- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) - Notre Dame is deep, with the Big East player of the year and three others averaging in double figures.

It can shoot the 3 as well as almost anyone in the country.

It doesn’t turn the ball over.

It’s well-behaved, too, not giving away many free points with fouls.

Have fun with that, Florida State.

“They present an awful lot of problems for teams, especially us, because they have such a diverse offensive system that challenges all your defensive principles,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Saturday. “We have to make sure we’re sound and try to make as few mistakes as we can.”

Or just harass the heck out of the second-seeded Irish (27-6) when the teams meet in the third round of the NCAA tournament Sunday night.

The 10th-seeded Seminoles (22-10) have the nation’s stingiest defense, allowing just 36 percent shooting. They’re holding opponents to less than 62 points a game, and limited Texas A&M to 50 in Friday’s second-round game. It has one guy seemingly bigger than the next, and even their guards are rebound hounds.

Oh, and that vaunted Duke team? Florida State was responsible for one of its four losses. Only North Carolina and Duke fared better in the ACC than the Seminoles this year.

“They’re as tough as any 10 seed that I’ve seen,” said Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer. “They’re as big and physical as pretty much any team in the country. Obviously, that’s going to pose a lot of issues for us.”

Notre Dame has made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament one time in the last 24 years, losing to top-seeded Arizona in the regional semifinals in 2003. Few expected great things from this group _ it’s hard to replace a player like Luke Harangody, Notre Dame’s leading rebounder and scorer last year _ but this has turned out to be a special team.

All five starters are seniors (Abromaitis is actually a grad student), and the Irish play with a maturity that coaches dream of. They have won 13 of their last 15, with Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough averaging 21.9 points, 5.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds during the stretch.

“They make very few mistakes. They make good decisions with the ball,” Hamilton said. “They’re familiar with just about every scenario that’s been thrown at them and they’ll make adjustments on the fly. So we have to make sure we’re sound and try to make as few mistakes as we can.

“Teams that are very smart and execute well and understand the system, as well as being a mature team, they take advantage of every mistake you make.”

But the Irish will have a tough time matching Florida State’s size, particularly now that Chris Singleton is back. The 6-foot-9 forward, Florida State’s leading scorer and rebounder, returned Friday after missing the last month with a broken right foot. He wasn’t his sharpest, finishing with five points and four fouls, and Hamilton doesn’t know how much more he’ll play against Notre Dame.

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