Wichita State v Gonzaga

Gonzaga will have a tough non-conference schedule in 2014-15

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Gonzaga has become one of the most consistent college basketball programs in the country. With 16 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a perpetual spot near the top of the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs are a threat to crack the top 25 nearly every season despite playing in a mid-major conference.

Scheduling marquee opponents, however, is always a challenge for programs like Gonzaga. It just doesn’t look for a power conference school to lose to a WCC school, even if that program is Gonzaga.

For the 2014-15 season, though, Gonzaga will have a very difficult schedule filled with really good opponents. According to a story from Matt Johnson in the Gonzaga Bulletin, the Zags will have a number of big games next season.

Johnson interviewed Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth and Roth revealed that the Bulldogs would have away games at Arizona and UCLA, a rematch with Memphis at home and a game with Washington State at Spokane Arena.

Gonzaga is also looking to finalize a home-and-home series with SMU that would begin next season and Mark Few’s ballclub is also participating in the Preseason NIT, which will give them some more opportunities to play some big games at a neutral site.

This is great news for the Zags as they’ll get a crack at some of the best Pac-12 schools in the country while also getting some potential home games against really good AAC programs like Memphis and SMU. If the Bulldogs can capitalize on some of those non-conference wins and play well in the WCC, it could lead to a desirable seed in next season’s NCAA Tournament.

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.