Sunday, December 31, 2006
PG- Kyle McAlarney- (INC)- 10.3 PPG and 65 assists, but I wish he had listened when the third grade teacher told him to say "no" to drugs.
SG- Russell Carter- (A-)- Has always been able to drive to the basket. Shooting 48% from 3-point range will make him a solid player at the next level. Does force shots from time to time, but has made most of them.
SG- Colin Falls- (B)- 14.1 PPG, 40% from long range. Lacks enough mobility to be a true threat on offense and is a streaky shooter, but is a very good asset for Brey on the floor. Will be needed to produce a lot against Big East opponents.
PF- Luke Zeller- (C-)- 6.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG in 16.7 MPG. Has not become a dominant player on either end of the court, but is productive and will get better. Unfortunately, his minutes will continue to decline until Harangody takes the starting spot.
PF- Rob Kurz- (B+)- 15.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG. The most improved player in the Big East and will continue to get better. It will be hard for him in the physical Big East, but he should hold his own.
PF- Luke Harangody- (A)- Much more impressive than anyone expected. He will continue to improve as he learns inside post moves on offense. Only thing holding him back is continuing to come off the bench.
PG- Tory Jackson- (B)- Will be counted on to run the offense. Has loads of talent, but is very raw. Should improve as the season goes on, but hopefully his inexperience will not hurt the team.
SF- Zach Hillesland (B-)- Doesn't put up a lot of gaudy stats, but can really play. Athletic with a high basketball IQ, will be a good role player off the bench.
SF- Ryan Ayers- (C)- Not sold on him, yet. He will get more opportunities with K-Mac's supension, but so far has seemed tentative and unwilling to take over a game.
PG- Jonathan Peoples- (C+)- Hasn't had a lot of playing time, but ran the offense effectively against Stony Brook and seems like a reliable emergency point guard.
SF- Joe Harden- (C)- Like Peoples, has lacked playing time. Shows flashes of talent, but needs to play more.
Kieran Piller- Walk-on- Second year guy plays hard in practice and does his job well.
Tim Andree- Walk-on- Freshman injured late in nonconference play, but will not get into another game anyway.
That's it. No really bad grades, the Irish have played pretty well as a team all year.
Have a good last few hours of 2006, I'll see you in the new year.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
3. Connecticut- Big loss to West Virginia
5. West Virginia- Beating UCONN takes them up in the polls
13. St John's
14. Seton Hall
Everyone else holds steady. Connecticut could fall a lot more this year. No one knows how they will produce as they continue to play good teams. ND gets the top spot by virtue of great wins vs. Maryland and Alabama and a sole loss to a very good Butler team.
Gonzaga dropped their third game in a row and finished 3-2 vs. nonconference ranked opponents. Nevada beat the Bulldogs 82-74 as the 18th ranked Wolfpack moved to 12-1. Florida is in a fight against UAB, coming back after being down 7 at halftime.
This week, Black and Green will be going on the road first to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl and later to D.C. for the Georgetown game. Of course, that will mean I will miss watching the Louisville game in person, but I will do my best to post as often as possible this week.
Whether previous reports were a smokescreen or not, Kyle McAlarney was nowhere to be seen Saturday afternoon at the Joyce Center. Tory Jackson took control of the offense and the rest of the starting lineup stayed together.
I watched the first half and the start of the second before 5:30 Mass, but I'll do my best to get the story straight. Tory Jackson has an awful lot of talent. He is the best passer on the team and plays with a great passion. Unfortunately, his ball-handling skills are not the same as McAlarney's and he looked hassled when Stony Brook turned the pressure up on him. In 29 minutes, he had 3 points and 2 assists offsetting 5 turnovers.
Russell Carter had another awesome game. 8-12 shooting including 7-11 from beyond the arc. 23 points, 4 assists. Very good job, Russ. He stayed at high-octane even without the normal PG and only playing 26 minutes.
Colin Falls played well. With a younger guy playing the point, I think Falls will have a starting spot the rest of the year. His leadership was apparent several times when Jackson got flustered. Colin calmed the freshman down and called out defensive assignments all afternoon. 17 points on 6-10 shooting made his offensive effort complete. We will need Falls to be consistently giving 15-20 points a night here on out.
For Rob Kurz, another double-double, 15 points over 10 rebounds. He made a couple of bad mental mistakes, but that is the exception and thankfully not the rule for him. Zeller scored 8 points with 4 rebounds. Perfect shooting and a better night overall for him.
Harangody scored 12 before fouling out. His inside moves are pretty good and he has impressive footwork, but there is plenty of upside along the lines of offensive post play for him. Hillesland gave a solid overall performance. Ayers was ok, but needs to get more confident. He passed up several good looks. Peoples logged 13 minutes after I left, but came up empty.
Overall, Stony Brook harrassed our offense in the backcourt with its press. Jackson had trouble moving the ball past half-court and needed Falls to help him out. I would blame our deficiency both on the new point guard and a quick, tenacious Stony Brook defense. 29 points wins are good any night of the week, but they face a big test against Louisville.
Counting a win over Stony Brook tonight (knock on wood), the Irish will be 12-1. Forget our point guard situation for a minute, we have had a terrific nonconference season. Many people (including myself) felt that was impossible. Well done, lads. Now it's time to look to the future.
We should beat Louisville to start the season off. Georgetown has lost to Oregon and Old Dominion at home, but without our point guard in D.C. I think we lose. Then we play West Virginia at home. A lot will be answered after today's game for the Mountaineers vs. UCONN, but I still think that will be a Notre Dame win.
Seton Hall should not be a problem at home. Villanova on the road will be difficult and right now I will mark it as a loss. South Florida at home, another easy win.
@ St. John's should be a solid road win. Playing Villanova at home, I think we return the favor and get the victory. Beginning a three-game road trip, Syracuse in the Carrier Dome worries me. It's the kind of game a good team needs to win, but I think the Orange will pull it out.
South Florida on the road gets us the same result as earlier. DePaul in Chicago will be a fun road game, and should attract lots of Irish fans. The Blue Demons did beat Kansas earlier in the year, but have been very weak otherwise. I say we win. Then, Providence back at the Joyce Center. Florida State beat this team by 30. We can manage something near that. Irish win.
Should beat Cincinnati on the road. DePaul at home is a win. Marquette could be our sole home loss. Unfortunately, I think it will be. A win at Rutgers finishes the year.
J 03 Louisville- Win
J 06 @ Georgetown- Loss
J 09 West Virginia- Win
J 14 Seton Hall- Win
J 17 @ Villanova- Loss
J 21 South Florida- Win
J 23 @ St. John's- Win
J 27 Villanova- Win
J 30 @ Syracuse- Loss
F 03 @ South Florida- Win
F 08 @ DePaul- Win
F 15 Providence- Win
F 18 @ Cincinnati- Win
F 20 DePaul- Win
F 24 Marquette- Loss
M 03 @ Rutgers- Win
Overall- 24-5, 12-4 Big East
Look at that. I tried to be as fair as possible based on how the team is playing right now, and four losses is all I could get. Obviously, several of those could go either way, but right now 12-4 marks us as a three seed in the BET, with a first round bye. A win and a loss in New York will put us in the NCAA Tournament as a 3 or 4 seed, at worst. Once there, anything can happen.
If you have any comments feel free to post them. I hope reading this was a therapeutic as writing it was for me. Good luck to the team as we enter the serious portion of the year. Hopefully they can make my prediction come true.
Part of me wishes that Brey would use a different lineup today to help the looming transition to a post-KMac offense. It would be easier for Jackson to start his first time against Stony Brook than Louisville. Anyway, today will be the last time we see K-Mac in the lineup for a long, long time.
Some people would like to hope that this suspension will be no longer than 3-4 games. Unfortunately, I cannot see his punishment being that light. Best case scenario, Kyle is done for the season and suspended by the University for a semester. Worst case, McAlarney will no longer be a part of this University in a week or two.
We will see how the Irish stack up against Stony Brook tonight. Hopefully another big win can propel them into Big East play.
Friday, December 29, 2006
I'm reminded of Doug Gottlieb. Of course, anyone who listens to ESPN Radio as religiously as I do has heard the former Ok. State star's voice from time to time. Gottlieb set the ND record for assists by a freshman (since surpassed by Chris Thomas) in 95-96 before stealing credit cards from a roommate. He was booted from the University, and eventually picked up the pieces of his career in Stillwater.
This must just kill Mike Brey. After a terrific season so far, a loss at his shallowest position at a pivotal point in the season. K-Mac's impact on this team is beyond the plain assist-turnover ratio. He was the catalyst for the offense, with everyone else feeding off of him. Now, Falls and Carter cannot be themselves if there is no cornerstone holding it together.
Going back to my speculation, Jackson gets the start tomorrow. I have been very impressed by the young man's development so far, but a freshman point guard worries me. He has terrific talent and is the best passer on the team, but is still very raw. Colin Falls is not a great answer because of his lack of mobility. He was not a complete offensive player before this, and handling the ball will cut down on his shooting opportunities. Russell Carter is the most likely experienced choice, but playing the point could hurt his overall output.
The sophomores, Ayers and Hillesland, and possibilities but neither has been in a situation to run the offense before. Peoples played the point in high school, but didn't merit good minutes in previous games.
Good luck to Tory. I think he will eventually be a very good collegiate player, but I obviously did not forsee his taking over of the point guard position this early. I'll light a candle at the Grotto tomorrow for him.
Good luck, also, to all the guys the rest of the season. Never has a year so promising taken such a bleak turn in one day.
One last bit of information:
Tom Noie from the South Bend Tribune, "I'm told he [Kyle] practiced today and will start Saturday, though that may change."
According to rumors (though I believe WNDU has reported it as well), at 1:30 this morning, ND point guard Kyle McAlarney was stopped by police and found to be in possession of marijuana.
"Possession, use or misuse of any controlled substance, including, but not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and depressants, is a serious violation. Students who possess, use or misuse such substances shall be subject to disciplinary suspension or permanent dismissal. Providing for others, by sale or otherwise, marijuana or any other controlled substance, is a serious violation which shall result in disciplinary suspension or permanent dismissal. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a serious violation of University policy."
Here we go, finally got a credible link: http://www.fox28.com/News/index.php?ID=10728
Regardless of his University punishment, I would believe that we have seen the last of K-Mac for the year, if not forever.
What does that mean for the team? First of all, I would guess that Tory Jackson will take over the majority of playing time, if not the starting job altogether. Obviously the rest of the rotation including Ryan Ayers will get more minutes as well. Thankfully T-Jack has gotten an opportunity to play a lot already. Taking over the point especially in cimcumstances like this is stressful enough. However, Tory wanted to come in and play right away. Here's your chance, rook.
I'm brainstorming as I write, so bear with me:
The backup situation gets much more interesting. Hillesland, Ayers, and even Peoples could possibly handle the position, but I would guess that Brey will keep Carter or Falls in the game when Jackson needs a breather.
Half of the Big East will start their interconference play Wednesday. Let's hope the Sugar Bowl is interesting enough to keep you from tuning in.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
At the J.A.C.C. everything was just peachy vs. the Rider Broncs. Rob Kurz scored 23, with eight rebounds. He was 8 of 12 from the charity stripe and only played 22 minutes in what was virtually a night off.
Russell Carter logged the most minutes, 31, of the team. He finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. On the other end of the floor, Carter grabbed 5 steals.
K-Mac finally had a breakout offensive performance. Scoring 21 points, all from long range, the sophomore went 7-11 from the floor. Add in 6 assists to zero turnovers and 3 rebounds for the man from Staten Island.
Falls was cold, very cold, but I did get to see a little of what Mike Brey loves about the guy. I had closer seats tonight, and was able to watch Colin at work on the defensive end. He was the first guy back to stop Rider's fast breaks and called out assignments to his teammates. With a young team, it really helps to have a floor general out there. That said, 1 of 8 shooting will not cut it in Big East play. Falls needs to become a more reliable shooter every night to make up for his lack of athletic ability or he should be prepared for more minutes on the bench.
Prediction: Luke Zeller will start one more game this season. After Stony Brook, Coach Brey will use Luke Harangody for 25-30 minutes a night in the more physical Big East conference. Zeller is a terrible enigma. Playing 15 minutes, he logged 4 fouls, 3 turnovers, and shot 1 for 5. LZ is still the very talented Mr. Basketball coming out of high school, but a year and a half later he just does not fit playing stronger post players and quicker wings.
Luke Harangody, however, is the real deal. For the third time in four games, he played less than a half but pulled down double digit boards and posted double digit points. Per 40 minutes, Bamm-Bamm scores 27.6 points and grabs 13.3 rebounds. We will see lots more of him in the near future.
Other stories off the bench, Hillesland was solid but not spectacular playing with four fouls. Tory Jackson had a little trouble, but really impressed with his passing ability. He just needs time for his teammates to connect with him. Finally, Ryan Ayers run up and down the floor well for 13 minutes, but got almost nothing to show for it.
Gene Cross was really impressive on the bench today. For the first time in a while, I noticed an ND coach really teaching the game. Every time a player came out, Cross had some words of encouragement and thoughts of how to improve. Tory Jackson seemed to really eat Cross' words up. It's nice to see the young players being treated as future starters instead of simple backups.
Overall, another tally in the win total. One more game before the going gets tough.
Of course, the biggest news to share is that Bobby Knight has a chance to become the record holder for most wins in college ball tonight vs. UNLV. So what you will about the man, he knows how to coach. He has been succesful at three different schools and has kept the same attitude that has gotten him wins while facing serious adversity. From a basketball standpoint, he is brilliant.
Now here is the part that bugs 90% of college basketball fans: Bob Knight is crude, immature, and cannot keep his hands to himself. I can't believe that he is a bad guy, but his actions point to a serious anger problem. We all learned in grade school that violence is bad. Bobby Knight must understand that, but when he gets angry (which is most of the time), the General cannot control his emotions.
In the workplace, this would be dealt with. However, we have seen coaches continue their careers through drug addictions, drinking problems, sex scandals, and petty crime. All that matters in sports today is production on the field. Coach Knight has a problem, and letting him continue to coach young men in a high-intensity environment is like letting an alcoholic run the bar. Problems will happen.
Tonight, or New Year's Day, or later, the record will be broken. It will be broken by a man who gets the most out of his players and truly loves his job. Unfortunately, Bobby Knight is no role model, but rather a man with a violent anger problem. Let us stand up and applaud the achievement, but not the way in which it was achieved. Shame on the NCAA for letting this man continue to coach the game at the highest collegiate level. Shame on Texas Tech for making wins more important that integrity. Shame on us all for not making a bigger stand on this topic.
Any questions? Just ask Neil Reed, Richard Mandeville, Butch Carter, Thomas Mikunda, Ron Felling, and many, many, many more.
Congratulations on a terrific achievement, Coach Knight. It might be the crowning jewel in a Hall of Fame career. I just wish you could keep your hands to yourself.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
9. West Virginia
13. St John's
14. Seton Hall
16. South Florida
Only change was Rutgers and South Florida swapping spots. Rutgers has put a little win streak together, while the Bulls are doing the opposite.
I hope to get a post or two in the next couple days, but we shall see. Have a nice holiday week.
That means Hannukah is the NIT. It means everything to our Jewish brothers and sisters, but it gets terrible publicity. Now, just saying "Happy Holidays" brands you as an atheist.
So the big day's tomorrow and not much goes on in the world of college basketball during this time of year. Ohio State got crushed by #4 Florida, leading many to believe the Buckeyes are terribly overrated. Southern Cal upset #8 Wichita State, the Shockers' second loss in as many nights. That's it, no more top 25 games scheduled until Wednesday.
Why not catch a little college football? I'm sure Our Lady of the Blind playing East Northwestern Central State Community College will be a fun game to watch. That'll take place in the BigCorporationWithaWebSite.com Bowl in front of a crowd consisting of the players' parents and not much else.
Case in point, the New Mexico Bowl pitted San Jose State vs. New Mexico on the Lobos' home field. NM did have a great year in 2006, going 6-6, with beating opponents who won a whopping 35% of their games. I can see the marketing campaign. "Are you a mediocre program in the Mountain West Conference? We have a bowl for you!"
Of course, Christmas is a time for family, not sporting events. That's why I'm selling my 10th Anniversary TMX Elmo for 70 bucks on eBay. That'll make some kid's holiday bright! The money will also go towards paying off all the credit card debt acquired buying gifts for all the other rotten children in the world. Christmas? Bah, humbug!
I hope this post is getting you in the holiday spirit.
Seriously, with all the commercial pressures and sporting pleasures tempting the American citizen tomorrow, the best plan is usually just doing less. Nothing beats a good night watching It's a Wonderful Life on TV with the family. Good luck kicking back tomorrow and enjoying what's really important. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
-Black and Green
Friday, December 22, 2006
Notre Dame beat Army 87-44. I couldn't be in attendence last night, so I'll have to rely a bit on some secondary sources.
Colin Falls came back last night, with a tremendous impact. The senior captain scored 24 points, going 6-8 from 3-point range, in only 18 minutes on the floor. He finished the game making 9 of 11 shots, with two rebounds. That's a tremendous achievement for a guy coming off of an injury.
Russell Carter was pretty solid, scoring 12 while playing only 25 minutes. He did have a rather cold night shooting, at 36%, but could afford to take a back seat.
Kyle McAlarney put up very good stats at the point. For all of my harping on his skill running the offense, he needed to put up some stats to make up for the recent poor shooting lines. He scored 9 points, but added eight assists to only one turnover on the night. K-Mac rarely forces shots, as evidenced in making half of his four attempts last night from long range.
Rob Kurz as as solid as ever, 9 points/7 rebounds in just over a half of playing time. Zeller's performance was hurt by 4 fouls and never really found a rhythm. If Harangody keeps up the good play, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball may start some games on the bench.
Speaking of Bamm-Bamm, Mr. Harangody got himself another double-double. What a great performance by the freshman. 10/12 in eighteen minutes! Sprinkle in four assists and you get a complete night.
Ayers, Jackson, and Hillesland also saw good floor time off the bench. Ayers scored 7, making three-quarters of his shots. Hillesland scored 6 with 5 rebounds. He's another guy who could eat into LZ's minutes, playing a very athletic power forward. Tory Jackson enjoyed an all-around performance, 3 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds. He was also the defensive player of the game, stealing the ball three times.
Overall, a very good pounding. We needed this after the struggle against Portland. It also could turn into a surprisingly solid RPI win if the Black Knights play well in conference. Army is 9-3 and much improved over a year ago. They could very well make a run to the NIT this season.
That's all. No games until next Thursday. Christmas unofficially begins today for many of the working population. Enjoy the time off!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I'd like to focus on one aspect of the game last night that stuck out. For all of the things that Notre Dame did wrong, mostly in the 1st half, it was evident that Mike Brey's offense really works with the current lineup. This is the first year in a while that Coach Brey has had 5 guys on the floor who can drive and cut to the basket with regularity.
The basic setup that Notre Dame plays is a 3-out 2-in Motion Offense. The point guard brings the ball up the floor with the shooting guard and small forward split on opposite sidelines, one post player down low, and the other forward at the charity stripe. Kyle McAlarney is the catalyst for the current offense. He's a pass-first guard who doesn't need to put up big stats to be successful. Kyle has struggled with his shot from time and had only 3 assists on Tuesday, but he knows when to press the ball or play the halfcourt game. He can do both easily and calmly without turning the ball over.
The shooting guard and small forward are essentially the same position in the offense. The point guard can play to either wing or attack off a pick from the top of the key. Brey's wings need to be athletic with a good outside shot. Captains Colin Falls and Russell Carter are the current starting guard/forwards. Falls is a pure shooter but has improved his driving ability some this year. Carter is the ideal candidate for a wing in the offense. Russell can drive to the basket and keeps opposing defenses from playing zone by shooting over his defender on occasion. Look at recent recruits Ayers and Hillesland as proof of Brey's affinity for smart, athletic players.
The two forwards are interchangable, but some players work better in one location rather than the other. Rob Kurz and Luke Zeller started the game at forward. Kurz inbounded the ball after made Pilot baskets. Rob would then jog to the top of the key or free throw line. From that position, he can run a center pick and roll with the PG, screen low for the other forward, or cut to an open area. Luke Zeller played in the low post, backed up by Bamm-Bamm. At the post position, both Lukes posted up to create an option inside or moved away from the ball to open up the center of the court. All three players (Bamm-Bamm, Kurz, and Zeller) rotated between the two spots with varying effects. Harangody is most effective with his back to the basket and with Zeller or Kurz playing up top, either high post player can step outside to shoot.
With the amount of cutting and passing in the system, high basketball IQs are needed at each position. K-Mac runs the offense. Falls doesn't turn the ball over. Carter creates opportunities moving without the ball. Kurz and Zeller can drive to the hoop from ten feet out or knock down a jumper. Harangody backs down and boxes out other centers. Everyone has a job.
Finally, I can't wait to see how Tory Jackson finishes his career at Notre Dame. Watching last night, Jackson looked like a younger, smaller Russell Carter. They have similar talents and like to attack the basket. On the other hand, Tory is 6 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter. Have you seen Carter lately? His 220 pounds must be all muscle. One of Big Russ' best attributes is how he can draw a foul by going up strong in the key. Jackson might not be able to put up a whole season getting hammered in the Big East without bulking up.
On the other hand, many have talked about Jackson as the successor to Kyle McAlarney, three years from now. Until then, Tory would either play Chris Quinn's former role as the off-guard or continue sitting on the bench. The second option is less likely due to Jackson's talent. As the shooting guard, he has a lot more athleticism than the former holders of that role, Quinn and Falls. Put into the context of the offense, Tory could turn out as a smaller wing. No matter what role he takes in the future, he will be a nice weapon in Coach Brey's arsenal.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
One reason for the low percentage? Notre Dame started the game cold and uninspired. Playing several games as big favorites, a start like this will happen from time to time. Good to get it out of the way before Big East play. After only scoring 35 in the first half to Portland's 29, ND dropped 51 on the Pilots in a strong 2nd twenty minutes.
Individually, Russell Carter had another great performance. 28 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists. Being surrounded by bunches of athleticism for the first time in his career has aided Carter tremendously. Russ can step out of his role as "the athletic guy" and become a much more well-rounded offensive force. Russell's jump shot was showcased again tonight. He made a few clutch threes to keep the contest from getting too close.
Down low, Robert Kurz just keeps on keepin' on. 21 points, 11 boards for the Junior. This year's post play is vastly improved over last season, mainly due to Rob's strength and increased confidence.
Zach Hillesland played very well in 22 minutes. He's a lot skinnier than our opponents down low, but twice used his agility and wingspan to grab a rebound and steal.
Tory Jackson played 23 minutes tonight, and proved that he deserves more looks. Solid ball control and movement was the norm with Jackson at the helm of the offense. When paired with K-Mac in the backcourt, he added an extra weapon to the offense and allowed Carter to play the 3. At the end of his night, every member of the ND bench stood up and applauded his effort.
Where did Luke Zeller go? 0 points in 14 minutes was not good to see from the ex-Mr. Indiana.
Overall, the 2nd half saw much better ball movement and cutting to create scoring opportunities. Luke Harangody called for the ball several times and provided extra intensity in the post. A couple of mistakes included plenty of offensive fouls and lots of traveling violations for both sides.
Thursday brings in a solid Army team. The Irish should up the intensity and get a solid W.
Monday, December 18, 2006
In the Big East Bloggers' Poll, yours truly is no longer the sole Notre Dame vote. El Kabong from NDNation entered his first ballot of the year. This week's results:
1) Pittsburgh (12): 265 pts.
2) Connecticut (3): 253 pts.
3) Notre Dame (2): 229 pts.
4) Marquette: 220 pts.
5) Syracuse: 206 pts.
6) Villanova: 180 pts.
7) Georgetown: 178 pts.
8) West Virginia: 145 pts.
9) Louisville: 117 pts.
10) Providence: 113 pts.
11) DePaul: 97 pts.
12) Seton Hall: 91 pts.
13) Cincinnati: 75 pts.
14) St. John's: 65 pts.
15) South Florida: 55 pts.
16) Rutgers: 22 pts.
Notre Dame hops over Marquette to 3rd. Interestingly, the Irish snared 2 first place votes for the first time this year. Also, even with a loss, Pittsburgh kept its 1st place standing and actually added votes due to a new influx of voters.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
2. ND- No trouble against Elon, don't play another ranked team until late February
3. Pittsburgh- Only loss to #7 Wisconsin, but has no quality wins like ND
4. Marquette- No tests until Big East schedule
5. Syracuse- Two close games against solid teams, but nothing to show for them
6. Villanova- On an 11 day break
7. Providence- See above, minus one day
8. Georgetown- Big win over Winston-Salem
9. West Virginia- Two more easy games before UCONN test
10. Louisville- Losses to UMASS and Kentucky
11. Cincinnati- Blown out by Ohio State
12. DePaul- Solid wins over Wake Forest and Rhode Island. Could this team turn its season around?
13. St John's- Another big break
14. Seton Hall- Nothing until the 21st
15. South Florida
No big games after the Pitt/Wisconsin showdown for a while. Four teams taking extended breaks. ND might get a 1st place vote or two this week, but I need to see UCONN lose before that happens.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
You know what was exciting? In the NBA, 20,000 fans went to a fight and a basketball game broke out! Come on, boys. 10 players were ejected for the fracas in Madison Square Garden, accounting for everyone on the floor at the time. I heard that more would have been involved, but the game was so over half the Nuggets team had already boarded the team plane. The biggest name, Carmelo Anthony, will probably also get the biggest punishment for his sucker punch. Need another reason why college basketball is better than the professional league? Neither do I.
Also, nice to see the ovation Chalko got when introduced. I hope that he enjoyed playing in front of the hometown fans once his senior year. I saw that his high school coach was in attendance, as well as some current Marian players. Nothing like a nice homecoming.
Now to the game. As promised, the Irish put Elon away early. After two minutes, ND put up a 10-0 lead. With the lead, Coach Brey could keep the players fresh by distributing time equally. At the end of the night, eight guys played 18 minutes or more.
Notre Dame held a significant height advantage and used Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody well in the paint. Both achieved double doubles, even though LH only played 18 minutes. Kurz added 7 assists and was the player of the game on both ends of the floor.
As for the guards, Kyle McAlarney ran a very composed offense as usual. Although his numbers were unimpressive, K-Mac was the catalyst for the 94-63 win. Russell Carter scored 23, including, I believe, five 3-pointers. His jump shot is what most impressed me. We know the guy can drive, but the inside-outside game is what will make him a pro. Add in the 6 boards, which were mostly pure athleticism, and Russ had a complete night.
Hillesland started, but made little impact. He was only on the floor for 20 minutes, with little to show for it.
Tory Jackson had some impact off the bench. He only made 2 of 10, but was fouled on half the misses. If he could make free throws, he would have scored 12. Most exciting four minutes in the game came after Jackson got hacked on a layup. Tory let his anger help his game and attacked with ferocity the next three times the ball touched his hands. I can't wait to see this guy grow as a player. His passion for the game and pure playmaking ability is as good as any in the country.
Finally, Ryan Ayers played 18 minutes, with 6 rebounds, but little other impact.
Overall it was a solid game. Plenty of scoring, pretty good defense, but still some to improve. Elon matched the Irish point for point in the second half for a while, but it was clear Notre Dame had the better team. Time to prepare for Portland and Army.
Pitt was coming off of a three-point win over Buffalo, who previously dropped a game at Evansville by 30. The Panthers must regroup for December 21, vs. Oklahoma St. Now Connecticut becomes the only undefeated team in the Big East and clear frontrunner for the league title. UCONN's only ranked nonconference game comes against #15 LSU on January 6th. The Huskies also have two tough matchups playing Indiana and at Georgia Tech later in the year.
As the Irish reach the cooldown part of their nonconference schedule, it becomes more and more apparent that the Big East is wide open this year. Notre Dame holds the best RPI wins in the league and will be condsidered among the conference's best if other big teams keep falling.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
For now, I'd like to introduce a feature I had been hoping to add during the Big East season, but I figured I could debut it now. When we play a team with a solid fan base, I will ask the moderator of an opponent's blog or message board to give me a quick preview of the upcoming fixture. This week I am honored to present the comments of Adam from ElonFans.com about the Phoenix:
About the site:
"This board is typically very active, but the board sees the most activity during football and baseball season, which typically are the focus sports of the school. We've been one of the better baseball programs of the mid-majors, though the SoCon [Southern Conference] could almost carry major conference status with the way it has been lately."
On the team:
"Our team is young. We graduated all conference player Jackson Atoyebi last year, had three players leave the team in the past season, and on top of that graduated 3 other impact players, mostly a good shooting guard Scottie Rice and a PF Colin Wyatt. For 3 games this year we dressed 10 guys, 6 of which are freshman, and 2 of which saw quality playing time last year.
"Chris Chalko is usually a huge player but has been slumping bad this season. Our starting PG Montell Watson who was huge last season is out until January and it is unclear if he is redshirting or not. And our starting SG Levonn Jordan has been hampered with a concussion and has seen limited time the past 2 weeks. Outside of that, we are just plain young and inexperienced. Freshman Carter has played some really good minutes this year as PG and G/F Brett James(soph) has been streaky but fairly solid so far."
Many thanks again to Adam for his comments. He also mentioned that Chalko is styled more like a tall SG, but is forced to play the post due to a lack of height among the rest of the team.
Ok, I've hyped this matchup to death. Hope we turn out a good crowd tomorrow. Take it easy.
Nonetheless, we do have some topics relating to Notre Dame basketball to talk about. Andy Katz named Notre Dame the team of the week today. Nice to see the Irish get some national cred, but I wish Katz would do enough research to get the day of the week of the Alabama game correct (he said Saturday).
Elon is 1-6, the only win coming against Montreat College. Who? Exactly. That could be it this year for the Phoenix as Ken Pomeroy projects a whopping 0 wins the rest of the season. Given that Pomeroy also projects Notre Dame as having a 100% chance of winning the game, I guess we can all stay home.
Messing around with Pomeroy's projections a little more (see Notre Dame here), it looks like the Irish play only one tough game the rest of the season, at Villanova. Slightly more realistically, the Irish project to a 25-4 overall record, 13-3 in conference. I'd like to see those numbers before the Alabama win.
Also, Chris Chalko has a homecoming on Saturday. The 6-8 Elon senior is a graduate of Mishawaka Marian High School (not the Catholic school next to campus, their archrivals across town).
Chris Quinn got some good PT last night, 11 minutes. He netted four points, including a circus layup that shot to #1 on ESPN's Top 10. Kudos to the former Irish captain.
That's all for today, folks. Two days 'til Elon.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
A couple of interesting notes about Saturday's opponent. Elon used to own the best nickname in the country, the Fighting Christians. Unfortunately, in 1999 a move to D1 prompted a switch to the "Phoenix". For a good laugh, check out elonfans.com, a brave attempt by a diehard supporter who apparently had a strong following of Phoenix fans:
"I am pulling elonfans.com down. I am tired of: the general attitude of Elon fans, the holier than thou attitude by athletes, the attitude by some parents, the lack of support by donors and the school, the board being used for flame bait, elsewherevI just think it is better for me (and everyone) that the board just finally die."
Not sure if said site was a joke or not, but it does serve as some insight into the mind of the opponent. Make sure not to cross the opposing fans on Saturday. They should pack the visitor's section.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Why does this season feel so familiar? Perhaps it is because we have been through this before. In 2002, Notre Dame started the season unranked. After a few early wins, the Irish lost in an early season tournament. After an easy win against an overmatched opponent, ND beat Maryland in the BB&T Classic and another top 10 opponent, Texas. Also thrown in was a home win vs. Marquette. Through a 8-1 record against tough nonconference opponents, the Irish leapt to 10th in the AP poll.
How did that team end the season? A 10-6 conference record was good enough for a 5th seed, even with a first round BET loss. A missed last second shot by Dylan Page gave ND a first-round win vs. UW-Milwaukee and the Irish pulled out a 68-60 victory over Illinois to go to the school's first Sweet 16 since 1987.
What does that mean for the present? A similar 10-6 conference record would make Notre Dame a lock for the tournament and a probable high seed. Will we see another Regional Semifinal run? With the right draw and some hot shooters, anything can happen.
Hard to imagine having these thoughts just two weeks ago.
Just in case you needed a little extra inspiration, I looked up the last time ND was ranked this late in the season. That would be '02-'03, when the Irish rode non-conference wins over Marquette, Maryland, and Texas, as well as a solid 10-6 Big East record, all the way to the Sweet 16.
Hope springs eternal.
Tonight, like last night, there are absolutely zero games in the Big East. Only two ranked teams in action as well, Texas A&M and Nevada.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Anyways, congrats to the team for being firmly back in the national spotlight. On to more important business, like the Big East Bloggers' Poll!
1) Pittsburgh: 256 pts (16). Last week: 1.
2) Connecticut: 236 pts. Last week: 2.
3) Marquette: 203 pts. Last week: 3.
4) Notre Dame: 200 pts. Last week: 8.
5) Syracuse: 199 pts. Last week: 4.
6) Villanova: 163 pts. Last week: 5.
7) Georgetown: 160 pts. Last week: 6.
8) Louisville: 143 pts. Last week: 7.
9) West Virginia: 131 pts. Last week: 10.
10) Providence: 112 pts. Last week: 9.
11) Seton Hall: 90 pts. Last week: 14
12) DePaul: 78 pts. Last week: 11.
13) Cincinnati: 67 pts. Last week: 12.
14) St. John's: 64 pts. Last week: 13.
15) South Florida: 53 pts. Last week: 15.
16) Rutgers: 21 pts. Last week: 16.
ND hops four spots to fourth. What does that mean for the immediate future? The Irish play one game against the Big Three this year, Marquette at home. Things can't look any better right now.
Five days 'til Elon.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
1. Pittsburgh- Beat Duquesne, Beat Buffalo
2. Connecticut- Beat Northeastern
3. ND- Beat #5 Alabama
4. Marquette- Beat Del. State, Lost to #12 Wisconsin
5. Syracuse- Lost to #24 Oklahoma State, Beat Colgate
6. Villanova- Beat Oklahoma, Lost to Drexel
7. Providence- beat Fairfield, Lost to #7 Florida, Beat Maine
8. Georgetown- Beat James Madison, Beat Oral Roberts
9. Louisville- Lost to Arizona, Beat Ohio, Beat St. Joseph
10. West Virginia- Beat NC State, Beat Duquesne
11. Cincinnati- Beat Temple
12. St John's- Beat St. Francis, Beat Niagara
13. Seton Hall- Beat Monmouth, Beat Penn State
14. DePaul- Beat Chicago State, Lost to UAB
15. South Florida- Lost to Richmond, Beat Winston-Salem, Beat East Carolina
16. Rutgers- Beat New Hampshire, Beat Princeton
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Marquette lost for the second consecutive Saturday, this time to a team someone's heard of. It will be interesting to see how Pitt does against the same Wisconsin team. Due to the outcome of that contest, ND should hop the Golden Eagles in the polls with plenty of games to be played before the showdown February 24.
While the players and coaches don't have the luxury, I can start looking forward to our Big East schedule. Hopefully the opener at home vs. Louisville will have a solid crowd before the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals lost their only game against a ranked opponent, Arizona, and will have a tricky home matchup vs. Kentucky before wrapping up the nonconference games.
Looking down the road, Notre Dame should be favored in all but two contests the rest of the year. How is that possible? After a tough season last year, the Irish were granted a soft schedule and have out performed early season predictions while other conference teams have struggled. Only Syracuse in the Carrier Dome and home against Marquette are currently ranked opponents. By winning out the rest of 2006 and playing a modest 9-7 the rest of the way through Big East games, ND should be a lock for the Big Dance.
Still a lot of basketball to be played.
Some games around the country today:
#9 Duke beat George Mason
#12 Wisconsin plays #20 Marquette
#1 UCLA vs. #6 Texas A&M
#8 Washington at #18 Gonzaga late
Louisville beat Ohio U. last night. Georgetown won today, but other than Marquette there are no intriguing matchups in the Big East. Enjoy the weekend.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Joyce Center was blacked out. Free t-shirts to inner bowl fans, with bleacher bums encouraged to bring black clothes from home. It must have been a sell-out, although a few season ticket holders didn't show. From tip, a packed student section answered Coach Brey's call for lots of noise. Very few moments passed in the 2nd half when the entire stadium was not standing.
Let's start with the backcourt. Kyle McAlarney was outstanding. He is credited for only 3 assists, but served as the catalyst for an attacking Irish offense. Seeing the whole floor, K-Mac orchastrated strong transitions, running the break when Notre Dame had a numbers advantage. His speed threatened Alabama defenders enough to open him up for four three-pointers, 20 points for the night.
Russell Carter took the responsibility of guarding All-America candidate Ronald Steele to heart. Leading the team with three takeaways, Carter harrassed Steele on defense while scoring 27 on offense. I sternly criticised Russ for poor shot selection earlier in the year. Today's shot selection was no better, but he made everything. Carter shot 6-11 from beyond the arc, broke down 'Bama's 2-3 zone with dribble drives, and scored on a breakaway windmill dunk that was hands-down the highlight of the game. Russell Carter is today's MVP, and looks more and more like a first-team All Big East player. Keep it up.
Colin Falls has also been the butt of some of my criticism. While he made a few mistakes on defense, letting players go backdoor and so forth, Falls is Mike Brey's best friend on the floor. Clearly the vocal leader, he dominated on-court discussions. When he talked, everyone listened. Shooting only 2-6 from downtown, his specialty, Falls took a charge and rarely turned the ball over on offense. Most importantly, he is our best free throw shooter and kept the game from getting close late. Even though Falls fell into foul trouble early, Brey can trust Colin to stay in games to the end, always giving 100%.
Tory Jackson was very, very impressive off the bench today. While guarding one of the best players in the country in Steele, Tory's intensity and hustle led to at least two direct turnovers and several other poor shots. The combined effort of Carter and Jackson held number 22 to thirteen points and three assists. Terrific.
What can you say about Rob Kurz? Playing with heart and through pain, he shut down Jermareo Davidson for the most part and finished with 14 points and 12 boards. Although a bloody nose took him out in the second half, Robby came back wearing a different jersey and played important minutes all night. One thing I would like to see Kurz improve is his inside presence when Notre dame plays a smaller lineup. Without Zeller or Bamm-Bamm in the game, Kurz frequently left the key wide open. While Coach brey understandably wants to have separation for the quick players to work with, Kurz has no business playing at the top of the key when none of the other four players can effectively post-up. Overall, however, a great game for our workhorse down low.
Bamm-Bamm and Zeller did their jobs very well tonight, too. Zeller showed courage standing up to 'Bama's big men when asked to do so. Harangody took a big step in his college career tonight. LH was given extended minutes by Brey and fulfilled expectations, grabbing 7 rebounds. Zeller made all three shots he took and committed very few mental errors. Both young guys showed a ton a hustle, especially Bamm-Bamm on two great breakaways.
A couple of things I wish we could have seen: less fouls and second chance points. Alabama was able to control the offensive rebounds and went to the line far too many times. Altogether, of course, a win over a top five program is more than reason to celebrate. Go Irish!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
A pair of good games last night in New York. #21 Syracuse came back in a big way against #24 Oklahoma State, but couldn't finish the job in the final minute to fall 72-68. #15 Arizona outlasted Louisville 72-65; the Cardinals fell to 2-2. All other Big East teams held serve last night except for South Florida, whose dreams of a perfect season ended against Richmond.
Tonight, the only big name opponent for Big East teams is Florida, playing at home against Providence. Unless the Friars can pull off a big upset, the Big East will continue its losing streak against nonconference ranked teams. With a win Thursday, Notre Dame would hold a solid pair of victories over nonconference foes and the best at-large resume in the Big East.
On to Alabama, tomorrow's opponent. Notre dame will face a legit All-America candidate in PG Ronald Steele. While he has suffered from a sore knee in recent weeks, he leads the team with 5.3 assists per game, up 1.4 from last year. If Steele is 100%, it will be up to Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson to shut down his playmaking ability and disrupt the running of the offense. 6-10 Jermareo Davidson averages 15 points and 10 rebounds a game and will challenge Kurz, Zeller, and Harangody down low. Kurz and Bamm-Bamm can use their strength to keep Davidson out of the key, but Zeller might be needed to counter his superior height.
On offense, the team needs to be more patient out of the blocks and avoid a poor first half as in the Maryland game. If the Irish can turn Sunday's second half offensive peformance into 40 minutes, they will have a great shot at a home upset.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
1) Pittsburgh: 191 pts (11). Last week: 1.
2) Connecticut: 170 pts. Last week: 3.
3) Marquette: 167 pts (1). Last week: 2.
4) Syracuse: 158 pts. Last week: 4.
5) Villanova: 139 pts. Last week: 6.
6) Georgetown: 124 pts. Last week: 5.
7) Louisville: 114 pts. Last week: 7.
8) Notre Dame: 102 pts. last week: 11.
9) Providence: 97 pts. Last week: 9.
10) West Virginia: 84 pts. Last week: 8.
11) DePaul: 78 pts. Last week: 12.
12) Cincinnati: 64 pts. Last week: 10.
13) St. John's: 52 pts. Last week: 13.
14) Seton Hall: 40 pts. Last week: 14.
15) South Florida: 38 pts. Last week: 15.
16) Rutgers: 14 pts. Last week: 16.
ND, fueled by a nice win over Maryland, hopped three spots. Win or lose against 'Bama, the Irish should hold that position.
Nice article about the remaining unbeatens in college basketball: click here. Two writers from Syracuse's local paper mention Alabama has yet to play a ranked team, but do have a seven point win over Xavier and a double-digit victory over Iowa to their credit. Iowa is not as impressive as the win against Xavier. The Musketeers previously knocked off Villanova at the Paradise Jam. Also, the Tide team has had some turmoil due to the death of the girlfriend of forward Jermareo Davidson in an accident on the way home from visiting his brother, a gunshot victim.
No games of note yesterday in the Big East, though #12 Wisconsin struggled to hold of Winthrop in OT. Syracuse takes on Oklahoma St. in the Garden tonight at 7, leading up to an Arizona/Louisville matchup, both in the Jimmy V Classic.
*Updated w/ correction to Xavier victory over 'Nova
Sunday, December 03, 2006
My request for more Luke Harangody went unheeded, but Zach Hillesland more than made up for it with eight points and five rebounds in twenty minutes. He and Kurz did their fair share down low, with physical play (4 fouls each) and ten boards between them.
K-Mac put up a lot of points, a career-high 18. He was clutch from downtown, hitting 4 of 7, but had a surprisingly sloppy night with 4 turnovers to just 2 assists.
Colin Falls was cold, 2-8 from the floor, but made nine shots from the charity stripe to keep the lead down the stretch.
Notre Dame finished the night at 44% shooting. The second half was much more impressive: the Irish scored 52. Maryland made one more field goal with the same amount of shots, but Notre Dame's strong 3-point shooting and two extra free throws lead to the upset.
Looking at the box score, it's nice to see the playing time spread out. Mike Brey is not known for having a particularly deep bench, but the top 7 all logged considerable minutes. When a team can sit its starters for good lengths of time without major dropoff, it will hold an advantage in tight games like tonight. Coach Brey obviously feels comfortable playing the starting five, Hillesland and Jackson. Harangody has also proven himself trustworthy when given opportunity. Those eight players in different combinations will make Notre Dame a hard team to prepare for in future games.
Great victory, time to pack the J.A.C.C. on Thursday and start looking like a tournament-caliber team.
Down 32-29, all in all a solid half. Carter leads the team with 9 points, 3-5 with a deep 3-pointer. 3 rebounds for Hillesland and McAlarney each. Only assist of the game goes to Hillesland as well.
Starting lineups the same. Tory Jackson had the most time off the bench with 9 minutes. We need to be more physical down low, having been outrebounded 18-12, including 4 offensive boards given up. The shooting was bad, only 10-30, but only down 3 at the break makes the second half look positive. With Kurz having 3 fouls already, Bamm-Bamm needs a lot of positive minutes. Hopefully he will get the nod over Zeller, who has been ineffective thus far.
Without further adieu,
1. Pittsburgh- The Panthers have had no trouble yet, but have a gutcheck game against Wisconsin coming up.
2. Marquette- Nice win over Duke, but slipped-up against ND State, can claim #1 with a more impressive win over Wisconsin than Pitt.
3. Connecticut- No trouble. Shouldn't move much up or down with a soft nonconference schedule.
4. Syracuse- Loss against good Wichita State team only blemish.
5. Villanova- Loss to Xavier, no other big news.
6. ND- Loss to Butler looks much better than it did at the time. Win over Maryland moved them up 3 spots. A win over Alabama could give them the most attractive non-conference record. How that relates to conference play is anyone's guess.
7. Providence- Big test against Florida will say a lot about this team.
8. Louisville- Same story as above, matchup well against Arizona.
9. Georgetown- Better team than their record, but 4-3 doesn't cut it even with close losses to good teams.
10. Cincinnati- Chances for upsets against Ohio St. and Memphis
11. DePaul- Which team will show up? The Blue Demons managed only 39 vs. Northwestern, but knocked off highly ranked Kansas.
12. West Virginia- Not expected to be great, haven't changed anyone's minds yet.
13. St John's- Big loss to Maryland, but played Texas tough.
14. Seton Hall- Ho-hum 4-1.
15. South Florida- Sure they're undefeated, but haven't played anyone.
16. Rutgers- Looking very bad.
*Updated rankings w/ Notre Dame win
Quick disclaimer- This ranking is my best effort at judging the performance of teams without preseason prejudice. Will Notre Dame finish 6th in the Big East? I have no idea. Based on what they have done, and the weakness of other teams' schedules, they deserve the #6 position.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
On to the big game tomorrow against Maryland. The Terps are 8-0 coming off a win against Illinois, snapping the Illini's 51-game home winning streak. D.J. Strawberry is the leading scorer at about 15 a game. They were ranked 7th in the preseason conference poll. None of the Terrapin players made 1st or 2nd team All-Conference, but the overall talent has lead them to early rankings at #23 in the AP and #19 in the coaches' poll. A key for the Irish is to harrass Strawberry, who gave up 94 turnovers last year.
Look for more 2-3 zone as Notre Dame will try to force Maryland to win with the jump shot. 6-9 Ekene Ibekwe, who nearly went pro after last season, is a solid force down low and will be countered by a combination of Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody. If those two can control the low post, and keeps turnovers to a minimum, the Irish will have a good shot at an upset.
UCLA just beat USC on the gridiron, sparking bedlam in the Rose Bowl. Congrats to Karl Dorrell for beating the Trojans the first time in his career. It couldn't have come on a bigger stage, ending Southern Cal's title dream and making the year for either Florida or Michigan.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Ok, on to the game. Winston Salem is playing this year with "C.E. Gaines" on the back of every jersey, a tribute to former coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines who passed away last year. The Rams, who will join the MEAC next year, came in with a 1-8 record.
Pretty much smooth sailing all the way through with a 90-45 romp. Same starting lineup as Monday. Early on, it was apparent that none of the Winston Salem guards could dribble without palming the ball. Since the refs refused to call carrying on the Rams and due to some hot outside shooting, the score stayed reasonably close for about a half. In the 2nd, the Irish used their depth and athleticism to overpower to clearly overmatched WSSU team.
Tory Jackson really impressed in extended time tonight. While he needs to cut down on transition turnovers and overly flashy passes, Jackson played with typical high-intensity defense, moving his feet and harrassing Ram guards every time they touched the ball. He also had a very nice game controlling the half-court offense. Once he learns to settle down and play within himself, he could pressure K-Mac for the starting job. It also has yet to be seen if his attitude and fire will help or hurt his teammates in high-pressure situations.
Russell Carter had another solid game. Showing off a better outside shot than Monday, he knocked down a few threes and was solid on both ends of the floor.
I really want to see more of Luke Harangody. For one reason or another, Brey has not given the freshman more playing time. He will surely get more chances as the season goes on, and I would like to see him in the starting rotation before the end of the year. He is without a doubt our best post threat and knocked a few shots down from 15' as well.
Luke Zeller was better inside today, but did not make much impact on either end of the floor. On defense, he needs to keep his feet against smaller forwards. He has a great height advantage and got caught reaching out too far on a shot he could have contested with arms straight up. Zeller should get more opportunities outside to show off his shot as Kurz and LH continue to play strong inside.
K-Mac had a very solid game today. In previous matchups, he had failed to knock down open looks, but today connected on a couple threes. He also proves to be very dangerous driving the lane and hitting the teardrop a la Chris Thomas.
I like to see Gene Cross on the bench. He seems to have a big impact on the younger players and usually comes out of the huddle with a few extra words for someone.
Played a lot more 2-3 than usual. I'm sure this was to get ready for the big games in the next two weeks. WSSU did do a good job a couple times of moving the ball and hitting an open player, but the Irish closed down on opportunities very well. Hillesland is especially good on the wing playing with his hands up constantly. Hopefully that will rub off on the other defenders.
Congrats to Colin Falls on 1,000 points. He had a great game, knocking down three pointers with ease and making a big impact for the team. One major mental mistake was not running the baseline on an inbounds pass which led to a 5 second violation, but all in all a very good game.
In the 2nd half, we played primarily 4 reserves- Jackson, Hillesland, Harangody, and Ayers.
Jackson did a great job running the B offense and creating turnovers, although he did get stuffed by the rim on a one-handed dunk attempt. Hillesland will continue to get PT if he works as hard as he has the last few games. For a big guy, he has great moves and plays a very smart game. Harangody was improved from Monday's foul-laden performance. When he keeps his hands up, he is a very successful defender because he uses his body to keep post players from getting too close. Ayers looks lost out there. Not as fluid as Hillesland, he reminds me of a puppy whose body is too big for its own good. He also seems to be a bit afraid of taking control of a game. All of this should come with experience, but right now Hillesland is a much better option.
Overall, a good tuneup for the home team. Two big games coming up against Maryland and Alabama. If we can take at least one of those, there is a lot of hope going into league action.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Before the game, Mike Brey presented former Irish captain and Lehigh head coach Billy Taylor with a nice plaque. After that, Taylor's boys jumped ahead with good early defense and poor shot selection on ND's part. Most of our offensive futility can be attributed to impatience and taking wild shots with no second chances. Russell Carter had an interesting game. He can be a headcase, taking wild off-balance threes and cursing at himself when Brey substitutes for him. Later on, however, he settled down and used the drive to set up his outside shot.
Bamm-Bamm had limited minutes, partly due to foul trouble. When he did play, he was our best inside weapon and will hopefully continue to get more playing time. Kurz played very well. He isn't as effective as LH inside, but has a good dribble drive and can hit the 15 footer. He also played good interior D and was a workhorse while Harangody was on the bench.
Most impressive was Zach Hillesland. I would love to see more of him in the future. Brey gave him time for Zeller at the beginning of the 2nd half, showing confidence in his ability. I was worrying about Hillesland's place on the team after seeing him backup Kurz and Zeller down low. He is most effective playing the 3, with two bigger men inside. ZH can drive and kick or use his height to shoot over smaller defenders. Most impressive was the way he handled himself on the floor. He is a smart player who doesn't turn the ball over and hustles on both ends to grab loose balls and run the break. I hope Brey plays him in combination with Kurz and Bamm-Bamm to let him focus on what he does well, drive and shoot, instead of posting up under the glass.
Colin Falls ended up with great numbers, but I am beginning to believe he would be better suited coming off the bench. He is a streaky shooter who needs to get hot. If he gets 15-20 backing up Carter or the small forward, he could very well end up being as much of a weapon, while having a more mobile player on the floor to start.
Jackson has a bit of an attitude, but he is tenacious. The fire he plays with must rub off on the other guys and inspire them to work harder late in games. He doesn't stop on defense, gets in his teammates' faces on the bench and is effective running the offensive for K-Mac. If he stays humble, he could turn out to be a good player.
For a few minutes in the 2nd half, we ran our most athletic offense all year.
Hopefully we see more of that in the future.
Best scene all day was watching Jackson, Ayers, and LH on the bench losing 41-38. The three underclassmen were on their feet urging the small crowd to cheer louder. Good to see players in the game even without more playing time.
That's it. Hopefully we see a more dominating performance on Wednesday.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
On to an infinitely more exciting topic... the Lehigh game! Should be a good tuneup for Maryland. I'm sure the players are excited to get into it after a long week of practice. Lehigh (2-5) had a marquee win over perennial powerhouse Cornell and is battle-hardened after a close loss to beast of the Big Sky Portland St. Yeah, it should be exciting for about 10 minutes. I hope it will turn into another good opportunity for Bamm-Bamm and the other freshmen to get quality minutes off the bench. Watch the second half scores. Mike Brey will focus on keeping Lehigh down for 40 minutes and avoid being outscored in the second half as they were against the Citadel. If the team can put together a complete performance, it will bode well for future contests against competitive teams.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
Gonzaga still has a lot on their plate before playing intraconference. #25 Texas, #13 Washington, #8 Duke, and #20 Nevada will all be big tests for the young team. If they win two of those, paired with the previous victory over North Carolina, I can see Gonzaga grabbing a 2 or 3 seed. That would be a great accomplishment for a team losing the biggest star in its history. A high seed, with the team coming together at the right time, could be very dangerous.
What does this mean for us? In hindsight, Notre Dame's strong performance against Butler bodes very well for our season. I hope the boys watched that game and realized that they can play with anyone in the country. We have Lehigh and Winston Salem before the biggest tests of the nonconference schedule, Maryland and Alabama. If we can take one of those, our bubble profile starts looking a lot better. Although we have a weak SOS, the Irish could put up a gaudy record (only 3 ranked games in the Big East, G'Town, Syracuse, and Marquette).
Well, that was my positive outlook for the day. Have a great weekend. Three days 'til Lehigh.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
UCLA won in Maui. It hurts to watch that team in action. Just two seasons ago, the Bruins came into town for a winnable game on national television. Last year they went to the NCAA final and are currently ranked in the top 5. Talk about programs heading in different directions. In many ways, the game in '05 was a turning point for both schools. The Irish won one game the rest of the season, lost in the first round of the Big East Tournament to Rutgers, and played their way out of an NCAA bid. The Bruins won their final two regular season contests to solidify an NCAA at-large bid and have since gone on to the aforementioned success.
Apart from that painful memory, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food, fellowship, and football. I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Butler/'Zags game.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Gonzaga/UNC game which is at the half. 'Zags up 40-37 after falling behind 10-zip early. Did I mention my love affair with this school? Mark Few has to be one of the best recruiters and motivators in the country to turn Dan Monson's Cinderella team into a national powerhouse. Admit it, everyone loves to see a mid-major go toe-to-toe with the big boys. So far, super-soph Tyler Hansbrough has been shut down, while Gonzaga sophomore Josh Heytvelt has scored 14. No one gave this team any respect after the Stache left, but Gonzaga continues to find a way to churn out big seasons as they did after the departure of Dan Dickau and Ronny Turiaf and Richie Frahm and...
Other games around the country:
UCLA up early against Georgia Tech in the Maui final,
Memphis beat Kentucky 80-63, and
Georgetown rolled over Fairfield 73-60
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
While we wait for the Lehigh game to come on the 27th, semi-finals in Maui are tonight. So far Memphis is leading Ga. Tech 28-11, 8:00 left in the 1st half. As for the NIT, UNC/Gonzaga in one Semi tomorrow, with Tennessee taking on the pride of Indiana, the Butler Bulldogs, in the other. Here's to mid-major boys going all the way and easing the pain of our 71-69 loss.
Monday, November 20, 2006
He agrees with my opinion about Jackson, saying he "makes Chris Thomas look like the world's most judicious point guard." As for Falls, I wish we could make him a better part of the offense. Colin is easily our best pure shooter, but can't get open to save his life. Last night, he threw up a few off-balance shots that a better dribbler could have turned into an open look. With opposing teams having to account for Bam-Bam, the case could be made that Falls will see more open looks this year. However, his playmaking ability is affectively nil and he is best suited for a catch-and-shoot opportunity from a drive by K-Mac or Russell.
Continuing with Falls, he finished with a pedestrian 11 points in 30 minutes last night. Give him 15-20 off the bench and with a hot hand he could match that total. 3 of 10 from the floor, all threes. No need to have a guy like that taking up so much playing time. His defense is touch and go, although he did end up with 7 boards last night. Zach Hillesland is a good replacement for Colin, with 4 boards in 17 minutes and at 6-9 he presents a matchup problem. However, as stated yesterday, Brey will have trouble finding a job for ZH with Falls in the rotation.
Finally, good news for the Irish future. If Falls is taken out of the starting lineup, we only lose one starting senior (Russell Carter) to graduation in '07. Given the way the team is starting to gel around K-Mac (he was the first to congratulate guys on both sides of the floor) we could contend in the Big East as early as next year.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Irish shot 44% from the floor and looked in control all night. This was my first game of the season, but already the team looks more athletic and in shape. Luke Harangody's a beast. Take T. Francis' size and give him a double helping of athletic ability and heart. At one point, Bam Bam slapped a ball away at midcourt, picked it up, and raced towards the basket ahead of a streaking Citadel guard. Even better, after getting hacked on said play, he popped right up and sank the double free throws. I'll take 18 pts in 17 minutes from the young man any day. By Big East time, he should be starting.
Nice effort defensively with 9 steals and 5 blocks. They got away with a little under the basket, but it does get the team ready for a physical Big East season. Kurz didn't shy away from contact, nor did Zeller. Most impressive was Hillesland. I'm still not sure where he fits in on the team. He's a big guy with moves, but plays a bit of an awkward 3. I'd like to see him beef up and get down low, but Zeller, Kurz, and LH seem to take up all that time. On defense, however, he was smart and effective. Our 2-3 has gotten burnt in previous years because of a lack of fundementals. Hillesland, however, played every possesion with his great wingspan out to disrupt possible passers. I like his basketball IQ and he seems to hustle. Not bad to have a guy like that on the bench.
We'll get to K-Mac some other time. Today he was just efficient. T. Jackson, however, may have some trouble in the college game. "The Chosen One" reminds me too much of a certain #1 who no longer plays for the University. He travels, and drives into traffic, and once threw a pass backwards over his head into the third row. Not the guy to lead the offense. 16 minutes, 4 points, 5 turnovers. No thanks. Give him a couple of years backing up K-Mac. I'd rather see Falls and Carter at the 2/3.