NCAA Notebook: Steve Vasturia finally heads home for hoops

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

PHILADELPHIA — When he made his college choice as a high school junior on Halloween morning in 2011, Notre Dame guard Steve Vasturia was pretty confident that he would make routine trips back this way to play basketball.

But the trick was on him.

A member of the Big East when Vasturia committed, Notre Dame eventually would move to the Atlantic Coast Conference prior to his freshman year. Instead of getting back close to his home in Medford, N.J., for regular conference road games against Rutgers and Seton Hall and nearby Villanova, Vasturia would play the majority of his games in the southeast.

The closest he would get would be a trip every other year across the state to play Pittsburgh, five hours away by car.

Until Friday.

Victories in the NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games allows Vasturia and the Irish to continue their Interstate 95 invitational of sorts this weekend. After playing the ACC Tournament in Washington, then last weekend in Brooklyn, N.Y., the No. 6 seed Irish (23-11) are just off I-95 again for an East Region semifinal showdown against No. 7 seed Wisconsin (22-12) at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

“It’s always good to be in familiar territory,” Vasturia said. “I’m pretty pumped to have friends and family there that haven’t been able to get out (to South Bend) for games.”

Now a junior and a captain, Vasturia is the all-time leading scorer (1,766 points) at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. He was a two-time Catholic League player of the year and was named the Gatorade player of the year in Pennsylvania as a senior. Friday will be his first game as a player inside Wells Fargo Center.

Plenty of friends and family and, as Vasturia says, “random people I haven’t talked to in a while” have called this week looking for tickets. Each Irish gets only six tickets, which sometimes isn’t enough for family. Friends have to find other avenues.

“I told them to hit up StubHub,” Vasturia said.

Notre Dame and Wisconsin tip at 7:27 p.m on TBS. That will be followed by top seed North Carolina against No. 5 Indiana in what has basically become an ACC/Big Ten challenge regional Final Four.

Bounce-back Badgers

Getting back to the NCAA Tournament for an 18th straight season, let alone making the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six years, seemed the longest of long-shots for Wisconsin around the second week of January.

An overtime loss at Northwestern dropped the Badgers to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin then ran off win streaks of seven games and four games to finish 12-6 in the league and, like the Irish, earn an at-large tournament berth.

Named interim coach after Bo Ryan abruptly retired in mid-December, Greg Gard was awarded a five-year contract by athletic director Barry Alvarez in early March.

“I think Greg Gard should be the national coach of the year,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “The job he’s done getting them to play how they’re playing, I’m really impressed.”

As members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) board of directors, Brey and Ryan often talked about how each built their programs in similar ways with three- and four-star prospects who have time to develop their games while they stay for four and sometimes five years. Brey sees a lot of the Irish in the Badgers, especially how both teams persevered in their second-round NCAA Tournament games.

“Both teams are finding ways to win, like, just believing that they can do it,” Brey said. “It’s interesting how we both got here.”

Toughest ticket

Getting into this weekend’s East Regional games will take some cash. Some serious cash.

According to the latest numbers at TiqIQ, a marketplace for the resale of sporting event tickets (www.tiqig.com), the average cost for an all-strip ticket (three games) to the East Regional is $902.36. That makes it the most expensive average ticket cost of the four NCAA regionals.

The average cost of an all-strip ticket to the West Regional in Anaheim, Calif. Is $719.82. In the Midwest in Chicago it’s $751.01. And in the South in Louisville, Ky., it’s $508.62.

The average cost of a ticket for Friday’s doubleheader in Philadelphia is $509.02. Average cost – at least for now – for Sunday’s East Regional championship is $274.

When it comes to single tickets for Friday’s East Regional doubleheader, the highest cost of a ticket as of Wednesday morning was $2,800 for a seat in Section 101, Row 2 of Wells Fargo Center.

The lowest price asked of a ticket to Friday’s doubleheader in Philadelphia is $386.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

NCAA Tournament

East Region

Semifinals

WHO: No. 6 seed Notre Dame (23-11) vs. No. 7 Wisconsin (22-12).

WHERE: Wells Fargo Center (19,500), Philadelphia.

WHEN: Friday at 7:27 p.m.

TV: TBS.

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM).

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI.