Thursday, January 31, 2008

Notre Dame 81, Provdience 74 (OT)

Dear Ray Hall, be my valentine. Thanks, BlackandGreen

When you have a home winning streak like this one, you need to win some close games. Tonight was a close game.

It really is only starting to hit me how close this came to a loss. Harangody's great steal under the basket down two with 18 seconds left in the second half. Tory Jackson's steal at the end of regulation to force overtime and near game winning bucket at the buzzer. The Irish scoring 20 in five overtime minutes after playing anaemic offensively all second half. Any of these three huge factors could have gone the other way to cost Notre Dame the game tonight. Say a Hail Mary in thanksgiving that we were able to pull this one out.

After bolting to a 21-9 lead seven minutes into the game, the Irish only scored two points over the next eight 8:15. Ugly. Providence was able to take the lead a couple times before the half, but good 3-2 defense and a nice last second play (what a concept!) kept the Irish up one.

In the second half, Notre Dame jumped out to a couple nice leads. However, more good Providence defense and cold shooting kept the Irish from closing this game out. Look at the Game Flow diagram on to get a good idea of how this contest played out down the stretch. Able to manage only three points in the final five and a half minutes, Notre Dame saw a seven point lead crumble. Bamm-Bamm's great steal when all hope seemed lost and clutch free throws sent the game to overtime.

In the extra period, Notre Dame simply wanted it more. It was so nice to see the crowd on their feet and the players so fired up. Outscoring Providence 20-13 in overtime when the Friars somehow found a magical three point touch will be very important for confidence down the road.

To the individuals. Tory Jackson sure came to play tonight. The point guard with little scoring ability and terrible free throw technique was clutch in both regards. 14 points, 5-9 shooting, 4-6 FT, 7 assists and 3 turnovers. He obviously is still not confident from outside, as he passed up a wide open look from three to drive right into a Providence player for a charge (the refs were offensive foul-happy tonight). Still, a great offensive game when the team needed every point.

We needed guys like Tory to step up because Kyle McAlarney was successfully taken out of the game by the Providence athleticism. 8 points, 2-6 from downtown. Great to see the Irish finally pull out a close game with a poor shooting night by K-Mac. He turned into more of a distributor down the stretch, with 5 assists to 2 turnovers.

I really like Zach Hillesland starting (in part because it makes Ryan Ayers more aggressive when on the floor, but more on that later). He showed the ability to drive that the rest of the squad lacks, but also hit some jumpers. 7 points, 3 rebounds in 27 minutes. Very solid night.

Rob Kurz hit a key three pointer late. So nice to see when he was a bit off his game overall. The senior captain has icewater in his veins. 11 points, 7 rebounds, only 2-8 shooting.

What do you say about Luke Harangody? He does this every night. This time he was able to carry the team to a win even without a stellar night by Kyle McAlarney. 31 points, 14 rebounds. 9-10 from the charity stripe and every single one of those were clutch. Makes a great case for Conference Player of the Year every single time he steps on the floor.

Off the bench, I was really happy to see Ryan Ayers perform well. We need that shot off the bench and he must be willing to make some plays. He hit two huge three pointers when we needed them and was really fired up to be playing. 10 points, 3 rebounds. Keep it up, Ryan. It is a huge weapon to have a double-figure scorer coming off the bench. Peoples barely played, only 5 minutes. Zeller didn't show up a lot on the stat sheet, but provided some energy as well.

Speaking of off the bench, how about Ray Hall? The backup center who didn't even warrant a mention in the preview played 25 very good minutes for the Friars. 10 points, 7 boards. Unfortunately for him, no one will remember those statistics. More like... 2 of 10 from the free throw line. The student section got fired up when Mr. Hall missed rim and backboard on his fourth free throw attempt of the night with 9:30 left in the second half. For his remaining six attempts of the game, the whole arena chanted "air-ball." And he missed every single one.

With such a close game, just one of those uncontested shots could have sealed Notre Dame's fate. Fortunately for the Irish, when Ray gets rattled, he makes Tory Jackson look like Rick Barry. No question that the student section got into the young man's head and kept the Irish from losing this game. Condolences to him, and I am sure that he will go on to be a very good college big man, but it was not to be tonight.

As a team... 44% shooting for the Irish (PC- 41%), 31% 3PA (PC- 24%, but they sure knocked down some clutch ones down the stretch), 35 rebounds (PC- 41), 21 AST/13 TO (PC- 18/15), 22-27 from the stripe (PC- 6-16).

Definitely closer than anyone thought, but this Providence team did beat Connecticut in Storrs. Hopefully the Irish can put together a more well-rounded offensive attack on Saturday.

We are ND.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Providence Preview

Let's have a home game tomorrow, shall we?

After two weeks of traveling, the Irish return to the friendly confines of the Joyce Center with a 4-2 conference record. Providence is 3-4 in the league with a two game losing streak.

Starters for the Friars:

#1 Jeff Xavier- 13.1 PPG, 2.1 APG, 36.8% 3-PT
#13 Weyinmi Efejuku- 11.7 PPG, 2.5 APG, 33.9%
#23 Brian McKenzie- 11.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 44.2%
#5 Dwain Williams- 11.0 PPG, 39.8%
#11 Geoff McDermott- 10.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG


#32 Randall Hanke- (the starting center in name only, has only played 6 minutes the past two contests and averages 13.6 a game)- 6.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 13.6 MPG
#34 Jonathan Kale- 5.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 15.9 MPG
#15 Jamine Peterson- Freshman- 5.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 11.2 MPG
#33 Charles Burch- 1.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 12.2 MPG

McDermott (at 6'8") is the only key player taller than 6'5". Hanke is 6'11". McKenzie is a very good three point shooter, but no other player on the Providence roster shoots over 40%.

The Friars have certainly fallen from their early high rankings after playing a solid nonconference schedule. They beat #18 Arkansas and a decent Boston College team on the road. Their loss to Marquette at the Bradley Center was even worse than ours. The Irish should certainly expect a win tomorrow and look to extend the streak.

EDIT: For some more info on the Providence team, check out They were kind enough to post a link to here over on that blog, so I will do the same.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As we look forward to the two home games this week, a fun note about the two promotions that will be taking place for the Providence and DePaul games. Thursday's contest will be "Camo Night" supporting the armed forces. Free camouflage t-shirts for all the fans in the chairbacks. Coach Brey has a great relationship with out men and women in the fighting forces and it is nice to see a promotion like this. In addition, Saturday's game is a "Blackout," following last season's successful promotion in the win against #4 Alabama. That was a great game and great atmosphere, so hopefully the crowds at both contests will be large in number and ready to cheer the Irish on to victory.

In the Big East tonight, South Florida takes on Marquette up at the Bradley Center. The only other ranked contest involved #8 Tennessee travelling to Alabama.

Not much in the way of news, except for Jim Calhoun's response to the media investigating his two suspended players. Obviously the reporters look into these things for their jobs. Kind of an overreaction by Calhoun, but that's why his players love him. He is willing to protect them no matter the alcohol (and possible marijuana) charges they face. Of course, it's hard for this Notre Dame blogger to cast stones in any direction following last year's incident with Kyle McAlarney. Hopefully the UCONN players will make the kind of return to school that Kyle has been able to make.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Big East Bloggers Poll

This Week's Power Poll Results for 1/28/2008 (1st Place Votes in Parentheses):

1) Georgetown (23): 368 points.
2) Louisville: 324 points.
3) Notre Dame: 304 points.
4) Connecticut: 280 points.
5) Marquette: 279 points.
6) West Virginia: 273 points.
7) Pittsburgh: 258 points.
8) Villanova: 174 points.
9) Seton Hall: 163 points.
10) Cincinnati: 159 points.
11) Syracuse : 157 points.
12) DePaul: 128 points.
13) Providence: 113 points.
14) Rutgers: 72 points.
15) South Florida: 44 points.
16) St. John's: 32 points.

Co-Players of the Week: Brian Laing, Seton Hall and Anthony Mason Jr, St. John's.. Laing, a senior, led Seton Hall to two victories last week scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds at Providence and adding 23 points and 8 rebounds in Sunday's win over Cincinnati. Mason, a junior, was the lone bright spot in two losses by the Redstorm last week, scoring 58 of St. Johns' 114 last week in losses to Pittsburgh and Louisville.

Freshman of the Week: Mike Coburn. The Rutgers guard scored 23 points against Villanova and followed that up with 17 against Pittsburgh, hitting all five of his three-point attempts leading RU to their first two conference wins of the season.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Big East Ballot- Week 11

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

Player of the Week- Kyle McAlarney- Notre Dame
Freshman of the Week- Donte Greene- Syracuse

Deonta Vaughn dropped 34 against UCONN, but two losses this week keep him out of contention for Player of the Week. Bamm-Bamm made a solid case, along with Seton Hall's Brian Laing, but K-Mac gets the nod for leading the road upset yesterday.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Notre Dame 90, Villanova 80

Huge win for the Irish!

After two weeks of hearing nothing but how this team can't win on the road, Mike Brey somehow forgot how to coach in a year, and wondering if Notre Dame could ever compete on the national level, winning a game like this feels great. Seriously, folks! Hopefully today's win over a ranked opponent on the road will keep some of biggest naysayers quiet.

But that's enough about the last two weeks of negatives. Time to get to what happened today.

I've been one of the more vocal critics of Ryan Ayers this season. Some of the criticism has been valid, while others may have been a little overstated. Nonetheless, I have always believed that Zach Hillesland was the right guy for the starting lineup (ok, enough chest-thumping on my part). Kudos to Coach Brey for making the lineup change and getting the extra energy on the floor to begin the game.

I've said it once and will say it the rest of the year, as Kyle McAlarney goes so do the Irish. Forget Luke Harangody's All-American performances every night. K-Mac is the catalyst that drives this offense. 30 points on 10-15 shooting for the man from Staten Island. 2 assists and 4 turnovers are not a great combination, but he needs to be gold from beyond the arc for us to win games like this. He sure came through today.

Tory Jackson had a nice solid game running the offense today. Don't have the exact assist/turnover numbers just yet, but he certainly looked better than what we have seen over the last few weeks. Got to the line a lot but only hit just over half of those shots. Came away with 9 points. Add in 2 steals and three rebounds for a very good performance.

Zach Hillesland, come on down. In his first performance starting for Ryan Ayers, Zach didn't exactly light up the scoresheet. However, he gave us six rebounds and three assists doing what Ryan doesn't: hustling and spreading the defense with his movement. Ryan had a very good game, however, and we'll get to that in a moment.

Luke Harangody is a rock. No disrespect mean earlier when I said that K-Mac drives this offense. Clearly we need the big guy in the middle. 25 points, 10 rebounds. Just dominated the undersized Villanova middle. We were actually outrebounded by the 'Cats, but Luke's great performance made the overall rebounding war moot. 8-14 shooting and was effective from the stripe (though he missed a couple key ones down the stretch). When McAlarney shoots well from outside, it really opens up the paint for Bamm-Bamm, and vice versa. Great to have such a strong two-headed attack.

Rob Kurz finished with 12 and 4. Couldn't really get going with the outside shot (2-7), but provided a solid game overall today. Never does anything flashy and was far short of the double-double he seems to end up with just about every night, but effective nonetheless.

Off the bench, Ryan Ayers gave us 10 points and 5 rebounds. 2-3 from beyond the arc. Still, I think he is a much better weapon off the bench. Just does not give the team the same energy from the tip like Hillesland. When he knocks down the open looks like he did today, he can still be a very effective role player. Here's to more double-digit outings off the bench for Ryan.

Jonathan Peoples and Luke Zeller were pretty quiet. Peoples hit a basket and grabbed two rebounds. Zeller barely even shows up on the stat sheet.

The team jumped off to a solid start and built a ten-point lead by halftime (I credit the black jerseys... Kurz was definitely wrong about them). The second half lead stretched to about 16, but never got into a complete blowout. Villvanova closed the gap a little late to keep us honest, but this one never got too close.

Obviously, great shooting helped the Irish win today. 51% will help you any day of the week. The Wildcats out rebounded Notre Dame, 38-31, surprising considering how undersized Villanova can play. Seeing top rebounder Dante Cunningham on the bench with five fouls certainly helped spirits as ND tried to close this out. Still, Antonio Pena's performance leading Villanova was quite surprising.

Notre Dame got to the line a lot. 27-38 from the charity stripe, providing the Irish with 18 more points than 'Nova's 9-12. McAlarney's big day helped the Irish in the three point category, as they shot 43% as a team. Villanova was 35% with a similar number of attempts.

Huge win to get the season back on track for the season. Win to establish road identity? Check. Win over top 25 opponent to break a solid home streak? Check. Bounce back from two ugly road losses to reassert team's ability to win in the conference? Check.

Back to business now as the team looks to extend the home winning streak. Providence on Thursday and DePaul next Saturday. Two big home games we should win to put the Marquette and Georgetown losses deep into the rearview mirror. 'til next time...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Villanova Preview

To the big game tomorrow. Villanova has not lost at home this year, but have played only one quality opponent in Pittsburgh. In road/neutral games, they are 4-4 with losses to NC State, DePaul, Cincy, and Rutgers. Certainly the weakest of our first three road opponents.

The scorers to watch are Scottie Reynolds, Shane Clark, and Malcolm Grant off the bench. The rest of the minute-eating players are pretty inefficient as a whole, scoring less than 110 points per 100 possessions. Contrast that with Notre Dame, who only has two players (Hillesland and Tory) under 110. Reynolds and freshman Corey Fisher are big-time possession users, averaging 25% a piece.

As a team Villanova has a similar pace, 70.3 possessions per game (Notre Dame- 70.5), but is much less efficient on both ends of the floor, 110.5 points per 100 possessions on offense (Notre Dame- 112.4) and 99.5 on defense (Notre Dame- 92.2). Their effective FG% (weighted for 3-point shots) is 50.8% (Notre Dame- 51.9%) and the Wildcats allow 52.4% of effective points (Notre Dame- 45.2%). So far, Notre Dame is up in all statistics.

Go to rebounding, where Villanova is very effective at grabbing offensive boards, snatching 38.2% (Notre Dame- 39.2%). The Wildcats are less effective at preventing offensive rebounds, so look for the Irish to take advantage on the offensive glass, Villanova- 31.2% (Notre Dame- 28.1%).

They do allow opponents to the line a lot and are 315th in defensive free throw rate. The Irish are only slightly above average on this statistic on offense (103rd), but have the 5th fewest free throw rate in the country on defense. Teams don't get to the line a lot against the Irish. Even when they do, our opponents shoot a low percentage from the stripe.

To the more conventional stats (check out for any more information about the stuff in earlier paragraphs). Reynolds is the main scorer, at 17 points a game. He can also pass the ball, averaging 4.1 assists per contest. Fisher and Dante Cunningham are the only other two averaging more than 10 points a game. Cunningham is the rebounder, at 7.3 per, while Clark will help him out under the basket.

Overall, this is a game we should win. It is our first true away contest against an overmatched opponent. Pomeroy gives the Irish a 66% chance to win. If we can pull out this victory and set a standard for the rest of the year on the road, things are certainly looking up. Even a close loss would be forgivable and a step in the right direction. Let's hope we don't even have to discuss the consequences of a third straight road defeat of 19 points or more.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Not Another Boring Midweek Post...

A week between games is always too long. There's just not that much to talk about for seven days after double-digit road losses.

I used to like Duke. The players don't get into a lot of trouble (unless they play lacrosse), win consistently, and graduate (when they stay 4 years). Now, I can't watch a Blue Devil game without thinking of Greg Paulus kicking and screaming on the floor against Florida State. Obviously, the Dookies have had their fill of arrogant little rich kids but for some reason it has never bothered me until now. Maybe its the bias for Coach Brey's assistant coaching years. Or I just have a soft spot for a private school succeeding in a sport a la Notre Dame football. Whatever the case, I'm definitely off the Blue Devil bandwagon now. For the rest of you who who were never on to begin with, I apologize for my delay.

Around the country, Duke beat Va. Tech pretty easily. #14 Butler won after having three seniors sit behind the Iowa bench at a game against Indiana. The three players received clearance from the NCAA to play. In a week of scandals, that's kind of a weird one. Xavier had little trouble defeating fellow ranked Catholic A-10 team Dayton at home and Arizona took down #6 Washington State. Nice upset for interim head coach Kevin O'Neill.

Tomorrow we'll go to the opponent preview and of course it will be back to normal after the game Saturday. Enjoy Friday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Scandals and Schedules

Some trouble for two big names in college sports. First, Urban Meyer is under investigation for possible recruiting violations regarding a top junior college wide receiver's girlfriend. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel follows up on an earlier story from the Gainesville Sun reporting that gymnast Maranda Smith admits being contacted daily by Meyer in an effort to woo Smith to the university (making sure boyfriend Carl Moore would follow). If true, Meyer broke rules due to his recruiting a non-football athlete and excessive phone calls. Mike Bianchi comments on possible repercussions of Meyer's actions.

Super freshman guard O.J. Mayo from USC is involved in a mini-scandal of his own. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mayo received free tickets for an NBA game from friend Carmelo Anthony (not the best role-model). Neither the NCAA nor Southern Cal has commented so far.

It's a shame that such fine institutions would allow such things to occur...

Back to the events on the hardwood, Villanova has their last tuneup before our game on Saturday tonight at the RAC. Currently the Wildcats trail Rutgers as the first half winds down. Hopefully 'Nova can bounce back and pull out the win.

No conference games last night with only one on tap the next two days. Saturday will feature six matchups, including a nice nonconference tilt between Connecticut and #8 Indiana in Bloomington on CBS. One last shot for the league to get a big win on the national stage.

The Irish, of course, travel to Villanova to take on the 18th-ranked Wildcats. The other three ranked conference teams are also in action.

I will be traveling tomorrow, but will try to post. Look for a preview Friday and the usual postgame fare sometime on Saturday, if not right away.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Around the Country

Only real action in the Big East was a fun one as Syracuse took Georgetown to overtime. It's unfortunate that the Hoyas waited two days to shoot 43% from the floor and 32% from three. The Irish could have won with those circumstances.

#12 Texas held off a great second half run to give Oklahoma State their first home loss. St. Mary's won easily in the other ranked game.

In the AP poll, unbeaten Memphis and Kansas each move up a spot to #1 and #2. Losses for North Carolina, UCLA, and Georgetown (Pittsubrgh earlier in the week) drop those three teams out of the top five. The Hoyas are still the top-ranked Big East program at #9, while Pitt (#13), Villanova (#18), and Marquette (#21) round out the top 25. Also receiving votes were West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati. FYI, Baylor popped into the rankings at #25.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Big East Bloggers Poll

The Irish drop from 4th to 7th. West Virginia, another 2-loss team Notre Dame has beaten, is third after beating a Marquette squad that can't win away from home. It's a weird league.

This Week's Power Poll Results for 1/21/2008 (1st Place votes in parenthesis):

1) Georgetown (20): 320 points.
2) Pittsburgh: 282 points.
3) West Virginia: 259 points.
4) Marquette: 238 pts.
5) Louisville: 234 points.
6) Villanova: 226 points.
7) Notre Dame: 197 points.
8) Connecticut: 192 points.
9) Cincinnati: 157 points.
10) Providence: 144 points.
11) DePaul: 126 points.
12) Syracuse: 122 points.
13) Seton Hall: 92 points.
14) South Florida: 50 points (tie).
14) St. John's: 50 points (tie).
16) Rutgers: 20 points.

Player of the Week: Scottie Reynolds. The sophomore guard from Villanova averaged 23 PPG in two outings last week as the Wildcats beat DePaul and knocked off Syracuse at the Dome.

Freshman of the Week: Jeremy Hazell. Yes, the soon-to-be 22-yr old IS a freshman, as some voters might have forgotton. Seton Hall picked up two important wins and Hazell lit it up from the outside, scoring 22 in the win over South Florida and a huge 29-pt performance keyed the victory over Louisville.

Big East Ballot- Week 10

Connecticut beat Marquette as the Big East continues to struggle on the road. Good to know that we are not the only ones who haven't found that visitor's winning mentality. By comparing the scores of our game with Connecticut and yesterday's contest, it's fairly obvious that the Irish will beat Marquette by 22 on February 9th. There's a good sign for you.

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

Player of the Week- Terrence Williams- Louisville

Freshman of the Week- Jonny Flynn- Syracuse

There probably several candidates who put up better statistics and won more this week, but I'll give the nod to Williams. He earned a triple double in the Cardinals' loss to Louisville Saturday night with 10 points, rebounds, and assists. It is his second of the year, so I certainly thought it would be appropriate to give him his due by casting my vote for Player of the Week in his direction.

As for the rankings, you couldn't create a more jumbled set of 16 teams in the country. Below Georgetown, there are eight two-loss teams worth of recognition. Louisville, West Virginia, and Connecticut all boast wins over former #1 team Marquette (who is down to 3-3). Cincinnati, who lost in a big way to the Irish, has beaten some impressive teams including Pittsburgh (injuries are a big question mark here) and Villanova.

Feel free to add your input, that's why I post my ballot. There's certainly no right (or completely wrong) way to rank these teams.


Yesterday was a blur, so no post. Today you'll get a double dose regarding the Bloggers Poll.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Georgetown 84, Notre Dame 65

Just happy I didn't make this trip.

First of all, let's not blow this one out of proportion. Anyone who legitimately expected a win on the road against a top 5 team is simply dreaming. Obviously, back-to-back road losses by such large margins are not acceptable. Still, there is no reason to think of this as another other than what it is: a bad loss to a very good defensive team. They shut us down today. It doesn't make us a bad team (maybe a little underperforming on the road), it just means we've lost two big road games to the two best teams in the conference. If we can rebound to beat Villanova, we're still looking at a top 4 finish. If not, there's still no reason to believe we will not rebound and make the tournament as one of the last at-larges out of this conference.

When you shut Kyle McAlarney down, the whole offense collapses. Watching games in the Virgin Islands and against Marquette is enough to point out that fact. K-Mac went 4-15 today for 10 points. Don't even look at the rest of the box score, you already know we've lost the game. His outside shooting opens up the middle for Harangody and the rest of the offense. He may have forced things a little today, but he has certainly earned the right to shoot with his great ability.

Tory Jackson had an awfully tough day handling the ball. 3 assists, 7 turnovers. Only five points, but did grab seven rebounds. Not an overly high turnover count for the Irish today, but still higher than you would like. When the point guard is having so much trouble distributing the ball, the offense will shut down.

Where are you Ryan Ayers? As mentioned previously (on several occasions), Ryan has to step it up when K-Mac is not connecting from long range. Only attempting four shots... that's not stepping it up. He made one, had four points, and two rebounds in 23 minutes. There has to be another option if Ryan can't make himself more of a presence on the floor.

Rob Kurz was money from the charity stripe, which contributed to six of his eight points. Next to nothing from the floor. Six rebounds to go with it.

Luke Harangody was successfully shut down by Hibbert, gaining only 13 points and 8 boards in 3-13 shooting. Just a dismal day all around for Irish shooters. Georgetown so completely took this team out of its game.

Off the bench, Zeller hit a third of his shots (a pathetic bright spot for such a tough game). 7 points, two rebounds. He got hacked once or twice and Jack Nolan called the refs out for the no-calls under the hoop while I was listening. Didn't get to see the game for myself, so can't really be a good judge of that. Zach Hillesland has seven rebounds and four points. Nice to see him rack up a better rebounding total. Jonathan Peoples had a huge day scoring 12 in 11 minutes and getting four rebounds. Good for him.

The team shot 33% from the floor and 28% from beyond the arc. That's good enough to lose against anyone, much less such a methodical scoring team like the Hoyas. Georgetown was 53% and 40%. That's your game right there. Quite surprising that the team was able to keep the final margin under 20 with such a disparity between the numbers.

Actually outrebounded Georgetown. Hibbert only managed 3 boards to go with his 21 points. Small victory there. 13 turnovers for both teams. That indicates that we were not that out of control, just forced to take bad shots. The Hays finished with two more made free ones.

Just a disappointing game, but not completely unexpected. Nothing we have done this year has shown our ability to win outside of the Joyce Center (save maybe the K-State game at the MSG... Monmouth doesn't really count). Georgetown goes back to the top of the conference standings, so it was hard to believe pre-game that we would fare any better against them than we did at Marquette. Hopefully the second contest against the Golden Eagles will be an easier one.

I'm not getting too heartbroken about this one. We shot 20% worse from the floor. That's a combination of a great defense (which they seem to have) and methodical scoring on their part (they came in with one of the most efficient offenses in the country, calculated for possessions). Villanova next Saturday will tell a very interesting story about this Irish squad. We started the conference season with two really rough first road games, but 'Nova is the kind of team we should be able to beat on the road. If that's a win, everything is back to being fine and dandy.

Until then, remembering this one will be a tough pill to swallow, but it has to be done.

Big Game Tomorrow

Not an interesting night in terms of basketball game with no top 25 action or Big East games. Hope you had a fun basketball-free night. It was a solid one from this end, note the past-midnight posting.

Let's see... this week has produced a few surprises in the league matchups. Last night Marquette laid an egg at Louisville, losing by 20. The Golden Eagles looked like a completely different squad from last Saturday, scoring only 19 in the first half. Providence beat Connecticut at home, but West Virginia prevailed against St. John's. We need both teams to keep up the victories against the rest of the conference. Other than that, not a whole lot to talk about concerning the Big East the last couple of days.

So we look forward to tomorrow's game at Georgetown. The Hoyas were the early co-favorites for the league crown and boast the preseason player of the year in Roy Hibbert. Unfortunately for them, things have no turned out exactly how the team has planned. Though Georgetown sits tied atop the Big East standings, most of their wins have come virtue of the third-worst nonconference schedule in the league (directly above Notre Dame's). In two contests at ranked opponents Memphis and Pitt, the Hoyas have lost by a double digit average. Time will tell if this squad deserves to be ranked among the nation's elite (currently 5th in the AP).

7'2" Roy Hibbert will match up with Luke Harangody. After Connecticut's Thabeet gave 'Gody so much trouble, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the other preeminent post player in the conference. On the wing, sophomore DaJuan Summers has improved his three point shooting (to 35%) and averages 11 points a game. Senior guard Jonathan Wallace is the third player in double figures, with 10.3 points per game.

The Hoyas will look to slow the pace down and take Harangody away with Hibbert down low. If will be up to Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, and Luke Zeller off the bench to provide some perimeter shooting if we want to open up the inside. If K-Mac can find his range early, the Irish can hang around and look for the upset. If Georgetown successfully takes Kyle out of the game, history tells us that there is nothing Luke Harangody can do to keep it close.

Let's go out tomorrow shooting and see if we can pull this one off. It would be a great way to get the year's first road win.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Before I begin tonight, I'd like to introduce a contest sponsored by Alltel called the "My Circle Pick & Roll Challenge." I'm not one for advertising, but this sounds like an interesting competition.

As it was explained to me, "Basketball fans predict the winners from various conference games (Big East included) and accrue points for correct guesses for a chance to win $100,000, a ride on a private jet to the Big East tournament (and any other tournament you want) and a meeting with Dickie V. Feel free to check it out here:"

Would be fun to win something like that. Why, might you ask, am I including this on a Notre Dame blog? The Exec responsible for the contest is none other than the sister of former Irish guard Megan Duffy. Good luck to Megan as she continues her professional basketball career in Italy.

To basketball we go. Last night Villanova and Syracuse pulled out victories and today we have four games going on in the Big East. Marquette and Louisville is the marquee matchup, with the loser dropping to two league losses.

No View from the Opposing Bench this week, so the Georgetown preview will come from yours truly tomorrow.

A couple notes for you today, however:
  • Roy Hibbert, preseason Conference Player of the Year, leads the team with 12.5 PPG
  • Hibbert averages 6.7 RPG
  • Jonathan Wallace and Austin Freeman provide some outside shooting, hitting 45% and 42% of their three-point shots, respectively
  • Wallace and DaJuan Summers join Hibbert as the only three players averaging double-figure point totals
  • The team averages 72.7 PPG and gives up 56.7 PPG
  • Georgetown's RPI is 22, but have played only four top 100 teams this season, going 2-2 against them
  • Georgetown lost their only nonconference game against a 100 opponent, an 85-71 affair to #3 Memphis
  • The Hoyas have scored 80 or more only three times, once a 110-51 affair against Radford (the 11th worst team in the nation)
  • They have one of the slowest tempos in the country, ranking 319th in possessions per game
  • In contrast, the Irish have scored 80 or more seven times and rank 83rd overall in raw tempo

In will be an interesting contrast in styles on Saturday. A win will certainly propel the Irish to the upper echelon of Big East teams and dispel notions that this team cannot win on the road. A loss, as long as it is not a blowout, shouldn't kill too much of the momentum this team has earned at home. Still, the Irish need to establish a road identity in order to succeed to the level it desires.

A note about Luke Harangody. Bamm-Bamm leads the Big East in points per game (19.3) and is fourth in the league in rebounds (9.6 per). He has been getting a little attention as a possible Player of the year candidate. Good for him, even if it is a bit early to talk about such things. Plenty of basketball to be played. Keep it up, Luke.

Letter to the Editor

When you have nothing better to do with your time, you write letters to Sports Illustrated regarding articles that paint your favorite university in a negative light. So I did.

Selena Roberts's article "Losing Their Religion" can be found on the back page of this week's SI (where the dearly-missed Rick Reilly article used to be). It is about church-affiliated schools who compete for a "sinner's jackpot." Guess what private institution was first to be mentioned?

My response:

"Perhaps Selena Roberts was too busy casting stones to do some serious investigating for her Point After article. While reproaching church-affiliated schools such as Notre Dame and SMU for the expensive contracts given to Charlie Weis and June Jones, respectively, Roberts failed to mention the strong academic traditions at schools where "bleachers function as corrugated church pews." The most recent graduation rate statistics for student athletes ( lists the national average at 63% and football at 56%. The University of Notre Dame, frequently mentioned when writers decide to attack private institutions with successful sporting programs, graduates 89% of its student athletes and 79% of all football players. SMU also had very positive numbers (76% and 73%). When bashing these two programs, Ms. Roberts neglected to mention one thing that the two schools also have in common: giving football players and all student athletes a positive education. Plenty of other schools (such as Florida, which graduates only 35% of football players) could learn a positive lesson from these two."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day After Post

How do you follow up a win like that? Nothing really interesting to report, just some day after stuff.

Following the win, Ken Pomeroy gives up a 26% chance of upsetting Georgetown Saturday. The Irish had a 94% chance of winning last night. In addition, we are projected to finish the season 13-5.

For some Cincinnati commentary on the game yesterday, see here.

Since we had the only Big East game last night, some good neutral analysis at the Big East Basketball Report.

That's about it for today. Lots to talk about coming up on Saturday, but just enjoy the victory for another day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Notre Dame 91, Cincinnati 74

Consider Notre Dame's gut checked. A 24 point second half comeback took the Irish from the brink to an easy victory against the Bearcats tonight.

Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati's one man scoring machine last week, was held to only 10 points on 3 of 13 shooting. In the second half, the Irish brought more hustle and physicality to the game and looked like a completely new team. Luke Harangody led all scorers with 25 after not hitting a field goal in the first half.

Tory Jackson scored 4 points and had 8 assists and 5 rebounds to 4 turnovers tonight. Not a great line, but he did a very good job shutting down Vaughn on defense and leading the Irish comeback. However, he made some dumb mistakes down the stretch and left fans wondering whether he can be trusted with the game on the line. A bruised knee in the closing minutes meant he spent the last minute or two on the bench. The injury was sustained while spinning recklessly on the sideline and crashing into the scorer's table. Just not a heads-up play with an almost 20 point lead. Until then, he had been pretty smart with the ball and tenacious on defense. Just needs to play within himself down the stretch (though his two free throws were hopefully a good sign of things to come).

Kyle McAlarney really is the catalyst of this team. The first 20 minutes he was unable to get open looks at the basket. With the second half comeback, he finished with 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Was absolutely deadly in the corner in front of the Irish bench. Also had three assists, but 5 turnovers. When he is making the outside shot, everything opens up under the basket on offense.

Ryan Ayers finished with 7 points and 4 rebounds. A couple of those boards were huge during our comeback. His steal and layup put the Irish ahead for good with 15:30 remaining. He was also the guy to cover Vaughn when Tory was on the bench with his 4 fouls.

Luke Harangody finished with 25 points and 7 rebounds. As mentioned previously, none of his baskets from the field came in the first half. He did a pretty good job kicking the ball out in double teams down the stretch, but more improvement can be made. Cincy liked to double him down low a lot. This worked in the first half, but as the Bearcats got tired, Gody was able to take control and draw fouls. He hit 13 of 15 from the charity stripe.

Rob Kurz deserved yet another double double. 17 points, 10 rebounds. Not a great shooting night (4-11), but was clutch from the line (8-9) and was the only player with double figure rebounds. Another quietly efficient night for the senior.

Off the bench, Luke Zeller hit a few good open threes. However, I'm not quite ready to support Jack Nolan's idea that Luke could play pro somewhere. Luke's a great guy, plays hard, and shoots very well from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, he has not become and will probably never be the inside force that he was hoped to be when recruited. Still, can stretch the defense and hit very important shots when given the opportunity as he did tonight. Congrats to him. Jonathan Peoples had 7 points and no assists or turnovers. Great way to top off the night with a one-handed jam and get over 90 points. Hillesland gave the team some energy off the bench with his ability to cut and drive to the hoop, in contrast to Ryan Ayers. 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists. Did finish with 4 fouls.

In the first half, Cincinnati killed us on the offensive boards. We were stagnant and caught looking up at the glass several times. The Bearcats have great quickness and crash the basket very well. Their 15 offensive rebounds to our 10 seems a bit low, but most of those came in the first half for Cincinnati.

Great job by the team coming back and winning a key game tonight. Hopefully games like this and Connecticut will make the Irish battle-hardened and ready to pull off a big win down the road, maybe even this weekend in D.C. The diminutive Mick Cronin (how tall is he really?) has done a solid job turning Cincinnati into a competitive team that plays tougher than their 8-9 record. Obviously, they sometimes can't keep it up for 40 minutes, but the Bearcats were the better team on the floor for all of the first half.

Other than that, Johnny Lattner was in attendance. The former Heisman winner has been known to tailgate with his trophy on the table before ND football games. Great to see the students back. The student section was filled pretty well the first game back. Need to keep the streak going with one more win in January, but until then the Irish have a couple opportunities to get that first road win. Let's see if we can knock off Georgetown.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Big East Bloggers Poll

This Week's Power Poll Results for 1/14/2008 (1st Place votes in parenthesis):

1) Georgetown (17): 331 points.
2) Marquette (4): 315 points.
3) Pittsburgh: 285 points.
4) Notre Dame: 249 points.
5) Louisville: 239 points.
6) West Virginia: 231 points.
7) Connecticut: 224 points.
8) Villanova: 182 points.
9) Syracuse: 168 points.
10) Cincinnati: 150 points.
11) DePaul: 134 points.
12) Providence: 128 points.
13) South Florida: 75 points.
14) Seton Hall: 71 points.
15) St. John's: 53 points.
16) Rutgers: 21 points.

Player of the Week: Deonta Vaughn. The sophomore guard from Cincinnati averaged 27 PPG in two outings last week as the surprising Bearcats knocked off Syracuse and Villanova.

Freshman of the Week: DeJuan Blair. The 6'7 Pittsburgh manchild combined 32 points and 23 rebounds in a pair of Panther victories over South Florida and Seton Hall.

Good to see the rest of the conference kept the Irish in the top four after the embarrassment on Saturday. If we can bounce back the rest of the year and grab a bye I would be very pleased.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Big East Ballot- Week 9

Team Rankings-

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

Player of the Week- Deonta Vaughn- Cincinnati

Freshman of the Week- Donte Greene- Syracuse

Another tough week to rank the teams. Cincinnati and DePaul have come from nowhere to be 3-1 in conference play. Obviously I haven't quite jumped on either bandwagon as they still lie in the bottom half of my rankings. Hopefully next week will help things shake out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Marquette 92, Notre Dame 66

In hindsight, this was a great game to not have televised. Like Georgetown last season, our first Big East road game was a complete domination by the home team.

Elsewhere, Georgetown pulled out the win against a strong UCONN challenge with a Roy Hibbert three pointer, of all things. More on that later.

No tv or live stats from ESPN, so this will be a tough post using what I could hear on the radio plus some incomplete numbers from

Way too many turnovers. I believe the final count was over 20. Marquette did a great job of harassing us all over the floor. This lead to poor shooting and plenty of wasted possessions. Luke Harangody had another monster performance, but just like in the Virgin Islands he was unable to bring about the victory.

Tory Jackson really needs to learn to shoot free throws. Our point guard can't be such a liability from the stripe in close games. 0 for 4 today. We joked about his ability to knock down both against UCONN with a swollen eye, but I think it is indicative of his lack of concentration. Had an early night today fouling out midway through the second half, but the game was already in hand.

Remember my earlier analysis about how the team struggles without Kyle McAlarney, no matter how well Bamm-Bamm plays? I couldn't have been more dead-on (I'm actually more surprised about this than you are). 3 of 10 shooting, 2 of 7 from beyond the arc. Great perimeter defense by the Golden Eagles took away our outside looks, so nothing personal against Kyle. Still he has to contribute more than 8 points if the team is going to win on the road against a ranked opponent.

Back to that love-hate relationship with Ryan Ayers. Before the game I mentioned that he has to step it up and look for his shot when Mac is cold. How did he respond to the team's need? 0 points, only 3 attempts. You have to be kidding. We're getting drilled on the road and one of our best perimeter shooters takes only three attempts. He also made a couple mental mistakes including not looking for a pass in transition. You've gotta be better than that, Ryan. We need someone to step up and look for scoring opportunities when the opposition shuts down McAlarney. Harangody had a great afternoon, Kurz always provides a decent share, Jackson is not a scorer, so someone else has to step it up. If not Ayers, let's see if someone else can do the job.

Kurz had a quiet day. 9 points, including 2 three pointers. I don't have the rebound statistics. He gets into kind of a strange position on offense. Harangody is obviously the go-to guy down low. Rob has nothing near Luke's ability to score under the hoop. He is very good post player grabbing rebounds and can hit the outside shot when open, but doesn't really have a distinct role on offense. Obviously a great guy to have on the floor, but it is tough to get more scoring out of the guy (obviously his normal dozen points and double-digit rebounds does the job most nights).

How can you not love Luke Harangody? Tied the career-high with 29 points, double-digit rebounds as well. Had to be taken out of the game near the end because he was going to hurt himself diving for loose balls with the game already lost. Gives everything he has into the game and wants to win so badly. Obviously we can't win without getting some help from another guy or two in double figures, but Luke certainly tries to make that possible. We lost by 26 with a dominating performance by the sophomore. I don't even want to imagine the score without him. Keep it up, Luke. Give us a game where K-Mac scores 15-20 and we can play anyone in the country.

Off the bench, Luke Zeller showed a lot of spunk today. Double digit rebounds, I believe. certainly something we have not been used to from the 6'10" forward. Came back from a bloody head injury to keep at it. Zeller is certainly the most disappointing player of the team, mostly because he has been a guard trying to play in the post his whole career. Still, I like his effort and would love to see more production out of him. Hillesland made two free throws, 0-3 from the floor. Peoples had four points. Both Tim Abromaitis and Ty Nash came in and scored 2 points.

Marquette outscored us by 24 from beyond the arc alone. They were 12-24, we were 4-20. That's your stat of the game. Marquette's guards played great perimeter defense and shut us down from outside. We gave the Golden Eagles open look after open look. They knocked half of those down. Poor free throw shooting from us, the 2nd best foul shooting team in the conference. Marquette outshot the Irish 46.6%-39%. Don't have the turnover numbers, but they were over 20 for the Irish, far too many. Add all of that up and its a big blowout.

The Irish did a great job of getting back into the game after a rough start. Clawed back to five a little into the 2nd half, but just could not stop Marquette the rest of the way. We played a great team today and looked unable to win on the road. That will come with time, but the first road game in a hostile environment against some great guards add up to a really tough contest. We shouldn't have lost by that many, but looking at the stats I can certainly see how we fell behind so badly.

Hats off to Marquette, we'll try to get them back at the Joyce. Cincinnati comes into town Tuesday. Need to bounce back and find what made us such a great team against UCONN and West Virginia.

Speaking of the Huskies, they took Georgetown to the wire in D.C. today. Great to see a team we beat play the #1 team in the league so tough. Who knows, maybe the Georgetown game will be a close one. Need to win against Cincy to get back on the right track, but I'm still confident in this squad's ability to do very well this year.

Take a deep breath. It's a tough loss. Still tons of basketball to be played.

For Those Wanting to Watch This Game... is great if your ISP provides it. Just download the player and watch the game live.

EDIT: No local tv. If you try, the games are mislabeled. I could watch the Irish for a few minutes on the Georgia Tech/Miami channel, but now that game is playing and the Mississippi St./Georgia contest is on both the ND channel and its own feed. So no ND online right now. ESPN is great...

Friday, January 11, 2008

View from the Opponent's Bench

Thanks to Tim Blair from our friends at Cracked Sidewalks for this great preview of the game on Saturday:

Who are the key players for Marquette in the backcourt?

Marquette is a backcourt dominated team. Crean over-recruits in the backcourt where he can go as many as six deep this year, though a rotation of five guards has become the norm. The team is led by the duo of Jerel McNeal and Dominic James. These guys lead MU in scoring, and are also second and third in the BIG EAST in steals per game. Each player is having a fine season, showing marked improvement offensively. Neither is a great shooter, but both players have improved their shot selection this season and are (no surprise) much more efficient. Another player to watch on Saturday is combo guard David Cubillan. He's a ferocious defender and dead-eye three-point shooter when healthy. However, he's been struggling with a bad ankle for the past week or so and his productivity has suffered.

Speaking of injuries, there's some question about how James' injured right wrist is recovering. James was injured against Seton Hall but later returned to the game. Still, Crean is cagey on injuries to his players and there have been reports that James' wrist will limit his PT on Saturday.

Who are the key players for Marquette in the frontcourt?

Lazar Hayward and Dan Fitzgerald. Hayward has emerged as an ideal complement to the MU guards, scoring from all over the floor. He's draining shots from deep consistently, is a fine offensive rebounder, and has an effective midrange game. Hayward is the most improved player on the roster, and might be the key to MU's offensive because of the pressure he takes off of the guards.

Fitzgerald, a 6'9" senior, can be Steve Novak-lite. He missed a month with injury but had a huge night against SHU earlier in the week, draining four three-pointers. Fitz needs to shoot more, and if he hits a few shots the MU offense really cooks. At the center slot, Crean goes with a platoon of Dwight Burke and Ousmane Barro -- but this duo has been underwhelming for most of the year. Barro started every game for MU last season, but Crean has him coming off the bench now ostensibly to keep him out of foul trouble. Trouble is, Barro's production has fallen significantly and Burke rarely delivers. At least they have 10 fouls to give against a bull like Harangody.

What is your opinion of Tom Crean as a coach and how would you describe his coaching technique, offensive/defensive philosophy, etc.?

Crean is a good coach and he's developed a system that fits the style of the players he recruits. This team is built on defensive pressure, pushing the ball up the floor, and driving and kicking to an open shooter or a cutter. Effectively, TC runs a pro-styled offense where the best players get the most looks (realize that Burke and Barro took one shot in 39 minutes against the Hall). On defense, MU pressures the ball effectively thanks to McNeal and James. Against Providence in the BIG EAST opener, MU's backcourt pressure rendered the Friars' bigs completely ineffective (Hanke and McDermott combined for only four shot attempts) - - their guards just could not run the offense effectively. I'd expect MU to try the same formula against the Irish in hopes of marginalizing Harangody and Kurz. Easier said than done.

How has the team performed compared to expectations this season?

MU is right where they should be. The road win at Wisconsin has been the best win so far, and now that the team is healthier they should be primed for a successful conference season. However, MU has struggled in its last two outings, so ND will be a major test.

What are you predictions for the rest of the year (conference finish, postseason play, etc)?

3rd place in the Big East and a Sweet Sixteen run....NCAA wins have become Crean's albatross in the post-Wade era. It's time to shed that.

Good stuff. Cracked Sidewalks always does a great job covering Marquette hoops. They are our biggest rivals on the hardwood, so there is plenty of reason to follow this team and see how the do the rest of the year. CS is always good for some solid reporting and thanks to Tim and the rest for giving us this preview.

The 2:00 game tomorrow throws me off a bit. Hopefully I will get a chance to post before the contest, but that all depends on when I wake up, I guess. This is our first chance to defeat a ranked team and hop into the top 25 ourselves. Too bad you can't watch it if you don't have ESPN Full Court. should have streaming video for your viewing pleasure, however.

'til then, happy Friday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Scouting Report for Notre Dame

My Q&A with a Maruqette blogger regarding Notre Dame basketball. Check it out here.

Don't tell Tom Crean any of this...

Mike Brey had a successful formula in 06-07, what's he done differently with this bunch to get out to a fast start?

Coach Brey relied on two freshman starters last year in Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody. Their continued improvement and Kyle McAlarney's return has helped offset the loss of Colin Falls and Russell Carter. Falls was a pretty one-deminsional player, great three-point shooter with a high basketball IQ. McAlarney's return from a semester-long suspension has made up for the lost outside shooting of Falls. Though this year's team misses the penetration ability of Carter, his erratic shot selection took us out of a couple games last year. Most importantly, Tory Jackson has shown the ability to distribute the basketball alongside McAlarney in the backcourt and Luke Harangody is growing by leaps and bounds in the post. He could be the conference player of the year by the time he graduates.

Which ND players are exceeding expectations this year?

Harangody and McAlarney have improved a lot this season. Luke lost some weight over the offseason and is showing some more versatility in the post. Kyle has stepped into the shooting guard position with ease and has turned from a distributor into a great shooter. The other player who doesn't show up in the stat book but has impressed more than last season is Ryan Ayers. Ayers was tabbed as the replacement for Russell Carter this season, a selection I to which originally objected. However, he has shown the ability to knock down open looks from outside when given the opportunity and plays great perimeter defense. He's a very smart player who never shows up big in the box score, but does the little things the team needs on the floor.

Harangody. He dominated MU last year, and leads a talented frontcourt. Can you breakdown the Irish bigs?

Luke has grown tremendously this season. Last year, he was a raw talent who could throw his weight around in the post. This season, he has trimmed up and can go to the basket with a variety of different moves. Also plays great defense. The addition of a deadly midrange jumper has turned him into an all-around player. He has shown the ability to consistently knock down any open look from within the arc. The only player who has truly shut him down this season was Thabeet from Connecticut. Luke was at least 7 inches shorter (Thabeet- 7'3", Gody- maybe 6'8") and had trouble shooting over the big man. If he lines up against anyone under 7 feet, he can dominate (see Beasley, Michael).

Rob Kurz is a terrific captain. The lone senior, he is our other post threat. Doesn't do a lot of flashy things on the floor, but can collect a double-double before you know it. Very quiet, and not the bruiser that Harangody can be, but has more of an all-around game. Can hit any open shot beyond the arc and works his way to double digit rebound totals most nights.

Off the bench, Zach Hillesland is our first option. He's more of a small forward, but can play solid interior defense when required. The Irish like to keep Kurz or Harangody on the floor most of the time, however, due to our lack of depth. Luke Zeller has been a disappointment. Now a junior, he came in as a 6'11" Mr. Basketball in Indiana. Not physical enough to play in the post, he has a great touch from outside but just has not developed as the inside threat Brey hoped he would be.

What types of teams give the Irish the most trouble?

This is a tough question, as Notre Dame played a cupcake nonconference schedule and have rarely been challenged before last week. In the two losses, Notre Dame either got into serious foul trouble or turned the ball over a lot. The common factor between the two games was the opponent's ability to take away the outside shot. Kyle McAlarney shot a combined 4-19 against Baylor and Georgia Tech. Good defense/poor shot selection on his part took away one big part of the Irish offense. Protecting the perimeter left both teams vulnerable in the middle, with Luke Harangody scoring 22 in both contests. You can't stop both McAlarney and Harangody, so teams have to focus on one or the other.

What types of teams do the Irish best matchup against?

Just do the opposite of Baylor or Georgia Tech. Harangody has 6 games of 20 points or more. McAlarney has 4. From November 24th to December 29th, both players scored in double figures and the Irish were undefeated. This included such lopsided scores as 108-62, 94-63, and 87-54. Obviously most of the contests were against inferior talent. Still, on December 4th against Kansas St., McAlarney scored 18 and Harangody had 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Notre Dame plays great defense, much improved over last season. As West Virginia found out, it can be difficult to score against the Irish. Unless you can stop McAlarney and Harangody, Notre Dame has little toruble winning.

There you have it. Bamm-Bamm and Mac are really our catalysts. Step one for an opponent would be stopping one or the other (you can't stop both). When we lost in the Virgin Islands, it was when Kyle was unable to connect on his shots. Harangody really stepped into the player he is now, but was unable to carry the team. Likewise, when 'Gody was held in check (or a headlock) by Thabeet, Kyle was able to pull out a close victory for us.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Midweek Post

Finally some time to rest between games and I have nothing to talk about. Bamm-Bamm won the official Big East Player of the Week award. The Irish are ranked 27th and 29th in the AP and Coaches Polls. They received one less vote than St. Mary's from the coaches (who knew the sister school had a men's basketball team?).

There was some kind of football game Monday. I think LSU won, but who cares? Interesting to note that Notre Dame's bowl opponents the previous two seasons wound up playing each other for the national title this year.

That's about it for today. Hopefully we'll have a "View from the Opponent's Bench" ready for you tomorrow or the day after plus a full-fledged preview of Saturday's big game at Marquette.

Go Irish. Beat Golden Gold Warrior Eagles.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Special thanks to Mike and Dan from for giving me some links to good Villanova websites for the links to the right of your page. Feel free to check out all of them. In addition, if you know of any blogs that are Big East or team related, feel free to point them out to me. I don't do a great job of keeping track of all the good sites out there, so whatever help you can give is great! Just click on my profile to find my e-mail address.

In addition, I will be running another great "View From the Opposing Bench" article, this time on Marquette, in the coming week. Our friends at Cracked Sidewalks will be sharing a Q&A discussion with me in preparation for Saturday's game. Good luck to the Warriors tonight so we look better when we beat them this weekend.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Big East Bloggers Poll

I don't look like as big a fool as I figured I would this week, as most of my fellow bloggers agreed with the rankings and the two awards. And who voted for West Virginia #1?! Does anyone remember who the Mountaineers lost to last week?

This Week's Power Poll Results for 1/1/2008 (1st Place votes in parenthesis):

1) Georgetown (17): 301 points.
2) Marquette (1): 267 points.
3) Notre Dame: 250 points.
4) Villanova: 221 points.
5) Syracuse: 218 points.
6) West Virginia (1): 214 points.
7) Pittsburgh: 208 points.
8) Connecticut: 177 points.
9) Louisville: 168 points.
10) DePaul: 113 points.
11) Providence: 111 points.
12) Seton Hall: 97 points.
13) South Florida: 91 points.
14) St. John's: 61 points.
15) Cincinnati: 51 points.
16) Rutgers: 21 points.

Player of the Week: Luke Harangody. The 6'8, 250 lb sophomore bulled his way through West Virginia for 29 pts and 16 rebounds in the Irish's conference opening 69-56 win. He also added a double-double in the win over Connecticut, registering 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Freshman of the Week: Donte Greene. Syracuse's 6'9 freshman sensation continues to roll as conference play begins. In a 76-70 win over St. John's, Greene collected 22 points despite being limited with foul trouble. He capped off the week with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks against South Florida.

Additional Notes:

Big East Notes:

* Home teams went 11-3 in the opening week of play.
* Only one week down and already 12 Big East teams have at least one loss in conference play.
* The Big East is currently ranked #2 in conference RPI, behind only the ACC. The Pac 10 is not far behind the Big East in 3rd. Of the six 'Power Conferences', the Big East had the strongest out of conference schedule rating.

Season on the Line? Not the start Providence College was looking for, going 0-2 in the first week. Now they return home with a chance to wipe the slate clean as Rutgers and South Florida come to the Dunkin Donuts Center. The Friars must win both these games if they hope to be in contention in the league this year. Their task is tougher with injuries to Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams.

Team With Most to Gain? Syracuse. The Orange took care of business opening conference play with wins over St. John's and South Florida. They get their young feet wet on the road with a trip to Cincinnati. If they can avoid a pitfall, they will go to West Virginia Sunday with a chance to make a statement to the rest of the league.

Player in the Spotlight? Ronald Ramon, Pittsburgh. Playing with a pair of injured shoulders, Ramon is being asked to be the Panthers' primary ballhandler. A tough task for even a healthy Ramon and Villanova extended pressure from start-to-finish on Sunday and forced 22 Panther turnovers, five by Ramon. Pittsburgh still has a formidable front line and Ramon will be facing pressure each and every night to deliver them the ball and also continue to be one of th eleague's most accurate 3-pt shooters in the absense of Levance Fields.

Offensively Challenged? Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights failed to do something in either conference contest last week that their football team did in their bowl game; score 50 points in a game. The Scarlet Knights managed just 45 in a road loss to South Florida and only could score 46 in the RAC against Georgetown. The Scarlet Knights will have to dig deep to find points, I am not sure the answers will be easy for Fred Hill to find this year.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Big East Ballot- Week 8

Wild, wild week. The Irish leap to #3 by virtue of staying unbeaten in two games. Villanova beat Pitt, who has been #1 this season and lost to DePaul, who has been on the bottom most of the year. Really tough to rank the squads, but I tried to stay consistent.

Team Rankings-

  1. Georgetown- Much weaker than thought at the beginning of the year, but they find ways to win. Hibbert is not as good as advertised.
  2. Marquette- Drop to #2, but have chance to jump back to the top if they beat the Irish and the Hoyas lose.
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Syracuse
  5. Villanova
  6. West Virginia- Knocked off the former #1 team in the conference, but lost to the Irish earlier
  7. Pittsburgh- Who knows where to put this team? The injuries haven turned them from tops in the league to possibly middle of the table.
  8. Connecticut
  9. South Florida
  10. DePaul- Leap up the rankings with two big wins
  11. Providence
  12. Seton Hall
  13. Louisville
  14. St. John's
  15. Cincinnati
  16. Rutgers

EDIT- And West Virginia just beat Marquette... this league is crazy

Player of the Week- Luke Harangody- Notre Dame- two double doubles like Arinze Onuaku, but single-handedly won the West Virginia game for us.

Freshman of the Week- Donte Greene- Syracuse- 21 and 9 against S. Florida. 22 and 3 against St. John's.

"No That's a Clean Block" ---Right...

"Now this crowd should not be so quick to jump to a conclusion."
-Len Elmore
Judge for yourself. This is what happens when referees swallow their whistles.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Notre Dame 73, Connecticut 67

Irish eyes are smiling (even Tory Jackson's).

I don't know how to start this one. First of all, I don't like watching close games. I much prefer the 30 and 40 point thrashings of inferior opponents to the heart-wrenching stuff of which the Big East season is made. But that's what you have to do in this league. Throw your weight around and just survive.

The crowd was excellent. 10-11,000 in attendance without the students. Loud from the opening tip. Got the team fired up unlike anything we have seen this season. And we needed it.

Hasheem Thabeet certainly lived up to his billing as a supreme shot blocker and defender. Of course, it's nice when all three officials swallow their whistles at once. The block on Tory Jackson at the end of the first half was clean, but several were not. Luke Harangody was completely neutralized in the second period due to the lack of any rule under the basket. That's how players get hurt. We're lucky that Tory was able to complete the game with his corneal abrasion and that no one else was seriously injured. It was unbelievable how the referees allowed Thabeet and his teammates to get away with murder under the basket while they were too focused on touch handchecks in the backcourt. I do not blame Thabeet, who took every inch the officials gave him. I blame the referees in this game (I really wish I had their names). The Big East is supposed to be a tough tooth-and-nails conference, but this was pure ridiculousness.

The first half was beautiful free-flowing basketball in which the Irish dominated for twenty minutes. The second half was a drawn out war of attrition that the boys won by playing gutsy hard nosed basketball. It is unfortunate how the officials allowed the game to turn into an all-out slug fest and I hate to complain like this in a win, but I'm sure that the UCONN fans noticed the terrible officiating as well. We may have gotten away with a few hacks ourselves, but there should have been much more order.

That said, I love this team. Their heart in coming back after giving up such a large lead at the end was unbelievable. Tory's grit in playing all 20 minutes after his eye injury, our captain Rob Kurz and K-Mac shooting lights out when we needed them, down to even the much-maligned Luke Zeller who stood toe-to-toe with Thabeet when asked, all showed why this team is so special. They play for each other, give themselves up and leave everything on the floor. You have to get behind this squad.

Thabeet got in the first block of 10 (he almost had a triple double) early against Harangody. No one knew then how critical that matchup would become. K-Mac drained the first of his six threes soon after and the crowd got involved. Less than two minutes into the contest, the team earned a standing ovation during a timeout. The Irish ran well and hit their shots to end the half up 47-32. Just before the break, of course, Jackson received his eye injury in a hard block that sent him to the floor.

In the second half, the team came out flat. Jackson was tentative and the Irish seemed unable to recapture that first half magic. The 29 game winning streak certainly did not seem to be in jeopardy, but the Huskies slowly pulled away at the lead. The no calls under the basket drew boos from the crowd and Harangody was completely taken out of the game, literally and figuratively, by Thabeet's physicality. Bamm-Bamm kept short-arming the ball on his jump hooks, trying to get them over the UCONN center's massive frame, to no avail. All hope seemed to leave the building as the Huskies crawled back to tie the game and then take a quick lead. Then it was the captain, Rob Kurz who drilled the open three to retake the advantage. After an Irish stop, Kyle McAlarney sank another open long range jumper to put the team up 67-61 with 2:35 remaining. With the team up two and 37.6 seconds remaining, the junior shooting guard from Staten Island drove to the lane and hit a rainbow runner in front of his mom. McAlarney truly has ice water in his veins. Two Ryan Ayers free throws gave us the final score.

What to say about Tory Jackson? He wasn't his same, bull-in-a-china-shop, self in the second half, but coming back from that injury is truly encouraging. 6 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists, and 7 turnovers in a performance that truly fits the sophomore point guard. He made mistakes, turning the ball over too much. He showed off, with an early no look spin pass to McAlarney for an open three. He played with true grit and determination, coming back from a terrible injury to play all but two minutes of the game. He's not the most reliable player, but he embodies what this team is all about. Definitely need to cut down on the mistakes, but it's hard to demand for Coach Brey to take him off the floor. He also shoots free throws better with one eye apparently...

Ryan Ayers had five points and three rebounds. It what was such a slug fest, he kind of well off the radar in the second half. He must shoot better than the 1 of 4 from beyond the arc that he had tonight. Still he did end up with the game clinching rebound and was solid down the stretch, so no complaints here.

Luke Harangody was on fire in the first half. In the second, he was completely taken away by Thabeet's physical play. Obviously, giving 7 inches to a great defender is terribly hard to overcome. When he didnt take over like he did last game, it is easy to get angry with the the player who is quickly becoming the best pound-for-pound post presence in the Big East. Still, 14 points and 10 rebounds against the best defender he will play all year. He even outrebounded UCONN's center, no small feat. It was just not his night for the heroics.

You couldn't ask for a better captain that Rob Kurz. 14 points and 10 rebounds, but they came down the stretch for the lone senior. He showed incredible poise knocking down two three pointers. He showed some spunk pushing Thabeet around when he had to. He is usually our rock out there, quietly performing. Tonight, those outside shots were huge and he stepped up to equal Harangody's great rebounding night against the best rebounding team in the league.

Kyle McAlarney is my anti-drug. Seriously, think where this team would be if Kyle had not returned. The young man is unflappable, hitting offbalance jumpers when the team had no inside presence down the stretch. The dagger at the end, his trademark rainbow in the lane, was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. If you want vindication, you've got it. Welcome home, K-Mac. 32 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds. No turnovers. 6 of 7 from beyond the arc after being cold in his last few outings. This guy is truly something special and I can't wait to see the rest of his Notre Dame career.

Off the bench, Hillesland did his share playing against Jeff Adrien in the post. Only 2 points and 5 rebounds, but we just needed bodies tonight. Peoples had an uninspiring 5 minutes and Zeller was asked to spell Harangody a few times once it became clear that the refs were not going to call anything on Thabeet.

This was a special win. It was so nearly a very devastating collapse, but the squad held tough and pulled it out. I still don't know why Coach Brey failed to call some timeouts to stop the bleeding during UCONN's comeback, but it all worked out in the end. The fact that we ended with more fouls than Connecticut is downright comical. Rob Kurz, not known for being extremely physical, finished with four fouls. Hasheem Thabeet, the guy who threw several of our players to the ground? ZERO. That makes me angry.

Bad officiating aside, this was a very happy night for the boys. A big time win that could catapult the team into the rankings. 30 straight at home and a nice 2-0 conference record to take to Marquette. It takes guts, and we have plenty of courage.

I've already made my comments about how he seemed to get away with everything, but Thabeet truly is a great player. Even if he had been called on three or four of those blocks, it was still a great night for him and he did a great job stopping a true talent in Harangody. Jeff Adrien got a double double by hiding in the low post, where we sometimes lost track of him. Dyson and Price also scored double figures, but I really wasn't impressed with their overall scoring ability. I know the Irish are a very good defensive team, but the Huskies were dismal shooters tonight, 12% from beyond the arc. Lots of their baskets came off of second chances (13 offensive rebounds).

To outrebound such a great team on the boards is a special night. Kudos to Kurz and Harangody for that. Both teams shot under 40%, but the Irish survived by connecting from long range. Too many turnovers once again, but tonight you have to give Jackson a break. They missed more free throws that we did and only made one more (another testament to the poor officiating). From our charity stripe everyone chipped in and hit 10-11.

That's a great win to put in the pocket. February 13th will be a tough rematch so I'm glad we got this half of the series. Say a few Hail Mary's in thanksgiving that we finally won a close won. Here's to a healthy eye for Tory and an upset in a week.

Big East High in Parity, Lacks Nonconference Resume

With the addition of Marquette, Cincinnati, Louisville, DePaul, and South Florida (to offset the loss of Boston College) in the 2005-06 season, the Big East became a 16-team mega-conference looking to challenge the ACC for dominance on the national frontier. This met with mixed results the first two years, with the conference finishing second in '06 and fifth in '07 based on average RPI rank. This season, the Big East ranks second behind the ACC after the nonconference season. Still, conference teams have struggled with their chances to defeat ranked opponents on the national stage.

Pittsburgh- RPI- 6- The Panthers have the second biggest nonconference win in the Big East, defeating Duke. In addition, Pitt has defeated top 100 RPI teams in Washington and Duquesne and lost to Dayton, ranked 9th in the RPI.

Syracuse- RPI- 11- Three losses to top 20 teams, Ohio State, UMASS, and Rhode Island. 6 wins over teams ranked 100-50.

Providence- RPI- 23- Two losses to top 100 teams, one to 126-ranked South Carolina. Defeated four teams ranked 100-50. Also beat #30 Florida State.

Marquette- RPI- 26- Lost to Duke, only top 100 win is also best victory in the conference defeating Wisconsin.

West Virginia- RPI- 40- Lost to top 50 teams Tennessee and Oklahoma, defeated three top 50 schools.

Connecticut- RPI- 42- Lost to top 50 teams Memphis and Gonzaga, no top 100 wins.

Villanova- RPI- 56- Lost to top 50 team NC State and boast two top 100 wins.

Notre Dame- RPI- 64- Lost to top 100 teams, Baylor and Georgia Tech in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. Defeated #83 Kansas State and #86 Brown.

South Florida- RPI- 71- Lost to three top 100 teams and #165 Buffalo. Also defeated Florida State.

Seton Hall- RPI- 76- Lost to two top 50 teams, St. Mary's and NC State. Also lost to #123 Penn St. Beat top 100 teams Virginia and James Madison.

Louisville- RPI- 105- Lost to teams ranked 9th, 96th, and 142nd. Defeated teams ranked 37th and 33rd.

DePaul- RPI- 129- Arguably the worst team in the league has five losses to top 100 teams and two to teams out of the top 100. No top 100 wins.

St. John's- RPI- 134- Lost to four of the five top 100 teams they played.

Cincinnati- RPI- 160- Four losses to top 100 teams, three to other schools. Defeated #33 Miami (OH).

Rutgers- RPI- 179- Lost to #2 UNC, only top 100 opponent. Four other losses to worse teams.

Since most of the Big East has played a very good nonconference schedule, competing against 63 top 100 teams., the average RPI of the league is high. Still, they have won only 28 of those games and only two against big time programs Duke and Wisconsin. Only two teams in the Big East sport losing records, having defeated plenty of cupcakes while losing to the majority of good teams they have scheduled.

The lack of quality wins for the conference will hurt every team in the Big East. Since only Pittsburgh and Marquette can boast wins over top-notch major conference programs, victories over the rest of the league are difficult to judge. Is 11-7 in the conference good enough for an NCAA at-large bid? Big East teams on the bubble will be at the mercy of the committee since none have collected big time victories in November and December.

This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on, can be found at the weekly blog here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Connecticut Preview

The Huskies defeated Seton Hall at the Prudential Center last night, so we can break down a little Big East play in addition with their overall schedule.

Jerome Dyson had a career night and all the starters reached double figures in a high scoring 98-86 affair. The Pirates actually led 48-47 at the break, but improved defense helped UCONN pull ahead for good.

Connecticut is 10-2, with losses to Memphis and Gonzaga at neutral sites. No top 100 nonconference RPI wins, but they do have a road win at Central Florida to their credit. The young team likes to play uptempo, averaging nearly 75 possessions a game, 16th in the nation. They have scored 80 or more eight times this season.

Dyson and Jeff Adrien take up a big chunk of their possessions, about 25% each, while the offensive liability from the starting rotation is shot-blocking extraordinaire Hasheem Thabeet. Though Dyson scored 27 last night, he can do more harm than good to the Huskies' attack when under pressure. His season shooting average is 40%, but has logged five games missing 2/3 or more of his shots.


#11 Dyson- 15.9 PPG, 38% from three
#12 A.J. Price- 12.9 PPG, 6.0 APG, 38% beyond the arc


#4 Adrien- 13.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, not a deep threat
#21 Stanley Robinson- 11.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 39% long range
#34 Thabeet- 10.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.5 BPG


#3 Doug Wiggins- 6.2 PPG, under 30%, backup point guard
#24 Craig Austrie- 4.7 PPG, 33%, another guard
#14 Curtis Kelly- 3.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, no range
#33 Gavin Edwards- 4.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, like Kelly another 6'9" sophomore forward

Wiggins plays 19.0 MPG, Austrie is around 15, the other two at ten or less.

Thabeet will be an interesting matchup. He plays 28 minutes a game, so definitely a much improved post presence over West Virginia. 7'3", 263 pounds. With UCONN lacking a three-point shooter over 40%, the Irish could go zone to double team Thabeet down low or Harangody and Kurz will man him up. Offensively, the guy is extremely raw. On defense, he can shut down the lane with those long arms and great swatting ability. Harangody is a much better overall player under the basket, but he gives up at least 7 inches. The rest of the Huskies are undersized, with Adrien the heaviest at 238 and no other starters over 210. When Thabeet is off the floor, Kurz, Harangody, and even Hillesland will be able to push around with impunity.

Dyson is the big scorer, but can hurt the Huskies if he is cold and well defended. Adrien and Price are the leaders on the team with no senior. Adrien can rack up some points and rebounds, but is a terrible free throw shooter (59%). Price likes to shoot from outside, but is pretty hit and miss.

Overall, I like how we stack up much more against UCONN than against the Mountaineers. Still, it's a Big East game and those are always hard fought. Need to control the turnovers and get those rebounds. Memphis and Gonzaga were able to keep the Huskies under 40%, so good defense should allow us to get ahead and put this one away. Let's get the win, extend the streak, and keep the good play going.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Notre Dame 69, West Virginia 56

Yes! Luke Harangody is quickly becoming one of the best in the nation and put the Irish over the top tonight.

Even with under 10,000 in attendance for the game, there was a great sense of excitement for everyone on the team.

Coach Rod Balanis led cheers from the bench and Mike Brey nearly pulled a muscle with fist pumps on the bench throughout the contest as the Irish took control early and never let go.

Smalligan, the Mountaineers' 7 foot center, turned out to be a poor man's Kevin Pittsnogle, playing only 17 minutes and failing to be a force in the center. Joe Alexander and the other second choices for West Virginia were shut down and Notre Dame only allowed one player (Ruoff) to score double digits tonight.

Alex Ruoff dropped 18, but it was a team effort slowing him down. My predictions were completely off, as Jackson never covered Ruoff and Ryan Ayers rarely played against Alexander. Instead, just about every player on the team got a shot at #22 and played a role in keeping him from getting more than what he did. The great man defense by Ayers, Kurz, Hillesland and others on Ruoff allowed the other four guys to shut down their individual guys and keep West Virginia to only 56 points tonight.

West Virginia showed no inside game and Bamm-Bamm went off. The Mountaineers are built to hit open shots outside off of screens. The only points in the paint came off of cuts and drives from the outside. This allowed Notre Dame's sophomore forward to score inside and play shut down defense under the basket.

There was obviously more physical play, with players on both teams hitting the deck all night. Great to see our guys diving for loose balls all game and showing the intensity we may have lacked against some of the cupcakes in December.

To the individuals. Tory Jackson has the confidence of a seasoned vet. It's uncanny. The 5'10" guard who entered the contest shooting 13% from beyond the arc for the season stepped up and drilled two huge treys. Finishing 5-10 from the floor for 12 points in only 24 minutes, he was a great boost to the offense. Even with foul trouble (he finished with 4), Jackson hustled every second of the game. Great to see him get some points to go with the assists (not great in that category, only 2 with 6 turnovers). He has serious guts and I was very impressed with those big time buckets.

Kyle McAlarney was cold again, but it was nice to see us succeed without his shooting. Like Colin Falls, he will have some great nights and some ugly ones. Today was pretty ugly, but he took control of the offense in Tory's absence and went back to that point guard mentality to get the win. Only 7 points on 3-11, but 9 assists and one turnover in a bad team TO night. The savvy junior was able to completely change his outlook and do what he needed to help the team.

Ryan Ayers had another solid night all around. Hit two big threes in the beginning of the contest and finished with 8 points. 5 rebounds to go with that and defended Ruoff well down the stretch.

Rob Kurz grabbed 13 rebounds with 8 points. Did a great job cleaning up the boards to help out with...

Luke Harangody. Wow. 29 points, 16 rebounds (5 on offense), 7-8 from the line, played through a back injury and a bloody leg. He moved bodies under the hoop and was clearly the best post player. A couple times went head to head against Smalligan and did not look 4 inches shorter at all. It will be really fun to watch him against the rest of the conference's big men. Great job, Luke.

Zach Hillesland gave a good 20 minutes, the most off the bench. 5 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, all hustle. He gave the team a bit of a boost and was successful as the third big man tonight. Luke Zeller pushed some guys around in his seven minutes, the first I've seen that physical play. Peoples had a quiet 8 minutes. Really a lot of time for our starters tonight.

Lots of ugly turnovers, 20 to West Virginia's 9. Not at all how we wanted to perform handling the ball tonight. We were able to defeat the Mountaineers by making 9 more free throws, grab 13 more rebounds, and and outshoot WVU 48% to 32%. Gody's 11 for 16 sure boosted that last number. The 43 rebounds, including 11 offensive, came on the backs of Kurz and Harangody. We gave up 12 offensive boards to West Virginia, many of them early, which supplied them with too many second chances. Other than that, however, it was a complete performance from the entire squad, especially without relying on a great shooting night by Mac.

Big win. That's the way to start the conference season. Time to get back to work and put UCONN away late Saturday night and keep the streak alive!

West Virginia Preview

Alright. It's Big East time again. West Virginia tonight starts a grueling 18 game schedule and what will hopefully be a run towards a second straight NCAA tournament bid.

The Mountaineers are 9-2. Coached by education-optional Bob Huggins, West Virginia boasts a top-40 RPI against a solid nonconference schedule. The remark about Huggins' track record aside, this team is very competitive and display an interesting mix of John Beilein's great shooting recruits with the hard-nosed work ethic that Huggins has brought with him everywhere. Certainly a team to be respected.

As an aside, what is it with Michigan stealing West Virginia's coaches? First Beilein, now Rich Rodriguez... though the football team had little trouble without him last night (against Oklahoma, the school that the basketball team lost to in their last contest).

According to the stats run by Ken Pomeroy, WVU has the most efficient offense in the nation, averaging 121.5 points per 100 possessions. The defense is top 10 quality as well, with only 85.1 points allowed per 100 possessions. Alex Ruoff is turning into a serious player, averaging 16.1 points a game. A solid majority of his shots come from beyond the arc, though he is not quite the one-dimensional player that Colin Falls used to be.

The Backcourt-

#22 Ruoff- 16.1 PPG, 46% from three
#14 Darris Nichols- 11.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 40% 3PT


#11 Joe Alexander- 15.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG- the closest to a true post player
#1 Da'Sean Butler- 13.0 PPG, 44% from beyond the arc (only 25 attempts)
#43 Jamie Smalligan- 7 feet tall, but plays very sparingly... only 14.1 minutes a game; could cause some matchup problems, but has been rather unsuccessful so far this year


#35 Wellington Smith- 20.0 MPG, can play inside a bit
#3 Joe Mazzula- 16.2 MPG, backup point guard
#41 John Flowers- 11.1 MPG, top freshman, shooting 62% inside the arc

In year's past, West Virginia's deep shooting has hurt us. Therefore, I doubt there will be a lot of zone played by the Irish tonight. The shooters to watch are Ruoff and, to a lesser extent, Butler. I expect that Tory Jackson will be responsible for taking Ruoff out of the game and Ryan Ayers will be the one to man up the 6'7" Butler.

On offense, Kyle McAlarney will of course be asked to provide some scoring, but he needs to take care of the shot selection. 25 footers are great when they're falling, but we cannot afford to lose possessions on ill-advised shots. Tory must be reliable with the ball and team turnovers should be held to 10 or below. Ayers can provide an extra shooter against the 1-3-1 zone and should look for his shot, but like McAlarney must not force things. The bigs will be vital as West Virginia only has one player over 225 pounds (Smalligan). When Smalligan is off the floor, Kurz and especially Harangody should take advantage and move around the smaller Mountaineer defense. Off the bench, Hillesland will be a good matchup against most of the West Virginia post players, but Luke Zeller is the only player with enough height to man up Smalligan. Hopefully the seven footer can be neutralized without having to double team or do anything too fancy. Of course, Jonathan Peoples will provide a breather for Jackson and Mac and look to hit a couple open threes.

That's about it. We need a win to keep up the streak and start the year off right. Without the students, hopefully South Bend will show up to provide a good home atmosphere.