Notre Dame handily downs Wichita State to advance to Elite 8

CBS Sports Thanks to an offensive performance that was as gorgeous as it was lethal, Mike Brey will be coaching in his first Elite Eight come Saturday night.

And for the Notre Dame program, its first regional final in 36 years.

The third-seeded Fighting Irish picked a great time to put on one of their prettiest performances of the season, knocking off Wichita State 81-70 on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

After elbowing with a shrewd Shockers team through the first 20 minutes, the Irish blew open a three-point halftime lead when their second half started with 15 of their first 17 shots going down.

“I've never seen a one-point lead get out of hand so quickly,” Marshall said in the postgame press conference.

Jerian Grant, who may well be a lottery pick this June, became the first Notre Dame player to finish an NCAA Tournament game with double-digit assists (11). Demetrius Jackson, who's likely to be a first-round pick down the road, had a team-high 20. And a few dirty moves that turned heads and ooohed voices inside the Q. To watch Notre Dame in the second half was to see a coach's dream execution come to life. Everything came easy, and for Wichita State, it all hit way too fast.

“The best offensive team we've seen all year, hands down,” Marshall said.

For the Irish and for Brey, a long-awaited breakthrough -- with Kentucky the likely dragon standing between them and the school's first (and only) Final Four since 1978.

"That was reminiscent of a lot of games we've been in, second halfs, it kind of reminded me of the North Carolina game in the ACC championship," Brey said, which is interesting, because Marshall stated the same thing minutes before the Notre Dame coach took the dais.

Notre Dame shot 56 percent from the field and set itself up nicely for what is on pace for an intriguing Elite Eight game. If the Irish shoot 56 percent against John Calipari's team, they'll have a shot to win, absolutely.

For Wichita State, all of the attention -- if it wasn't there already in the days leading up to this game -- turns to what Gregg Marshall will do. The WSU coach is going to have at least one lucrative offer to leave Wichita. Alabama is ready to make its presentation. Will it be enough to lure him away?

It could be a big year of change next season. Marshall said in the postgame presser that he was now going to prepare to talk to juniors Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker about their NBA options -- and he was very realistic about what both guys should expect, and if the NBA is realistic now, he wouldn't necessarily try to prevent them from leaving. (Baker is seen as a surefire draft pick, but likely in the second round. VanVleet is likely to return for his senior season.)

VanVleet, by the way, quietly led all scorers with 25 points. That's how loudly Notre Dame sent back a talented and underseeded Shockers team.

"We always talk about not being satisfied, whether it's with a win or whether it's just a possession in general," Notre Dame senior Pat Connaughton said. "For us to not be satisfied with an 11-point lead because there was so much time left, they're a fabulous team and they make runs and they can score in bunches just like us."

Not exactly. Notre Dame's got an offensive arsenal like few teams in the country, and that was overwhelmingly on display in the second half.

Irish fans can't help but wonder -- was it too much too soon? Did all of that good play get soaked up in one night, or can Brey's boys do this again on Saturday night?