home game for the Tigers.

We’d like to think it doesn’t make much of a difference in how the games will turn out for the Irish, but having a couple of home games to kick off the tournament can give a team a huge momentum boost that keeps them rolling through later rounds. Additionally, it gains the attention of the fans who will be more likely to cheer the team on in later rounds if they have a chance to see them play at home.

The matchups at the end of the regular season, however, are poised to be much more interesting, with two of Notre Dame’s last three games coming against ranked, BIG EAST opponents. Tuesday night, the Irish face #22 Syracuse (22-4, 10-3), and on Mar. 4, they will host the #3 Connecticut Huskies (25-2, 12-1). The last time the Irish faced the Huskies, they put on a thriller in Storrs, winning the game in the final minute of regulation. We can expect a similar level of excitement next week, but I think Skylar Diggins, who has been on fire pretty much all season, but especially in the past few games, will keep it going and shut down Breanna Stewart and the Huskies in a showcase of offensive talent.

The Irish won’t meet #1 Baylor (27-1, 16-0 Big 12) in the regular season or conference tournament, but I foresee a rematch of last year’s national championship game in Denver. This time, however, I think Diggins and the Fighting Irish will come out on top to cap an amazing career for the team’s class of 2013.

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Welcome to In The Paint, the official blog providing in-depth and exclusive access to the Notre Dame basketball programs. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the Purcell Pavilion, we are committed to bringing you coverage of the Fighting Irish unlike any you can find elsewhere.

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