1987: Irish fall to North Carolina’s Revenge in the Sweet Sixteen.
In the year before Lou Holtz etched his name into Notre Dame football lore by winning the 1998 national championship, success was coming on the hardwood in South Bend. Still coached by Digger Phelps, the Irish were led by David Rivers, Donald Royal and Scott Hicks.
Despite a few early-season slipups, the ’87 Irish finished the season with nine straight wins, including wins over 15th-ranked Duke and fourth-ranked DePaul. Notre Dame also pulled a patented Notre Dame move, upsetting number one North Carolina in February in South Bend, giving coach Phelps his record-setting seventh win over a number one ranked team. Phelps still shares that record with Gary Williams.
The late-season push by the Irish was enough to earn a five seed in the tournament, and the Irish made quick work of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the first round, winning by 13. In the second round, the Irish came up against a nationally ranked TCU squad. The Irish managed a one-point triumph in a low scoring affair, beating TCU 58-57. In the Sweet Sixteen, however, North Carolina would get their revenge on the Irish. Down ten at the half, The Irish would put together a rally to pull close late. It was not enough to overcome 31 points by J.R. Reid, however, and the Irish fell 74-68.
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