INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Fifth-seeded Notre Dame awaits a friendly reception at the RCA Dome on Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament when it meets Horizon League champion and 12th seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of the West Region.
Notre Dame (22-9) played some of its worst basketball to close the season and lost four of its final five games. The Fighting Irish were shipped out "west," but inexplicably will play their first game in their home state because of the NCAA's "pod" system.
This is Notre Dame's third straight NCAA appearance after missing the Tournament from 1991-2000. The Fighting Irish have split games the last two years and have not advanced to the regionals since 1987.
Senior shooting guard Matt Carroll leads Notre Dame with 20.8 points per game. He is shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc and topped the 30-point plateau on three occasions this season.
Point guard Chris Thomas averages 18.5 points and 7.2 assists but is prone to some erratic decisions. He has committed key turnovers down the stretch and his decision-making is questionable.
The Fighting Irish defense is a huge concern since they have yielded more than 87 points in each of the last five outings.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (24-7) is making the first NCAA appearance in its 107-year history. The Panthers have won 11 of their last 13 games and captured the Horizon League title with a 69-52 rout of Butler.
Clay Tucker scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half as Wisconsin-Milwaukee raced to a 14-0 lead and never looked back. He averages 18.3 points to lead the team while Dylan Page chips in 17.7 to form one of the best forward tandems in the country.
Playing in Indianapolis is nothing new for the Panthers, who visit Butler each season. Wisconsin-Milwaukee was shocked by the Bulldogs, 76-74, on March 1 on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
This is the first meeting between the schools.
The winner takes on Illinois or Western Kentucky in Saturday's second round.