Notre Dame's 29 wins are easily the most under coach Mike Brey since he was hired in 2000. And the Irish highlighted the marvelous turnaround by winning the ACC tournament championship.

The Irish return to the NCAA tournament in the Midwest Regional in Pittsburgh by trying to avoid what has become a rite of March under Brey - the early exit.

For all the national rankings, milestone wins, and Big East and ACC successes under Brey, the Irish have yet to figure out how to thrive in the tournament.

Brey has led Notre Dame to just one Sweet 16 and has lost the first tournament game four times.

The third-seeded Irish (29-5) open Thursday against Colonial Athletic Association champion Northeastern (23-11).

Oneof the Irish's more reliable players is Steve Vasturia, a 6-foot-5, 211-pound sophomore guard who is a Medford resident and graduate of St. Joseph's Prep. He's averaging 9.7 points in 31.8 minutes a game.

Northeastern is back in the tournament for the first time since 1991, its eighth appearance overall. The Huskies last won a tournament game in 1984.

Texas vs. Butler. Things haven't changed for Butler. It's March and the Bulldogs are the underdogs.

Five years ago it was coach Brad Stevens and gangly Gordon Hayward who came within a halfcourt heave of a national title.

Now it's coach Chris Holtmann and Kameron Woods and another group of unknowns leading sixth-seeded Butler (22-10) against 11th-seeded Texas (20-13) on Thursday.

Who's favored? Not the team that beat North Carolina and finished tied for second in the Big East. It's the one that lost nine of its last 15.

Hampton vs. Kentucky. Hampton's upset of Manhattan put an end to any thoughts Jaspers coach and former Kentucky player Steve Masiello had of facing the top-ranked Wildcats.

The Pirates are heavy underdogs in their matchup with 34-0 Kentucky on Thursday in Louisville, Ky. - but they're playing with house money.

They weren't even expected to be here. Still, the top-seeded Wildcats say they're not looking past any team, including Hampton.

The Wildcats know that as they begin the final stretch of their quest to become the first undefeated national champion in program history, they have to take every opponent seriously, starting with the 16th-seeded Pirates (17-17).

Purdue vs. Cincinnati. Matt Painter hopes the road of elimination-like games Purdue traveled to get into the tournament has his Boilermakers ready for the pressure they'll face Thursday night in Louisville, Ky.

"There's no substitute for the actual thing," Painter said.

Purdue (21-12) won six of its final nine games to earn the No. 9 seed. The winner likely gets top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday.

These teams couldn't be much closer in a handful of categories, with Cincinnati allowing 55.3 points per game while Purdue held 11 opponents to 59 points or less this season. Cincinnati ranks 13th in blocks, just one spot ahead of Purdue.