Friday, February 29, 2008
Revisiting February 2nd
Notre Dame 89, DePaul 80
That contest saw Luke Harangody pick up a double-double with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Kyle McAlarney had a cold game, shooting 5-17. Overall, it was a strong afternoon from the charity stripe that won the game, as Notre Dame made 17 of 20 free throws.
For the Blue Demons, Mac Koshwal, Draelon Burns, and Dar Tucker provided the majority of the offense. Koshwal scored 18 and had 9 rebounds, Burns and Tucker relied on their shooting abilities to score 17 and 19, respectively. Since then, Koshwal has been much less of a force offensively (though his 6'10" frame will still cause some trouble rebounding). Tucker had a good game against Louisville, but not much else. The most responsibility has fallen to Burns, who has averaged 18 since the earlier contest and scored 31 on Wednesday against West Virginia.
As a team, DePaul is 1-5 since our meeting, only defeating equally bad South Florida at home. This shouldn't be too difficult, but the first matchup was closer than expected so we need to come out playing focused.
On February 2nd, the Blue Demons shot 14 points higher than average from beyond the arc. After last night's performance, we need to improve on that perimeter defense. Offensively, Harangody showed an ability to control the game in the first matchup. Need to have another good game from him. If McAlarney plays better this time around, we should control from the opening tip. If not, need another good game by Ayers and see some creation by Tory Jackson.
That's it for tonight, I'll break down the starting lineup for DePaul tomorrow.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Stats for You to Chew On
Last 30 Minutes- Notre Dame 69, Louisville 56
McAlarney- 7.8 PPG, 9-37, 24% from three
Harangody- 26.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG
Wins Over Top 25 RPI Teams-
AP #17 Notre Dame- 3 (Connecticut, Marquette, and Pittsburgh)
#1 Tennessee- 3
#2 Memphis- 3
#3 North Carolina- 3
#5 Texas- 3
#6 Kansas- 1
#8 Stanford- 3
#9 Xavier- 1
#10 Wisconsin- 3
You get the picture...
Louisville 90, Notre Dame 85
A great press by the Cardinals put the game away early and almost made this one embarrassing. Somehow this Irish team found a way to come back and keep the final score respectable. A 5 point loss at Freedom Hall is certainly the best we could have hoped for after the opening minutes.
And Luke Harangody is flat out amazing.
We'll start with the most positive news first. If there was any doubt, Bamm-Bamm will be the Big East Player of the Year this season. A first team All America bid is also very possible. We've known for a quite a while that Luke could knock down jump shots with increasing range. His shooting ability has improved with regularity and he was bound to sink the first three pointer of his career sooner or later. He made 3 of 4 tonight. 40 points, a career high, and yet another double-double with 12 boards. Simply put, the best game of his college career. We will see even more impressive performances this season and hopefully for two more years. Here's to the brightest star on the court, even in a losing effort.
Kyle McAlarney needs to be successful for this team to win against the upper-tier opponents in the nation. 3-14 and 1-8 from three-point range did not get the job done. The lone made three pointer came with three minutes left as the Irish pulled out all the stops in a frantic attempt to somehow come back. Mac's had poor games in the past and Sunday against Syracuse is a perfect example of his great ability, but we go into games with only a half loaded arsenal if Kyle isn't shooting well.
Tory Jackson struggled, as did the whole team against a great Louisville defense. 5 turnovers to his 5 assists. Only 3 points. Made some poor decisions against the press and bad passes down the court. However, for long stretches he was the only player in a blue jersey trying to create out there. His driving ability is hands-down the best on the team and he is the only player who can jump-start the offense when it becomes stagnant. Not a good night overall, but still nice to see his effort.
Zach Hillesland had his normal game. 7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists. No really big numbers, but solid across the board. Was decent guarding Williams, but lacks the athleticism to be lock down defender. Only played 18 minutes, but that was more due to Ryan Ayers' great performance than anything else.
Rob Kurz scored 9 points and picked up 8 rebounds before fouling out. Also dished out 5 assists, tied for the lead in the game. He does so many little things well and the assist stat is an interesting thing to note. Not a bruiser like Harangody or most inside players in this league. However, he can be a solid high post guy with that jumper and high basketball IQ. A very good complement to Harangody overall.
Off the bench, Ryan Ayers was much improved. A career high 17 on 6-9 shooting (5-6 from downtown). I have mentioned before that Ayers needs to step up when McAlarney is unable to score. He finally did that tonight. Was the only other Notre Dame player in double figures and picked up 5 rebounds to boot. Hopefully this game will give him confidence so that we see more of that in the future. Jonathan Peoples provided a decent 15 minutes, with 3 assists and 3 turnovers, but didn't make a case for anything more than a backup point guard. Luke Zeller didn't show up on the stat sheet in 7 minutes.
First of all, we should take pride in scoring the second most points against a very good defense (Seton Hall scored 92, so don't get cocky). A great comeback by a gutsy team that could have given up after being buried early. Outrebounded the Cardinals, better percentage from the line, and a fantastic performance by the star forward.
However, the Irish zone allowed tons of open looks from outside. Louisville, a solid overall three point shooting team with a few dead-eye guards, knocked down everything from beyond the arc. Allowing 47% will not win basketball games. The Cardinals were able to use great passing and athleticism to tear apart both the 3-2 and 2-3 zone defenses. David Padgett had his best game of the year, scoring 26.
Falling behind by 18 less than halfway through the first period is simply unacceptable. The inability to break the Louisville press led to transition buckets for them and failed possessions for us. When the visitors ware able to right the ship and hold the home team without a point for five minutes, there was still not enough offensive firepower to put much of a dent into the lead. Despite only allowing 8 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Irish trailed by 15 at the break.
The second half was much improved overall and Luke Harangody continued his develoment as a star player. Of course, it helped when the shots started to fall from beyond the arc. That two pronged attack helped the Irish outscore Louisville 58-48 the rest of the way. The final eight made field goals were three pointers, somehow keeping this game competitive until the final whistle.
Overall a 5 point loss at a team that increasingly looks like the favorite for regular season conference champ is not a problem. Especially considering the alternative, the 20-30 point trouncing that seemed probable early in this contest.
If we win the final three games of the year (heavily favored in each contest) a solid seeding in the NCAAs and bye in the BET should be sewn up. The conference tournament title is the one you want anyways, and I would not shy away from a rematch with Louisville in Madison Square Garden.
Losing is never fun and much of this game looked plain awful. However, the team fought very hard to comeback and nearly pulled off an incredible feat. Luke Harangody continues to write his chapter in Notre Dame lore and this team will get respect for their great effort on national television.
21-6, 11-4. Beat DePaul Sunday.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Nice job by Mike Coffey (El Kabong at ndnation.com) breaking down the matchup.
He goes into more detail regarding Terrence Williams than I did in the preview. Williams is an interesting matchup problem as a small forward that takes up a large portion of his team's gameplan. Obviously Sam Young was a similar story when we played Pittsburgh. Young scored 20 against us in that victory.
Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers will be called upon to shut down Williams on defense. If Zach struggles early on with that task, look to see lots of Ryan the rest of the game as he is the better defender between the two. Williams has two big weaknesses- free throws and three pointers. The key will be to play off #1 and make him take some outside shots (1 for his last 11 from 3 point range). When he does drive, sending Williams to the foul line is not a problem. He shoots 56% from the stripe and has missed five straight over two games. Of course, he can produce without just making baskets as his 7 rebounds and 5 assists made up for a below average game scoring against Pittsburgh.
Lots of Love for Luke Harangody. ESPN features the big man on its main basketball page. In addition, a Lovely article by Adam Rittenburg on the site. Plenty of great quotables there. Most notable is the table Listing players averaging 20 and 10 in conference play in the Last year (Mike Sweeney, Kevin Durant, Tyler Hansbrough, Michael Beasley). What's not to Like?
If you're an ESPN Insider, check out Fran Fraschilla's scouting report on Luke.
To Louisville (enough with the L's)-
Terrence Williams- 11.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.6 APG, 34% 3PA
Earl Clark- 10.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 20% 3PA
David Padgett- 11.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG
Andre McGee- 6.5 PPG, 1.9 APG, 41% 3PA
Jerry Smith- 10.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 40% 3PA
Edgar Sosa- 8.3 PPG, 1.7 APG, 38% 3PA, 22.1 MPG
Derrick Caracter- 8.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 18.4 MPG
Juan Palacios- 5.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 23% 3PA, 18.3 MPG
A very balanced team with eight players who have led the team in scoring in different contests. 2nd toughest defense in the conference, 3rd best defending the 3 pointer (Notre Dame is first in three point percentage on offense). Other than those two categories, Louisville doesn't rank at the top in anything. Notre Dame is tops in the league in scoring offense, FT%, 3P%, rebounding offense, rebounding margin, assists, and defensive rebounds.
That means we are facing a very well rounded and well coached squad. Obviously, Pitino knows what he is doing. Going more in depth, we notice that Louisville ranks in the top ten nationally in points allowed per possession. Though Georgetown allows the fewest points per game in the league, Louisville plays better defense at a higher tempo than the plodding Hoyas.
That's means we're going to have to match the Cardinals' intensity on D. Facing great three point shooters like McGee, Smith, and Sosa, a zone look all game will not work. The Irish will have to match up well man-to-man. The two guards, McGee and Smith, are the most efficient scorers on the team, but Clark and Padgett could cause some problems down low. Padgett missed ten games early in the season, but his 6'11" frame has caused some problems since returning. Scoring 18 against Georgetown and 21 at Pitt is a significant feat. His height could give Luke Harangody problems, but look for the Irish to have the rebounding edge.
On offense, the key as always is getting the two pronged attack going. A game along the season averages for Harangody and another solid shooting night for Kyle McAlarney will cause Louisville some serious problems. It will be interesting to see how they counter Bamm-Bamm's inside game. If the team tries to sag and double-team him, McAlarney and guys like Ayers off the bench will have open looks. They could simply allow the sophomore to play his game and try to take away the perimeter. If this is the case, we will need some penetration from Tory Jackson to provide a second wave of attack.
Should be a great game with a conference title possibly in the balance. Go get 'em, Irish.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Around the Country
Connecticut goes to the RAC, always a tough place to play. While Notre Dame currently holds a game advantage over the Huskies, UCONN has a good shot of running the table. Losing to Louisville tomorrow night could drop Notre Dame to a 4 seed in the BET below the Huskies.
Speaking of Connecticut, Jerome Dyson returns to action after a nine game suspension for failing a drug test. Nine games, an easy sentence compared to Notre Dame's reaction to Kyle McAlarney's problems last season. Of course, everyone knows that story. Check out here for a great article on K-Mac's newfound glory this season from a hometown perspective.
More stuff to watch this week... Georgetown at Marquette and West Virginia at UCONN Saturday. A Golden Eagle win in the first game combined with a Notre Dame victory Thursday puts the right team in first place. A victory for the Mountaineers in the second could shore up a 3 seed in the BET win or lose at Louisville.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Big East Bloggers Poll
1) Louisville (14): 325 points.
2) Georgetown (5): 312 points.
3) Notre Dame (1): 293 points.
4) Connecticut (1): 285 points.
5) Marquette: 230 points.
6) West Virginia: 211 points.
7) Pittsburgh: 206 points.
Villanova: 187 points.
9) Cincinnati: 178 points.
10) Syracuse: 162 points.
11) Seton Hall: 127 points.
12) DePaul: 102 points.
13) Providence: 78 points.
14) St. John’s: 66 points.
15) South Florida: 46 points.
16) Rutgers: 24 points.
Player of the Week: Kyle McAlarney.
Freshman of the Week: Corey Stokes.
17th in both polls, average seeding of 4. Not bad at all...
Two wins this week would be huge on the national stage.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Big East Ballot- Week 15
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- Seton Hall
- St. John's
- South Florida
Louisville has won seven in a row to stay tops in the league. UCONN's loss to Villanova kills a ten point streak and drops them a spot. Pitt has lost three straight. Villanova has rebounded to win three in a row. Syracuse has dropped four of five. After Syracuse, no one is playing well.
Player of the Week- Kyle McAlarney- Notre Dame- Only two players scored more than his 22.5 PPG average in a single game this week. One was Weyinmi Efejuku, the other Luke Harangody. That's right, two of the top three scoring performances this week were different players for the Irish.
Freshman of the Week- DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh- 14 and 13 against Notre Dame. 20 and 11 against Louisville. Two double-doubles against teams tied for first in the league. Not bad for the freshman.
Notre Dame 94, Syracuse 87
Kyle McAlarney made a team record nine three-pointers to honor the 1978 Final Four team and keep the home winning streak going. Now only a contest against St. John's stands between the Irish and another perfect year at home.
Paul Harris had a big game for the Orange with 22 points, as the student section harrassed him all game (http://emekanadavandcorny.blogspot.com/2006_10_22_archive.html).
"Meet Syracuse’s Paul Harris. Talented. Had a few problems when he was younger. The incident involving his girlfriend in 2004 included a toaster, according to the police report."
Great shooting by the Irish helped overcome a huge rebounding advantage for Syracuse. Notre Dame outshot the Orange 55% to 40%, but were outrebounded 47-32. 21 extra chances off the offensive glass for Syracuse.
From the charity stripe, a surprisingly poor performance at only 67%. Normally solid Luke Harangody was 2-5.
The Irish took the lead for good two minutes into the game and were able to stay in control all game. Syracuse's lack of depth was obvious as Harris and Jonny Flynn played all game. More suits than warmups on the bench with Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins done for the year.
Tactically, a great game for the Irish as they had to change the attack a little. Syracuse stayed in the 2-3 zone pretty much all game, taking away some of Luke Harangody's effectiveness down low. Using an uptempo attack, Tory Jackson led Notre Dame up the floor quickly after every change of possession. Most of the time they still settled into the halfcourt offense, but this kept Syracuse on guard. In addition, the use of full-court pressure most of the first half made the Orange work from the opening tip.
Individually, Tory Jackson came back down to earth a little bit. Picking up two fouls early in the first half kept him off the floor for an extended period, but he still finished with 10 fouls and two assists to go with two rebounds and steals.
Zach Hillesland played only 24 minutes, but scored six points and had four rebounds. Added six assists doing a very good job originating the attack from the perimeter and moving the ball around to open shooters.
Rob Kurz had 15 points in his final game in front of the students. Added two rebounds and two assists. His final home game comes over spring break, so this was a partial farewell for him. As the only senior and captain, he has been a terrific leader for the team.
Luke Harangody with 14 points and rebounds. 16th double-double of the year. In the Memphis/Tennessee game last night, Dick Vitale said that Bamm-Bamm has the conference player of the year award wrapped up. I certainly hope he is correct, the guy has earned it.
Finally, Kyle McAlarney. 30 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds. 9-11 from three-point range taking advantage of that zone defense. All of his field goals came from beyond the arc. First 20+ point performance since the away game at Villanova. Before the contest, I felt confident that we would win as long as Kyle scored more than 20. Certainly came through in a big way this afternoon.
Off the bench, Ryan Ayers scored 10, including a tremendous dunk. 6 rebounds, 4 assists as he contributed more overall today. Not a great game shooting, but it is nice to see him play well without having those shots fall. He needs to be less one-deminsional. Luke Zeller had two points and two assists playing that high post position against the zone. Second game in a row without a three pointer, after hitting at least one in five straight contests. Jonathan Peoples did a solid job in the first half spelling Jackson. We needed to keep playing well and not have Tory pick up foul #3. Peoples knocked down a three and made all three shots he took.
For Syracuse, double-doubles for Onuaku and Harris. Kurz held freshman Donte Greene in check, only his fourth single digit scoring game of the year and lowest output all season. Flynn had a terrible shooting afternoon, but scored 17 by throwing up enough attempts.
Overall, we allowed too many rebounds for Syracuse. If we had shot our season averages (45% and 40% from 3), this is a blowout in the other direction. Thankfully, K-Mac led a 55% and 56% team performance.
Kept the turnover total low, a good sign. 21 assists to 13 turnovers is very good considering the pace.
Only four more games left, that's hard to believe. Louisville's two point win over Pitt means that Thursday's game could determine the regular season title (as long as Georgetown falls to the Cards or Marquette). Sunday's game at DePaul is usually pretty tough, but should win there. Then, only a home game against St. John's and travelling to South Florida before the BET.
Great win wraps up the last tough week of the season. We should be the underdogs visiting Louisville, so an upset there would be very nice. Three out of the last four wraps up a bye, but even two should be good enough. Let's not go there, though. Four straight wins could means a regular season title. That's the goal.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Brey to IU?; UCONN Falls
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated talking to Greg Gumbel on CBS at halftime of the Kentucky/Arkansas game. Talking, of course, about the Indiana coaching vacancy.
Brey and native son Steve Alford were the only two names Davis mentioned. Interesting... Of course, ESPN's Pat Forde came out with a list including the most obvious names and Brey was nowhere to be seen.
Villanova upset Connecticut at the Wachovia Center 67-65, snapping the Huskies' 10 game winning streak. The loss cuts the virtual tie at the top to three teams: Louisville, Georgetown, and ND. Both the Cardinals and Hoyas have more wins that Notre Dame, but each team has three losses.
Kyle McAlarney Interview
It's great to hear a Notre Dame player being interviewed. Kyle is very knowledgable and articulate, providing well-developed responses to every question. His breakdown of Syracuse in preparation for tomorrow's game shows a great awareness of college basketball and a high hoops IQ.
Around the country, we have a great matchup with #1 Memphis and #2 Tennessee playing at 9 tonight on ESPN. Should be a very good game and I'm looking forward to seeing this Tiger team for the first time.
College Gameday was on hand today, of course. It was interesting to hear Digger, Hubert Davis, and Jay Bilas discuss the events at Indiana. Hubert doesn't do a lot for me, but Bilas is one of the best analysts in the sport. Digger took a huge swipe at the players for skipping Dakich's first practice, epsecially captain DJ White. He mentioned that Dakich should sit all six guys in the Northwestern game as punishment for skipping out on their team. I am inclined to agree with that, especially regarding White. I would understand a Sampson recruit like Eric Gordon having emotional ties to the coach, but a captain is held to a higher standard.
That's it for today. Cheer for Cincinnati and Villanova upsets to clear the logjam at the top of the conference. Irish need to win tomorrow and keep the streak alive.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Sampson's Done at IU
Probably the best thing that Indiana could do... suspend him for the remainder of the year and look for a way to fire him without drawing a Jim O'Brien-esque lawsuit.
EDIT: Wrong about that one. Try this: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=3258506.
Next time you leave your well-paying job for a more presitious position, follow the Sampson method. Leave the old company in trouble with the law and promise to be a good citizen. Then, revert to your old bad habits and try your best to embarrass your employer. They'll pay $750,000 for you to leave.
That's an awful lot of money to get as a reward for breaking the rules.
No matter what happens to the university in June (as long as AD Rick Greenspan gets the ax, I hope there are no further penalties for the program), Indiana basketball will be in shambles.
Signs of a coaching switch were evident at the team's practice FridayReal classy, fellas. When your coach shows no respect for authority, there's no reason to stand by him. Don't give up a great season in a misguided attempt at loyalty.
afternoon. Assistant coach Dan Dakich, who will be named interim coach,
directed the workout but was short-handed. Senior captain D.J. White, Armon Bassett, Jordan Crawford, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas and Brandon
McGee were not on the court.
So who's to blame here? Obviously Sampson and former assistant Rob Senderoff for the extra calls. Of course Greenspan also must take the heat. He hired a cheater, kept the cheater after initial allegations, and cost the program $750,000 when the obvious decision to fire the cheater was finally made. Plenty of people have called for Kevin White's head in the past, but we have never had to deal with anything like this (obviously the George O'Leary scandal, but nothing involving sanctions).
Best of luck to the Hoosiers as they try to make the best of an awful situation.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Notre Dame 82, Pittsburgh 70
A few quick notes:
- Tory Jackson won the game for the Irish today. He could be truly something special by the time he graduates.
- Tim Higgins is a pathetic excuse for a referee. The way he handled the Harangody/Blair battle was horrific.
- Great win in front of a great crowd on a great night. Nice to see the team stretch the streak to 35 in front of Austin Carr.
In the first half, Tory Jackson showed some flashes of the energy he brought all night. A right hand putback 90 seconds in, a great athletic block two minutes later, just the best hustle on the court. Levance Fields gave Pitt some energy off the bench, showing how much a fully healthy #2 can do for the Panthers. Overall, however, the Irish let Sam Young hit too many jump shots and gave up the offensive glass inside. Down 35-30 at the half.
At halftime, of course, was the Austin Carr tribute. Great to see the 2nd best scorer in college hoops history (behind my personal favorite, Pete Maravich). My favorite quote from his speech: "That was the best experience of my life, playing four years in front of you."
A couple of scribbles from my notebook... Harangody looked uncomfortable on Blair, even with 12 points... Kyle McAlarney was absent, missing open looks and scoring only two points... finally, the Irish needed to up the ante, get to 70+ by the final buzzer.
Beginning the second half, Tory Jackson once again brought his energy to the game. Unfortunately, he was the only one and the Irish quickly fell down 10. A Kyle McAlarney jumper four minutes in cut the lead back to four, but Pitt quickly built up another nine point lead.
Back to Tory. Several leaping offensive rebounds for second chances, driving layups in transition, and a really tough charge taken kept Notre Dame close.
7 minutes left. Kyle McAlarney finally finds his range to hit a three pointer. Puts the Irish back down one. A minute later, another Mac three ties the game. Next possession, Luke Harangody steals the ball at the top of the key and takes it the length of the floor for a thunderous dunk. 5:31 left. Notre Dame lead. Besides one tie, an Irish win the rest of the way.
Overall, a fantastic comeback for the Irish as they used a 20-6 run to take control of the game. Mr. Energy Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody with double-doubles. Loudest the Joyce Center has been this season, maybe the longest all streak.
Tim Higgins and his crew are miserable refs, allowing DeJuan Blair to get away with murder under the basket while calling fouls on clean blocks for the Irish. You always look like a sore loser when you complain about officiating after a loss, so I definitely need to make this point after a win.
Let's break it down individually. Tory Jackson is going to earn a triple-double before he graduates and I thought it would be tonight. Unfortunately, not enough assists to the little guy, but he'll get there. 16 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists. Two of those buckets came on out-of-control drives where he was somehow able to score on a layup. What were turnovers two months ago turned into clutch buckets. His rebounding was tremendous, leaping above much taller guys to grab his first double digit rebounding game of the young career.
Kyle McAlarney was quiet again for a half. When he did score later on, however, those baskets were so clutch. 15 points, 3-10 from beyond the arc. Not the kind of scoring you want to see from him, but those shots were game changers.
Zach Hillesland finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Played the game out with four fouls, so a smart game for him. Not a huge stat game, but the kind of thing we get from him every day.
Rob Kurz finished with 14 points and 5 assists. What really shone through was the leadership he brings to the floor. Just like Colin Falls, he is another coach out there on the floor.
Luke Harangody. Not a completely dominant game, allowing eight offensive boards to DeJuan Blair, but saying he was poor with 23 points, 12 rebounds is ludicrous. It's a tremendous testiment to his ability to take control of a contest when he can look merely above average with those kind of numbers. Kudos to you Luke.
Off the bench, Zeller and Ayers just didn't provide the needed shooting in the first half. With McAlarney off, one of those two guys has to step up. Ayers hit a timely open three in the second half, but Zeller's 0-3 night is not that great. Jonathan Peoples, flu or no flu, played solid minutes including a great three pointer.
For Pitt, Sam Young was allowed to shoot too much. We needed to force him to drive, but most of those 20 points were jump shots over the defense. Keith Benjamin scored 15 with a great night. He didn't take over the game, but picked up baskets as the defense focused on Young and Blair. The freshman Blair had 14 points and 13 rebounds, 8 on offense. Missed five free throws in his seven attempts. Really was allowed to push people around under the hoop, which took Harangody out of his game a bit.
Off the bench, Levance Fields was clearly an improvement over an awful Ronald Ramon. Fields showed bits and pieces of that ability that led the Panthers while he was healthy. Tyrell Biggs ate big minutes as a big man, but the other two buys off the bench really didn't show a lot.
The Irish outshot Pitt 42%-40%. 33%-28% from three. 41-35 rebounding. Seven more made free throws and 90% from there. Overall a really well played game in which Notre Dame held the advantage ever so slightly in every category.
Great win, but we need to follow it up again on Sunday. Let's have an even better crowd if that is possible. 35 straight, so far. Make it 36.
EDIT: As always, check out http://nycnjhoops.com/collegeblog/, a great site following former high school hoopsters from the New York/New Jersey area. They promised to make K-Mac the lead story if he lit it up tonight. Not quite a dominating performance, but clutch nonetheless.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
#4 Ronald Ramon- 8.0 PPG, 4.1 APG, 37% 3PA
#11 Keith Benjamin- 9.1 PPG, 2.1 APG, 39% 3PA
#11 Gilbert Brown- 6'6" 200 lbs.- 6.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 26% 3PA
#23 Sam Young- 6'6" 215 lbs.- 17.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 40% 3PA
#45 DeJuan Blair- 6'7" 275 lbs. Freshman- 11.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG
#2 Levance Fields- 11.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, 29% 3PA, Came back from a broken left foot against Marquette last week (missed 12 games)
#5 Tyrell Biggs- 6'8" 240 lbs.- 6.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 21.0 MPG
#24 Brad Wanamaker- Freshman- 2.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 12.7 MPG
Pitt has had to rebound from injuries to Fields and senior Mike Cook. Cook's fifth year is done after a torn left knee ligament. Fields was off against Marquette but should be less rusty tomorrow night.
Notre Dame should pressure the Panther guards and look to run against this pretty stagnant Pittsburgh team. Pitt had a better flow when Fields was healthy and can also be weak in the halfcourt. Young is their best scorer, but can be taken out of the game a bit if your force him to dribble.
Pitt Blather puts the emphasis on how Luke Harangody handles DeJuan Blair, and vice versa. Blair scored 15 and had 9 rebounds against Georgetown's Roy Hibbert. Against Connecticut, he had 13 and 13. Definitely has handled himself well against two of the top big men in the league.
The Panthers have been pretty hit and miss this season. Wins against Duke and Georgetown, but a home loss by 13 to Rutgers (obviously Duke was with Fields and Cook).
Definitely a winnable game at home. Pitt was one of the best teams in the conference but those injuries have really hurt them. If the Irish can keep the streak at home and finish the season with three wins against Pitt, Syracuse, and St. John's, it should solidify the the NCAA bid and keep that seeding pretty high no matter what unforseen happenings take place away from the JACC.
That's all in the future, though. Just win tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Big East Bloggers Poll
1) Louisville (9): 291 pts.
2) Connecticut (8): 283 pts.
3) Georgetown (2): 273 pts.
4) Notre Dame: 254 pts.
5) Marquette: 227 pts.
6) Pittsburgh: 204 pts.
7) West Virginia: 187 pts.
8) Syracuse: 177 pts.
9) Cincinnati: 150 pts.
10) Villanova: 133 pts.
11) Seton Hall: 105 pts.
11) DePaul: 105 pts.
13) Providence: 69 pts.
14) St. John’s: 57 pts.
15) South Florida: 44 pts.
16) Rutgers: 25 pts.
Player of the Week: AJ Price..
Freshman of the Week: Dominique Jones.
Irish slip a bit to 4th and UCONN uses its midweek win over Notre Dame and close victory at South Florida to jump to #2. Georgetown's second loss in three games drops them to third.
Big game in the Hoosier State tonight as Purdue travels to Bloomington to attempt to stay in first place in the Big Ten against an overrated IU team (quick, name all the top 40 teams Indiana had beaten before last Saturday's game against Michigan State...). It should be a good one and possibly the last game Kelvin Sampson coaches in Assembly Hall.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Irish Fall Slightly in Polls
The big news is that Saturday will feature a nonconference contest between the #1 and #2 teams, Memphis and Tennessee. 9:00, ESPN. Here's to a good game.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Big East Ballot- Week 14
- Louisville- Won 5 straight
- Georgetown- Loss to Syracuse creates logjam at top of league
- Connecticut- Win over ND gives them a slight leg up, but nearly blew nine game winning streak @ South Florida
- Notre Dame- Close loss to UCONN on road puts the two teams nearly even, almost upset @ Rutgers
- Marquette- Two big wins rehabbing team after two game losing streak
- Pittsburgh- Crush Providence only to be rolled over by Marquette, play Notre Dame next
- West Virginia- Two easy wins at home against bad teams
- Cincinnati- Easy home win over St. John's only contest
- Syracuse- Talk about highs and lows... lost to South Florida but beat Georgetown
- Villanova- Chance to knock off Georgetown stolen by refs, easy win @ St. John's
- Seton Hall- Lost 5 straight
- St. John's- Lost to Cincy and Villanova
- Providence- Lost to Pitt and Louisville
- DePaul- Crushed by 20 at home.
- South Florida- Win against Syracuse looks more impressive after Saturday. Needed to pull off upset at UCONN to make up for losing 10 straight.
- Rutgers- Played Notre Dame tough, but still 2-12
Player of the Week- Kentrell Gransberry- South Florida- Led the way for Bulls' upset of Syracuse and near overtime win against Connecticut. 49 points, 24 rebounds in two games.
Freshman of the Week- Johnny Flynn- Syracuse- Played every minute of the last 7 games for Syracuse and had 33 points and 15 assists in two games, including upset of Georgetown.
Notre Dame 71, Rutgers 68
The statistics make this look like an easy win for Notre Dame. It was certainly anything but. Outshooting the Scarlet Knights 42% to 38% (47% to 36% from three), the Irish also controlled the glass with 43 rebounds to Rutgers' 35. Free throw totals were the same, but both teams handled the ball well, with Rutgers turning it over 9 times to Notre Dame's 12.
Of course, the numbers only tell part of the story. Rutgers, in losing their sixth straight, held a monopoly on hustle. It's always a tough game at the RAC, but the home team certainly seemed to want this one more. I blame the blue jerseys... don't want to see those things again.
The first half was decent, though not dominant, taking a 8 point lead into the break. The second half (almost all of which I saw, thanks to BW3's big screens), looked like a drawn out boxing match between two middleweights- solid D with stretches of poor offense marred by missed shots and turnovers. When I entered the restaurant, a Tory Jackson free throw put the Irish up 7 with 15:48 remaining. The next 2:27 saw Rutgers score on ever possession save one and turn it into a 50-48 lead for the home team.
Both teams continued to struggle for the next five and a half minutes, Notre Dame unable to retake the lead and Rutgers unable to put it away. A 90 second stretch by ND controlled by Tory Jackson and highlighted by two big three pointers gave the Irish an eight point advantage with six minutes to go.
The rest of the game, the Irish only managed six points, but were able to hang on just barely. Thank a bonehead move by Rutgers in deflecting a missed Harangody free throw out of bounds for keeping Notre Dame ahead.
Tory Jackson was the player of the game, no question. With Luke Harangody out of rhythm and Kyle McAlarney held in check, Jackson took control of the offense. His drives to the basket netted him 17 points, but the 10 assists came on great looks running up the floor. Kept the Notre Dame offense from getting completely out of synch and was able to put Scarlet Knights defenders on their heels with his penetration. 2-5 from the charity stripe, still a big weakness. However, he very nearly became the second Irish player to earn a triple double (Chris Thomas) with his eight rebounds. Glad to see the Tory from last year's Georgetown game back. We'll need to see that more often.
Kyle McAlarney couldn't figure out how to make those driving runners fall today. 4-7 from beyond the arc, but only 1-5 inside. The Rutgers defense did a great job stepping out on him and keeping Mac from taking over the contest. That three-point shooting line normally means more than 16 points for him. Did drain the two free throws at the end to keep it a three point contest.
Zach Hillesland had five points and six rebounds and gave the Irish some added life on the floor. His diving to grab and offensive rebound and subsequent timeout allowed Notre Dame to keep its four point lead and the momentum. While the team was unable to convert on the following possession, a quick Rutgers basket at that time would have been demoralizing after two Tory Jackson missed free throws.
Luke Harangody got into foul trouble and was out of synch most of the game. 10 points, 8 rebounds, but only 5-16 from the field. He was unable to get the jump hook to fall and was pushed around a bunch on defense (though some of his fouls were questionable and the foul trouble kept him a little passive). His point total marks the lowest of the year since Monmouth- the second game of the season. While 10 and 8 are nice games for most power forwards, it is insteresting to reflect on how dominant the big man has been. Only his second game of less than twenty points in the last seven contests. First game without a double-double in that span.
Many people wondered what had happened to Rob Kurz over the last two games. Some even called for Luke Zeller to start in his place, stating that Kurz was only getting the nod as the only senior. Rob Kurz was back today. 11 points, 14 rebounds. Not a great day shooting the ball, but his one made three pointer was a big one with 6:35 to play. His eighth double-double of the year and highest rebounding total of the season. Blocked three shots, a undervaled part of his game. Certainly looks to be back from the flu and stepped up with a disappointing performance by Luke Harangody.
Only Ryan Ayers picked up serious minutes off the bench. His 28 on the floor were more than what all but three players received on the team. 7 points, 4 rebounds. 1-2 from beyond the arc. Luke Zeller hit a good three pointer, but picked up only one rebound and two fouls in his eight minutes of action. Jonathan Peoples had two points in seven minutes.
Obviously, this was not a great trip to Piscataway, but there are few easy contests in the RAC. Rutgers has been pretty bad this year, but played Cincinnati tough and beat Villanova at home. Also won at Pittsburgh. Clearly they can rise to the occasion here and there. That's the great thing about college basketball and this league. Good teams can play poorly and bad teams can play well for 40 minutes, making for plenty of good drama.
Next week, we need to get Luke Harangody on a roll early. Games against Pittsburgh and Syracuse will certainly not be easy wins. If Tory Jackson can provide another great performance or two, we should be able to keep the streak going.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Speaking of surprising, how about Syracuse? Knocked off #8 Georgetown at the Carrier Dome. Their 16 point halftime lead was more than enough to help the Orange coast to the upset.
Now, tomorrow's contest. The Irish travel to New Jersey to take on the 10-16 Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Only 2-11 in the conference, Rutgers does boast wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh.
#15 JR Inman- 12.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 32% 3PA
#2 Anthony Farmer- 10.3 PPG, 2.3 APG, 38% 3PA
#31 Mike Coburn- Freshman, 8.3 PPG, 2.3 APG, 36% 3PA
#32 Jaron Griffin- 7.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 25% 3PA
#5 Hamady N'Diaye- 6'11"- 5.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG
#1 Corey Chandler- Freshman, 12.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 32% 3PA, 24.5 MPG
#21 Byron Joynes- 2.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG 19.1 MPG
#11 Earl Pettis- Freshman, 2.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 30.4% 3PA, 11.8 MPG
Rutgers has the lowest scoring offense in the conference at 62.9 PPG. Notre Dame has the highest at 80.7 PPG. Both allow 68.5 PPG on defense, exactly midway through the Big East.
Rutgers is a terrible shooting team, making only 40% of their attempts. 31% from beyond the arc. They allow 38 rebounds a game and have the worst turnover margin in the league. Assist/turnover ratio is 0.61 (Notre Dame is second highest at 1.38).
There really is little positive to say about the opponent. Ranked 205th in the RPI, Rutgers has no more than a 35% chance to win one of its last games (according to kenpom.com) and is the underdog by double digits in its next three contests.
The Irish should expect nothing less than a victory tomorrow. Need to get another Seton Hall-type win and avoid any possibility of a letdown, as UCONN found out today.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Marquette/Pittsburgh and Indiana
In the league, freshman Trevor Mbakwe has been cleared to play for Marquette and could see his first action tonight against Pittsburgh. Mbakwe had previously looked like a redshirt candidate. A four star, 6-7 240 pound power forward, Mbakwe had been previously thought lost for the year with a knee injury.
Marquette/Pitt is the only game in the conference tonight and it currently looks as if the Golden Eagles will run away with this one at home. With ten minutes left in the game, Marquette has used a 23-6 second half scoring run to pull ahead by 26. If they are going to win this game, a large margin of victory would be nice to offset their 26 point win over the Irish in Milwaukee.
That's also the only matchup involving a ranked team (in this case, two) in the country. Tomorrow, 19 of the top 25 teams are in action, including a good one between #9 Michigan State and #12 Indiana. Kelvin Sampson continues to coach as Indiana performs an investigation into his possible NCAA violations. As Mark Schlabach writes, it could be more of an attempt to avoid a lawsuit down the road than a true investigation. It will be interesting to see how the University responds after that investigation.
Nothing else tonight. Let's get a nice win on Sunday against Rutgers and keep up that top 4 slot.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Around the Country
Last night, Brian Butch ended Indiana's terrible day with a game winning three for Wisconsin over the Hoosiers. #13 Xavier barely survived a scare at Charlotte and Pat Knight picked up his first win as unranked Texas Tech upset #22 Kansas State. The #15 Drake Bulldogs dropped a road contest to Southern Illinois, snapping a 21 game winning streak. It will be interesting to see how that team performs in the tournament. They have steamrolled most of their schedule, but have only played three top 50 opponents in 22 games.
Only Rutgers and West Virginia on the Big East slate tonight. #24 Pitt at #25 Marquette tomorrow. We will see how the Panthers fare in their final game before coming to the Joyce next Thursday.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Connecticut 84, Notre Dame 78
The game went back and forth all night, with the Irish holding most of the advantage in the first half. In the second 20 minutes, Notre Dame missed 11 straight shots from the field and wasted three second chances off of offensive rebounds. From 7:44 to 2:33 left, Connecticut went on a 10-2 run and permanently took the advantage. Had missed three point attempts by Ryan Ayers, Kyle McAlarney, and Luke Zeller fallen in the final minute, this could have been a different outcome. Alas, it was not to be.
Tory Jackson was very good game scoring and rebounding, but was just average handling the ball. 13 points, 9 rebounds. 4 assists to 4 turnovers. Overall, a good performance as the sophomore keeps to develop as a scorer. Made two of his four three point attempts, the only Irish player to shoot well from beyond the arc. If he can continue to develop his outside game, he adds a great threat to the Irish attack.
When Kyle McAlarney is cold, the Irish invariably lose. K-Mac could not repeat his 32 point performance from the JACC, scoring only twelve on 4-14 shooting. 2 assists, 4 boards to go along. His 2 for 7 line from beyond the arc was not enough, as the Irish only shot 29% as a team. Knock a couple more of those down and its a tie game.
Zach Hillesland provided his normal night, 4 points/6 rebounds/4 assists. I would love to see Zach get more into the scoring (indeed, I trashed Ayers a lot for the same fact), but when 48 shots are taken by your three high scorers, there are not a lot of points to go around. Gave his normal effort over 21 minutes...
Which is more than one could say about Rob Kurz. The lone senior disappeared for long portions of the contest. Season lows for points and rebounds. In similarly important contests against Kansas St., Georgetown, and Marquette at home, Kurz has been extremely quiet. Need to see more from the big guy when the team is in a big game like that.
But Luke Harangody sure put on a show. Hasheem Thabeet embarrassed Bamm-Bamm in their last meeting, using his height to take away the sophomore's jump hook. Harangody scored in all sorts of ways tonight, completely outclassing the Connecticut big man all night. 32 points, 16 rebounds in what will undoubtedly gain him consideration for a third straight Power Poll Player of the Week award. Picked up four fouls, the last in the final minute, but was able to stay on the floor for nearly the entire game. Congrats to him for really proving himself against a seven footer tonight.
Off the bench, both Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller failed to provide the outside shooting that they specialize in. 2-6 overall for Ayers, 2-8 for Zeller. When your games center around putting the ball in the basket from long range, we need a better output than that. With McAlarney pretty quiet, either one of the bench players could have really picked up the team tonight. Jonathan Peoples had another quiet night. Some see flashes of him playing and really think he could be a special talent in the future. Time will tell, but right now he looks like no more than a minute-eater for Jackson and McAlarney.
A very good game for both teams. It is encouraging to see both squads playing at a national-quality level. Six point wins at home for each in the two game series shows how close the two teams are in talent. Connecticut is one of the hottest teams in the nation right now, but Notre Dame was able to stay in contention all the way at Gampel Pavilion. No small feat.
Connecticut made two more shots than the Irish overall. ND held the rebounding edge by two. The Irish were unable to get to the line often, a stat that has really kept them afloat in close contests against Marquette and Providence. Not a lot of turnovers for either side, 8 for UCONN and 12 for ND. 3 point shooting really helped the Huskies with 40% compared to 7-24 for the Irish.
A.J. Price had a very nice night with 26. Austrie and Adrien provided 14 and 13. 10 off the bench for Wiggins. Would have been nice to see him still suspended. Wiggins grabbed 9 rebounds, same with Adrien. Hasheem Thabeet was not the same offensive beast as against Georgia Tech. 4 points, 10 rebounds. Six blocked shots as well, an average night of work for the big Tanzanian.
Notre Dame has a game at Rutgers on Sunday. A big win there would be great to get the team back on track. Still always tough to pull one out at the RAC. Home contests against Pittsburgh and Syracuse give the Irish the chance to all but lock up a top 4 finish next week.
Losses always sting a bit, this one no less than usual. Still a gutsy performance for Notre Dame and they will need to bounce back well to keep the good juices from out five game winning streak going.
It's no secret that I am a Brey apologist. He's a great recruiter and coach, but there is much more needed to succeed at the highest level of college basketball. Mike Brey is a first class individual who truly loves the University of Notre Dame and its fanbase and has never had so much as a hint of a violation in his career. While many of complaints about his coaching are valid from time to time (short bench, losing close games, etc.), we all can be proud of how he handles himself. Thanks again, Coach. Let's get the win tonight.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
#11 Jerome Dyson- 14.3 PPG, 33% from three (Suspended)
#12 A.J. Price- 14.6 PPG, 6.0 APG, 38% beyond the arc
#24 Craig Austrie- 6.0 PPG, 27%, another guard
#4 Jeff Adrien- 14.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, not a deep threat
#21 Stanley Robinson- 9.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 34% long range
#34 Hasheem Thabeet- 11.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.0 BPG
#3 Doug Wiggins- 6.2 PPG, 32% from three, 19.0 MPG
#14 Curtis Kelly- 2.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 8.6 MPG
#33 Gavin Edwards- 2.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, like Kelly another 6'9" sophomore forward, 7.8 MPG
Even less deep than Notre Dame. Only went six deep against Georgia Tech until the final minutes. Just five with double figure minutes against Syracuse.
Thabeet showed more offensive ability against Georgia Tech (24 points, 15 rebounds). Losing Dyson's 14 points and 4 rebounds hurts a little, but obviously has not crippled them. Huskies have won last 7, five of which without the 6'4" sophomore guard.
On January 5th at the Joyce Center, the Irish pulled out a 73-67 win. Notre Dame led by 15 at the break, but sputtered in the second half as Luke Harangody shot 5-23 against Thabeet. It took a career-high 32 points from Kyle McAlarney and near perfect shooting night from the line for Coach Brey's team to log the victory.
Rob Kurz and Harangody both finished with 14 and 10 double-doubles. Kurz helped out a great three point shooting night by the team in making 2 of his 3 shots beyond the arc. Tory Jackson had a big number night distributing with 11 assists, but racked up 7 turnovers. Ryan Ayers was still starting at that point and neither he not Zach Hillesland logged great numbers.
For UCONN, the scoring was pretty spread out. Jeff Adrien had the sixth of his twelve double-doubles so far this year, 16 point/11 rebounds. 13 points for both Dyson and Price. Thabeet had 10 blocks, helped by few whistles from the refs. Indeed, Thabeet was the only player for Connecticut with 10 or more minutes who did not pick up a foul. No might remember this picture.
Harangody needs to have a better game because we cannot count on another career night from K-Mac. To do so, Bamm-Bamm needs to make sure he gets in on Thabeet's body on offense. Thabeet likes to create space between him and the offensive player and uses his great wingspan to block shots. This forced Harangody to try to shoot over the UCONN big man, coming up short on several jump hooks. In addition, it is important for Harangody to be able to knock down 15 foot jumpers and force Thabeet out of the key. This will open up the lane for other players and allow guys like Jackson and Hillesland to drive to the basket.
That's about it. Need a better than 37% overall shooting night for the team and must keep Thabeet from using his newfound offensive ability. If McAlarney can score 15-20 with consistent outside shooting and Harangody is able to get his points without too many missed shots over Thabeet, this could be a great road win. As it is, the Huskies are on a roll with seven straight and look like a much improved team from January. With only a 35% chance of winning according to Kenpom.com, the Irish find themselves the underdog for once, but have a good chance of pulling off the upset if they play their game.
Go Irish, beat Huskies.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Big East Bloggers Poll
1) Georgetown (13): 339 points.
2) Louisville (6): 324 points.
3) Notre Dame (1): 306 points.
4) Connecticut (2): 302 points.
5) Pittsburgh: 256 points.
6) Marquette: 249 points.
7) Syracuse: 208 points. *tie
7) West Virginia: 208 points. *tie
9) Cincinnati: 173 points.
10) Seton Hall: 148 points.
11) Villanova: 132 points.
12) DePaul: 116 points.
13) St. John’s: 84 points.
14) Providence: 81 points.
15) Rutgers: 41 points.
16) South Florida: 25 points.
Player of the Week: Luke Harangody.
Freshman of the Week: Jonny Flynn.
Georgetown keeps their lead at the top despite a loss to Louisville, backing up Bryan's thoughts about who should be #1. However, the Cards do move up to 2nd place thanks to 6 first place votes. I'm glad to see both Notre Dame and Connecticut receive some recognition as well. The top 4 are clearly the class of the league and are very close in competition.
Also, congrats to Luke Harangody. He wins Player of the Week despite lacking my vote. He is on the weekly Honor Roll for the official Big East awards, losing out to Jeff Adrien.
Notre Dame Tournament Resume- Part 1
#32 Kansas State @ New York, 68-59
#10 Connecticut, 73-67
@ #61 Seton Hall, 95-69
@ #31 Marquette, 92-66
@ #8 Georgetown, 84-65
Bracket Project Projected Seed- 5 (as of 2/11)
High Seeding- 3 (CBS Sportsline 2/7)
Low Seeding- 7 (Sporting News 2/6)
We're getting closer to the point when that kind of stuff will actually matter, but still a lot of basketball to be played. A 5-seed seems just about right for this team and I'd love to wear the black jerseys in the second round. Let's make this happen.
To the NBE Basketball Report, where the Power Poll will be coming out later today (please don't let me be the only voter with Louisville #1). Notre Dame has the #1 conference RPI based on strength of schedule and wins so far. Most importantly, that means the rest of the year will be filled with easier competition. Having the 13th ranked schedule the rest of the way puts the Irish in the driver's seat for a bye.
Some interesting quotes from the article:
"Georgetown, Notre Dame and Connecticut all look to be in excellent position for three of the four conference tournament byes. UConn faces the 2nd easiest schedule down the stretch and after their home date with Notre Dame this week they have it down-right easy (or as easy as the big East will allow). Georgetown closes with a road game at Marquette and battle with Louisville and has to go to Syracuse. The Irish Have UConn coming up and home dates with Pitt and Syracuse, but close out with an easy schedule in their last three. You can almost pencil those three in today as among the top four."
"It would be a surprise to me if the four byes are not earned by Georgetown, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville. Determining 5-10, however, is a complete crapshoot coming down the stretch."
EDIT: We are a three-seed in the latest ESPN Bracketology as well, though that has not been updated in the Bracket Project yet. Also 18th nationally in the Coaches' Poll and 20th in the AP Poll.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Published in Sports Illustrated
The most recent issue of Sport Illustrated (with the post-Super Bowl cover) publishes my letter along with two others responding to the article. Take a peek if you're interested...
Big East Ballot- Week 13
No home cooking this week, Notre Dame moves down a spot with two nice wins.
- Louisville- Three losses (vs. Cincy, @ Seton Hall, @ UCONN) by a total of 13 points. Wins over Georgetown and Marquette put them on top.
- Georgetown- Still a half game lead in the conference.
- Notre Dame- Big win @ Seton Hall gives confidence on the road, avoiding comeback against #16 Marquette provides some more national credibility.
- Connecticut- Won seven straight, including 80-68 victory over Notre Dame opponent Georgia Tech. Game against the Irish on Wednesday will help shake out top 4.
- Pittsburgh- Only win this week a 55-54 affair against West Virginia at home. Move up on account of losses by higher ranked squads.
- Marquette- Looked bad in home loss to Louisville, more potent in near-comeback against Notre Dame. Need to bounce back well Tuesday @ Seton Hall.
- Syracuse- Only game last week was a close loss at home to UCONN.
- West Virginia- Lost three of their last four, but nearly knocked off Pitt on the road last week.
- Seton Hall- Three straight losses. Blown out at home by Notre Dame, nearly beat 'Nova on the road.
- Cincinnati- Taken to overtime by Rutgers. Home games against St. John's and South Florida should help get back on track.
- Villanova- Win over Seton Hall by 2 at home does not make up for five straight losses. Lost by 12 at Rutgers and 22 at St. Joseph's. Road games at Georgetown and St. John's not looking too promising next week.
- St. John's- Beat Providence, lost at home to DePaul earlier. Only team near the bottom playing well, with a three game winning streak.
- Providence- Beat DePaul by 14 at home, but lost at St. John's. Dropped 5 of last 6.
- DePaul- Home win against South Florida does little to soften hurt of four game losing skid.
- Rutgers- Nearly upset Cincy in overtime, still riding four game losing streak.
- South Florida- Just plain bad. 10 straight losses after defeating Rutgers at home.
Freshman of the Week- Johnny Flynn- Syracuse
Pains me to give that no talent hack an award this week, but the other candidates (Gransberry, Paul Harris, etc.) couldn't provide wins for their teams. In fairness, Thabeet had an incredible game yesterday with career highs in points and rebounds. Hopefully he cannot repeat the performance on Wednesday. His game against Syracuse was less impressive offensively, but did block seven shots. Most importantly, the team won both games.
Flynn scored 20 against UCONN, adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists with just one turnover and four steals.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Notre Dame 86, Marquette 83
Up 10 at the half, Notre Dame did a solid job keeping turnovers low and surviving an unreal Marquette barrage from beyond the arc. The team shoots 36% for the season, but somehow manages to knock down half their looks against the Irish. In January, they were 12-24. Until the last second of the game, the Golden Eagles exactly matched that total (a last second James heave made it 12-25).
Up 8 with 2:17 left in the game, Notre Dame managed to let Tom Crean's squad back in the contest with poor shot selection and turnovers. It was the eleven straight free throws over the last 7:13 of the game that iced this one for the Irish. Thanks to Luke Harangody (7) and Jonathan Peoples (4) for saving Notre Dame from themselves.
Even so, it took a Dominic James missed three pointer at the buzzer to keep the win for Notre Dame. Letting James score on four straight uncontested layups was almost deadly. The wannabe NBA player scored 10 of Marquette's last 13 points and nearly single-handedly turned a ten-point Irish lead into a Golden Eagle win.
But first, the positives. Who taught Tory Jackson how to shoot? 2-4 from beyond the arc and seemed unfazed by open looks that he has previously been unable to make. Finished only 4-12, but had 14 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. Contributed to four of ND's 13 turnovers. Had four personal fouls in his 33 minutes, and was unable to stop James on successive drives to the basket (in fairness, he was clearly told to make sure James did not shoot a three to tie). 4-6 from the line is an improvement, but was far from the basketball when Marquette started fouling.
Kyle McAlarney was just quiet today. Speaks more to a balanced attack than anything else (5 players in double figures). 12 points, 2 assists. 5-11 shooting and 2-6 from three-point. Not a great performance, but not bad either.
Zach Hillesland had his best game of the year. 10 points, 7 rebounds. Was 4-6 shooting and made both free throw attempts. Add in an assist and a blocked shot for a very good overall game.
Rob Kurz was another very quiet player. 5 points, 5 rebounds. Only 24 minutes on the floor, but no foul trouble. Had a block and made one of two three point attempts, but was not his usual quetly efficient self.
Luke Harangody had an off game shooting, but came through on the stripe. Only 4-12 from the field, but finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. 10-13 from the free throw line and we needed every one of those. Turned the ball over 4 times, but also contributed a steal. Fifth straight double double and 13th of the year.
We sure needed those bench guys today. First, let me give some credit to Luke Zeller. The much maligned former Mr. Basketball in Indiana really came through. 11 points, 4 rebounds. 2-4 from three point land. Great for him to get his first double figure game since November. He always gives a good effort, but seldomly is needed as much as he was today. Ryan Ayers with 9 points and 2-5 from beyond the arc. His four point play was true quality. Knocked on his back by Jerel McNeal, Ayers could only lift his head and raise his arms from the hardwood to see the shot fall. Stepped to the line and drained the free one to put the Irish up 63-50. Jonathan Peoples was also very very clutch. 7 points, 5 rebounds. Made a three pointer on a goal tending violation to give ND its first points after Ayers' four point play. Most importantly, was four-for-four from the line, draining two with 18 seconds remaining.
Both teams were very good with the ball, Notre Dame with 13 turnovers and Marquette with 9. The Irish probably would have been around 10, but gave Marquette the ball over and over under two minutes left. Still a great improvement over the 24 in Milwaukee. Marquette outshot the Irish 45% to 43%. With the three-pointers, Maruqette had another great game, knocking down 12 to Notre Dame's 10 (44%). As mentioned, the Golden Eagles were almost indentical from beyond the arc in January, but Notre Dame improved from its earlier 21% performance.
The game was won on the line for the Irish. Not only did the eleven straight keep the ND lead, but 77% for the game and 19 more free ones than Marquette overall. The three-point rebounding advantage for Notre Dame was nice, but actually less than ND's eight-point edge in January.
For Marquette, Hayward and James led the way with 21 and 23, respectively. Both Hayward and Barro finished with double doubles. The 6-10 Barro was no threat scoring, however, with 1-9 shooting. Jerel McNeal added 10 points on an awful shooting performance and David Cubillan gave them 11 off the bench.
The 11,418 in attendence were loud from the tip and gave the Irish some good home support. The Legion's chants of "Tom Crean Sucks" didn't get the Marquette coach to completely lose his cool, but were entertaining nonetheless. The win should put the Irish solidly in the top 20 in both polls, with road games at UCONN and Rutgers next week. Way to keep the streak today (34 straight) and let's just keep on winning.
Friday, February 08, 2008
#1 Dominic James- 13.0 PPG, 3.9 APG, 33% 3PA
#22 Jerel McNeal- 13.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 24% 3PA
#23 Wesley Matthews- 11.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 34% 3PA
#32 Lazar Hayward- 13.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 50% 3PA
#12 Dwight Burke- 3.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG
#10 David Cubillan- 6.3 PPG, 2.0 APG, 35% 3PA, 19.1 MPG
#41 Ousmane Barro- 6'10", 235 lbs.- 5.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 18.0 MPG
#2 Maurice Acker- 4.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 39% 3PA, 15.5 MPG
#5 Dan Fitzgerald- 4.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 39% 3PA, 14.3 MPG
On January 12th, Marquette outshot the Irish 50% to 21% from three-point range. In addition, Notre Dame turned the ball over twice as much as the Golden Eagles (24 to 12). James, McNeal, Matthews, Hayward, and Cubillan all scored in double figures. Lazar Hayward earned a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards.
For the Irish, Luke Harangody was the only bright spot on offense. The sophomore scored 29 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, and Rob Kurz shot 3-8 from the field. Since that loss, Notre Dame is 5-1, scoring 89 or more points four times.
Ken Pomeroy has a 58% chance on winning from Ken Pomeroy's site. A 34th straight home win and bragging rights are on the line for the Irish. Let's keep the streak going.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Around the Country
Big game Saturday. I'll give you the rundown tomorrow of Marquette.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Notre Dame 95 Seton Hall 69
Awesome effort by the Irish tonight and a great win that makes Saturday look like a relly fun game indeed. First half effort saw Notre Dame up 20. The second half was not as solid, but outscoring a pretty decent team by 26 on the road in this conference... impressive.
Remember the Pirates beat Louisville at home and played Marquette, Georgetown, and Connecticut much tougher than our game tonight. Giving a team like this their worst loss by far while on the road says volumes about the ability and heart of this ND sqaud.
After taking their first lead a minute into the game, Coach Brey's boys used 56% shooting and some long stretches of tough defense to put the game away early. Even Abromaitis and Nash earned some playing time at the end of this one.
Tory Jackson sniffed a triple-double with a very good performance. 9 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds. 3-9 from the floor is probably his only bad stat. Hit three of his four attempts from the foul line. Four of his rebounds were on the offensive glass, creating second chances. When your point guard can be the third highest rebounder, that's a great added wrinkle to the team.
Kyle McAlarney showed off for the mom once again. 19 points. 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Led the team to a 45% shooting night from downtown. Also handed out 6 assists. After two cold shooting games in a row, it was great to see K-Mac back on fire.
Zach Hillesland finished with 7 points and 2 rebounds. 3 of 5 shooting from the floor and picked up the most fouls on the team, with three. Seeing how well Notre Dame jumped off to a lead speaks volumes about how Zac's hustle helps off the Irish start out of the gate. Starting slowly has been a problem in road losses in the past, but tonight's fast start created an easy win.
Rob Kurz with a double-double. 17 points, 10 rebounds. Only 1-5 from beyond the arc, so he had to pick up half of those points from the charity stripe. 8-9 with the freebies. Nice numbers for Mr. Consistent.
Luke Harangody is your Big East Player of the Year exactly halfway through the conference schedule. 22 and 13 tonight for yet another double-double. 10 of 15 from the field, just dominating the paint as Laing and Garicia (SH's top two rebounders) did not have an answer.
Off the bench, Zeller had a very nice night. 8 points, 3 rebounds. 3-5 shooting, including half his four three point shots. Congrats to the big fella and definitely hope to see more of the same in the future. Ryan Ayers was even better with a similar script. 9 points, 4-5 from the field. 4 rebounds in addition. Ryan has been a lot more productive off the bench and Coach Brey has to be happy with how the young man has handled things. Peoples with two points and not much else. Nice to see Abro and Nash get some playing time.
Outshot the Pirates 56% to 38%. Just under 70% from the line, but did get five more points that Seton Hall there. In rebounding, the Irish were dominant, 44-27. Brian Laing and freshman Jeremy Hazell did score too much for my liking, but Laing was just on his season average. Hazell's 26 are just under a career high, as he dropped 29 in their win over Louisville.
Great win for ND. Let's keep this momentum and get the victory Saturday to move up in the rankings. Keep the Streak!
Duke/UNC is a lot of fun to watch, just a really good basketball game between two great archrivals and no team I have to root for. Tune in on ESPN.
Finally, I just need to mention that Notre Dame's two big road wins have come wearing the black jerseys. Coincidence? I think not. Go Irish.
And There's An ND Hoops Game Tonight, Too...
With Super Tuesday behind us and the long 40 days of Lent ahead, we have a great slate of basketball games tonight. That makes this a happy Ash Wednesday... or maybe that is the wrong mindset. Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return.
The football team signed the best recruiting class in the country today,* a great feel-good story for the University. Unbelievable how Charlie Weis and the coaching staff kept such a great group together through the worst season in recent memory. Now that talent better translate into wins.
*Irish are technically ranked #2 on Scout.com, but #1 Alabama will certainly not be able to keep the entire class together until the fall (through failed acceptance to the University or "gray-shirting"). That gives the Irish a claim on the recruiting national championship that is certainly as valid as, well... any BCS title these days.
Let's get a win at Seton Hall tonight. Almost halftime as I'm typing this, but not making any comments just yet. Don't jinx it.
#2 Duke at #3 UNC tonight. Simply put, the best regular season contest there will be this season. No matter your opinions about either program, having two arch-rivals with number one seed talent play makes for must-watch viewing. Can't wait for tip-off there.
And Shaq O'Neal has been traded to Phoenix to join Steve Nash and the Suns in return for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. Nice to see the only pro team I can stomach get some added help for a possible title run. Here's to Nash and friends getting a ring this season.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Happy Super Fat Tuesday
Anyways, if you're into those politics, today is a good day for you. Lots of primaries all around the country. When in doubt, vote for the Irish candidate... Barack O'Bama (bad joke, nevermind).
Signing day for the football team tomorrow. Also a game at Seton Hall for ND and Duke/UNC at 9. Lots to talk about then. Have a good one.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Bobby Knight Resigns
There has to be more of a story there. We'll see what happens. Good luck to him nonetheless.
Big East Bloggers Poll
2) Notre Dame: 280 points.
3) Connecticut: 270 points.
4) Marquette (1): 265 points.
5) Louisville: 259 points.
6) Pittsburgh: 206 points.
7) West Virginia: 203 points.
8) Syracuse: 186 points.
9) Seton Hall: 153 points.
10) Cincinnati: 145 points.
11) Villanova: 113 points.
12) Providence: 100 points.
13) DePaul: 97 points.
14) Rutgers: 56 points.
15) St. John’s: 45 points.
16) South Florida: 23 points.
Player of the Week: Luke Harangody.. Harangody, a sophomore at Notre Dame, continues to make his case for the Big East Conference’s Player of the Year with a monster week. The 6’8 bull averaged 30 PPG and 14 rebounds in wins over Providence College and DePaul last week!
Freshman of the Week: DeJuan Blair. The Pittsburgh big man recorded double-doubles in a win over Villanova and a loss at Connecticut.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Big East Ballot- Week 12
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- Seton Hall
- St. John's
- South Florida
Player of the Week- Luke Harangody- Notre Dame
Freshman of the Week- DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh
Two good young big men get the awards this week. Blair went 10/14 and 13/13. Harangody had 31/14 and 29/14. Tough to beat.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Notre Dame 89, DePaul 80
First of all, thanks to all the coaches who got out of the normal dress shoes for Coaches vs. Cancer National Awareness Weekend. Coach Brey has always been a big spokesman of the search for a cure. Jay Wright of Villanova went all out, ditching the three-piece suit for a warmup in the Wildcats' loss to Syracuse. Certainly a great effort by the NABC every year.
To the game. Coach Brey has a pretty warm relationship with Jery Wainwright, which makes this series special for both coaches involved (mock turtleneck connection, perhaps?). It was the 97th meeting overall for the two rivals, with the Irish holding a 52-44 advantage.
300 pounder Wesley Green got the start for the Blue Demons tonight. He sure is a big fella. Showed a little range banking in a three from the top of the key in addition to an eight rebound performance. Wainwright, the used car salesman look-alike, did a great job with the DePaul game plan. The Blue Demons tried to run the floor after every Notre Dame basket, killing lots of potential runs in their infancy. The super-hot DePaul shooters knocked down more than their fair share of three-pointers (48%), single-handedly keeping this game from turning into a rout. While the Irish gave up a lot of points on quick fast breaks after scoring, I really can't fault ND's concentration too much. If DePaul had shot their season average (34%) from beyond the arc, those breaks would have given the ball back to Irish quickly and this would have been a 15-20 point win. Sometimes a team gets hot and makes all those contested shots.
Tory Jackson had another very good offensive night. 8 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Though he didn't end up with double figures scoring, Jackson was able to break down the defense with his drives. Hit the offensive boards with tenacity and never gave up under the basket. His four steals kept the momentum in favor of the Irish and show how much the sophomore hustled tonight.
Kyle McAlarney was cold again. When most shooters fail to connect early in the game, a coach would frown on taking 13 attempts from beyond the arc. However, we know how golden Mac is when he gets hot. His consistent effort to take those deep looks resulted in points down the stretch and gave the team a boost. 17 points, but only 5-17 shooting. Great to see the Irish win another game without a huge performance from the shooting guard. If he is going to have a cold night, better against DePaul than in the BET or NCAAs. 6 assists, 1 turnover as well. Great job handling the ball.
Zach Hillesland played very well in 21 minutes. 10 points, 5 rebounds. We know he's always going to split time with Ryan Ayers, but he gives us such a lift when on the floor. Had a nice dunk and great left-handed putback when crashing the glass on offense. Great energy and attitude.
Rob Kurz is so solid. 8 points, 12 rebounds. Really needed that double-figure output from him as the Irish were seriously outshot. Winning the rebounding battle won us the game tonight. Therefore have to give the props to Rob...
...and Luke Harangody. Who doesn't love this guy? Has my vote for Big East Player of the Week after a 29 and 14 performance tonight. May even end up with Player of the Year, but let's not look too far ahead yet. 10 of those boards were offensive, giving the Irish much-needed second chances. 9-12 from the line, another very solid night for the big man. Such an anchor down low and is starting to get the national attention he very much deserves.
Off the bench, I really like Ryan Ayers. His mindset is really starting to change and he is looking to take more opportunities when on the floor. Before, the game had to come to him. Now, he takes his shots and looks to contribute. Deserved the 32 minutes tonight and will hopefully continue to develop as a scorer. Had a pretty dunk as well (honestly didn't know he could do that). Luke Zeller had 6 points in 7 minutes. Nice for him to contribute well in limited playing time. Jonathan Peoples had a fairly productive 11 minutes, but not much to show for it.
The 3-2 zone that Coach Brey has brought back out of the attic works pretty well. I like having Ayers on the top using his wingspan to take away passes. The refs, Jim Burr (wince...), Wally Rutecki, and J.D. Collins, were consistently bad, so not a lot to complain about. Certainly could have called a much tighter game, but we got away with as much as they did.
How can you not love this team's attitude? After watching how the squad responded to each other, I can't help but be happy that Alex Legion chose to go elsewhere. This is such a special group of individuals. Their combined hustle (just about every player ended up on the floor at one point or another) and love of the game (Mac, Hillesland, Jackson, and Ayers all went nuts after making key shots) is tremendous. Watching Kyle slap the floor after a key three-pointer in the first half was great. Just a really quality bunch of guys.
Obviously, the outcome was a little too close for comfort. Got back to DePaul shooting 14 points higher than average from beyond the arc to see how this game was so close. The Blue Demons outshot the Irish 49% to 43% and made two extra field goals. Also had three extra 3-pointers. Again, the Irish were great from the line (17-20- 85%). Only turned the ball over eight times, a nice trip back below 10 for that statistic. Also finished with 11 more rebounds and 18 on the offensive glass. When you beat a team that had such a great shooting night, you have to take the win no matter the opponent.
So we travel to Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Pirates won 5 in a row before losing to Georgetown tonight. Go Irish!
EDIT- You may have noticed a lack of posting for Basketballforum.com. With all these games on Saturday, it's tough to get two big posts in. Hopefully I'll be able to continue when more time opens up.
Friday, February 01, 2008
#3 Draelon Burns- 17.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 32% 3PA
#13 Mac Koshwal- 6'10" Freshman- 11.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG
#5 Karron Clarke- 9.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 39%
#12 Cliff Clinkscales- 2.6 PPG, 3.7 APG
#30 Will Walker- 8.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 43%
#2 Dar Tucker- 12.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 22.5 MPG, 29%
#4 Wesley Green- 6'9", 300 lbs.- 4.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 20.3 MPG
#1 Jabari Currie- 4.8 PPG, 2.8 APG, 44%
Clarke is the only really efficient player on the team. Six ND players score more points per 100 possessions than anyone in the DePaul lineup.
As a team, DePaul boasts one of the least efficient defenses in the country (272nd). Defensive effective field goal %, turnover %, and rebound % all rank below 200. On offense, the only main statistic in which DePaul ranks well is turnover percentage. The Blue Devils are 30th in the country with one in 18.3% of possessions. To contrast, Notre Dame ranks in the top 100 in 7 of the 8 most important team statistics (low statistic- forcing turnovers on defense).
What does that mean? DePaul will not turn the ball over a lot, due to solid ballhandling and a Notre Dame defense that does not generate a lot of steals. Other than that, Notre Dame should shoot a higher percentage than the Blue Devils, win the rebounding battle, and get a lot of points from the line (like last night's game).
There you have it. DePaul ranks 70 spots below Providence in the RPI, so look for the Irish to have an easier time getting the win. Hopefully the guys can get out to another good start and avoid the letdowns that they suffered against the Friars.
New Home for the Big East Basketball Report
In addition, it looks like Jerome Dyson is out a minimum of 30 days for his second failed drug test. Teammate Doug Wiggins will still play after passing his test. Don't think Wiggins is completely clean, however, as he has had two failed tests of his own at Connecticut. Makes me yearn for those simpler days when players were suspended for a semester and learned a lesson after getting caught. That's why Notre Dame is different.