Sunday, March 25, 2007

Second Weekend

Yawn. Is it over yet? A lack of upsets has turned this year's March Madness into the most predictable thing since... the women's tournament. To be fair, the ladies from Marist and Florida State have made watching ESPN much less predictable (and sometimes more interesting) than CBS.

So, Ohio State and UCLA ( a two-seed!) have made it to Atlanta. Florida beat Oregon today to advance. Pony Tail had 14 points and rebounds. Georgetown matches up against UNC right now to represent the Big East, but things are not going well at the 7:00 mark in the 1st half.

Good luck to those still competiting. Hopefully the high level of play will continue to somewhat offset the lack of mystery this year.

EDIT: Georgetown does pull off the semi-upset. The Hoyas come back from 10 down with 7 minutes to go and dominate the overtime period. Great to see a Big East team in the Final Four, especially one we came so close to beating in New York.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Congratulations to the Women

I would be remiss if I did not point out what a great season Muffet and the team had this year. Fell just ten points short of beating 1 seed UNC and advancing to the Sweet 16. Great season, perhaps more surprising than the men. Should be fun to watch the next couple of years as that young team develops.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Looking Ahead

With the 06-07 season now in the rearview mirror, how will the team perform next season? Obviously seniors Carter and Falls will be missed. However, with four starters returning (including Kyle McAlarney) and three others with starting experience (Zeller, Ayers, and Hillesland) there is plenty of experience left on the Irish team. As it stands, here is how the lineup should turn out.

PG- Kyle McAlarney
SG- Tory Jackson
SF- Zach Hillesland
PF- Luke Harangody
PF- Rob Kurz

Key Reserves- Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller

K-Mac returns to find his job in serious jeopardy. Tory Jackson impressed in Big East play and makes a good argument for the starting PG spot. However, the team loses two shooting guards in Falls and Carter, leaving an opportunity to play both Jackson and McAlarney together in the backcourt. Jonathan Peoples will fill the backup point guard role again next year. However, he will struggle to find playing time as both Mac and Jackson can play 40 minutes. The last guard listed on the current Irish roster is Joe Harden. The infrequently used sub is known more for his curvy hair and surfer dude looks than his jump shot. However, Sunshine poses a great matchup threat at 6-7 and can play small forward. Look for him to make great strides next season.

The lone backcourt recuit for the Irish is Kentucky point guard Ty Proffitt. A two-star recruit on, Proffitt received some interest from Tubby Smith. However, the prevailing theory regarding Proffitt's recruiting is that the London, KY native was not expected to be an integral part of the Wildcat team. Expect Proffitt to see very little action off the bench next season (a la Peoples pre-McAlarney suspension).

The small forward position is very open in the Mike Brey scheme. Zach Hillesland may have the inside track as a tall athletic forward, but Ryan Ayers should also challenge as a good three-point shooter. For now, Hillesland gets the final starting spot following a great season off the bench. Ayers can play 2 or 3 with a sweet stroke and great wingspan. He also doubles as one of the best post defenders on the team. Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody have locked up both post positions. There is very little difference between the 4 and 5, as neither is taller than 6'9". Luke Zeller is the only true center on the roster at almost seven feet, but lacks the strength to play the post. He will be needed to give the starters rest and help if either gets in foul trouble.

Notre Dame recruited 3 forwards for next year's freshman class. Unfortunately, none is taller than 6'8". The star of the class is Tyrone Nash. Either a small forward or power forward, Notre Dame beat out 5 Big East teams plus IU and Kentucky to get him. When he signed his LOI, Nash said "The books and the ball, that's what it was all about for me." Good for him. He won't be needed as much as Harangody was this year, but anything will help. Next is 3 star recruit Carlton Scott. He is smallish at 200 pounds, but has great athleticism and a solid perimeter shot. Tim Abromaitis rounds out the freshman class. A very intelligent small forward, Abromaitis was pursued by Penn, Princeton, and Yale. He can also play some ball, averaging 26 points and 10 boards as junior.

Coaching Staff-
Mike Brey secured his job for another season or two with a great year. Winning the Big East Coach of the Year award, Brey performed far above expectations. However, the Winthrop loss leaves some to be desired. Assistant Gene Cross will be in a lot of head coaching job searches this summer. I would hate tosee him go. Cross was always the first guy off the bench and had a lot to do with keeping emotional players like Carter and Jackson in check. If Coach Cross does leave for a much deserved head coaching slot, a name that will pop up is Tommy Amaker. A fellow assistant with Mike Brey at Duke, Amaker was fired after a disappointing tenure at Michigan. We will end up at another school soon, but to use his defensive knowledge for a year would be very beneficial.

That's it. Should be interesting to see how the team plays next season. The Paradise Jam will be an early test next season. We could very well end up facing a rematch with Winthrop.

Thanks to everyone for reading this blog. I hope you enjoyed it. It was a blast writing for you all. There will be a few updates on the NCAA Tournament the next two weekends, but for the most part today begins the offseason. If anything big pops up before the start of practice, I will comment on it. Other than that, enjoy the hockey and baseball seasons. Until next time, goodbye.

-Black and Green

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Season Review

After yesterday's loss, it's time to take peek back at how the past 5 months have gone.

Season Schedule-

W 92-49

After two easy wins over exhibition opponents Rockhurst and Bellarmine to start the season, Notre Dame rolled to an easy victory over IPFW. The five starters were Carter, McAlarney, Falls, Zeller, and Kurz. How things would change over the course of the season. Zach Hillesland produced off the bench for a double-double and freshman Luke Harangody had 12 points and 8 rebounds.

L 71-69

Next for the Irish came a tough loss to Butler in the opening round of the NIT Tip-Off. While the Bulldogs would continue to surprise and win the whole thing, at the time the loss was rather discouraging. However, Harangody continued his great play with his first career double double.

W 92-60

W 74-50

Following the Citadel game, Black and Green came into being. Notre Dame cruised to an easy win after leading 40-12 at halftime.

W 93-87

W 90-45

at No. 19 Maryland
W 81-74

On the road at the BB&T Classic, Notre Dame jumped into the national spotlight. Using a 25-7 run, the Irish scored 52 in the 2nd half to defeat the Terrapins. Colin Falls had a poor shooting night only making 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. Now seen as the team's best win, at the time it was just a warmup for:

No. 5 Alabama
W 99-85

The high point of the nonconference schedule. Russell Carter scores 27. Falls and McAlarney each add 20. Colins poor shooting continues (2-7 from deep) but he contributes from the charity stripe. Students rush the floor and the NCAA Tournament becomes a distinct possibility. Unfortunately, Alabama would never recover its early promise and finish in the NIT.

W 94-63

W 86-69

Falls misses his 2nd straight game with an injury. He will not consistently shoot well from beyond the arc until mid-January.

W 88-47

W 101-51

Stony Brook
W 95-66

Great end to a fantastic nonconference schedule. However, this game will be known for something other than the team's play. Tory Jackson starts his first game at point guard for suspended Kyle McAlarney. K-Mac will not return this season, but Jackson becomes an integral part of the team.

W 78-62
13-1 (1-0)

Moved up to account for the Sugar Bowl, the first Big East win gave Notre Dame fans a reason to cheer. Harangody continues to produce off the bench with 15 points and calls for Luke Zeller's benching grow louder.

at Georgetown
L 66-48
13-2 (1-1)

Falling behind early, Notre Dame loses a poorly played game to the Hoyas. This win is followed by two losses for G'Town to start the Big East schedule, but a 13-1 finish lead to a Big East championship. Notre Dame will fare much better in the rematch, a two point loss.

No. 21 West Virginia
W 61-58
14-2 (2-1)

Seton Hall
W 88-76
15-2 (3-1)

Luke Harangody makes his first start, a position he will hold for the rest of the year.

at Villanova
L 102-87
15-3 (3-2)

After a couple of home wins, Notre Dame loses another poor game on the road, this time at the Pavillion. While giving up 102 points, Notre Dame plays much better offensively. Colin Falls finds the shooting touch that will carry him the rest of the year to become the Big East's leader in three-point baskets.

South Florida
W 82-58
16-3 (4-2)

at St. John's
L 71-68
16-4 (4-3)

More road woes. While undefeated at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame loses its third straight road game to a much worse opponent. Carter goes for 32, but only one other player scores in double figures.

W 66-63
17-4 (5-3)

Notre Dame avenges the earlier loss to 'Nova after breaking the tie with 1:30 left in the game. The close victory is the first such win for Notre Dame following last season's many heartbreakers.

at Syracuse
W 103-91
18-4 (6-3)

Mike Brey is proud to "establish a road identity." After falling repeatedly to poor teams at their courts, the Irish beat a very good Syracuse squad and set a Carrier Dome record for most points by an opponent.

at South Florida
L 69-63
18-5 (6-4)

Bad start leads to another embarrassing loss on the road. Russell Carter has a poor night shooting (5-15) and Notre Dame loses some of the momentum gained from the Syracuse win.

at DePaul
L 67-66
18-6 (6-5)

Heartbreak. A Colin falls turnover and a terrible non-call as Rob Kurz is hacked during a layup lead to a late loss. Notre Dame fails to score in the final two minutes and Wilson Chandler scores a wide open dunk with 18 seconds left to steal the game.

W 81-78
19-6 (7-5)

at Cincinnati
W 76-64
20-6 (8-5)

Road win over the worst team in the league. Ryan Ayers finally shows off his offensive talent, making all four three point shots he attempts.

W 78-54
21-6 (9-5)

Revenge is sweet as the Irish pound DePaul in the midst of a six game winning streak. All starters finish in double figures as Notre Dame controls both halves.

No. 16 Marquette
W 85-73
22-6 (10-5)

With their best effort of the season, the team locks up an undefeated season at home. The win also solidifies a NCAA bid and puts the Irish in position for a first-round BET bye. Ranked 23rd at the time, the win pushes ND past Marquette for NCAA seeding.

at Rutgers
W 73-66
23-6 (11-5)

Not pretty, but Notre Dame avoids a letdown in the final regular season game at the RAC. Tory Jackson has nine assists while under lots of Scarlet Knight pressure.

W 89-83
24-6 (11-5)

Ending the Orange's shot at a three-peat, Notre Dame scores 57 in the 2nd half to advance to the Semi-Finals, not knowing at the time that the loss would eliminate Syracuse from the NCAA Tournament.

at No. 9 Georgetown
L 84-82
24-7 (11-5)

16th ranked Irish lose a tough one to eventual champs Georgetown. Player of the Year Jeff Green takes the lead with a late layup, before Russell Carter misses an opportunity to win at the buzzer.

No. 21 Winthrop
L 74-64

Notre Dame gets a tough draw in the NCAA tournament, a 6 seed facing Cinderella hopeful Winthrop. The glass slipper fits for the Eagles, who see a 20 point lead disintegrate before pulling out the first tournament victory in school history.


In all, Notre Dame finished with a 24-8 record (11-5 in the Big East) and 17th final ranking from the AP. In six games against ranked opponents, the Irish were 4-2. The losses were the last two games of the season, Georgetown and Winthrop. For the first time in three years, the Irish made the premier postseason tournament easily and advanced the the semi-finals of the Big East. All this after losing a starting point guard in December and having two freshmen in the starting lineup for most of the year.

The loss to Winthrop serves as an example for how far Notre Dame still has to go to become a national powerhouse. However, Duke's loss is a reminder that even the best can be upset. From the ashes of a 6-10 Big East season last year and disappointing NIT result, Irish basketball is back on the map for the first time since Colin Falls and Russell Carter were high school seniors. A nucleus of talented young players such as Jackson and Harangody will have to make up for the lost production of those graduating. However, with only one senior next season, the upcoming years should have a chance to flourish with the core that has been established.

Player Reviews-

Russell Carter- Finishing with 17.1 PPG in his senior year, Carter is one of the most improved the most of any Irish player in his final two campaigns. A terrific talent who sometimes struggled with shot selection and attitude problems, Carter was the spark of many Irish wins this season. His scoring and athleticism will be greatly missed. Hopefully, Russ will have some success in the pros.

Colin Falls- A true captian, Falls was the emotional leader of the team. Blessed with a hot hand and high basketball IQ, Coach Brey counted on Colin more than anyone to deliver on both ends. He lacked the athleticism to become a true scoring threat, but there have been very few graduates of Notre Dame with as perfect a shot as Colin Falls. His professional future is cloudy, but if his playing days are over Colin could make a very good coach.

Kieran Piller- Walk-on played well late in games when given the chance. Was helpful in practice and finished his second year with the team. Whatever his future holds is unknown, but still has eligibility if he wants to return.

Rob Kurz- Made great strides as the premier power forward in nonconference play. Was overshadowed by freshman Harangody by the end of the year, but averaged 12.6 PRG and 8. RPG. Will be needed greatly as a senior captian next season.

Kyle McAlarney- His production is Big east play is unknown, but he would certainly have aided the team this year. Will hopefully return with a new vigor, put the past behind him, and form a strong backcourt combination with Jackson next season.

Zach Hillesland- Team's 6th man. Did everything that was asked of him and more. Is very athletic and plays hard in spurts off the bench. Will be relied upon next season in an expanded role. Has a very bright future.

Luke Zeller- Big mystery. Made some strides this season, but looked bad in comparison with Harangody. Needs to delevop an inside game.

Ryan Ayers- Looked uncomfortable most of the season, but came alive in Big East play. Played very well on defense with his tremendous wingspan. Also showed a dead-eye jumpshot when open. Has a shot to start next year if he can continue to make threes in games.

Luke Harangody- Was expected to make an impact, and certainly contributed. Still very raw and needs to develop better inside moves. If he stays healthy and continues to play with a great passion, the possibilities are endless. Let's hope he stays on the right track and does not become another Torin Francis.

Tory Jackson- Very talented passer who developed over the course of the year. With more experience, his teammates were able to make plays with his no-look dishes and in traffic throws. Great when driving to the basket. Single-handedly kept ND in the second Georgetown game. Showed some talent shooting against Winthrop. It will be interesting to see what his role is with McAlarney back, but has earned a starting spot.

Jonathan Peoples- Limited playing time will be lessened more with K-Mac returning. Played well when spelling Jackson, but Tory's solid play led to fewer minutes for Peoples.

Joe Harden- In January, I discussed Notre Dame basketball with a guy who had seen a few practices this season. We talked a little about the freshman class and he remarked, "I'm telling you right now, the diamond in the rough for this class is Joe Harden." Harden was unable to get a lot of playing time this season, but should have a chance to contribute next year. Has a very good jumper and can use his height to us advantage on the wing.

Tim Andree- Walk-on. Played a little early, but got hurt and never re-entered the picture.

That's it for this season. It always hurts to say goodbye. Tomorrow, I will write up a preview of the 2007-08 campaign, including incoming freshmen from the latest recruiting class. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's All Over

It hurts, but all good things must come to an end. Dominating most of the 2nd half, Winthrop won their first NCAA game ever, but not after a heroic comeback by the Irish.

The Eagles used a 22-6 run to start the half and take a commanding 20 point lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the game. Using great press defense and getting some misses from Winthrop at the charity stripe, ND was able to roar back and take a lead before inevitably falling in regulation.

Winthrop really impressed me. The annual overhyped mid-major they are not. Instead, Notre Dame faced a quality team with serious talent. Without being able to hit the perimeter shot, the Irish dug serious holes for themselves all afternoon.

Rob Kurz fouled out. A lot of the fouls called against the Irish were questionable at best, but the outcome was not decided by the officials. The rising senior ended his season with a double double, 13 over 10. It will be great to have him back as a leader next year.

Luke Harangody was unable to provide much inside. Seated on the bench for most of the 2nd half as Brey looked for a quicker lineup, Bamm-Bamm scored 4 points and grabbed one rebound.

Tory Jackson looked very rattled for much of the game. However, during Notre Dame's 2nd half run, Jackson seemed much more capable and also provided a few drives to the basket. His penetration has greatly improved over the year. Also hit a couple threes. As of right now, a starting spot is his to lose.

Zach Hillesland provided the usual hustle off the bench. 10 points, 6 rebounds. It will be interesting to see how he fits in next year. Sometimes, the point forward handled the ball up the floor. Others, he played on the wing.

Ryan Ayers used his great wingspan to disrupt Winthrop's offensive flow on the press and made a great move that looked to be at least a no-call. He was called for a block; the free throws that followed ended ND's chance for a win. No made shots, but should participate as the best perimeter shooter next season.

Luke Zeller earned a lot of minutes as a more athletic big man than Harangody. Unfortunately, he was unable to add much to the offense. Peoples handled the ball some and made a shot.

Finally, our seniors. Colin Falls couldn't knock anything down from three, which severely hurt the team's chances. However, his overall game was pretty good. His last contest in a Notre Dame uniform ended with him trying to make things happen on offense and acting as an extention of the coaching staff on the floor. His leadership will be greatly missed.

Russell Carter had a few good drives and one tremendous dunk. The TV commentator rightly mentioned how much Russ has improved the last two years. Unfortunately, his last game ended poorly with him shooting 0-6 from three-point land. Good luck to you in the pros, Russell.

A bitter end to a truly great season. This year's team has laid the groundwork for extended sucess in the future. Our seniors will be greatly missed, but as Coach Kearney said, the nucleus is there for another great year next season.

That's all for the game. Over the weekend, I'll wrap up the season with a few year-end specials on the team. Congratulations to Winthrop and good luck to the rest of the Big East teams that are alive in the tourney.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

First Day of Games

Not a lot of big surprises as the day rolls on. Marquette drops to Michigan State without Jerel McNeal. Just about every other higher seed came through...

Except Duke. The Blue Devils are going home in the first round for the first time in over a decade. Congrats to Eric Maynor and all the VCU Rams for a great upset.

Big game tomorrow at 2:30. The season has all come down to one contest at a time. Win or go home.

Beware the Ides of March

Bryan did some more good work on the NCAA Tournament at Maydogma. Good for a laugh or two, and about as reliable as whatever method you used to fill out your bracket.

Many thanks to Jeremy (eaglefan) over at for his overview of the Eagles basketball team:


#10 PG - Chris Gaynor, junior, 5-10 - Smart, dependable point guard...runs offense well, can hit the three at times, doesn't turn it over much...
#11 SG - Michael Jenkins, junior, 6-3 - Big surprise this year...was recruited as an outside shooter but really struggled to find his range his first two years. This year he's hit around 45% of his threes and has learned to look for more opportunities on the break and off the dribble...leads team in scoring and is best on-the-ball perimeter defender.
#12 SF - Torrell Martin, senior, 6-5 - The 'face' of the program..can do a just about everything well. Most Zag fans will remember him as the guy that hit a ton of threes against you guys in the tourney two years ago. Strong outside shot, very good rebounder, very athletic. Solid defender too. Invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament..
#33 PF - Phillip Williams, senior, 6-8 - He usually defends the toughest interior player. Not a huge offensive threat, but he has his moments when his mid-range shot is falling. Decent rebounder.
#5 C - Craig Bradshaw, senior, 6-10 - Also invited to Portsmouth. Versatile center from New Zealand who has the ability to hit the three and can score in the paint. He's been up-and-down this year, but has played great toward the end of the season.

Primary Bench Players:

#24 PG - DeAndre Adams, sophomore, 5-7 - Quicker than Gaynor, but doesn't shoot as well and lacks size...Usually brings a little more energy off the bench and is a very good defender (draws more charges than anyone else on the team).
#1 SF - Antwon Harris, junior, 6-3 - JuCo transfer who started slow this year but has become a big part of the team down the stretch. Good around the basket and brings alot of energy off the bench as well.
#31 PF - Taj McCullough, junior, 6-7 - Extremely athletic and finishes very well around the basket. Has developed a very strong outside shot this year (shooting over 40%) and likes to take big shots.
#3 SF - Mantoris Robinson, freshman, 6-5 - Been hampered by a knee injury over the last month or so, which has really limited his minutes and mobility. More of a defensive presence than anything, his offensive game is still a little raw.

Nobody else will likely see much time...

Strengths -

Strong defensively, especially in half-court situations (they do get burned in transition sometimes). Good rebounding team (the few times they struggled on the glass this year, they got beat). Experienced squad that has played in big games.

Weaknesses -

They don't handle teams that are good at breaking you down off the dribble and dish to outside shooters. Sometimes rely too much on three-point shot.

Offensively, WU is patient and will use alot of shot-clock. They generally run a motion offense and will shoot the open three-pointer if available, but they like to try and get Bradshaw and Williams some touches first. WU will run off of rebounds if they have the numbers, but they rarely force it.

Defensively, WU will use a variety of defenses, but will most likely be in a man-to-man or a match-up zone (especially against ND's shooters...I doubt you'll see much 2-3 zone). You may see some token full court pressure, but nothing too intense. WU will go for steals at times, but usually relies on forcing the opposition to take tough shots late in the shot clock.

Coach Marshall is very intense and animated on the sidelines...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More Hype for Friday

Deadspin has a little rundown of the Irish and Winthrop. Having a 3-to-1 female/male ratio, would that mean Winthrop players have more incentive to play well... or less?

Ken Pomeroy breaks down the Midwest bracket. His stats give ND an 80% chance to win Friday and almost 7% to make it to Atlanta.

"As we get into the Cinderella seeds, two teams stand out - Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Most folks would say it’s crazy to think one of them would make the Elite 8, and the odds are heavily against each doing so, but each is team is better than their seed would indicate. If they can get by serious first-round tests, watch out for these two. When you have Luke Harangody, anything is possible. "

Starting February 15, the Irish have gone 6-1, facing opponents with an average RPI of 88 (#215 Rutgers and #174 Cinncinnati hurt a bit). Last game was March 9th.

During the same timespan, Winthrop is 6-0, playing teams with an average RPI of 228. Yes, the worst team ND has faced in conference play has a better RPI than the mean of Winthrop's Big South opponents. The Big South championship game was March 3rd.

Winthrop's biggest win was February 16th at Missouri State (36 RPI). Notre Dame has beaten #16 Maryland, #18 Villanova, #22 Marquette, and #37 Louisville this season. The only common opponent between the Irish and Winthrop is Maryland, who beat the Eagles by 11 two weeks before our matchup.

Let's make no mistake, Winthrop is a very good basketball team. However, there should be no doubts about what we can expect Friday. Notre Dame has more talent, more seasoning following a tough conference schedule, and can play with a chip on both shoulders.

As we continue to hear analysts call Winthrop "this year's George Mason," it's time for a history lesson. At this time last year, Mason was simply the first at-large ever from the CAA. David Mihm had the Patriots listed as his 2nd team in his Last Four Out before brackets were released. No one saw their run into history as a possibility before the tournament. Now Mason is seen as the gold standard for mid-majors everywhere. Good luck for Winthop trying to live up to impossibly high expectations. There may never be another team like George Mason.

One more day until the tourney starts in earnest. Good luck to all the teams competing tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Play-In Game

Niagara vs. Florida A&M tonight, which is about as exciting as watching paint dry (and people still want to expand the best playoff system in sports). The winner has the honor of losing to Kansas. Good luck with that.

On the expansion issue, the whole point of the 65-team field is to keep the competition elite. One thing that is nice to see from Coach Brey is that he never whined about having more slots in the field when the Irish missed out three straight years. It is understandable to want to help out the coaching fraternity, but a larger NCAA Tournament is not the way.

CBS rates Friday's game as completely even. Over half the country will see the action live. And for a little insight on the other team, there's Not quite ElonFans, but it will have to do. I love hearing the press pick Winthrop to win. Keep it coming. Nothing like a chance in the first round to just cut loose.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Official Black and Green Bracket

Here it is, the 2007 NCAA Tournament as predicted by Yours Truly. Though I watch plenty of college hoops (too much for my own good) a lot of these predictions are good old guesses. What the heck, it has just as much chance to be correct as any other bracket.
So LeBron U wins it all and Notre Dame makes the Sweet 16. Not too bad. Georgetown going all the way would be pretty cool to see as well. Watch out for Texas A&M. If they survive a tangle with Louisville in Lexington, KY the Aggies will have home court advantage in San Antonio with a shot at the Final Four on the line. Too many teams have learned the hard way how clutch Acie Law is (he scores more points in the last five minutes than opposing teams).
More fun with "expert" picks. CBS Sportsline analysts predict how ND will fare.
Doyel- Out 1st Round
Dodd- Out 1st Round
Freeman- Elite 8
Mejia- Out 1st Round
Parrish- Sweet 16
National Bracket- 2nd Round
Gillen- 2nd Round
Lappas- Elite 8
Seems we'll be either really hot or cold. Bring it on. Keep having fun with your brackets. Play-in game tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

So It's Winthrop

Regardless of whether or not ND got slighted as a 6 seed against a well-respected Winthrop team, we now know the schedule for next weekend.

In the "Midwest" regional, Notre Dame will play its first two possible games in Spokane, Washington. First round against Big South Champs Winthrop, second round opponent would either be Pac-10 Champion Oregon or MAC Champ Miami (OH).

Let's take a look at our first round opponent. The Winthrop Eagles are smokin' hot going into the NCAAs, having won 18 in a row (17-0 against conference opponents). Ranked 70th in the RPI, Winthrop gets a lot of credit from analysts for winning against inferior opponents and playing tough to better teams. Against top 50 teams, the Eagles are 2-4. Winning against Missouri St. and Old Dominion. Losing to UNC, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M.

The Wisconsin game went to overtime, but Texas A&M rolled over its Big South opponent. What can we learn from those two games? A&M shot well from outside, sinking 10-20 3 point attempts. Overall, the Aggies made 53% of all field goal attempts. Wisconsin, however, made only 6 of 25 shots from outside, 46% total. In neither game did Winthrop rebound well (indeed, Wisconsin outboarded the Eagles by 18).

The key to the game will be controlling the glass. Winthrop's leading rebounder gets just 6.3 a game (remember, many of those came against teams ranked in the 200s and 300s). If Kurz and Harangody can extablish a presence down low, the Irish will be able to contol the game and Carter and Kurz will have more open opportunities. All in all, a very good chance to advance to the 2nd round.

I like how the players reacted to the announcment on CBS. No emotion, just cold professionalism. Let's take care of business on Friday.

Selection Sunday

Had a good chat with David Mihm from A couple of notes from the best bracketologist not named Lunardi (though I'll trust Mihm's unbiased insight a bit more).

  • #1 Seeds are set in stone- UNC, Wisconsin, Ohio St., UCLA- The rest are hurt by nonconference shceduling or simply less impressive resumes (Florida, Georgetown, Kansas)
  • Notre Dame might go as high as a 4 seed, but not any higher- Understandable. He projects ND as a 5 seed currently, but allows one-spot leeway depending on how the committee plays matchups (the committee can move a team up one or down one to keep conference opponents from playing each other too early, etc.)
  • Russell Carter is a great under-the-radar player. Russ could surprise a bit in the tournament with a little hot shooting.
  • Notre Dame also could be a very surprising team if the shots fall early, as teams that shoot well generally play well in the tournament.
  • Both Mihm and one of his writers, Matthew Stevens, enjoy Jay Bilas' analysis. Stevens also likes Majerus at times, but both have found Doug Gottlieb to be incorrect regarding the selection process
  • For a little taste of Mihm's writing, check out

Enjoy your Selection Sunday!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Conference Tournaments

Congrats to Georgetown, who just wrapped up the BET title. Jeff Green earned his Player of the Year status with another gret performance in the finals. Hibbert dominated the paint and kept Aaron Gray from producing at all.

Around the country Memphis, Oregon, and UNLV all wrapped up their championships. The Ducks thankfully destroyed USC in the Pac 10 final. Miami of Ohio needed some horrendously bad timekeeping to send it to the NCAAs.

On tap tomorrow are the SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, and ACC Championships. The only two teams who need to win to cement tourney bids are NC State and Arkansas. The other six are ranked. Should be another good day of basketball.

Of course, next for the Irish is the selection show. Fill out your brackets tomorrow at 6.

Here's how it stands right now:

Thanks to the Bracket Project, ND projects as a fringe 5/6 seed. From the bracket predictions that have been updated today, 3/18 have the Irish at a 4 seed. One analyst puts Notre Dame as low as 8. The rest fall somewhere in between. ESPN "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi is one of the three with ND at #4. His projection pits the Irish against 13 seed Wright State in the first round in the San Antonio Region. That should be the best case scenario.

Most likely ND will fall into the fives or sixes, due to a weak nonconference schedule. That is still pretty good, as long as the first round opponent is pretty weak. I would like to see the Irish as underdogs in the Second Round.

Enjoy your Selection Sunday. Don't forget to fix your clocks. The tournament officially begins in 18 hours.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Just Short

A strong second half by Georgetown erased a large early lead for the Irish and sent the Hoyas to the NET finals, 84-82. Russell Carter missed a very good opportunity to win in the final seconds, but it was not to be.

Carter shot 7 for 21 in the game. After starting very well, his second half was forgettable. Poor shot selection lead to a lower clip from beyond the arc. Overall, 21 points, mostly from the 1st half.

Colin Falls disappeared as well in the 2nd half. The other senior captain finished with 14, on 4 of 10 shooting.

For as much as the seniors faltered down the stretch, two freshmen very nearly pulled out a win for ND. First, Luke Harangody followed up a great performance against Syracuse with 11 points inside. Bamm-Bamm worked relentlessly on both ends of the floor matching up with Hibbert (7'2") and Ewing.

Tory Jackson, however, single-handedly kept the game close. With the team down 7 and Georgetown about to run away with it, Jackson scored 7 straight and tied the contest. Overall, 20 points for a player not known for his scoring ability. The isolation worked to perfection several times as Tory took advantage of slower defenders.

Kurz was 5 of 5 from the line, but failed to stick out as Harangody clearly was the #1 option down low. Luke Zeller saw extended minutes, but reinforced the belief that he should stay on the bench. As a shooting big man, 1-4 from beyond the arc is not enough to make up for his lack of inside ability. One shot clearly sticks out as Luke had a very good opportunity from beyond the arc when down the stretch when any points ware needed, but missed and in turn gave Georgetown the ball back.

No one else on the bench provided much more than a breather for the starters.

Of course, it's disappointing to lost such a close game. Adding insult to injury is the fact that ND had an opportunity to turn the contest into a rout early. However, Player of the Year Jeff Green played very well with 30 points and Georgetown is a clearly a very good team. We really made them earn this one.

JTII and his son seemed to have an effect on officiating, which was rather anti-ND at times. The crowd also looked on television to be rather stacked with Hoya fans. ESPN showed the Notre Dame student section just once in the second half.

The Irish shouldn't fall much in either the rankings or in terms of seeding. Virginia and Tennessee losing will actually help a little. Mike Brey's boys will have tomorrow to shake off the loss and be back on campus for Selection Sunday.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Irish Advance

No G-Mac, no Big East title for Syracuse. After the miracle run last year, Notre Dame stopped the Orange and advanced to the Semifinals in Manhattan, 89-83. Riding a big 2nd half (57 points) ND will play Georgetown tomorrow at 7.

Colin Falls scored 23 points and sure shot enough. 17 attempts from beyond the arc. The new Big East 3-point king needed only 7 of those to propell the Irish offense. 5 assists, 3 rebounds.

Russell Carter had 24. After riding the bench with 3 fouls early, Carter kept a pretty hot hand all game long. 6 rebounds to go along with a great scoring afternoon.

Tory Jackson can be a big time point guard. 8 points and 5 rebounds. More importantly, the freshman had 9 assists to only 2 turnovers and kept the Irish focused. McAlarney will have some competition for the starting PG slot next fall.

Kurz was very solid down low, 8 points/8 rebounds, but the player of the game was Luke Harangody. Bamm-Bamm stepped up to the plate big time. 20 points, 11 rebounds and provided the inside scoring to open up the shots for Colin and Russ. Against a 2-3, you have to have that guy who can get in between the holes in the zone. Luke was that player today. Congrats, rook.

Off the bench, Hillesland provided solid minutes as usual. 4 points, 4 rebounds. Luke Zeller had 2 and 2. Ryan Ayers missed a few shots. Coach of the Year Mike Brey kept his starters in the rotation, only using 6 players for more than 10 minutes.

For the 'Cuse, Roberts and Harris went nuts down low, with 20 and 15 rebounds respectively. As a team they outrebounded the Irish by 10. Same amount of turnovers, 11 fewer shots for ND, but the Irish made their living from 3-point range.

This should keep the Irish out of the 7-8 range in the NCAAs, but more importantly gives our guys another shot at G'Town on a neutral court. You know what you'll be doing tomorrow at 7.

Awesome, awesome game. I can go a bit deeper into the analysis, but I'll save it for tomorrow's Semifinal preview. Feels good to say, doesn't it? Go Irish!

For some additional enjoyment, check out the forums. Look, but don't touch.

I especially like this quote:

"That fat guy is only a freshman
He's a player. We're going to be cursing his Big Country look and back-ne for 3 more years"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Boeheim vs. Gottlieb

Everyone's favorite criminal (as in real criminal, not just criminally bad) analyst Doug Gottlieb picked the 'Cuse to win tomorrow. This coming after a few weeks of feuding between Gottlieb and the Syracuse faithful, including coach Jim Boeheim. I think this post describes the feelings pretty well.

Parrish at CBS Sportsline has ND at a 4. Any real chance at a seed that high requires at least one win in the BET, maybe a finals trip. Good luck against Syracuse, gentlemen.

Big East Tournament

So it's Syracuse. We get a chance to check out the new uniforms in action against the Irish tomorrow after the Orange used a strong 2nd half to beat Connecticut. It could be worse. The shorts could have been spandex as well (actually 'Cuse's version is a lot more like a real basketball uniform).

Also, what is Kobe Bryant's problem? This smack is a little less blatant than the Manu foul, but there is still no reason for that kind of thing.

But back to Notre Dame basketball. Villanova and Syracuse have advanced so far today, setting up 'Nova/G'Town and ND/Syracuse matchups. As far as the Orange go, it's a team we have beaten on the road before. The second matchup will give the underdogs a little advantage in terms of preparation and the 2-3 zone will be a nuisance, but neither is insurmountable.

A win will bump ND up in seeding, but a loss tomorrow should not hurt too badly. The teams you want to watch are Virginia, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and Louisville. All four are 5 seeds in the latest Bracketology. Should they falter and the Irish win tomorrow, ND will get a little bump.
Things to watch for:

1. Two-man offense- Nichols and Devendorf combined for 37 points against Connecticut. No other Syracuse player scored in double figures.

2. Rebounding battle- Darryl Watkins, Terrence Roberts, and frosh Paul Harris each average about 7 boards a game. Harangody and Kurz must extablish an inside presence and provide the Irish with some second chances.

3. Keep Andy Rautins down- The sophomore scored in double figures for each of Syracuse's five straight wins down the stretch. He had five double figure games the rest of the entire season.

4. What you must do, do quickly- ND's problem on the road is getting down early. In the previous matchup, the Irish scored 62 first half points. That's not all needed tomorrow, but Colin Falls and Russell Carter should be able to make some early baskets and get the offense flowing in the opening minutes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Big East Coach of the Year

Mock Turtlenecks are Back In Style!

Big East Bloggers Awards

Jeff Green, Georgetown

All-Big East 1st Team:
Herbert Hill, Providence
Demetris Nichols, Syracuse
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh
Curtis Sumpter, Villanova

All-Big East 2nd Team:
Dominic James, Marquette
Russell Carter, Notre Dame
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Colin Falls, Notre Dame
Jerel McNeal, Marquette

All-Big East 3rd Team:
Frank Young, West Virginia
Kentrell Gransberry, South Florida
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut
Sammy Mejia, DePaul
Terence Williams, Louisville

All-Big East 4th Team:
Sharaud Curry, Providence
Lamont Hamilton, St. John's
Wilson Chandler, DePaul
Levance Fields, Pittsburgh
Brian Laing, Seton Hall

All-Big East Honorable Mention:
Eric Devendorf (SU), David Padgett (UL), Jonathan Wallace (GT), Geoff McDermott (PC)

Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)

All-Big East Freshman 1st Team:
Eugene Harvey (Seton Hall)
Jerome Dyson (Connecticut)
Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)
Edgar Sosa (Louisville)
De'Sean Butler (West Virginia)

All-Big East Freshman 2nd Team:
Paul Harris (Syracuse)
Deonta Vaughn (Cincinnati)
DaJuan Summers (Georgetown)
Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut)
Tory Jackson (Notre Dame)

All-Big East Freshman 3rd Team:
Derrick Caracter (Louisville)
Lazar Hayward (Marquette)
Chris Howard (South Florida)
Jerry Smith (Louisville)

Mike Brey, Notre Dame

Jerel McNeal, Marquette

Congrats to Russell, Colin, Luke, Tory, and especially Coach Brey for being recognized. Really nice to see a bunch of guys from ND awarded for being the class of the conference. All four players doubled on the real All-Conference teams.

Also coming out today, the official Big East Coach of the Year is... Mike Brey.

"Brey has guided Notre Dame to a 23-6 overall record and a 11-5 BIG EAST mark after his team was picked to be in the bottom half of the league by most college basketball pundits. The Irish were placed 11th in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll. They finished in fourth place and earned a first-round bye in The BIG EAST Championship Presented By Aeropostale. "

What a great year for a coach that had been on the hot seat coming into the season. Hopefully future ND teams will follow this year's tradition of overachieving. Great job, coach.

Also, check out Bryan's good article on the Big East tourney. He's a regular contributor here and did a very good job breaking down the schools.

Take it easy tomorrow and enjoy being able to watch the Big East first round free of stress. UCONN/'Cuse at 2 will determine out opponent.

Monday, March 05, 2007

New Unis

I touched a bit on the LeBron patches tOSU will wear for the rest of the season. It's obviously a Nike stunt (Nike makes the jerseys), but I can't believe that the university would allow such a ridiculous addition. Then I saw these pictures. Completely speechless.

To real news: ND 20th in the AP, 16th in the Coaches Poll. That should lock up a 6 seed at worst.

Big East:

1) Georgetown (11): 176 pts.
2) Louisville: 158 pts.
3) Pittsburgh: 155 pts.
4) Notre Dame: 143 pts.
5) Marquette: 131 pts.
6) Villanova: 122 pts.
7) Syracuse: 113 pts.
8) West Virginia: 99 pts.
9) DePaul: 91 pts.
10) Providence: 75 pts.
11) Connecticut: 61 pts.
12) St. John's: 60 pts.
13) Seton Hall: 43 pts.
14) South Florida: 34 pts.
15) Rutgers: 23 pts.
16) Cincinnati: 12 pts.

Player of the Week: Herbert Hill, Providence and Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Freshman of the Week: Scottie Reynolds, Villanova

Sunday, March 04, 2007


First of all, the weekly ballot:

1. Georgetown
2. Louisville
3. Pittsburgh
4. ND
5. Syracuse
6. Marquette
7. West Virginia
8. DePaul
9. Villanova
10. Providence
11. St John's
12. Connecticut
13. Seton Hall
14. South Florida
15. Rutgers
16. Cincinnati

Player of the Week- Kentrell Gransbery- South Florida
Freshman of the Week- Scottie Reynolds- Villanova

Gransberry with a great performance while losing to DePaul. Scottie scored 40 earlier in the week.

And now (drumroll please) the Black and Green 2006-07 Big East Basketball Awards:

Player of the Year- Aaron Gray- I did not want to pick him, but here's why I did: 10th in the conference in scoring, 2nd in rebounding. He was one of only two on his team to average double figures. The next highest rebounder for the Panthers is at 5.5. For a long time, Gray carried Pitt on his shoulders to the top of the league. Their fall to #3 hurt his status a bit, but no one else in the conference meant as much statistically to his team as Aaron Gray (the G'Town loss came with him on the bench most of the night). Congratulations.

First Team All-Big East-

  • Demetrius Nichols- Syracuse
  • Jeff Green-Georgetown
  • Herbert Hill- Providence
  • Curtis Sumpter- Villanova
  • Russell Carter- Notre Dame

Second Team All-Big East-

  • Kentrell Gransberry- South Florida
  • Geoff McDermott- Providence
  • Jeff Adrien- UCONN
  • Dominic James- Marquette
  • Eugene Harvey- Seton Hall

Third Team All-Big-East-

  • Brian Laing- Seton Hall
  • Scottie Reynolds- Villanova
  • Wilson Chandler- DePaul
  • Terrence Williams- Louisville
  • Colin Falls- Notre Dame

Freshman of the Year- Eugene Harvey- Seton Hall- Put up the best numbers over the course of the season.

First Team All-Freshman-

  • Scottie Reynolds- Villanova
  • Deonta Vaughn- Cincinnati
  • Jerome Dyson- UCONN
  • Luke Harangody- Notre Dame
  • Da'Sean Butler- West Virginia

Second Team All-Freshman-

  • Tory Jackson- Notre Dame
  • Hasheem Thabeet- UCONN
  • Paul Harris- Syracuse
  • Edgar Sosa- Louisville
  • DaJuan Summers- Georgetown

Defensive Player of the Year- Hasheem Thabeet- UCONN- 6.4 rebounds, 3.9 blocks per game as a freshman. He will be loads of fun to watch for the next few years. Except against Notre Dame, of course.

Coach of the Year- Mike Brey- Notre Dame- Congratulations, coach. Best regular season in Brey's tenure comes with his most exciting team in years. No one expected the Irish to lock up an NCAA bid, especially after the loss of point guard Kyle McAlarney. With the help of his three captains and two star freshmen, Brey has formed a lineup that can compete with any in the conference. It is yet to be seen how the Irish will fare against nonconference opponents in 2007, but signs are good.

BET Champion- Georgetown- #1 for a reason

BET Runner-Up- Pittsburgh- Will beat Louisville in the semis

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Taking Care of Business

It wasn't pretty, but the Irish solidified an NCAA bid and a Big East bye on a day they had very little to gain and a lot to lose. Syracuse's loss made the win insignificant in terms of seeding, but a loss would have reflected poorly to the Committee. A Louisville loss is the only possibility of the Irish moving up in the BET at this point.

73-66. It's official. Congrats to Mike Brey for his best regular season at Notre Dame.

Tory Jackson had a very nice game controlling the offense today. Six points, all from the line, with 9 assists for the freshman guard in a very slowly paced matchup.

Colin Falls scored 22 to lead all players. Five of ten from three-point range. Three rebounds, solid from the charity stripe.

Russell Carter with 17. 5 rebounds, including 4 offensive. Good job crashing the boards even though his offensive output was overshadowed by Falls. Did make a couple very nice dunks.

Kurz and Harangody received 4 fouls pretty early, but still stayed active. Rob scored 13 with 6 rebounds. Bamm-Bamm only scored ten, but did a very good job on defense down low with no fouls to spare. He had the presence of mind to keep both hands straight up and hold his ground, forcing Rutgers players to re-direct shots, and never picked up foul #5.

Off the bench, Hillesland with eight boards. Four personals for him as well. Not much scoring from the subs, although Ayers did hit a three.

Kudos to Adrian Hill for a great game in the loss. 16 points/18 rebounds.

Regular season is in the books, finishing with a 5 game winning streak. I was a little nervous about today's game, because Rutgers had nothing to lose and the Irish plenty. Still, it was a solid win against an outmatched opponent. That's the way you end the regular season.

An at-large bid is all but sewn up and the Irish can now play solely for seeding. That should ease the hearts of ND fans everywhere. From here on in, Brey and the boys can play pretty loose, with nothing to lose. Think of it as a double-elimination tournament. ND can try to win as many games as possible in the Garden, even make a run for the Championship. A loss, however, is not season ending.

As it stands, a second round with UCONN/Syracuse looks to be a good possibility. Either would pose a threat, but Notre Dame should be favored. No matter what, the tournament will be set after the Louisville/Seton Hall game. Pull for the Pirates.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Year End Awards Upcoming

This weekend, the bloggers for the Big East Power Poll will be voting on the Player of the Year and All-Conference teams, as well as some more awards.

The ballot will be as follows:

Player of the Year (Not on All-Conference Ballots)
5 on First Team All-Big East
5 on Second Team All-Big East
5 on Third Team All-Big East
Freshman of the Year (Not on All-Freshman Ballots)
5 on First Team All-Freshman
5 on Second Team All-Freshman
Defensive Player of the Year
Coach of the Year

Any suggestions for who I should put where? Any predictions on where ND players line up against the rest of the league? Both are more than welcome.

I'm leaning towards K-Mac as PotY. Convince me otherwise.

And here's a story that makes my skin crawl. BUT HE DIDN"T EVEN GO TO YOUR SCHOOL!!!!!! The new unis for tOSU are a joke. Next year, ND can roll out with some MJ patches. I hear Michael likes the Irish. I mean, he played pro in Chicago, which is kinda close.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


A couple seeding things to mull over:
  • ND is a 9 seed on the Bracket Project, projecting anywhere between a 5 and a 12 in the individual brackets. That means there is a distinct possibility of the Irish playing... themselves in the first round.
  • 1 Seeds- UCLA, Ohio St., UNC, Florida
  • ND Opponents- Georgetown (2), Maryland (4), Marquette (6), Butler (6), Louisville (7), Villanova (9), Syracuse (10), West Virginia (12)
  • The Irish are 6-3 against those teams
  • Bubble Opponent- Alabama (7/30 brackets)
  • Other Big East- Pitt (3)

For those of you keeping track at home, that's 8 Big East teams.

Points Per Weighted Shot:

  • Russell Carter- 1.13
  • Colin Falls- 1.28
  • Rob Kurz- 1.26
  • Luke Harangody- 1.06
  • Tory Jackson- 1.00
  • Zach Hillesland- 1.18
  • Luke Zeller- 1.21
  • Ryan Ayers- 1.24

The equation is:

Total Points/(Field Goal Attempts+(0.475xFree Throw Attempts))

Basically, PPWS evaluates the quality of shot selection by a player and his ability to score when given the opportunity. Colin Falls and Rob Kurz are the best shooting starters on team. Russell Carter is hurt by his shot selection at times, while Harangody and Jackson fall far behind in pure scoring efficiency.

Top 5 Big East Scorers-

  • Demetrius Nichols- 1.19
  • Herbert Hill- 1.29
  • Curtis Sumpter- 1.15
  • Carter- 1.13
  • Eugene Harvey- 1.09

Only freshman Harvey has a worse PPWS than Carter in the top 5 scorers. Hill has one of the best scoring efficiency ratings, and puts the ball in the basket more than anyone else (210 FG). With both of those statistics and an 8.7 rebound average, Hill makes a strong case for conference player of the year.

Just something to chew on.