Monday, December 31, 2007
Notre Dame 77, North Florida 58
The Irish got off to a slow start, holding only a one-point lead eight minutes into the contest. The first half was highlighted by little offense for both teams, Notre Dame holding the 27-18 advantage.
In the 2nd half, an 18-0 run got the Irish enough room to breathe and the team cruised to the 19 point final margin.
Kyle McAlarney was very cold, shooting only 1-9 from three point range. He ended up with nine points, but killed some possessions with bad shot selection. Ryan Ayers definitely needs to step into a bigger scoring role when Mac's shots aren't falling.
Tory Jackson did very well distributing the ball, finishing with 10 assists and grabbing eight rebounds, but fouled out. With no points tonight, I am beginning to worry whether we will ever see his scoring ability again, like in the Georgetown tournament game last year. He's another player who needs to be able to create his own shot when other guys cannot.
Ayers had another solid overall night, 10 points and 6 rebounds. Again I would like to see him be more proactive with a cold McAlarney, especially on a night when Zach Hillesland is out with a mild ankle sprain (precautionary reasons, will be in the lineup Thursday).
Luke Harangody was good with 22 points and 6 rebounds. Was held down by four fouls, which may have hindered his play on the boards.
Rob Kurz was the clear player of the game, 23 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Nice to see him take control after being quietly solid for the past few contests.
Jonathan Peoples had six points and two assists in 22 minutes. Luke Zeller had seven and three boards. Nash and Abro got a minute each. A little surprising not to see them receive more playing time in Zach's absence, but Coach Brey mentioned previously that he would stick to the normal rotation today. I assume that against a tougher opponent we would see more of the freshmen with only seven active veterans.
Shot 43% from the floor, 30% from three-point range. Only outrebounded the Ospreys by 5, had a too-high number of turnovers (12), and three guys with 4 fouls or more. Not an overwhelming performance, but it go the job done. As long as we improve for the West Virginia and UCONN games, we should be in good shape.
That's it for 2007, I'll start some Big East previews tomorrow. Have a good one.
New Year's Eve
It's a great opportunity for the team to get their act together before Big East play commences this week. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend, so I will try to do a limited game recap with the box score and whatnot late this afternoon or tonight.
Have a happy last day of 2007. Here's to a new year filled with peace, tranquility, and wins for the Irish.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Big East Ballot- Week 7
- Marquette- Lost to Duke earlier, who Pitt beat (both on neutral floors), but was at least competitive in defeat
- Pittsburgh- Lost by 25 to a mid-major
- Georgetown- Nothing close to a really good win
- Villanova- Only loss was by one... clearly final part of the upper echelon
- West Virginia- Lost against Oklahoma in front of a friendly "neutral" crowd, but still holds better overall resume than the Irish
- Notre Dame- Two losses to decent teams still holding them out of the top of the conference
- Connecticut- Needs to beat a top 100 school before we can pass judgment
- Providence- Along with Syracuse, managed only three losses against the two strongest nonconference schedules in the league
- Syracuse- Should get through the next two weeks unscathed, will be tested Jan. 13 @ West Virginia
- Seton Hall- Beat two decent squads in Virginia and James Madison, but not much else... lost to an unimpressive Penn State team
- Louisville- Have rebounded well to win four straight against inferior competition
- South Florida- Lost first three, 9-1 since and playing well
- St. John's- Opposite of South Florida, started well and 2-5 since
- Rutgers- Loss to 3-8 St. Peter's in late November a good indicator of how bad this team can be
- Cincinnati- Win against 6-6 Miami (OH) only victory against a top 200 team
- DePaul- See Cincinnati, subtract win against top 200 team
Freshman of the Week- Anthony McClain- Cincinnati
My apologies if I missed a better freshman for this week's award. McClain had a decent game against Miami (10 and 7), nothing too special, and there was no Syracuse player to award this week.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Notre Dame 87, Brown 54
We knew Damon Huffman and Mark McAndrew liked to shoot the three and both were very solid under heavy defense tonight. Huffman scored 21 on 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and McAndrew scored 10 as the only other Brown player in double figures. Except for Huffman's big night (a great performance while well covered), the Irish had a terrific defensive performance tonight.
Some touch fouls were called against the Irish under the basket early, taking away a little of our size advantage down low. In the second half, Notre Dame started with some man press to break up Brown's offensive flow and keep the game from getting competitive. Brown allowed ND to rack up a huge advantage on the boards. The Irish picked up a few free ones as the Bears dropped four defenders every time a Brown player shot free throws.
Kyle McAlarney started hot in the first half, but cooled off after halftime. Overall, 12 points, three assists, and two steals. 4 of 10 shooting from three-point land. Solid game for the Irish shooting guard on a night that he had plenty of help.
Tory Jackson had his usual poor shooting night, but was great on the other aspects of his game. 4 points, shooting one for six. Nine assists to one turnover and six rebounds. He made some nice drives to the basket, but failed to score on them. Still, that penetration allowed his teammates to grab offensive rebounds off the glass. No matter how poorly he has shot for the year (2 for 19 from beyond the arc going into the game), Tory had the confidence to keep shooting when he gets open. That is impressive, although he must be sure not to go overboard.
Ryan Ayers had his best overall game of the year. 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists. Made 3 of his 6 three-point attempts. Good to see him be a little more productive overall on the offensive end.
Luke Harangody was golden in the first half. Finished with 13 points and eight boards in only 21 minutes. In the second half, he earned a little extra rest. Bamm-Bamm showed some range, hitting 10 and 15 foot jumpers with ease. He really is turning into a complete offensive threat, the best we have in the post and an above-average shooter all over the court.
Rob Kurz picked up with 14th career double double, 6th of the season. 15 points and 11 rebounds in another quietly efficient game for the senior captain. Made all five free throws, a great sign for future close contests.
Luke Zeller is a big time shooter. It was great to see him hit score nine points, including two big time three-pointers. It was not so great to see him give up more than nine points with terrible perimeter defense, allowing Brown's quicker players to speed straight to the basket. He is a great perimeter shooter who can really stretch a defense. He unfortunately lacks the agility to defend guards on the outside and strength to stop power forwards down low. A huge liability on the defensive end. He is a great guy who certainly gives the team 110%, but cannot be trusted on the floor when a defensive stop is needed.
Jonathan Peoples scored eight and showed a little range with two threes. Zach Hillesland has four points, four assists, and five rebounds. Nash and Abromitis got in with 6:42 to play in the game. Ty finished with two points and four assists, while Tim dropped two free throws to make up for an 0-5 night from the floor. Walkon Tim Andree scored two points from the line, while former Ivy League recruit Tom Kopko was the only finish player without a point. Probably was too distracted by that long hair and those XXL shorts.
Great to see Notre Dame get back to normal tonight. 54 rebounds, including 22 on the offensive glass helped the Irish score 87 against a team that likes to slow down the tempo. Solid, but not great shooting night. Finally, only seven turnovers and 23 assists and a solid night from the line allowed the Irish to control all four of the crucial aspects of the game (FG%, FT, turnovers, offensive rebounds).
Two additional stats to note: 27 second-chance points for Notre Dame and 16 points off turnovers, big numbers that will help any team. Overall, a great win and should help us against former Notre Dame assistant Mat Kilcullen and the very bad North Florida Ospreys in the final nonconference tuneup Monday. After that, we have West Virginia and UCONN next week. Some big games coming up. Go Irish.
Using the best individual statistics I could find, I finally have the opportunity to do a better in-depth analysis of our team and our Ivy League opponent.
First of all, a word about the statistics. A player's individual offensive rating is a concept developed by Dean Oliver in the book and is basically equivalent to a team's offensive efficiency (points produced per 100 possessions). The equation is extremely complicated (a page and a half of my notebook) but provides a solid indicator of a player's performance. The percentage of possessions used by a player is the fraction of a team's percentage that a player "uses" (takes a shot, turns the ball over, etc.). A perfectly even distribution would be 20% (five players on a court at a time). Percentage of minutes played is a simple fraction of playing time from the total team's minutes. That's it for now, if you want a better definition of those terms, Ken Pomeroy provides as always.
Notre Dame- Offensive Rating/Percentage of Possessions/Percentage of Minutes
Luke Harangody is clearly the focal point of the offense, using 31% of Notre Dame's possessions. That is the 36th highest percentage nationally and the highest for any player you've actually heard of. He is our force in the post and the number clearly indicates the team's willingness to put the ball inside and let the big man take over. His offensive rating is not as high as one would like, but the shear number of touches he gets helps to lower that (the more times you get the ball, the harder it is to score). In all, he contributes enough to add 24.7 points a game through assists, made baskets, and rebounds.
Mac and Ayers have very high offensive ratings, 123.9 and 127.6 points per 100 possessions. Both are good three point shooters and contribute a lot of points per possession without using a high percentage of the team's chances. Ayers' possession percentage under of 12.8% shows how infrequently he contributes to the offensive output. When he is involved, we usually score, but most of the time Ryan is left on the outside.
Rob Kurz has a great offensive rating and above average contribution percentage, supporting his solid effort on the floor every night. Tory Jackson contributes to 21.3% of the team's possessions through his assists, but has a terrible rating due to poor shooting.
Luke Zeller is the only player whose rating fails to tell the whole story. He gets a lot of points per shot through his three point attempts which artificially raises his offensive rating. Of course, the numbers fail to indicate post defense and other detractors from his game.
Brown- Offensive Rating/Percentage of Possessions/Percentage of Minutes
#20 Huffman- 106.1/20.4%/87.9%
#22 Skrelja- 105.2/19.8%/84.0%
#14 McAndrew- 108.6/26.1%/83.7%
#5 Friske- 99.9/16.6%/66.4%
#45 Mullery- 105.4/12.6%/43.7%
#25 Sullivan- 108.8/17.1%/40.2%
#35 MacDonald- 99.4/34.7%/35.1%
#11 Williams- 100.8/14.4%/32.8%
Huffman, Skrelja, and McAndrew take up a huge chunk of minutes and will play most of the game together. Huffman and McAndrew are the starting senior guards, with McAndrew finishing a quarter of the team's possessions while on the floor. He is the best offensive player on the team, but produces a much lower output than four of Notre Dame's starters.
Matt Mullery is the best scorer in the post, hitting 59% of his two-point shots. However, he is only a sophomore and doesn't get the same opportunities as Brown's experienced backcourt.
Off the bench, Mark MacDonald could see limited playing time but always gives the Bears a high-intensity performance. He missed the last game against Hartford due to injury or suspension and may not be available for tonight's contest. When given the opportunity, however, he shows some senior leadership and controls an extremely high 35% of possessions on the floor.
Overall, Brown is a very slow team, averaging the 300th most (or 42nd fewest) possessions per game. They have managed a 6-4 record with that methodical play and boast an RPI of 109, making them the clear favorites to win the Ivy League. Still, the Irish should have little trouble winning this contest. Brown's next toughest opponent the rest of the way is Baylor on January 8th. Depending on how difficult tonight's game is for Notre Dame, it will be interesting to see how that one plays out.
The Irish should go out and show some better game management than last time. The team was far too sloppy against San Francisco. Hopefully the midweek break for Christmas will leave them rested and ready instead to dominate.
The Pace of a Champion
If you're not into counting, a post-game approximation can be made using the formula
Pace=FGA-OR+TO+0.475xFTA (Thanks to Ken Pomeroy for the equation)
Using Pomeroy's statistics, we can break down the last four national champions in terms of the speed of their game and the efficiency with which they scored.
2007- Florida- 67.1 possessions/40 minutes (154th)
2006- Florida- 68.3 possessions/40 minutes (117th)
2005- North Carolina- 75.7 possessions/40 minutes (3rd)
2004- Connecticut- 69.7 possessions/40 minutes (99th)
Unfortunately, Pomeroy's database only runs through the last four years. Still, we can see that there is little correlation between a team's pace and postseason success. Both Florida teams were in the middle of Division 1 in terms of possessions per game. Of course, that is partially due to returning the top 7 players from '06 to '07. Billy Donovan saw no reason to speed up or slow down the tempo after a national championship year (the slight drop is inconsequential). North Carolina liked to run the ball in 2005, which suited their game. Players like Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants needed to get into the open court to be effective. Roy Williams merely played to their strengths.
If simple pace is not an indicator of success, let's take a look at offensive and defensive efficiency (the amount of points scored per 100 possessions on offense or allowed on defense).
2007- Florida- 118.9/93.0 (1st/14th)
2006- Florida- 114.3/92.4 (2nd/19th)
2005- North Carolina- 116.8/93.2 (3rd/19th)
2004- Connecticut- 112.9/91.6 (10th/7th)
The last three national championship teams have displayed tremendous efficiency on offense, with very good efforts on the defensive end. Though the Tarheels scored more than last year's version of the Gators, Florida was scored more and allowed fewer points per possession than the '05 national champs. Jim Calhoun's squad in 2004 displayed the most balanced rankings, placing top 10 in both categories, while the last three years have produced champions that have been dominant on the offensive end.
If the trend of offensively-minded champions continues, the winner could come from the Big East. Four of the top 10 teams in offensive efficiency (West Virginia, Marquette, Notre Dame, and Georgetown) come from the sixteen team league. The Mountaineers surprisingly look the best so far (1st in offense, 3rd in defense) while Kansas from the Big XII ranks 4th in both categories.
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Changes in San Francisco
Hall of Fame coach Eddie Sutton will take over the helm as interim coach. Sutton has 798 career D1 wins from his days at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and most notably Oklahoma State. He retired after a drunken driving accident and has consistently struggled with alcoholism.
Combined with his wins in high school and at the University of Southern Idaho, Sutton boasts over 1,000 career victories. Best of luck to him and the Dons as they look towards the future.
Big East Bloggers Poll
1) Pittsburgh (10): 234 points
2) Georgetown (4): 222 points
3) Marquette (1): 215 points.
4) West Virginia: 189 points.
5) Villanova: 182 points.
6) Connecticut: 138 points.
7) Notre Dame: 134 points.
8) Providence: 133 points.
9) Louisville: 132 points.
10) Syracuse: 130 points.
11) Seton Hall: 97 points.
12) South Florida: 74 points.
13) St. John's: 59 points.
14) Rutgers: 41 points.
15) DePaul: 32 points.
16) Cincinnati: 28 points.
Player of the Week: Levance Fields, Pittsburgh.
Freshman of the Week: Dejuan Blair, Pittsburgh.
St. Stephen's Day
I'll be on the road until Friday, so expect some limited posting until then. My apologies, but this should give you some more time with the family instead of waiting anxiously for the next Black and Green post throughout the holiday season. Safe travels to anyone who is doing that as well.
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Give us some money to bury the wren.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas to All
As for today, enjoy the holiday everyone. Hope you all travel safely and have a wonderful Christmas.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Big East Ballot- Week 6
A few comments before this week's ballot. Last season, the Irish trailed at halftime and struggled throughout before eventually defeating 2-5 Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks finished the season 10-19 with a first round loss in the Patriot League Tournament. Notre Dame, of course, rebounded to defeat Maryland and Alabama in the next ten days and the rest is history. Just an interesting historical note for anyone discouraged by last night's performance.
In addition, I have purchased Basketball on Paper by Dean Oliver. Looking forward to some good Christmas reading. Special thanks to the man I sat with at the game last night, a frequent reader of this blog, whose financial contribution made the book's purchase easier. A very merry Christmas to him.
- Pittsburgh- Beat Duke, watch the Hoyas lose, move into the top slot
- Marquette- Lost to Duke by 4, beat a ranked opponent, climb over Georgetown
- Georgetown- First sign of weakness in their first real contest of the season
- West Virginia
- Notre Dame
- Seton Hall
- South Florida
- St. John's
Freshman of the Week- DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh
Robinson earned his award with a 32 point, 11 rebounds performance against Maine. Blair was excellent (15 points, 20 boards) before fouling out in the big win over Duke.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Notre Dame 84, San Francisco 76
It was obvious that the Irish had been off for two weeks. After a great opening 15 minutes of inspired play and hustle, Notre Dame slogged to the finish. We neither played poorly enough to put the outcome seriously in doubt or well enough to get out of the eight-man rotation.
It was nice to see Tory Jackson back. He injured his elbow in the last contest before finals, but came out of the gate with a vengeance today. Always looking to run, Jackson was creative in transition and led to several fast break points. He did make a few mistakes as he is prone to do, but finished with 15 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds in his best overall game of the year. Did turn the ball over six times, but was the spark behind the Irish offense when things were going well.
Kyle McAlarney started hot as the Irish got off to a big early lead, but only finished with 14 points on 3 of 10 shooting. Was solid from the charity stripe, making 6 of 7, but the Dons successfully took him out of the picture for extended periods on offense. Probably the least effective 37 minutes he has played this season, though it is not all his fault. The team as a whole will need to do a better job getting him open looks against Big East competition.
Ryan Ayers finished with only 9 points on 3-8 from the field. 3 rebounds, nothing else. With Mac being held to a poor shooting night, we need Ryan to step it up and get those points from the outside.
Luke Harangody carried the team tonight. 23 points, 10 rebounds while having half the San Francisco team on his back the whole night. Really poor officiating contributed to the lackluster performance somewhat. The Dons were able to hack Bamm-Bamm down low with impunity, leading to some failed possessions. They did rack up 24 fouls for the game, but many more could have been called.
Rob Kurz quietly did his job once again. 12 points, 8 rebounds. Nothing flashy, but everything he did was needed tonight.
Zach Hillesland contributed 8 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. Jonathan Peoples had two assists without turning the ball over. Coach Brey experimented with a three guard lineup a little bit: Mac, Jackson, and Peoples. While it gives the team a little more speed and agility on defense, it takes away too much from our attack. Luke Zeller had a rebound and missed a three point attempt.
Overall, the Irish looked like a team that hadn't played in a while. You always want to crush these cupcakes, but San Francisco played well and we just didn't lay it all out there tonight. There need to be some adjustments, but I wouldn't be too concerned about the future. Shoot 46%, turn the ball over 14 times, and you should just be happy with the win tonight.
A couple comments about the coaching. Coach Brey has a ton of confidence in his team's ability to fix problems by themselves. While that is encouraging, it should not be overdone. He could have called timeouts when the lead got close, but counted on his leaders to take control and calm things down. Personally, I have to think that he would have been more proactive against a better opponent. He knew the on-court lessons would be important for later and was satisfied with an eight point win provided it helps the team down the road. Similarly, he stayed primarily in man-to-man defense against a terrible perimeter shooting team. Though most coaches would switch to a zone look to cut down on drives to the basket, Brey counted on his players to stop the Don players one-on-one. While this may have contributed to San Francisco getting back in the contest, the hope is that the players will build the confidence and self-reliance to win close games down the road. That's the theory, at least.
A week until the next game against Brown. I have plenty of confidence that the team will come back and look forward to another big win after Christmas. Until then...
Statistical Preview of Today's Game
Doing that research for the earlier post inspired me to look up a few more statistics, this time about the Irish.
Projected Record- 22-8 (12-6)
68.5 Possessions/40 Minutes
Offensive Efficiency- 118.1 (7th)
Defensive Efficeincy- 88.7 (32nd)
Projected Record- 9-20 (5-9)
71.7 Possessions/40 Minutes
Offensive Efficiency- 97.3 (220th)
Defensive Efficeincy- 106.3 (256th)
For basketball junkies and statheads, this is fun to look at. However, you'll have to read Dean Oliver's book understand half of what this means (i'm going to Barnes and Noble today).
Basically, Notre Dame is playing very well. San Francisco is not. In fact, the Irish are much better than anyone really thought (outside of the Pit). Except for the two losses (against teams currently in the RPI top 70), Notre Dame has dismantled inferior opponents by an average of 26 points per game. Compare that to Georgetown (who lacks a win over an opponent the likes of Kansas State), who has a similar average margin of victory (22) against a schedule ranked 206 places lower.
No, the two losses were not fun. No, the Irish don't have another chance at a quality win until 2008, but the tournament picture is still very much intact. If the Pomeroy projection is solid (as it usually is) at 22-8, Notre Dame will be dancing once again with a better seeding than last season. That's something to look forward to.
Breaking Down The Top Five
I am very happy to see Legion go somewhere else. It's a good situation for him, but more importantly (to me, at least) a better situation for us. I truly believed from the beginning that signing Legion would be a mistake. First of all, this Irish squad has some of the best chemistry of any team in the conference. Anything that could possibly detract from the unified feeling we have now should be avoided.
Secondly, the team is already set for next season. With only one senior this year, four of the starting five will be back and one (Zach Hillesland) looks set to move into the lineup. In addition, players like Peoples, Zeller, and Nash will all earn extended minutes off the ench next year. Legion is not coming here to watch basketball. He wants to go pro and the only way to do that is to get loads of playing time in college. If he came here and sat, nothing good would come of it.
Finally, the system in Illinois suits Legion much better. The Irish have a good offense right now, based around solid inside play with Harangody and good perimeter shooting in K-Mac and Ayers. Illinois has a guard-based offense and only two underclassmen in the backcourt, giving Legion the opportunity to play right away and be the future of the team.
Best of luck to Alex as he continues his career with the Illini. Looking at the current high school junior class, it appears Coach Brey will have some talent to choose from to replace whatever we may have lost in the Legion sweepstakes. No reason to feel any less confident about the future. Time to get back to basketball now.
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
Six weeks in, let's take a look at the national championship picture, specifically the top 5 teams in the AP poll.
- North Carolina- 10-0
- Memphis 9-0
- Kansas- 11-0
- Texas- 11-0
- Georgetown- 8-0
How accurate are the rankings before Christmas? Three of the five teams made the Final Four last year, with 5th ranked (in December) Florida defeating #3 Ohio State for the National Championship.
Last Season- December 18 (March 12/Tournament Finish)
- UCLA- 9-0 (7th/Final Four)
- North Carolina- 8-1 (4th/Elite Eight)
- Ohio State- 9-1 (1st/Runner-up)
- Wisconsin- 11-1 (6th/2nd Round)
- Florida- 9-2 (3rd/National Champion)
Fast forward to December 2007. Which of these five teams has the makings of a champion? Who looks to fall early, like Wisconsin of a year ago?
North Carolina- RPI- 14
The Tarheels are 10-0 and projected to finish the season 24-7 by Ken Pomeroy. Two notable wins for UNC include at Ohio State and on a neutral floor against BYU. Still, this team hasn't completely been tested yet, playing only the 135th strongest schedule in the country.
Memphis -RPI- 4
The Tigers have played the 53rd toughest schedule in the country, giving their undefeated record more credence than North Carolina. They play very good defense, the 5th toughest based on raw efficiency. In addition, Memphis likes to play an untempo game, averaging 74 possessions a contest. This has served them well against inferior opponents, but without a tough conference schedule to play through, you have to question whether this team will be ready come tournament time. The next two games against Georgetown and Arizona could boost their chances or highlight some serious problems.
Kansas- RPI- 13
Like North Carolina, Kansas has enjoyed some cupcakes early, playing the 128th ranked schedule so far. Other than an overtime win over Arizona, the Jayhawks have avoided playing any team in the top 40 of the RPI. Still, their efficiency on both sides of the ball has been terrific, 12th on offense and 3rd on defense. With only two really tough opponents down the road (at Texas and Texas A&M), Pomeroy projects the Jayhawks to finish 29-2.
Texas- RPI- 5
What about Texas, then? The Longhorns have prevailed against a 61st ranked schedule so far and face some challenges down the road. On offense, this is the best team in the land, with 123 points scored per 100 possessions. However, the defense is what causes some worry. Giving up 87 to New Mexico State and 81 to Texas State can be overlooked when both resulted in double digit wins. However, as Texas faces a tough schedule down the road with Wisconsin, Michigan State, St. Mary's, Texas A&M (twice), and Kansas, the Longhorns will need to be much improved on defense if they want to stay in the hunt for a one seed.
Georgetown- RPI- 96
As far as strength of schedule goes, the Hoyas are the most overrated team in the top 5. Playing the 327th ranked schedule in the nation, Georgetown has stayed undefeated by playing efficiently on both ends of the ball. 4th on offense and 10th on defense, Georgetown could be the sleeper of these five teams. However, they will need to keep up the good play against difficult opponents. Today's game against Memphis is an important gut-check opportunity.
So where are we? None of the squads have separated themselves from the pack so far. However, with Georgetown's methodical style of play, ability to grind out games against every type of opponent, and anchor in 7'2" Roy Hibbert down low, I have to give the early nod to the Hoyas, followed by Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis, and Texas.
Friday, December 21, 2007
San Francisco Preview
On to Saturday's opponent. Playing a Jesuit university should make for good fare no matter the opponent. The alma mater of Pete Rozelle plays in the West Coast Conference with #18 Gonzaga and previously ranked St. Mary's. The Dons won back to back national titles in 1955 and 1956 and claim 15 NCAA tournament appearances (but only one in the last 25 years).
San Francisco has played two major opponents so far this year. The season opener was a 71-55 loss to Oklahoma followed two weeks later by a 31 point defeat to the Oregon Ducks. In both contests, the Dons kept their turnovers pretty low but had few assists to contrast them. They were outclassed on the boards by the Ducks 39-27 and the Sooners 35-31. San Francisco is horrid from beyond the arc, only hitting 7 of 40 attempts in those two games and giving up 7.5 more made baskets to their opponents with a similar number of attempts.
Sophomore forward #33 Dior Lowhorn is the top scorer, averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds a game. #10 Manny Quezada can rack up a good number of assists from the shooting guard slot, but also turns it over in bunches. He averages 17 points, 4 assists, and 5.5 turnovers a game. 12 of those turnovers came in one contest against UC Irvine. Freshman #13 Myron Strong seems to be taking over more ballhandling responsibility and averages 14 points and 4 assists a game. #41 Danny Cavic rounds out the list of frequent starters. He'll play on the wing.
#0 Hyman Taylor started down low last game, but has only played more than 20 minutes twice this season. #23 James Morgan will rotate in and out with Taylor in the post. Christian Hernandez and Dean Hadley will also get some minutes, but 7 footer Jared Casey will probably sit this one out.
With the top four players averaging 30+ minutes a game and no one else over 14, this will be a interesting exercise in bench depth. It's not often that Coach Brey uses his starters less frequently than the opposing coach.
Shouldn't be too much trouble, but we need to come out focused and put the Dons away early.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
What's On TV
We some good basketball on tap the next few days. Tonight is Pitt/Duke. The Blue Devils were winning by 12 at half, so hopefully Pitt can get back into this one. Saturday at noon will be a great shootout at Memphis, as the Tigers play host to Georgetown. If the Hoyas can pull out the victory and Notre Dame has no trouble with San Francisco, the Irish will end the day with the 2nd longest active home win streak in the nation. BYU keeps chugging along and shouldn't have any trouble tomorrow night as they look to take over the #1 slot if Memphis loses.
The bowl season kicks off tonight with Utah and Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl. If you're into college football no matter the quality, might as well turn the tv onto ESPN while around the family for the holidays. Of course, Notre Dame fans can't really complain after the year the football team's had.
Tomorrow I'll break down the Dons of San Francisco (insert Godfather quote here). Hope you're enjoying the last few days of work or class. Christmas is just around the corner.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Around the Country
Other games in the conference today include South Florida losing to Wake Forest and West Virginia defeating Radford. Last night, Georgia Tech nearly pulled off an upset against #3 Kansas, shaving a double digit deficit to two with ten seconds to play. The Jayhawks eventually came away with the win, but the Yellow Jackets are back to respectability after dropping off the national landscape with losses to Indiana and Vanderbilt. While they need to play better in the ACC to deserve a tournament bid, it's nice to see such a prominent program like Kansas struggle against one of the two teams that have defeated the Irish this year. Baylor, meanwhile, has lost only one game, a three point nail biter to #6 Washington State. Here's to both the Bears and Yellow Jackets earning NCAA selections by March.
Notre Dame is back in action Saturday against San Francisco. If you need to watch a game before then, check out Duke at Pittsburgh tomorrow at 7 on ESPN. The Panthers look to remain unbeaten and get their first marquee nonconference win of the year.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Dick Vitale and Alex Legion
"P.S.: If you want to lend me a helping hand, go to dickvitaleonline.com and during this holiday season, help me assist kids that are battling cancer by making a donation to the V Foundation in memory of Payton Wright. You can send a check in care of the V Foundation and mail it to Tandem Enterprises, 7810 Mathern Court, Lakewood Ranch, Fla. 34202. Or you can call (800) 4-JIMMYV and please indicate that your donation is in memory of Payton Wright."
God bless him and his family as he recovers.
In other news, Alex Legion appears to be transferring to Notre Dame, per his mother. I've previously stated that I hope Coach Brey is cautious about this player, since we have such great chemistry with the team already. However, as long as he works hard and plays nice, Legion could be an exciting addition to the squad. We will see.
For those unacquainted with the 6'4" guard from Oak Hill Academy, I spoke with a writer at the Kentucky blog aseaofblue.com and he gave me a great analysis of the young man. Some notes from his e-mail:
- Very good midrange shooter
- Average from three-point range with a low arc to his shot
- Weak defensively
- Good ball handling, but just average passing ability
- Not big enough for the three, but needs to develop more range to be a strong shooting guard
- Very good at looking for his own shot and has quick release
Maturity and Personality-
- May not take tough coaching well, split with Coach Gillispie (not to be confused with Billy Gillespie) after some harsh words
- Very intelligent, but somewhat immature (take that for what you will, he is only 19)
- Has a bit of an overbearing mother. She is very religious and may or may not believe herself to be a prophet. She current has no plans to move where Alex goes, however, which could be a huge boost in his growth.
After watching Illinois defeat Western Carolina, Legion plans to visit Notre Dame tomorrow. I certainly hope he has a great trip and chooses the Irish.
In the end, however, best of luck to Alex and his family. Hopefully the next school will fit him.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Big East Bloggers Poll
"Well, to answer your question, THIS is how you score 125 points, beat the other team by 50 and still lose."
Oh, and it seems that lone senior Josh Wright has quit the team. That leaves eight players with scholarships and no upperclassmen. Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene won't be able to save this one. No way the Orange make the tournament this year.
Still, I wouldn't count out a strong recovery next season. There's plenty of talent, just no experience. They'll get plenty of the latter trying to stay afloat in the treacherous waters of the Big East.
This Week's Power Poll for 12/17/2007 (1st place votes in parenthesis):
1) Georgetown (15): 255 pts.
2) Pittsburgh (1): 234 pts.
3) Marquette: 230 pts.
4) Villanova: 201 pts.
5) West Virginia: 190 pts.
6) Connecticut: 166 pts.
7) Notre Dame: 147 pts.
8) Louisville: 138 pts.
9) Syracuse: 133 pts.
10) Providence: 126 pts.
11) Seton Hall: 101 pts.
12) South Florida: 76 pts.
13) St. John's: 70 pts.
14) Rutgers: 52 pts.
15) DePaul: 31 pts.
16) Cincinnati: 26 pts.
"Pitt freshman DeJuan Blair swept the weekly honors, getting the most votes for Player of the Week AND Freshman of the Week. Blair scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in Pittsburgh's 85-68 win against Oklahoma State on Saturday."
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Big East Ballot- Week 5
- West Virginia
- Notre Dame
- St. John's
- Seton Hall
- South Florida
Freshman of the Week- DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh
In a really boring week for Big East basketball, Blair gets both awards from me for his performance against Oklahoma State. Draelon Burns played pretty well in two games for DePaul, but the Blue Demons lost both and are looking pretty terrible right now. Another fabulous freshman, Donte Greene, was excellent in the dismantling of E. Tennessee State. When the team scores 125, it's a little easier to get buckets.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Legion is my name. There are many of us.
Last season, Rivals.com made a list of the top 10 transfers in the country. J.R. Giddens went from Kansas to New Mexico and averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Teammate Aaron Johnson transferred from Penn State and led the Lobos in rebounding. Also from the Land of Enchantment was New Mexico State key defender Fred Peete. Peete was named to the WAC all-defensive team after leaving Kansas State.
This year, former Mississippi State forward Walter Sharpe is impressing for the UAB Blazers, scoring 14 points and grabbing 7.4 rebounds a game. His teammate Robert Vaden came from Indiana to play alongside Sharpe and help the Blazers to seven early wins this season. At South Carolina, two Mr. Basketball awardees came home to help the Gamecocks this season. Guards Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick came from Cincinnati and Georgia Tech to average 34 points and eight assists a game between them this season.
What caused these transfers? For the South Carolina twosome, it was all about playing at home. "I am excited to be back home and playing in the home state. It won't be such a stretch for anyone to come see me play anymore," said Fredrick. Walter Sharpe's decision to leave Mississippi State for Birmingham came after some turmoil that saw teammates Gary Ervin and Jerrell Houston also leave the school. Sharpe had some academic struggles that held him out of his freshman year for the Bulldogs. Vaden followed Coach Mike Davis to UAB.
While some programs shy away from accepting transfers, both UAB and South Carolina have improved their squads through this player movement. The reasons for transferring, however, were quite different. Mike Davis added academic liabilities in Sharpe and Channing Toney and a loyal pupil in Vaden. South Carolina's transfers were highly talented players who got homesick.
How does this relate to Alex Legion? His desire to leave the program so early is pretty discouraging to coaches who might be interested in receiving his services. As the ESPN analysts noted during the UAB-Kentucky game today, a very good one-on-one interview would be needed before Mike Brey or Bruce Weber decide to bring Legion to South Bend or Champaign. Like how Davis trusted Vaden and Sharpe enough to give the two players the opportunity to become his team's top scorers, coaches who accept transfers must balance the risk of immaturity against a chance of increased talent when adding new players to the program.
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Around the Country
In Big East games earlier in the week, Rutgers struggled a bit with the winless New Jersey Institute of Technology yesterday, pulling out a 10 point victory. On Wednesday, conference bottomfeeders DePaul and Cincinnati nearly defeated top 25 teams in Vanderbilt and Xavier. Cincinnati lost by 5 and the Blue Demons took Vanderbilt into overtime before eventually falling.
Tomorrow, the conference gets back into action with eight teams playing. Two big games on tap are Louisville vs. Purdue in the Wooden Classic in Indy and Pittsburgh playing host to Oklahoma State. The Louisville game will be on CBS at 3:30 while the Pitt game precedes it at noon on ESPN.
Tomorrow will be another blog post on Basketballforum.com and next week should offer more news in the world of college hoops. Congrats to the college students for wrapping up finals.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
You can find the list of players mentioned in the report here. The full text is available here (409 pages... don't try to finish it in one sitting). A list of recommendations from the report is found here. ESPN has done a surprisingly good job breaking down the latest news.
That's it for today. Hopefully tomorrow I can find something basketball-related for you to chew on. Happy Thursday.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Harangody and McAlarney Getting Some Love
The Irish big man has been getting some national press lately. Clark Kellogg listed Bamm-Bamm as one of his top 9 sophomores on December 6th. Luke was the only Big East player broken down, though Syracuse's Paul Harris and Villanova's Scottie Reynolds were listed as honorable mentions. He's also gotten some play on national blogs, including being called the "Dancing Bear."
Luke is not the only Notre Dame player who is quickly becoming famous. NYCNJhoops.com ran a nice long article on the Staten Island native after the Kansas State game. K-Mac was on the Big East Honor Roll last week following wins over Colgate and Eastern Michigan.
There are two games including the Big East tonight. So far (13 min left in the 2nd half), 4-4 Cincinnati is playing #17 Xavier tough. The Musketeers are up a basket. 2-3 DePaul has a home game against #21 Vanderbilt. Two of the worst teams in the Big East playing top 25 squads. If one or both of those teams can pull of the upset, it would go a long way to make up for a disappointing nonconference season so far.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Undrafted Irish Breaking into the Pro Ranks
Also, Darius Walker saw his first action with the Houston Texans over the weekend. Projected as a possible first day pick, Walker left a year early and went undrafted. The running back was the first undrafted free agent to be signed, but was cut by the Texans during training camp. He eventually landed on Houston's practice squad and worked his way up after injuries to the top backs. He only gained 46 yards on 16 carries against Tampa Bay, but coach Gary Kubiak said he likes the improvement Darius has made this year. With Walker, Green Bay's Ryan Grant, and Dallas' Julius Jones, the last three Notre Dame starting running backs have spent time as their respective teams' feature backs this year. New nickname for Notre Dame: Runningback U.
Thanks to Chris and Darius for their contributions to the University while they attended. Both are top of the line athletes and even better people. Notre Dame is blessed to have such great gentlemen playing at the next level.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Big East Bloggers Poll
2) Marquette: 257 pts.
3) Pittsburgh: 256 pts.
4) Villanova: 226 pts.
5) Louisville: 214 pts.
6) West Virginia: 206 pts.
7) Connecticut: 165 pts.
8) Syracuse: 153 pts.
9) Notre Dame: 144 pts.
10) Providence: 131 pts.
11) Seton Hall: 123 pts.
12) St. John's: 81 pts.
13) South Florida: 70 pts.
14) Rutgers: 56 pts.
15) DePaul: 48 pts.
16) Cincinnati: 30 pts.
"South Florida's freshman Dominique Jones swept the weekly honors, getting the most votes for Player of the Week AND Freshman of the Week. Jones scored 30 points in a road win at Richmond and 25 more in a home win over UAB for the Bulls this past week. The Bulls have won seven in a row after starting the year 0-3 under new coach Stan Heath."
Good for Jones, he certainly deserved both awards. Finals result in a pretty light schedule this week... not a lot of top 25 teams in action. Oh, well... I'll have to find some way to amuse you all.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Big East Ballot- Week 4
- West Virginia
- Notre Dame
- St. John's
- Seton Hall
- South Florida
Player of the Week- John Garcia- Seton Hall
Freshman of the Week- Dominique Jones- South Florida
The Irish rise in the rankings with two big wins. The victory over Kansas State gives them a quality win that most of their fellow Big East squads lack. Losses from other top teams help them rise to #7. Jones coulda shoulda been the Player of the Week, but hopefully my FotW vote will suffice.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Notre Dame 108, Northern Illinois 62
Everyone got involved for significant minutes and scored tonight. Charlie Weis and fourt-star recruit Dan McCarthy were in attendance as well. I believe Tyler Zeller was at the game as well, but he's North Carolina bound, so forget about him.
Tory Jackson was sidelined with a bruised elbow after playing just 11 minutes early in the game. He had four points and four assists against two turnovers while on the floor. Should be fine with two weeks to rest and recover before the next game.
Kyle McAlarney was on fire to start the game. Made his first four three pointers and got the Irish off to a very fast start. 1 assist and 2 rebounds in just 27 minutes of play.
Ryan Ayers had his most impressive all-around offensive game yet. 11 points and four rebounds with three assists in 19 minutes. Looked impressive calling for the ball and running the floor. Hopefully he can continue playing like he did tonight.
Luke Harangody only played 21 minutes with such a large margin of victory. He still managed a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Looked like he was playing volleyball when he kept tipping the ball in the air a few times trying to nab a board. It's great to see that kind of effort, but a little better blocking out would get the job done easier.
Rob Kurz played less than half the game, but racked up 17 points and 6 rebounds. He had to sit a little with 3 fouls, but I don't like to see him and Harangody on the bench together. Zach Hillesland is developing into a good power forward, but he needs another body down low (don't tell me he has Luke Zeller...).
Off the bench, Hillesland had eight points and five rebounds in 16 minutes. Four assists and three steals complete a great overall night for Zach.
Jonathan Peoples had eight points and four assists in 20 minutes replacing Tory Jackson after halftime. Very good overall game, even showed the ability to drive to the basket every once in a while. Definitely a solid player to have in the backcourt.
Luke Zeller had another good game. Six points on two of four shooting and five rebounds. Maybe my comment about Zeller not being a post player is a bit unfair with Luke's solid rebounding effort, but I still like him better on the perimeter. He always gives you 100% and its nice to see him with a little more product to go with the effort.
Ty Nash with his best game yet. Six points and five rebounds off three of three shooting in 18 minutes. Should have had double figures scoring, but missed all his foul shots. That left-handed stroke is pretty ugly from the line. Other than that, however, we saw plenty tonight to encourage Coach Brey to give Nash more playing time.
Tim Abromaitis also had a very nice game. Seven points and three rebounds in 13 minutes. Finished off an alley-oop from Hillesland and showed a little range with a second half three-pointer.
Ty Proffitt was the third scholarship freshman to play double figure minutes. A three-pointer, two rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He could be a guy to watch in the future. After Tory Jackson graduates, someone will need to run the point. Proffitt certainly looks ready to make himself a valuable part of the team.
Walkon Tim Andree with six minutes. Two points, three rebounds in little more than mopup time. Still, great to see a guy like that tget the opportunity to play.
Our other walkon Tom Kopko is a guy I really like. He could have grabbed a scholarship at some nice mid-major schools, but wanted to play for Notre Dame. The Chicago native received the biggest ovation of the night after his first basket broke the century mark for the Irish. Also finished with a nice three pointer. Seems like a really good guy and you have to cheer for him.
The only other guy on the roster, Carleton Scott, is redshirting and will not play this season.
Wow, never thought I'd write a paragraph review of every single player on the team. Nice to see so much involvement for the bench players.
Obviously, a great outcome. Especially nice since there was no letdown after Tuesday's big win. The team shot 62% for the game, 72% in the first half. 56% shooting from beyond the arc. Outrebounded N. Illinois 52 to 27 and finished with 27 assists to just 11 turnovers. The fast pace of the game allowed the Huskies to score a little more in the second half. Still, the defense held NIU to 34% shooting for the game. Switching from zone and man to the half-court trap mixed up the pressure and slowed Northern Illinois down.
So, two weeks off... We'll keep up the posting, but it will cover more national competition and analyse the statistics from Notre Dame's first nine games. Speaking of college hoops around the country, #3 Kansas took down DePaul and #15 Marquette beat #23 Wisconsin. Other ranked games included #22 BYU's loss to Michigan State. I don't believe this will break the Cougars' home winning streak, since it was at the Utah Jazz's home court, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Dayton ruined Rick Pitino's hope for win #500 as the 11th ranked Cardinals fell at home. There have been some rumors about a possible home-and-home series between the Irish and the Flyers, but I certainly would be wary of such a contract. Dayton's home atmosphere is great and they demonstrated today that they know how to win on the road as well.
Good way to finish off a Saturday. Have a nice weekend...
Anatomy of a Streak
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
As the Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to break the school record for consecutive home wins, one pauses to reflect on winning streaks and "home court advantage" in general. Currently the fourth longest home winning streak in basketball at 24 (trailing Memphis (36), Brigham Young (35), and Wisconsin (28), the Irish have played in front of crowds well short of capacity throughout the majority of the run. Averaging only 9,404 fans last season (in a 11,418 seat arena), Notre Dame games sometimes have little more life than the county morgue. Compare that to the top three current home streaks: Memphis had 14,866 fans a game last year (capacity of 19,000 in the arena shared with NBA's Memphis Grizzlies), BYU averaged 11,069 (22,700 seat Marriott Center, 4th largest college basketball arena) and Wisconsin ended the year with 17,142 a game (17,190 seat arena). Memphis and Brigham Young fail to impress with their crowd support. While both bring solid numbers to their games, the number of open seats hurts atmosphere and calls into question a team's "home-field advantage." Wisconsin, on the other hand, certainly relies on loud crowds to keep winning home games.
Ease of competition is a plus. Last season, Memphis played only two major conference opponents at home, Mississippi (58th RPI) and Cinncinnati (174). Neither provided much competition. Then, the Tigers cruised through an inferior CUSA season to finish the year undefeated at home. BYU similarly had very little home competition. Though they played UCLA and Michigan St. on the road, the Cougars used a 13-3 overall conference record and easy nonconference schedule to roll through the year unblemished at the Marriott Arena. Wisconsin's home slate included #2 Pittsburgh and #5 Ohio State. Four games were decided by five points or less. Notre Dame also played some talented teams during its unbeaten run last year, defeating #4 Alabama and #21 West Virginia.
Parity in college basketball has lessened the amount of winning streaks in recent decades. Since 1984, only one of the top 12 home court winning streaks has been set. In the 1960s and 70s, seven of the current longest streaks were completed, ranging up to nearly 100 games and six full seasons. To crack the top 10, Memphis would have to nearly double its current streak, as Arizona holds the 10th best mark with 71 straight home wins.
What do these four teams have in common that make them so successful at home? While BYU and Memphis play in conferences with some teams much lower on the talent scale, Notre Dame and Wisconsin have conference opponents all over the Top 25. Both had to defeat top 5 teams to continue their string of success at home. One school boasts a top 10 attendence average, but the other continually lacks full home support. What binds these teams together to their shared runs of home success? As Notre Dame forward Zach Hillesland said, "It's a level of comfort. We really have a fun time playing in here." Fans from four different schools, great and small, hope their players can continue having fun, as Memphis, Brigham Young, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame look to continue their current home success.
Friday, December 07, 2007
He'll Also Tell the Teacher on You...
Before I get started, let me first say that people are human. We all make mistakes. We all deserve second chances. We also shouldn't take pleasure in someone else's pain. Unless that person is Doug Gottlieb, ESPN analyst and champion of the fourth grade insult contest.
(Note that this is a real ESPN chat. Gottlieb has the option to accept or ignore every question he receives.)
Mike Indiana: How did your mediocre basketball career prepare you for a mediocre broadcasting career?
Doug Gottlieb: (4:04 PM ET ) So your mediocre life can prepare you for a mediocre afterlife...and by the way, which one of us works for ESPN... hey and next time...when I you say 30 minutes or less....get here on time with my pizza.
Right... Bragging that one works at the worldwide leader does nothing to spare you the label of "mediocre". Just look at Bob Davie. Heck, even being a Hall of Famer doesn't make you a great analyst.
John (Notre Dame): Doug, I lost my credit card, where were you last night?
SportsNation Doug Gottlieb: (4:27 PM ET ) Ask your mom.
Referring of course to how Mr. Gottlieb left Notre Dame. Referencing the chatter's mother was a nice touch.
Johns Mom (Notre Dame): GOTTLIEB I KNOW YOU STOLE MY SON'S CREDIT CARD! SportsNation Doug Gottlieb: (4:34 PM ET ) Ten years ago I made a mistake...and payed for it...18 years ago YOU WERE your parents mistake and they are still paying for it.
Ooh, maturity. That's a great way to convince "Sportsnation" of your reformed ways.
That Gottlieb felt the need to respond to these questioners speaks volumes about the number of people who cared enough to spend their time chatting with the former USBL guard.
The man deserves a chance to reform his life, but this was just too good to pass by. Way to stick it to your naysayers, Douggie!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Northern Illinois is certainly not the most impressive opponent we will face this year. Ok, they're bad. Real bad. After beating Air Force, the Huskies are 2-6. Double digit losses to the likes of Stephen F. Austin, Cal Poly, and Indiana State don't do much for your self-esteem. Hopefully the Irish will come out inspired to play and make this a blowout.
South Carolina is looking to ruin the Big East's chances of a sweep in the Big East/SEC showdown. They're up eleven over Providence at the time of this writing. Other than that and LSU/Villanova, the Big East slate is pretty empty tonight.
No new Office on NBC tonight. You could stay up and watch the 'Nova game at 9:30, or just catch some Z's. Sorry I can't help you out more than that. Take it easy.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
A couple matchups in the Big East/SEC "Showdown". Georgetown is having some trouble with Alabama at the half. The Tide have shown very little so far this year, losing to a very good Texas A&M team and a very bad Belmont squad. West Virginia and Auburn to follow tonight.
Tomorrow pits Providence and South Carolina followed by Villanova vs. LSU. Not extremely promising, but they are still opportunities to see our conference foes on national TV.
Other than that, it's a pretty bland day. Enjoy the snow if you're a northerner. As we all know, it just might be gone by Christmas.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Notre Dame 68, Kansas St. 59
I have some cleaning up to do after this game. Close televised contests are not good for the living room. Thankfully no one was injured this time.
What a gutsy performance by Luke Harangody tonight. With all the focus on Michael Beasley, Bamm-Bamm looked the highly touted frosh in the eye and simply outplayed him. 19 points, 14 rebounds for our workhorse down low. Luke carried the team on his back through a poor first half of shooting and kept up the intensity the whole game.
Kyle McAlarney used a strong second half to keep the Irish ahead and make his friends and family proud. With 200 some acquaintances in attendance, Mac scored 18 points and made 2 of his 4 three pointers. At the end of the game, Kyle's strong ball-handling and foul shooting were necessary to keep the Wildcats from making any late runs.
Tory Jackson showed some flashes of the BET game against Georgetown. A few times late in the second half, he tried to carry the team on his shoulders with fearless drives to the hoop. While the attempts were sometimes unsuccessful, it's great to see the young man take that kind of responsibility. We also needed to make some better opportunities down the stretch so he wouldn't have to work so hard (the Irish went 4+ straight minutes with no points in the second half). He certainly has plenty of courage, getting knocked two rows deep into the stands at the end of the game (on a terrible no-call... the officiating was unbelievably bad at some points, but we won so I'll let it slide) and bouncing back up to celebrate the win. Turned the ball over too much (assist and turnover totals were unavailable on ESPN.com at the time of writing... Gametracker is much more reliable) and had some poor shooting, but a very inspiring performance overall.
Rob Kurz was a bit quiet, 6 points and 5 rebounds. With his frontcourt-mate playing so well, he was a little forgotten. Did make 60% of the shots he took. Quiet game and didn't post his normal numbers. Still, Bamm-Bamm more than made up for the Senior's deficiencies tonight.
Ryan Ayers took some ill-advised shots that ended possessions much too soon. Only 5 points on 2-7 shooting, but came up with a great deflection near the end that forced Kansas St. to resort to fouling. He does provide good wing defense, but needs to be more reliable from deep. A low shooting night overall though, so fair play to him.
Hillesland didn't score, but was a beast on the boards. 6 rebounds, including 4 offensive. Matched up well when asked against Walker and Beasley and provided overall hustle and muscle. Definitely our best post player off the bench.
Zeller came through on some key threes tonight. 2 of 4 from deep for 6 points. Those buckets kept the Irish ahead in key spots. Provided very little down low, but we certainly could have lost without those two clutch shots. That's his best attribute, so Coach Brey needs to just take advantage of that outside ability. It's starting to get a little late for counting on him to develop as an inside threat.
Jonny Peoples was the same as usual, quality time at the guard spot. Nothing flashy, just a very good minutes eater. Did get a little action on the wing with Mac and Jackson in the backcourt, but certainly not something we will see more often. Not a great scoring threat, missing 3 long range attempts.
No freshmen tonight. The veterans certainly played hard all game and deserved their minutes. No one looked tired at the end of the game, so the eight-man rotation worked well enough.
The zone was very effective for stretches of the game, holding K-State to 39%. Four more rebounds for the Irish, but they did give up too many tip-in opportunities through the zone. Though ND had more offensive boards, many of those came three or four in a row. Kansas State used their offensive rebounds to put the ball in the basket.
Poor shooting, only 39%. Did pick it up in the second half, as K-Mac started to heat up. Still, the Irish missed too many threes (only 25%) and tried to get cute against the zone, leading to last second drives that commonly failed. Overall, it is a good sign to beat a quality team when we don't shoot well. The Irish lived by the three last season and probably could not have won a game like this a year ago. Held the Wildcats to 25 second-half points, making up for scoring only 32 points in the period.
A great win for this team and much deserved. For a squad with so much promise entering the Paradise Jam, they certainly stepped to the plate tonight. Add in a quality win (cheer for K-State to play well the rest of the year) against our toughest nonconference opponent and it seems that the season is back on track. As long as the Irish hold serve at home until January, Notre Dame can feel confident about an NCAA bid once again.
Congrats to Luke, Kyle, and all the players tonight. A job well done playing at "home" in the Garden. Let's break the home winning streak record Saturday.
Kansas St. Halftime
"MICHAEL BEASLEY IS THE #1 PICK IN THE NBA DRAFT RIGHT NOW. O.J. MAYO AND DERRICK ROSE WILL COMPETE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE DOUBLE HEADER. THREE OF THE NATION'S BEST FRESHMEN IN ONE NIGHT!!!!!
Notre Dame will play some basketball, as well."
Not to be confused with an informed sports channel, the Worldwide Leader not only featured SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris mispronouncing Kyle McAlarney's name, but proudly displayed a graphic that incorrectly listed Luke Harangody's stats over the past three games. Good luck finding an ESPN employee besides Digger and Dick Vitale who know more about Notre Dame than "Harangody is big" and "McAlarney was suspended last year."
So, I'm stretching it a little. Anyways, Bamm-Bamm has helped the Irish overcome very poor first half shooting with a double-double. He is clearly outplaying the much-hyped Beasley so far. ND let the Wildcats back in the game after jumping out to a fast start. Need to build the lead right away and stop the foolishness (including a tip-in for Kansas St. with no Wildcat players within 10 feet of the ball).
Dick Vitale is definitely earning more of my respect tonight, however. No matter what you think about the man, he certainly knows his basketball. His knowledge of this Notre Dame team is much greater than anyone else involved in the broadcast. He knows the little details about all the players, including the subs, and has given credit where it is due without hopping on the Beasley bandwagon too much.
Mac needs to start making shots, Tory has to stop turning the ball over, and Harangody must keep the intensity inside. We can win this game.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Big East Bloggers Poll
2) Louisville: 239 pts. Hi: 2nd. Low: 4th.
3) Marquette: 238 pts. Hi: 2nd. Low: 4th.
4) Pittsburgh: 234 pts. Hi: 2nd. Low: 6th.
5) Villanova: 193 pts. Hi: 4th. Low: 8th.
6) Providence: 181 pts. Hi: 4th. Low: 9th.
7) West Virginia: 160 pts. Hi: 5th. Low: 10th.
8) Connecticut: 155 pts. Hi: 5th. Low: 10th.
9) Syracuse: 151 pts. Hi: 5th. Low: 10th.
10) Seton Hall: 122 pts. Hi: 7th. Low: 12th.
11) Notre Dame: 106 pts. Hi: 8th. Low: 12th.
12) St. John's: 79 pts. Hi: 10th. Low: 16th.
13) South Florida: 55 pts. Hi: 12th. Low: 16th.
14) DePaul: 50 pts. Hi: 11th. Low: 16th.
15) Rutgers: 44 pts. Hi: 13th. Low: 16th.
16) Cincinnati: 33 pts. Hi: 12th. Low: 16th.
Player of the Week: Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
Freshman of the Week: Dominique Jones, South Florida
Congratulations to Kyle McAlarney who certainly earned Player of the Week honors. The Irish stay at #11, but gain a few votes. The game tomorrow has the potential to boost their ranking significantly.
Tomorrow is Kansas State at the Garden. Let's hope for a good performance so the Joyce Center record will be set Saturday during a winning streak.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Big East Ballot- Week 3
- West Virginia
- St. John's
- Seton Hall
- Notre Dame
- South Florida
Player of the Week- Kyle McAlarney- Notre DameFreshman of the Week- Jonny Flynn- Syracuse
I'm starting to feel like a homer. The Irish don't move up in my ballot this week, but I voted for a second straight Notre Dame player for Player of the Week. Mac earned this one with two twenty point games this week, guiding the Irish to wins over Colgate and E. Michigan. Let's hope the rest of the bloggers feel the same way and give Kyle the most prestigious honor of Big East Bloggers' PotW.
In other news, congrats to the Irish men's and women's soccer teams as they qualified for the national quarterfinals and semis, respectively. Hopefully one or both of those teams will stay hot and go for the title. Best of luck to them.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Notre Dame 76, Eastern Michigan 65
First, let's take some pleasure in our rival's pain. That's you, Michigan. It appears Les Miles isn't 100% ready to return to Ann Arbor any time soon. In addition, former head basketball coach (as in wasn't good enough to still coach there) Tommy Amaker took his new Harvard squad and beat up on the Wolverines. Mike Brey has to be happy for his former fellow assistant coach at Duke.
To our game, not an overly dominating performance for the Irish. The Eagles hung tough, but never really had any chance of winning. Notre Dame did a good job of staying well ahead of Eastern Michigan, but failed to turn an easy game into a blowout.
Tory Jackson had another poor shooting night. Only 7 points on 3 of 10 from the floor. In addition, 4 assists to 1 turnover. Not overly impressive and would like to see a better performance on Tuesday.
Ryan Ayers played well. 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. He needs to be able to provide that kind of shooting when asked. Great to see him step it up tonight. If he can be another threat from outside and provide good perimeter defense, he will earn his minutes.
Kyle McAlarney is turning into a seriously good shooter. His scoring ability was an afterthought when we lost him last year (the passing and game control seemed more important), but after 21 points and 8 of 10 shooting overall, K-Mac has established himself as the premier scorer on the team. His three point shooting could make Notre Dame forget about Colin Falls in a hurry.
Our rebounding was unsatisfactory today. Kurz had only 7 points and 6 boards. Four assists and three blocks help, but we need bigger numbers in his primary stats.
Luke Harangody had a very good 18 points, but only 7 rebounds. 7-12 from the floor gave ND a scoring threat inside. In fairness, Bamm-Bamm and Kurz only played 25 and 27 minutes, but still should have had better outputs on the boards.
Hillesland helped a little inside. 24 minutes, only 4 points but grabbed 6 rebounds. Pretty quiet in the other statistical categories.
Jonathan Peoples scored 4 points on free throws and dished out 2 assists. Luke Zeller had three points and two rebounds.
We tweaked the lineups a little bit and looked to be getting ready for the big match up with Kansas State on Tuesday. Great shooting allowed the team to play with matchups a little bit, but it certainly would have been nice to pad that margin of victory a little bit.
56% shooting from the field, 63% from three-point land. Only 28 rebounds to Eastern's 26. 18 assists, 9 turnovers. We have the ability to keep that TO number in single digits each game and need to focus on not beating ourselves in the big matchups.
Big, big game against Kansas State at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. The Wildcats are coming off a tough OT loss to Oregon Thursday. If we can get the win there, much of the remaining sting from the Paradise Jam can be soothed.
One Year Rule Leading to More Confidence, Impact for Freshmen
In the first year following the draft restriction, last year's freshman class was notable for two reasons: Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. The #1 recruits at their respective positions, Durant and Oden became instant household names. Durant was one of four first-year starters for the Univeristy of Texas. Averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, Durant received national fame for his efforts, becoming the first freshman to nab several prestigious player of the year awards. Oden averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 boards a game, propelling him to the top of the 2007 NBA Draft.
College coaches were encouraged by Durant and Oden's ability to make such a large impact last season. In addition to those two, great performances by freshmen Mike Conley, D.J. Augustin, and Brandan Wright paved the way for this year's class. Take a look at the stats for Scout.com's top recruits:
- O.J. Mayo- USC- 36.3 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG
- Eric Gordon- Indiana- 34.5 MPG, 27.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG
- Kyle Singler- Duke- 26.6 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG
- Michael Beasley- Kansas State-31.9 MPG, 26.7 PPG, 15.0 RPG
- Kevin Love- UCLA- 29.0 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG
Other players like Donte Greene from Syracuse (20.5 PPG) and Kosta Koufos from Ohio State (16.2 PPG/7.2 RPG) have made this freshman class the deepest in memory. With coaches observing the ability of these freshmen to contribute right away, future first-year players should benefit with more opportunities for playing time.
From 1968-1970, Pistol Pete Maravich provided the top three scoring average seasons in Division 1 history. One player, the top three greatest years ever. Many analysts are quick to note the lack of a three-point line during Maravich's college career. His 44.2 career point average could have easily been 5-10 points higher. Additionally, Maravich's total points record, 400 more than any other player in history, could have crested to a superhuman 5000 had freshman been allowed to play on varsity squads.
In this, the Year of the Freshman, we will have the opportunity to witness a change in college basketball. More than ever before, first year players like Gordon, Singler, and Greene are leading their teams all across the country. Like the introduction of the three-point line, the NBA's restriction on draft eligibility has created a huge shift in how the game will be played. First year players will receive more playing time and the opportunity to dominate the game's landscape for years to come.
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Eastern Michigan Preview
Leading the way is top scorer Jesse Buckley. The 6'5" senior wing averages 15.4 a night with 2.5 rebounds in 31.2 minutes. He shoots 45% from beyond the arc, hitting 21 of 47. That seems to be his only way of scoring, as only four of his total buckets have come from inside.
The only other player with a double digit scoring average is Carlos Medlock. The junior guard averages 13.3 points per game, but shoots only 35% from the floor. We need to put some pressure on him and force him to take bad shots.
The top rebounder is Justin Dobbins (7.2 RPG). Wendale Farrow and Will Cooper round out the starting 5.
This is a struggling basketball team. 3-3 with wins over St. Bonaventure, Manhattan, and Radford, but they have suffered ugly losses at the hands of traditional powerhouses Brown and Oakland. Wednesday's 72-68 loss to Detroit Mercy came after the Eagles built a 10 point lead with 10 minutes to play in the 2nd half. Mercy outscored EMU 28-14 to close out the game. Medlock led the team with 21 points, while the Eagles were outshot 56% to 44%.
Eastern Michigan will be featured in the BracketBuster weekend February 23rd. Provided the Irish win, this could potentially turn into a surprisingly good victory if the Eagles upset someone in February. Or not.
Hopefully the Irish can control this game from start to finish. As EMU's premier opponent, it would be nice to get them out of their rhythm early to keep any upset dreams out of their minds.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Man With the Golden Gun
Less than two years after Dick Cheney showed his powers of friendship, Bobby Knight proved his inability to shoot anything other than basketballs.
Neither of the two people who claimed to be shot by Knight's (or his companion's) shotgun were injured by the pellets that struck them from 250 feet.
This comes eight years after Coach Knight shot his friend in the shoulder and back while hunting in Wisconsin.
I'm no hunting expert, but I'm pretty sure this kind of stuff isn't meant to happen.
Eastern Michigan Saturday. Enjoy the last day of November '07 tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Jimmy V Week
With as ridiculous and commercially-driven as they sometimes can be, ESPN got this one right.
Unless you've been living in a hole or lack cable television (similar circumstances), you know that November 28th-December 4th has been christened "Jimmy V Week" on the ESPN family of networks. Created to increase awareness and raise funds to find a cure for cancer, this initiative is named for Jim Valvano, the late North Carolina State basketball coach who passed away with the disease in 1993.
If you haven't seen his speech in the inaugural ESPY awards, click here. One of the most moving clips, sports related or otherwise, that I have ever seen.
In spite of some controversy for alleged rules violations and low admission standards, Valvano will be remembered not only as the head coach of the 1983 National Championship team, but as one of the leaders in the fight against cancer. The V Foundation raises millions each year in the effort to find a cure. Dick Vitale, Notre Dame father and honorary degree recipient, is one of the major proponents of this great organization.
Thanks to ESPN for starting the Jimmy V Week. Hopefully it will eventually raise enough awareness and money so that the V Foundation and others like it ultimately become unnecessary.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Indiana's win over Georgia Tech was the only victory for the Big Ten. The Yellow Jackets fell just short of winning a game that would have boosted Notre Dame's nonconference SOS. Then again, the Irish lost so there was little to gain but pride for ND in yesterday's game.
Barring a sweep of today's matchups, the Big Ten will fall for the 9th straight year that the series has been contested. Time to bring back the ACC/Big East Challenge. Just for fun, we'll showcase a few matchups here:
- #7 Duke vs. #10 Louisville
- #2 North Carolina vs. #5 Georgetown
- #18 Clemson vs. #11 Pittsburgh
- Virginia vs. #14 Marquette
- NC State vs. #21 Villanova
Just a taste. Would certainly be more competitive than the current lineup. Not to mention teams like Syracuse and Connecticut getting a chance against the most publicized conference in the land. Just an idea...
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Games to Check Out This Week
Tomorrow, Long Island plays St. John's. After losing to the Irish, LIU has rebounded nicely with wins over Army, Columbia, and Canisius.
Thursday, Kansas State plays #17 Oregon. The Wildcats fell out of the coaches poll with a loss to George Mason next week. The December 4th contest could prove to be a quality win for Notre Dame if K-State can defeat the Ducks, Xavier, and some top Big XII foes.
As for last night's opponent, Colgate will take on Syracuse on December 18th. It will be interesting to see how those two teams stack up in preparation for our game against the Orange.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Big East Bloggers Poll
2) Marquette: 220 pts. Hi: 2nd. Low: 6th.
Louisville: 220 pts. Hi: 2nd. Low: 5th.
4) Pittsburgh: 217 pts. Hi: 2nd. Low: 7th.
5) Syracuse: 190 pts. Hi: 3rd. Low: 8th.
6) Villanova: 175 pts. Hi: 4th. Low: 10th.
7) Connecticut: 170 pts. Hi: 4th. Low: 8th.
8) Providence: 133 pts. Hi: 7th. Low: 10th.
West Virginia: 133 pts. Hi: 6th. Low: 10th.
10) Seton Hall: 114 pts. Hi: 7th. Low: 13th.
11) Notre Dame: 96 pts. Hi: 8th. Low: 12th.
12) St. John's: 72 pts. Hi: 10th. Low: 16th.
13) DePaul: 52 pts. Hi: 11th. Low: 16th.
14) Cincinnati: 47 pts. Hi: 11th. Low: 16th.
15) South Florida: 43 pts. Hi: 12th. Low: 16th.
16) Rutgers: 39 pts. Hi: 12th. Low: 16th.
Player of the Week: Brian Laing, Seton Hall
Freshman of the Week: Dante Greene, Syracuse
Notre Dame 94, Colgate 63
Pretty flat first half... overwhelming is a good word. The Irish led by 13 at the break, but were unable to take control of the game. There was too much perimeter play, by design or on accident, with 5 guys sometimes staying on the three-point line. This took away inside chances and relied on driving to the basket for points. Sometimes the offense looked a little slow and Colgate was able to outhustle the Irish who were simply going through the motions.
In the 2nd half, Notre Dame outscored Colgate 48-30 and the quality of basketball was much higher. A little more intensity and better fundamentals helped the lead grow and allowed for quality minutes for the freshmen.
We'll start with the player of the game, Kyle McAlarney. The junior can simply shoot lights out. 7 of 10 from beyond the arc for 25 points. Add in 4 assists and no turnovers. After a little poor shot selection at the start of the game, Mac hit good jumpers from all over the floor. He has no problem stepping up from 25 feet and knocking down shots. If he can keep the good shot selection he had today, he will be one of the best pure shooters in the conference. After a game like today, it's easy to compare Kyle to the man he is replacing, Colin Falls. K-Mac is hands down the better overall player and showed more range than some of Falls' games, with the ability to hit from 2-3 yards beyond the arc. Absolute top-notch performance.
Tory Jackson was the sparkplug during some of Notre Dame's rough patches, running the floor and accumulating 7 assists to one turnovers. Coach Brey was quite right after the game in mentioning Jackson's strong performance as the catalyst of the offense. 3 steals and 3 rebounds isn't too shabby either.
Rob Kurz stepped up with a slightly below-average performance from Bamm-Bamm. 20 and 10 for the senior from Lower Gwynedd, PA. Able to dish for 4 assists as well. He was our inside presence tonight.
Luke Harangody only played 19 minutes and picked up 3 fouls. He did score 11 points and grab 7 boards. No superhuman performance was required from him and it was nice to see the other players pick up for his slightly lowered production.
Ryan Ayers is the big question mark in my mind. He plays solid defense and can shoot when given looks, but really doesn't bring a lot to the table offensively. He scored 9 on 3-7 shooting but with McAlarney as the deep threat, it would be nice to add a guy who can drive to the basket. We'll see if Hillesland or Nash can step up to the plate.
Hillesland looked tired tonight. Not sure if he was sick, but definitely off his game. Looked a bit slow on both ends of the floor. Only 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists. He is the best option at power forward off the bench, but I really would like to see him start at the 3. If he does end up taking most of Ayers' minutes with the starting 5, Coach Brey will need to develop a good option for spelling Bamm-Bamm and Kurz.
Luke Zeller is not that guy. A very good game for the 6'10" junior, but he's a small forward in a big man's body. Great catch and shoot from outside, but ugly under the basket. 4 of 5 from deep for a career-high tying 14 points, surely earning him the right to keep his 15 minutes a game. He did have four rebounds, but was unable to establish an offensive presence inside. He must be paired with a player who can provide some buckets in the paint to be successful.
Peoples was rock steady once again. 4 points, more importantly 4 assists and no turnovers. As the backup point guard, he does exactly want you want. Just run the offense and don't mess up.
Great opportunity to see Tyrone Nash in action. Entering with 10 minutes to play, Ty was physical from the start, providing the some of the best inside defense all game. He did pick up three fouls for having his hands all over the opposition, but certainly made use of his time on the floor. Gave the Irish energy and intensity and dished out 2 assists to go with 3 rebounds. I can't wait to see more from him and hopefully he will break into the rotation as a 3 or 4.
Abromitis and Proffitt earned 4 minutes each. The two walkons saw a minute of playing time. Really like to watch Tom Kopko on the bench. He's the first to cheer for baskets and high-five the starters for good performances. Great team player.
Check out our starting lineup compared to last year-
- Carter-Ayers, Hillesland, or Nash
Looks like we found a solid replacement for Colin in the resurgent K-Mac. If we can replace Carter's driving ability without losing too much of an outside threat, the starting five looks better than last season. That's a big if with Ayers not overly impressing. Maybe Nash can develop into that guy. That's something only more playing time will be able to determine.
Also, the lack of a great backup post player is disconcerting since the team loses Kurz next year. Someone will need to step up and fill those shoes.
Overall a very good win. The team finally gets a little time off after 5 games in 10 days and returns Saturday against E. Michigan.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
What will be different? Very little on this blog will change. Hopefully starting next weekend I will devote some time to putting together an article on the Irish, the Big East, or college basketball in general. I am planning on posting the article on this site along with the normal Black and Green fare that you know and love.
I encourage everyone to check out this site at your leisure. It should be a fun way to expand this blog's influence in the sports community as well as a great way to gain new information on college basketball.
Tomorrow's game is against Colgate. Look for another big performance from Harangody as the Irish take on the Fighting Dentists.