Sunday, March 23, 2008

Looking Forward to 2009

Happy Easter, first of all.

Looking at next season, there are several positives. 4 starters return, four rising sophomores enter the equation, and both the Big East Coach of the Year and Player of the Year will be back.

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG- Tory Jackson
SG- Kyle McAlarney
SF- Tyrone Nash
PF- Zach Hillesland
PF- Luke Harangody

Sixth Man- Ryan Ayers
Question Mark- Carleton Scott


Tory and Kyle return with the same roles. Tory will run the offense while K-Mac looks to shoot three pointers. Jonathan Peoples will again see about 10 minutes a game backing up both guards. Ty Proffitt may get some playing time as another backup, but is currently at the back of the depth chart.


Zach Hillesland played the 3 for most of the season this year, but I am looking for him to take the most responsibility for Rob Kurz's role next season. In Zach's absence, there are plenty of options. Ryan Ayers will certainly get a look. He started the first half of the year and can provide an extra deep threat. However, Notre Dame lacked a good penetrator from the perimeter this year. With a good shooter in McAlarney and an inside threat with Luke Harangody, I see Ayers playing the same sixth man role that he held at the end of the season.

Who will provide that needed athleticism? Tyrone Nash is the first choice, a former three-star recruit from Queens. His 6-8 frame will provide a needed mismatch against three guard lineups with the ability to get to the rim. Redshirt Carleton Scott should be in the mix, but his broken foot will keep him out of summer practice. If he keeps the muscle added during this season, Scott could be ready for serious minutes off the bench at the beginning of the year. Tim Abromaitis has shown athleticism in practice and could be a Zach Hillesland clone. If one of the three is ready to start, the Irish will be in good shape.


Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody returns. He still has plenty of room for improvement and may visit a big man camp in the summer. With some added post moves and a more polished attack, the post will be fine. Zach Hillesland looks to make up for Rob Kurz's departure. He can pass well out of the high post and perimeter and can drive against slower forwards. Time will tell if he can be a post scorer with Harangody on the bench or in foul trouble.

Luke Zeller will also get a look for a starting position on next year's team. He is the obvious choice for a power forward at 6'10", 239. However, he has never shown the ability to be an inside scorer and lacks the physicality to defend the big guys in the Big East. He could be a Pittsnogle type who blossoms in his senior year with limited rebounding and a strong three-point stroke, but will have to improve his defense to deserve the playing time.

Overall, I think we look strong for next season. Most of the top players return and there are a lot of unknown talents entering the rotation. If at least one of them turns out before October, this team could be even better.

Finally, thanks to everyone who read and contributed to the blog over the past several months. It has always been a great experience writing these posts and I look forward for next season.

Special thanks to Bryan, Lucid, Luke, Golden Monkey, Sebastian, Craig, and everyone else who contributed over the course of the year (I'm sure I left out plenty of you, so leave a comment to remind me). Knowing I'll be ripped to shreds for some of my comments is great for keeping this blog fresh.

So I'll be on hiatus until October unless anything comes up before then (a coaching change, surprise recuit, etc). If you have any important news or tidbits to add, drop me a line at Thanks again, and have a great offseason!

Season in Review

November, December, January, February, March... it's been a long five months.

I predicted a 22-8 record for the Irish through the regular season. They would finish 24-6, a two game improvement. Losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech at the Paradise Jam started the season off roughly, but the team rebounded with a neutral site win over Kansas State. The rest of the cake nonconference schedule rolled by without incident.

In the Big East, the Irish took on an 18 game schedule for the first time and were very successful. A 14-4 record landed the Irish in a tie for second in the conference. After lopsided losses at Marquette and Georgetown, Notre Dame closed out the season 11-2. Another unbeaten year at home kept the winning streak alive for another summer.

In the Big East Tournament, another disappointing finish sent the Irish home after a quarterfinal loss to rival Marquette. Notre Dame picked up a 5 seed in the NCAAs and used solid defense to send first round opponent George Mason home early. Unfortunately, the Irish came up short of their Sweet 16 goal by losing badly to Washington State.


Coaching Staff- B

This could have been an A two weeks ago. Mike Brey picked up his second straight Big East Coach of the Year award in the leading the Irish from a predicted bottom half finish to a tie for second in the league. However, another early exit from New York and a blowout loss to Washington State ended the year on a sad note. Overall, a great performance in the regular season, but marred by another disappointing end of the year.

Rob Kurz- B-

Brought leadership to a team that desperately needed it after the graduation of Colin Falls and Russell Carter. However, he seemed to disappear in some close games. Rebounding dipped a bit due to the emergence of Luke Harangody, but also turned the ball over more than in the past. Shooting percentages were down considerably as well. Made most of his impact off the court and as a leader on the floor.

Kyle McAlarney- B+

Welcome back. He was expected to make an impact as a three-point shooter, but no one knew how he would play side-by-side with Jackson in the backcourt. It turned out very well. In 36 minutes a game, he scored 15 and dished out 3.5 assists. A shooting percentage of 44% from beyond the arc placed second in the conference with the most threes made. Became a scorer from the oustide that was definitely needed. Had a few cold shooting nights that really hurt the team but should improve even more with a second year playing the 2.

Zach Hillesland- B

Came off the bench to the starting lineup halfway through the year. Added life in a squad that looked flat out of the gate far too often. Not a big stat guy, 6.2 PPG/5.3 RPG/2.5 APG, but does a lot of little things. Was the only attacking wing, a problem that should be remedied with Nash and Scott next season. Shot 51% from the floor, a product of his ability to get to the basket for layups. Biggest problem is lack of an outside game. If he can develop a consistent mid-range jumper with some threes, he will have more opportunities to get to the basket.

Tory Jackson- B

Played well with McAlarney in the backcourt. Proved that he deserved the starting PG role. Scoring got a little bump from last year, but rebounds and assists shot to new heights. 3.2 turnovers a game is a little high. Still not a great shooter, but got smarter from outside as the year wore on. Though he was 30% from three, his shot selection became more surgical as we went 12 for 27 (44%) from the end of January until the first round of the tournament. Still needs to cut down on mistakes and continue to develop his finishing ability when driving, but made some strong steps forwad.

Luke Harangody- A-

What do you say about this guy? Went from unknown to Player of the Year over the course of the season. Averaged 20 and 10 and showed the ability to knock down outside shots. 22 rebounds in the final game demonstrates his ability to control a contest even while being terrible offensively. Needs to play within himself next year. He got a little frustrated at times and forced shots. Also needs to stay on the block and limit his touches 7-10 feet from the basket. Overall, he is still not ready for the NBA (good for us) due to his size and still unpolished style. The thought of him improving even more is scary.

Ryan Ayers- B-

Took his benching with dignity and was able to contribue off the bench. Can be a dead-eye shooter when he looks for a shot. Became more confident as the year went by. Still needs to be able to create scoring opportunities and become more of a part of the offense on the floor. Can grow into a Colin Falls-type scorer with very good defensive skills.

Luke Zeller- C+

Some flashes of improvement, but still not where we was expected to be at this point. Will never be a force down low, but could provide meaningful minutes on the outside. Shot 39% from three and had a very good rebounding games down the stretch. Must continue to develop with the departure of Kurz due to his extended minutes next year.

Jonathan Peoples- C

He and Zeller didn't get a lot of chances to show their stuff this year with 12 minutes a game. Partly due to Coach Brey's strategy, but their ability certainly plays a factor. Peoples showed a little range with 36% beyond the arc, but didn't get enough looks per game to really prove himself as a scorer. Has been a steady hand at the wheel when Jackson needs a break, but not much more than that. Needs to improve his scoring ability or defense or will continue to be used sparingly.

Freshmen- INC

Coach Brey decided to go with an eight-man rotation this year. Should Nash and Abromaitis have been used more? Probably. Should they have been reshirted? No. Although the freshmen were very small parts of the lineup, they picked up valuble experience off the bench. Scott has the upside to be a five-year guy, but the others do not look like candidates for a fifth year, so the redshirt was probably well played. In the end, the lack of depth was not the cause of their final defeat, so Coach Brey's strategy worked well enough.

It will be interesting to see who of the four scholarship freshmen breaks from the pack to merit serious playing time (even a starting spot?) next year. Nash gives the team a playmaker that we were lacking. Scott is even more talented towards that end, when healthy. Abromaitis and Proffitt were less heralded recruits who could enter the rotation as well.

That should put a cap on this year. Later today or tomorrow I will look forward to the next season.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Washington State 61, Notre Dame 41

Superman meet Kryptonite. Washington State expertly controlled the pace and held Notre Dame to 25% shooting to end the Irish season in the Round of 32.

A pretty awful way to end the year. Luke Harangody grabbing 22 rebounds was the only highlight of the night as every shooter in black was harrassed constantly. Congrats to the Cougars for an excellent job on defense and taking ND out of their game.

What happened? WSU ran the half-court offense very well, draining the shot clock and picking up just enough offensive rebounds to keep possessions to a minimum. On defense, they never let the Irish get out in transition and played lock-down D in the halfcourt. They only had one or two guys crash the offensive glass, ensuring a high number of rebounds for Bamm-Bamm but also keeping Notre Dame from turning quick outlet passes into layups at the other end.

There were two ways for Notre Dame to win this game: accept the slow pace and shoot a high percentage from the field or get turnovers to speed the game up. In the first half, they tried plan number 1. Unfortunately, Forrest and Cowgill were mostly able to take away Luke Harangody one-on-one. That left Wazzou's quick guards free to roam the perimeter and take away outside shots. The 18% from three point range tells the tale of their success out there.

In the second half, Coach Brey made a solid adjustment to full-court man defense. This made Washington State a little more frantic and brought the Irish within 7. Unfortunately, WSU was able to adjust and beat the press. Notre Dame never opened the game into a sprint and were not able to convert half court opportunities. Game, set, match Washington State. The Irish go home.

Tory Jackson was a little razzled today. He tried to push the pace on occasion and turned the ball over. Certainly looked like a sophomore. 7 points, 4 rebounds, but only 2 assists. Not that there were a lot of field goals to assist.

Kyle McAlarney finished a resurgent year 2-8 from three point range. We have consistently lost when Mac shoots such a low percentage and tonight was no different. 12 points, 3 rebounds. Great to see him back in an Irish uniform, however, and here's to a spectacular senior campaign.

Zach Hillesland was pretty quiet. Only 2 points with 4 rebounds. 0-2 from the field. It will be interesting to see what is role will be in next year's squad. He was a welcome addition to the starting lineup halfway through the year and a great part of our success in the Big East.

How about Luke Harangody this year? No one would have predicted what we would become by year's end. A disappointing way to end the Big East Player of the Year's season. 10 points, an amazing 22 rebounds, but only 3-17 shooting. He was taken out of the offensive game in a way no one could have predicted.

Sad to see Rob Kurz go, but that's how it must be. 8 points, 3 rebounds in his final game. A great captain and terrific senior leader. His leadership will be missed and the Irish will need to find a solid high post guy to help Harangody next year. Good luck to Rob in the future.

Off the bench, a really tough night for Ryan Ayers. He showed the willingness to take shots tonight, but finished 0-4. No points. When he is on, he makes a great case for a starting slot, but we will see what happens. Jonathan Peoples with two late free throws. He was a quiet guy this year, just the backup point guard. Has some range, but rarely uses it. He may be a four year backup for us. Luke Zeller with nothing to show for the last game of his third college season. He has shown some improvement, but never became the post player that many had hoped for. Next year, he will help out at the high post and on the wing. It will be interesting to see how he handles some of Rob Kurz's responsibilities.

Abromaitis and Nash with mopup minutes. Those two guys could be the gamechangers next year. Really wanted to see more of them, especially Nash, but Coach Brey stuck with an 8 man lineup. Hard to second guess that now, as we had so much success with the eight veterans and the freshman probably would not have changed the outcome of this game. However, next year could be as much as 9-10 guys deep. Where do Abro and Nash fit in? I would guess they each get 8-10 minutes a game. What about a guy like Scott when he is healthy? He probably has the most upside of the freshmen. Even Proffitt could contribute. We shall see.

Just a poor game against a team that really matched up well against us. Hats off to Washington State for holding Coach Brey's team to its lowest scoring and shooting night of his career at ND. We never got into our game and they were incredibly efficent at theirs. Stats like their turning the ball over only once in the first half shows how well they were able to control this game.

Tough way to end the year, as always. However, great strides were made with the best Big East record and making the second round of the tournament. Next season should be even better.

Tomorrow and Monday I will recap the season and look forward to next year. Thanks to everyone who has contributed and I eagerly anticipate another season with all of you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Couple Upsets

My bracket was perfect yesterday, but has been destroyed by a few upsets today. Great to see Western Kentucky's win over Drake. Drake would have been a feel good story if they went deep, but had their season ended by a buzzer beating three in OT. One of the best games I have seen in the last few tournaments.

Missed San Diego beating UCONN today, but that looked like a great one as well. There goes one of my Final Four squads. Mark WKU and San Diego on your calendar for Sunday. Both teams playing for the pride of being the year's Cinderella.

EDIT: What is in the water in Tampa? San Diego and Western Kentucky both win, 13 and 12 seeds respectively, and 13 seed Siena is handling Vanderbilt 46-34 at the half. Feel free to bet the farm on Villanova tonight against Clemson. No way the favorite wins that game.

Breaking Down Last Night

First off, news of Carleton Scott breaking his fifth metatarsal broke during the day yesterday. He will be rehabbing for up to the next four months, but should be fine for the team's trip to Ireland in August. Tough break for the guy who could become a very important part of the lineup next year and in the future. He has been a little injury-prone in the past, so hopefully this is the only problem he will have to deal with at ND. His redshirt year has gone very well by all accounts, as the 6'7" wing has gained 25 pounds and now weighs a formidable 213. As long as he can keep that strength, Scott should be a very good player for this team contributing as early as next year.

Last night was probably the most nerveracking night I have ever experienced while watching the Irish play... way too much to lose with not a whole lot to gain. Even with the lead in double digits in the second half, my blood pressure was through the roof until the final buzzer. Today is much better. Very good win, easy if not dominant. Obviously, Washington State will be a tougher task. Just look at how they handled Winthrop in the second half last night.

But we're playing with the house's chips now. Win or lose, the season is still an overall success. Obviously, a Sweet 16 appearance would be the perfect way to keep the good feelings going.

Should be wearing the black jerseys tomorrow. That's a good thing for two reasons. One, the Irish will be reminded of the importance of the game. This isn't like playing a semi-home contest against an inferior CAA squad. Washington State deserves to wear their home whites and will be the favorite to win. Two, this should be the second leg of a business trip. We're on the road in somewhat hostile territory and need to keep the focus. What was most encouraging about yesterday's performance was that the Irish never looked like they wanted to get caught up in the festivities. It was just another game in what should be an everlengthening season. That mentality will be great for Saturday.

Plenty of positive notes from the game. Worst case scenario for a win would be an absolutely perfect performance against an easy team. The law of averages states that had everything gone perfectly, a below-average performance would be sure to follow. The Irish won while strengthening their weaknesses. They improved on defense and were able to walk the ball up the floor to win without getting into a shootout. Most teams don't have their second best defensive performance on March 20th.

As for the negatives, they were mostly our strengths not being in the spotlight. Kyle McAlarney overcame a poor shooting half to be solid overall for the game. He will need to be better than that Saturday, but experience says he can light up the scoreboard when needed. Luke Harangody was below the season average scoring, but still played very well. Needs to stay in the paint and not get so trigger happy from 10-15 feet out.

The role players really stepped up last night. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers look like the best tandem small forward in the country. Hillesland with that athleticism and hustle grabs the rebounds and creates matchup problems on the wing. Ayers continues to gain confidence and can knock down any shot on the floor. Luke Zeller hit a three and grabbed a few boards. He continues to improve into a solid option off the bench. Rob Kurz, normally a solid double-double guy, was in foul trouble and played a below average game overall, but can usually be counted on when needed. Picked up his 1,000th point as well, so good for him.

Game is at 6:40 Eastern tomorrow. Looking forward to that one more than I was for last night. The Irish have the talent needed to win, but will be in for a tough fight. Win, and the program takes a huge step forward. Even a close loss would close out a year that has been a strong improvement from last season.

However, we all want a shot at the #1 team in the nation. Let's get that W and take on Carolina in Charlotte.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Notre Dame 68, George Mason 50

A quick blowout would have been nice, but the Irish were able to slowly put the game out of reach against an awful shooting George Mason team. Strong defense for the entire contest allowed Notre Dame to overcome a sluggish night offensively.

First half, Notre Dame jumped out to a double digit lead quickly using three pointers from five different players. Luke Harangody was dominant when he got the ball in the lane, but played too far away from the basket at times.

In the second half, the Irish looked perfectly happy wearing down the opposition. Instead of putting George Mason away with a quick run to start the period, the team kept the lead in the teens the rest of the game. Down the stretch, lots of spacing on the offensive end ran down the shot clock and drained the blood out of the Patriots.

Good to see that senior Rob Kurz did not end his career with this contest. Only 6 points while fouling out early. 2-4 from three, not much else to mention.

Luke Harangody with yet another double-double. 18 points, 14 rebounds. Really came back to take control in the second half after playing too far out in the first period. 8-19 from the field is a little deceiving as he missed four in a row on tip-ins. Was able to dominate in the paint against the smaller Patriot lineup. Hillesland and Kurz spent most of the game guarding Will Thomas, but Harangody can take some of the blame for Thomas going off. Other than that, however, a very solid night.

Tory Jackson with 6 points and 8 rebounds. Made some dumb mistakes turning the ball over, but played an overall solid game. Broke down the defense a few times with drives in the key, hitting layups or dishing to an open teammate.

Kyle McAlarney was harrassed by the George Mason defense from the start, but overcame a poor first half shooting to finish with 15 points on 3-7 from beyond the arc. Had plenty of help stretching the defense from the rest of the team tonight, as well.

Zach Hillesland scored six, but more importantly grabbed 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Great job with the all-around game as usual, making important contributions in every category.

Off the bench, how about Ryan Ayers? 12 points on 5-9 shooting. Showed great poise hitting two pointers on the break. Could have had 6-9 more had Brey allowed him to continue to shoot threes as the game wound down and he got looks in transition. Jonathan Peoples played sparingly. Luke Zeller hit a three. Tim Abromaitis and Ty Nash got some playing time, so good for them. Abro even got his first NCAA tourney points.

For George Mason, Will Thomas finished his career with a great performance. 25 points, 7 rebounds. Seemed the wear down in the second half as the Irish looked far fresher than their opponents. No other Patriots in double figures. Folarin Campbell had a terrible night shooting and just could not knock down anything all game.

Kind of a boring game, but will definitely take it. More analysis when I get a chance tomorrow, but great way to start the tournament with an easy win. Solid D was nice to see for the first time in a while. Bring on Washington State.

Are You Ready?

First round for the Irish tips at 9:40 tonight.

As always, Bryan has you covered at his blog with a tournament preview. Check it out here.


Irish started great but sputtered to the half and finish up 33-21. Great defense, but scoring was off down the stretch. Harangody needs to stay in the middle and get touches inside. No reason for him to be 3-8 for the half. The rest of the lineup is stepping up nicely in spite of lower scoring for both Bamm-Bamm and McAlarney.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

George Mason Preview

Everyone's favorite story two years ago is a 12 seed after finishing the year 23-10 with an RPI ranking of 61.

Joe Lunardi on Notre Dame
George Mason
Washington State

Offensive Efficiency- 70
Defensive Efficiency- 123
Good Wins- vs. Cleveland State, Dayton, Kansas State, Virginia Commonwealth
Bad Losses- vs. East Carolina, Georgia State

Dre Smith- 8.6 PPG, 1.4 APG, 38% 3PA
John Vaughan- 12.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 33% 3PA
Folarin Campbell- 15.9 PPG, 3.3 APG, 37% 3PA
Louis Birdsong- 6.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG
Will Thomas- 15.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG

Cam Long- 4.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 41% 3PA, 17.8 MPG
Jordan Carter- 2.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 33% 3PA, 16.6 MPG
Vlad Moldoveanu- 2.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 15% 3PA, 11.6 MPG

More depth than the 7 man rotation in 2006. Campbell and Thomas are the only holdovers who played serious minutes on that team (both were starters then as well).

Both Carter and Moldoveanu have been banged up and may only see limited time.

My Feelings About the Upcoming Tournament

Lose in the First Round- We accomplished a lot this year, but it was all for naught again. Losing to George Mason would be even more disappointing than last season's exit due to the poor showing in NYC and higher expectations. While it was great to just make the tournament last year, this team is should do more.

Lose in the Second Round (Washington State)- Not great, not awful if it is a close game. Losing to a team with a higher seed is expected, but still tough to stomach. Will be a bitter end to the year, but won't ruin all the joys of the regular season. Will hopefully inspire next year's team to a Sweet 16 run or deeper.

Lose in the Second Round (Winthrop)- Same as above, but a little tougher to watch. Would involve another exit to the lower seeded Eagles and be especially rough after last season. Still would make the year a general success and keep up expectations for next year.

Advance to the Second Weekend or Further- Great job by all involved getting over the hump of a poor BET showing and finishing the year the way they should. While a lopsided loss to Carolina or another top 10 team would be a tough way to end the year, still would be a great way to send off Rob Kurz. Will be restless until the team begins play next season after what would be an overall successful year.

Scenario #1 is a step back of sorts, the program stalls after two great regular seasons. Coach Brey needs to show much more in the postseason after providing a pair of strong campaigns. A deep run in the BET and NCAAs in '09 would be required to take away the sting of two embarrassing first round exits.

Scenario #2 and #3 are solid, but not steps forward. Finish off the year as expected and will start next season as a top 20 program. However, deeper runs in March are required to take the Irish to the next level.

Scenario #4 shows improvement for the program. Next year will be the third year of a rebuilding project that started in 06/07. Hopes will be soaring as Harangody continues to improve and the senior class looks to go out with a bang.

Obviously, scenario #4 is preferable. I'll take a 1-1 record and be satisfied with the entire body of work, but this team can accomplish much more. Anything less than survival until Saturday is unacceptable.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Other Stuff Going On...

Getting it on the main page, Tory Jackson added to Seth Davis' All Glue Team on Thanks to an anonymous poster for that one.

And on Winthrop, "Expect to hear the tear jerker story about the kid who died in the car crash last year since every time one of their players shoots free throws they emulate his motion and the fans do it too. Sad story..." -Allwhoyonder

Terrible story and very moving tribute by the team and fans.

From Ken Pomeroy on the East Region:

"East Region

2ndRd Swt16 Elite8 Final4 Final Champ
1 UNC 98.06 70.99 46.43 29.45 9.98 4.77
3 Louisville 94.66 72.82 45.07 23.21 6.60 2.72
4 Washington St. 91.16 61.12 28.45 15.35 4.02 1.54
2 Tennessee 95.66 68.56 35.57 16.29 3.95 1.42
8 Indiana 64.62 21.26 10.07 4.56 0.92 0.28
5 Notre Dame 81.77 34.29 12.01 5.04 0.92 0.26
7 Butler 71.24 25.35 9.11 2.73 0.39 0.09
6 Oklahoma 58.80 16.95 6.28 1.73 0.22 0.05
9 Arkansas 35.38 7.65 2.57 0.82 0.10 0.02
11 Saint Joe's 41.20 9.37 2.77 0.59 0.06 0.009
10 South Alabama 28.76 5.59 1.09 0.17 0.01 0.001
12 George Mason 18.23 2.91 0.33 0.05 0.00 0.0002
13 Winthrop 8.84 1.68 0.14 0.02 0.00 0.00004
14 Boise St. 5.34 0.86 0.08 0.01 0.00 0.000005
15 American 4.34 0.49 0.03 0.00 0.00 0.0000005
16 Play in 1.94 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00000004

The East could be the most likely region to wreck your brackets. We'll see tomorrow that the South also has a claim as well. Louisville has the best chance to reach the second weekend, and yet there's better than a one-in-four chance that they won't. This has widely been described as the toughest region, though these kinds of claims are much like figuring out which conference is the toughest. It doesn't matter whether the East is the toughest, but it is the most competitive.

The Cardinals edge UNC for Sweet 16 probability honors because of the perceived strength of Indiana, a potential second-round foe for the Tar Heels. I'll vouch for Indiana's physical ability to test Carolina, but their mental strength appears to be shot under Dan Dakich. However, they're playing an Arkansas team in the first round whose coach spent the better part of the first half against Tennessee last Saturday having a profanity-laced conversation with the Vols' JaJuan Smith. So I'm not sure which team will be the least prepared to advance.

Back to Carolina...they beat Virginia Tech by 39 without Ty Lawson and won by two with him. Figure that one out. Louisville would be the worst regional final matchup for them by virtue of its outstanding halfcourt defense, especially down low.

I'm one of the few that isn't high on Tennessee, because they've had a bunch of close games since knocking off Memphis. Does Georgia winning the SEC Tournament make the SEC stronger or weaker? I'd argue the latter. The SEC is a distant sixth in the power conference hierarchy. There's a potentially interesting second-rounder with Butler, a team that takes care of the ball religiously. However, they've never faced a turnover-forcing squad like Tennessee. A UT/Louisville Sweet 16 game would be fun. One team likes to press for turnovers, the other likes to press to run clock.

Notre Dame and Washington State are other reasonable Final Four picks. Both teams appear to be better than last season's counterparts, ones that suffered premature exits."

Interesting stuff from Pomeroy, as always.

Washington State Preview

RPI- 21
Offensive Efficiency- 18
Defensive Efficiency- 17
Good Wins- @ Baylor, @ Gonzaga, @ USC, @ Oregon

Aron Baynes- 10.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG
Robbie Cowgill- 7.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG
Kyle Weaver- 12.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 39% 3PA
Derrick Low- 14.1 PPG, 1.5 APG, 40% 3PA
Taylor Rochestie- 11.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 44% 3PA

Daven Harmeling- 6.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 40% 3PA, 22.0 MPG
Caleb Forrest- 3.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 11.9 MPG
Nikola Koprivica- 2.7 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 11.9 MPG

Monday, March 17, 2008

For a Taste of Gus Johnson...

the play by play guy on Thursday, check out this clip.

One of my favorite NCAA Tournament games, the senior Sorrentine hitting the three pointer "from the parking lot" after waving off coach Tom Brennan's repeated pleas to run a play. Brennan retired after the season, riding off into the sunset with Sorrentine and four other seniors, including three time conference player of the year Taylor Coppenrath.

Winthrop Preview

The next three days, I will break down the other three teams in our pod. First, 13 seed Winthrop.

Obviously, we remember last year's Eagle team. Following their success in the tournament, however, coach Gregg Marshall jumped ship to Wichita State and went 11-20 this season.

The Eagles are 20-11 and once again Big South champs. They beat Georgia Tech and lost to Baylor in the Virgin Islands. Also lost by 17 at West Virginia. Finished the year with an RPI of 108.

Offensive Efficiency- 229th
Defensive Efficiency- 23rd

Michael Jenkins- 14.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 38% 3PA
Taj McCullough- 11.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 28% 3PA
Chris Gaynor- 9.7 PPG, 4.2 APG, 43% 3PA
Mantoris Robinson- 6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 21% 3PA
Charles Corbin- 6.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG

Antwon Harris- 6.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 17.7 MPG
Andy Buechert- 3.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 15.4 MPG
George Valentine- 2.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 13.5 MPG

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Kyle McAlarney gets some more press today. Pot sure does wonders for your fame, doesn't it?

Game is at 9:50 Eastern on Thursday (30 minutes following the conclusion of WSU/Winthrop, a 7:20 tip). Win, and the Irish play at 6:40 or 9:10 on Saturday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

See You Thursday

Irish are a 5 seed, splitting the difference between 4 (where we would have been with a win against Marquette) and 6.

George Mason is this year's George Mason? Certainly hope not...

Breaking Down the East Region-

#1 North Carolina gets the top seed and will take on the play-in winner. Indiana tumbles all the way to an 8. They were on the 4/5 line earlier in the week. Sorry, Hoosier fans. They will play 9 seed Arkansas.

Let's go to the bottom of the bracket next. 2 seed is Tennessee playing American. Butler got ripped off and fell to the 7 slot against South Alabama.

Seeded third is Louisville, a much deserved location. They will play 14 Boise State. Winner will take on Oklahoma or St. Joseph's.

George Mason was on the 12/13 line, so taking on the top 5 seed on the S-Curve (Notre Dame) was expected. Washington State was projected as a solid 5, so being seeded below the Cougars is a bit of a disappointment. Still, much better to have a team that was overseeded in your pod than the alternative. They take on Winthrop, who were lucky to avoid the 14/15 line.

In all, certainly a good draw for Notre Dame. Though we would rather have been a 4 seed, the location and competition is very helpful. Time to look forward to playing in Denver on Thursday.

Further Thoughts-

Georgetown gets a 2 seed, the highest for the Big East.
Kansas State at 11 is an upset special against USC.
Oregon somehow shot from the bubble to the 9th seed in the South.
Pitt took our 4 seed with the BET title. Anyone going to Denver will be able to see their pod in action as well.
Marquette's win over us had little effect for them, staying at 6 seed.
Good for Baylor getting the last at-large in the tournament, making only one of our losses to an NIT team.
8 teams for the Big East well deserved.

Finally, the committee wants to see the Harangody/Hansbrough matchup next weekend. Really hope we get there first.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Seeding Watch

I'm embarrassed that I hopped onto the post-loss bandwagon. We certainly will not fall to a 6 seed (knock on wood, of course).

The way things are turning out, a 4 seed still looks pretty possible as well. Take a look at the Bracket Project. The Irish are one of three teams with an average seeding of 4, along with Connecticut and Drake.

4. Connecticut- Big East
4. Drake- Missouri Valley
4. Notre Dame- Big East
4. Butler- Horizon
5. Michigan State- Big Ten
5. Washington State- Pac-10
5. Vanderbilt- SEC
5. Purdue- Big 10
6. Marquette- Big East
6. Indiana- Big Ten
6. Pittsburgh- Big East
6. USC- Pac-10

UCONN split the season series with us, finished one slot below in the conference standings, and were similarly one-and-done in the BET. They played a better nonconference schedule, so it will be interesting to see who the committee seeds higher.

Drake is 28-4 with no really impressive wins (maybe Butler, unless you call RPI darlings Illinois St. and Creighton really impressive). It's small conference vs. big conference when the committee looks at Drake and Butler vs. Notre Dame.

Michigan State made the Big Ten semis and played Wisconsin tough, but needed to win to move up the S-curve. Many of the projections have been updated since Washington State dropped out of the Pac-10 tourney, placing them at 5 or 6. Vanderbilt and Purdue also lost Friday and did not do impress the prognosticators enough to move to a 4 seed.

Marquette will be an interesting team on Selection Sunday. Picked anywhere between 3 and 7, they could be seeded higher than Notre Dame by virtue of their two wins over us. However, finishing 3 slots below the Irish in the conference standings does not bode well for the Golden Eagles. Also just 3-3 in March.

Indiana had a heart-breaking exit against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tourney. They've fallen apart without Kelvin Sampson. Wouldn't mind drawing them as a 4/5 matchup.

Pitt has made the best case of moving up, but have a lot of ground to cover. They were an 8 or a 9 two days ago. Anything short of a win against Georgetown keeps them no better than a 5.

USC has been in the 6/7 range all week and got no bump by beating Arizona State. They could be dangerous in the tournament, but will not take our seeding.

Theres your breakdown. Only Pittsburgh has really overachieved of the teams just below us. Certainly the loss to Marquette will play a factor, but it could have been worse had any of those projected 5 seeds made noise.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bubble Teams Looking to Help Themselves

It's been a while. With two and three games a week from January to early March, this is the first weekend I have been able to contribute to So here goes...

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

Conference tournament week is the first of four straight weekends of non-stop college basketball. Simply the best time of the year. These tournaments provide small schools automatic bids to the Big Dance and strong middle-of-the-pack sides the opportunity to move up on the bubble.

The Bracket Project is a compliation of the 52 best bracket predictions nationwide. It's final four at-large teams in the tournament are Illinois State (Missouri Valley Conference), Arizona State (Pac-10), Ohio State (Big Ten), and Villanova (Big East). The last four teams out of the tournament are Oregon (Pac-10), St. Joseph's (Atlantic 10), New Mexico (Mountian West), and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial). Who has done their best to improve their position on the bubble and who has hurt their chances in the final week of the season?

Illinois State- Took care of business until the Missouri Valley finals. Getting blown out by 30 against Drake leaves a poor final taste in their mouths, but did what they needed last week to stay on the right side of the bubble- B-
Arizona State- A phantom foul call against USC killed their chances for the upset. They needed to win that game to feel safe on Sunday- C-
Ohio State- Played Michigan State tough, but needed a win to be safe- C-
Villanova- Beat Syracuse to make their case as the 8th Big East team. An upset of Georgetown would have made the Wildcats feel safer, but losing to a top 10 team was expected- B-

Oregon- Needed to beat Washington State to make the tournament. 1-8 against four best teams in league- D+
St. Joseph's- The 5 seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference made the best case of any team in the nation in the final week. Beating Xavier in the Semis could put them over the top. A win tomorrow completes their improbable run through the tournament and snatches up an automatic bid.- A-
New Mexico- Lost in overtime to Utah and needed to make a better run to have a chance- D+
Virginia Commonwealth- Getting knocked off in the semis by William & Mary means the Rams could not pick up the league's automatic bid. Now must wait it out on Selection Sunday. Not looking good- D+

Lots of bubble teams struggling to make strong final impressions in the final week means that no one can be fully counted out. Only St. Joseph's has really seen their stock rise. Look for Villanova and Illinois State to hang onto final bids by doing the bare minimum. Oregon, New Mexico, and Virginia Commonwealth all may have played their way out of the tournament.

Big East Semifinals

Georgetown 72, West Virginia 55-

The Hoyas look to be rolling towards their second straight Big East Tournament title after picking up their second easy win in as many days. 25 points, 13 rebounds for Roy Hibbert, his first double-double since January 26th against the Mountaineers. Taking the lead for good four minutes into the game, the Hoyas allowed West Virginia to close within four before holding the Mountaineers scoreless for nearly eight minutes down the stretch. I can't see the Hoyas being upset by either Marquette or Pitt playing their fourth game in four days.

Marquette vs. Pittsburgh-

Much has already been said about Marquette defeating the Irish. The Golden Eagles survived a pretty good effort by Seton Hall the night before. It will be interesting to see which Marquette team shows up, the poor shooting but strong rebounding outfit that beat the Pirates or the lights out shooters who beat Notre Dame. Pitt held off Cincinnati by six on Wednesday and won in overtime against 2 seed Louisville.

Regarding Notre Dame's seeding, the Irish got some help from St. Joseph's, Illinois, and Arkansas today. Hopping over Xavier in the bracket is probably a little farfetched, but both Purdue and Vanderbilt could have taken a 4 seed away from ND with wins in their tournaments.

Solidering On at the Big East Tournament

When you read stories like this, it puts basketball in a different light.

Depending on when I get a chance, I'll either break down the four teams remaining for you or recap the two semifinal games. Have a great basketball-free weekend if you'd like, because we all want the next couple weekends to be meaningful.

Morning Sickness

5 hours of sleep didn't change anything. Marquette (who shot 34% for the game against Seton Hall) made 63% of their attempts in the second half. That perfect storm of hot shooting and poor defense will beat you every time. Now we have to sit and watch as Marquette, Pitt, West Virginia, and Georgetown battle it out for the Big East crown.

Here's to good news on Selection Sunday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marquette 89, Notre Dame 79

Marquette shot lights out in the second half, a day after looking terrible from the field and got the Irish out of their rhythm in the second half. Great games by Jerel McNeal and Maurice Aker off the bench mean yet another early exit from the BET for the Irish.

No complaints about the first half. Going into the break with a six point advantage while your best player spends half the time on the bench is very respectable. The second period looked like a direct copy of our first contest.

When a team shoots just 34% the night before, you don't expect them to off for 89 points on you. Marquette shot 52% from the field and Jerel McNeal looked like an All-American scoring 28 against a slow Irish D. McNeal's a 27% three point shooter! Give me a break. Obviously zone defense leaves open looks on the outside, but that was ridiculous. A guard oriented team with little post play, Marquette played the contest to their pace in the second half and outscored Notre Dame 55-35 over the last 18+ minutes. A very deserving win for Tom Crean's bunch and yet another disappointing finish at Madison Square Garden for us.

Earlier, Georgetown was the only favorite to win. Connecticut and Louisville can join our pity party after letting down their fans. Perhaps the saddest part of the night is how the Irish gave up a great chance to make the Big East finals. An opportunity like the one we had tonight rarely comes along again.

Kyle McAlarney scored 20 on 8-18 shooting. The Irish caught a hot streak in the final minute to pull the game within 6 with the ball, but could not finish. Mac was harassed all night, but still managed to find a few open looks. His shooting ability is simply amazing with the smallest amount of room possible.

Tory Jackson showed some flashes of last year's Georgetown game. Finished with 10 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. His driving ability is fantastic and he set up scoring opportunities for himself and others all night. Made a few bad mistakes while pushing the ball up the floor to allow Marquette to keep the pace high in the second half. With such a great defensive opponent, you have to play smarter than that.

Zach Hillesland was the player of the game. 14 points, 8 rebounds. Drove to the hoop a few times and cleaned up on the offensive boards. Made 5 second chance opportunities with his effort. Great hustle and provided some lift from the perimeter.

Rob Kurz finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Still 1 off 1,000 points in the career for the senior. 2-5 from beyond the arc, but failed to mix it up down low. Has the tendency to stay out on the arc all game and should have been more physical with Harangody in foul trouble.

Luke Harangody became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points in a career. He now has 1,003. Certainly a bitter-sweet night for him, however, as the big man was dogged by fouls and Ousmane Barro all game long. Would have liked to see a better performance from him after his awards and playing in front of the family. Finished with 13 and 5 and fouled out.

Off the bench, 4 points for Luke Zeller. He had a chance to cut the lead to three in the closing seconds, but let off a terrible air ball that sealed ND's fate. Ryan Ayers had a clutch three pointer but not much else. Jonathan Peoples must have played, because his name is listed in the box score but it was quite brief.

So let's talk seeding. Losing to a ranked opponent in your first conference tourney game is not the end of the world. Certainly we had the toughest first round opponent of any top 15 team in the country (save maybe Louisville) and should not be punished too severely for this. However, should not and will not are two very different realities.

The Irish deserve a 4 seed. Tied for second in the deepest conference in the league. Only conference losses came against the top six teams. RPI of 19 going into tonight and the toughest schedule in the conference. Only two losses against currently unranked opponents were by 5 or less in November. Unbeaten at home and above .500 on the road.

However, I can certainly see this team slip to a 5 after today. Not the end of the world, play a similar caliber opponent and wear the blacks in the second round. If the Irish fell all the way to a 6 seed, I would be extremely upset with the selection process. But that is for discussion on Sunday.

For now, this was a tough loss. Allowing 57 in the second half is unacceptable but could re-energize the team for a deep tournament run. I would much rather see the Irish make a solid attempt at Sweet 16 status than win a conference tournament game. However, if we draw a team the caliber of Marquette in the NCAAs with quick guards and strong outside shooting, the attempt must be made to slow the game down and look to Harangody inside. We failed in that aspect tonight.

Certainly a loss does not ruin the success of the last couple months in conference play, but there will be a sour taste in the mouths of the players if they go one-and-done again. Hopefully we will right the ship and go back to playing quality basketball next Thursday or Friday.

Happy Luke Harangody Day

Remember the date: March 13, 2008. That's when Luke Harangody officially became a household name.

Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn wrote a couple good pieces on the big man. Here's his magazine article. Also, a blog post online with more tidbits on what it is like to be a Harangody.

Adding to this year's awards, Harangody picked up an honorable mention slot in ESPN's All-American team. That makes him one of the ten best players in the nation.

What's that? Yes, even more. This time from ESPN's Adam Rittenberg on Kyle McAlarney's return to the team after last season.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Marquette Preview

So I lied about not watching the game tonight... couldn't resist.

Marquette won while shooting a terrible percentage from the field and owning the boards on both ends of the floor.

Old posts to check out:

View From the Opponent's Bench
Marquette 92, Notre Dame 66
Preview of the Second Game
Notre Dame 86, Marquette 83

Seton Hall/Marquette

...will determine who we play tomorrow.

Regardless, we want a long up-tempo contest to kill their shooting legs. Not staying up for this one, but hopefully the Pirates can pull off the upset. If it's Marquette, we know what has to be done having played them twice already...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Big East Awards


"NEW YORK – Sophomore forward Luke Harangody of Notre Dame has been named BIG EAST Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s head coaches. Mike Brey, who is Harangody’s head coach, has been tabbed OppenheimerFunds/BIG EAST Coach of the Year for a second straight year. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players...

...Harangody, a 6-8 native of Schererville, Ind., was a member of last year’s BIG EAST All-Rookie Team, but not the 2007-08 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. He immediately took over as the go-to guy for the Irish and established himself as one of the nation’s top players. For the season, he averaged a league-leading 21.0 points per game and was second in rebounding with a 10.3 mark.

In league play, Harangody was even more productive. He averaged 23.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, which led the BIG EAST in both categories. Harangody is the first player to win the conference’s scoring and rebounding crowns in the same season since Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy did it in 1999-2000. He is the first sophomore to win Player of the Year honors since Connecticut’s Caron Butler shared the award with Pitt’s Brandin Knight in 2001-02.

Brey becomes only the third coach in league history to win BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors in consecutive seasons. The others were P.J. Carlesimo of Seton Hall (1988-99) and Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s (1985-86).

Picked ninth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll, the Irish finished tied for second place under Brey with a 14-4 conference record. Overall, Notre Dame is 24-6. Brey is in his eighth season as the Irish head coach and owns a 166-84 record."

2007-08 BIG EAST Postseason Awards

BIG EAST Player of the Year

Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Oppenheimer Funds/BIG EAST Coach of the Year

Mike Brey, Notre Dame

BIG EAST Rookies of the Year

DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse

BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year

Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut

BIG EAST Most Improved Player

Sam Young, Pittsburgh

BIG EAST Sixth Man Award

Patrick Ewing, Jr., Georgetown

BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award

Ronald Ramon, Pittsburgh
Darris Nichols, West Virginia

Just awesome...

Big East Blogger Awards

Big East Blogger’s Player of the Year: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame.

Luke was the unanimous selection among the voters as the Player of the Year in the Big East.

Big East Bloggers 2007-2008 All-Big East Teams (note, the Player of the Year is NOT included):

1st Team:
AJ Price, Connecticut
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
Sam Young, Pittsburgh
Kentrell Gransberry, South Florida
David Padgett, Louisville

2nd Team:
Joe Alexander, West Virginia
Brian Laing, Seton Hall
Donte Greene, Syracuse
Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut

3rd Team:
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut
Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Terrence Williams, Louisville

4th Team:
DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh
Dominic James, Marquette
Jerel McNeal, Marquette
Draelon Burns, DePaul
Paul Harris, Syracuse

Honorable Mention:
Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse
Lazar Hayward, Marquette
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
Alex Ruoff, West Virginia

Big East Bloggers Freshman of the Year: Donte Greene, Syracuse

Big East Bloggers All-Freshman Teams (note, Freshman of the Year NOT included):

1st Team:
DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
Dominique Jones, South Florida
Dar Tucker, DePaul
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall

2nd Team:
Mac Koshwal, DePaul
Austin Freeman, Georgetown
Corey Fisher, Villanova
Justin Burrell, St. John’s
Corey Chandler, Rutgers

3rd Team:
Mike Coburn, Rutgers
DJ Kennedy, St. John’s
Corey Stokes, Villanova
Antonio Pena, Villanova
Gilbert Brown, Pittsburgh
Rick Jackson, Syracuse

Big East Blogger’s Coach of the Year: Mike Brey, Notre Dame

Big East Blogger’s Defensive Player of the Year: Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut

Big East Blogger’s Most Improved Player: Sam Young, Pittsburgh and Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Big East Blogger’s Big East Tournament Favorite: Louisville

Big East Blogger’s 2008-2009 Early Conference Favorite: Connecticut

Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville round out the Top four teams for 2008-2009 according to the Big East Blogger’s. Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and West Virginia were other teams receiving votes as potential members of next year’s top three Big East teams in an informal early poll.

Congrats to Luke and Kyle, of course. Coach Brey also getting much deserved recognition. Official awards should come out on sometime today or tomorrow.

Check out Bryan's site for some more great BET analysis.

Congrats to Luke and Kyle, of course. Well deserved for both.

Monday, March 10, 2008

14th in Both Polls

Even more great information...

Big East Bloggers Poll

Team Rankings-

1) Georgetown (9): 159 points.
2) Louisville (1): 151 points.
3) Connecticut: 135 points.
Tie)Notre Dame: 135 points.
5) Marquette: 118 points.
6) West Virginia: 111 points.
7) Pittsburgh: 99 points.
Syracuse: 89 points.
9) Villanova: 82 points.
10) Cincinnati: 62 points.
11) Seton Hall: 58 points.
12) Providence: 57 points.
13) DePaul: 41 points.
14) St. John’s: 32 points.
15) South Florida: 21 points.
16) Rutgers: 10 points.

Big East Bloggers’ Player of the Week: Joe Alexander, West Virginia
Big East Bloggers’ Freshman of the Week: Dominique Jones, South Florida

Tomorrow the season awards will be tallied up.

At, the all-conference selections were handed down. 11 first team selections and plenty of other recognition to go around. They go a little overboard with this every year, but here it is:

2007-08 All-BIG EAST First Team

Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, So., 6-1, 195, Indianapolis, Ind.
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut, Jr., 6-7, 243, Brookline, Mass.
*A.J. Price, Connecticut, Jr., 6-2, 187, Amityville, N.Y.
*Roy Hibbert, Georgetown, Sr., 7-2, 278, Adelphi, Md.
*David Padgett, Louisville, Sr., 6-11, 245, Reno, Nev.
*Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, So., 6-8, 251, Schererville, Ind.
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame, Jr., 6-0, 196, Staten Island, N.Y.

Sam Young, Pittsburgh, Jr., 6-6, 215, Clinton, Md.
Brian Laing, Seton Hall, Sr., 6-5, 215, Bronx, N.Y.
Kentrell Gransberry, USF, Sr., 6-9, 270, Baton Rouge, La.
Joe Alexander, West Virginia, Jr., 6-8, 230, Mt. Airy, Md.

2007-08 All-BIG EAST Second Team

Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut, So., 7-3, 263, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown, Sr., 6-1, 188, Harvest, Ala.
Draelon Burns, DePaul, Sr., 6-4, 220, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Terrence Williams, Louisville, Jr., 6-6, 210, Seattle, Wash.
Lazar Hayward, Marquette, So., 6-6, 225, Buffalo, N.Y.
Dominic James, Marquette, Jr., 5-11, 185, Richmond, Ind.
Jerel McNeal, Marquette, Jr., 6-3, 200, Chicago, Ill.
Donte’ Greene, Syracuse, Fr., 6-9, 217, Baltimore, Md.
Paul Harris, Syracuse, So., 6-5, 228, Niagara Falls. N.Y.
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, So., 6-2, 190, Herndon, Va.

2007-08 All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention

DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, Fr., 6-7, 250, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Geoff McDermott, Providence, Jr., 6-8, 235, New Rochelle, N.Y.
Anthony Mason, Jr., St. John’s, Jr., 6-7, 209, Memphis, Tenn.
Dominique Jones, USF, Fr., 6-4, 205, Lake Wales, Fla.
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, Fr., 6-0, 186, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

BIG EAST All-Rookie Team

Mac Koshwal, DePaul, Fr., 6-10, 250, Chicago, Ill.
Dar Tucker, DePaul, Fr., 6-4, 210, Saginaw, Mich.
Austin Freeman, Georgetown, Fr., 6-4, 225, Hyattsville, Md.
*DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, Fr., 6-7, 250, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Corey Chandler, Rutgers, Fr., 6-2, 180, Newark, N.J.
Justin Burrell, St. John’s, Fr., 6-8, 230, Bronx, N.Y.
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, Fr., 6-5, 185, Bronx, N.Y.
*Dominique Jones, USF, Fr., 6-4, 205, Lake Wales, Fla.
*Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, Fr., 6-0, 186, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
*Donte’ Greene, Syracuse, Fr., 6-9, 217, Baltimore, Md.
Corey Fisher, Villanova, Fr., 6-1, 185, Bronx, N.Y.

*denotes unanimous selection

Congrats to Luke and Kyle. Much deserved for the two guys. Something tells me Luke will be receiving more awards this week, so we wait patiently for that.

As always, Bryan, one of the most frequent contributors to this blog, has a great Big East Tournament preview lined up for you today and tomorrow. Check it out here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Big East Ballot- Week 17

Team Rankings-

Notre Dame
West Virginia
Seton Hall
St. John's
South Florida

Player of the Week- Joe Alexander- West Virginia
Freshman of the Week- Donte Greene- Syracuse

Big East Player of the Year-
Luke Harangody- Notre Dame

Big East First Team-
A.J. Price- Connecticut
Kentrell Gransberry- South Florida
Brian Laing- Seton Hall
Sam Young- Pittsburgh
Donte Greene- Syracuse

Big East Second Team-
Terrence Williams- Louisville
Paul Harris- Syracuse
Hasheem Thabeet- Connecticut
Kyle McAlarney- Notre Dame
Joe Alexander- West Virginia

Big East Third Team-
Draelon Burns- DePaul
Roy Hibbert- Georgetown
Jonny Flynn- Syracuse
DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh
Jeff Adrien- Connecticut

Big East Freshman of the Year-
Donte Greene- Syracuse

Freshman First Team-
Dominique Jones- South Florida
Jonny Flynn- Syracuse
Dar Tucker- DePaul
DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh
Mac Koshwal- DePaul

Freshman Second Team-
Jeremy Hazell- Seton Hall
Corey Chandler- Rutgers
Austin Freeman- Georgetown
Mike Coburn- Rutgers
D.J. Kennedy- St. John's

Big East Coach of the Year-
Mike Brey- Notre Dame

Defensive Player of the Year-
Hasheem Thabeet- Connecticut

Most Improved Player-
Luke Harangody- Notre Dame

Projected Big East Tournament Champ-

Top Three for 2008/09-
1. Louisville
2. Notre Dame
3. Connecticut

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Notre Dame 67, South Florida 60

Poor three point shooting and an uncharacteristic off night from the stripe let South Florida hang around. In the end, the Irish still pulled off the victory and clinched a tie for second in the Big East against the gutsy Bulls.

This was certainly a trap game for several reasons. One, the Irish had little to gain, having already locked up a bye in the conference tournament. Two, South Florida is an easy team to overlook with only three conference wins, but beat Syracuse and played Connecticut very tough. Third, South Florida had everything to play for with no postseason coming up. As West Virginia nearly found out at St. John's, the last regular season game for teams not making the Big East tournament is an upset in the making.

The Irish took a nine point lead into the half following a great buzzer beating 3 by Tory Jackson. The lead grew to 19 as Notre Dame showed plenty of offensive firepower starting the second half. A nearly seven minute span saw the Irish held without a single point. South Florida rolled out 12 straight points and cut the lead to seven. After that, the Irish were unable to firmly put the game out of grasp and staggered to the final buzzer before eventually pulling out a seven point victory.

Notre Dame only shot 63% from the line. Closing out contests from the line is usually not a worry for the Irish, but today it nearly cost them. Outside shooting was similarly cold. 31% for the team, Zeller and Ayers a a combined 1-7 off the bench.

Allowing 7 more rebounds for South Florida is not good. 13 second chances for the Bulls to ND's 5 also hurt. Thankfully, USF was so awful shooting (39% FG and 16% 3PA) that their 16 extra field goal attempts did not result in a win.

Tory Jackson had the previously mentioned miracle three, but only two more points to his name. 4 rebounds, 5 assists, but only 1 turnover. Solid game handling the ball, but did not create a lot of scoring attempts.

Kyle McAlarney had another decent game, not the kind of gamebreaking, lights out shooting that he is capable of, but not cold either. 2-5 from beyond the arc. 10 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers.

Zach Hillesland was great, especially with Rob Kurz fouling out in 19 minutes. 10 points, 7 boards. Missed four of his six free throw attempts, the biggest culprit from the stripe, but played an overall great game switching between the 3 and 4 spots on the floor. If he can show the ability to rebound consistently like that, I would pencil him in as the leader in the race to win Rob Kurz's minutes next season.

Kurz was really tied up with foul trouble all game. 3 in the first half, fouling out in the second after only 19 minutes on the floor. 14 points, 5 rebounds before he left. Was a very good 6-8 shooting all over, making 1 of 2 beyond the arc.

Luke Harangody scored 21 and grabbed 9 rebounds. 9-13 shooting. Just an absolute rock down there. My ballot for the final Big East Power Poll and regular season awards is due tomorrow. He gets my for Player of the Year, no question. If he does not win the official award when it comes out, it would certainly be a crime. What a great improvement for a guy who was not even on the radar at the beginning of the year.

Off the bench, Ryan Ayers scored 5 on 1-4 shooting. 1 rebound, 3 assists. He and Luke Zeller were cold six days after winning the game at DePaul. Zeller was 1-5 from the floor. 2 boards, 1 assist as well. Jonathan Peoples played 11 minutes without getting into the stat book. Ty Nash saw a little playing time at the end of the first half.

Of course, you want to win more impressively but avoiding the upset is most important. Marquette choked on the road to drop to the 6 seed and West Virginia tried to do the same at St. John's. We avoided the loss and get to move on to the three seed in NYC. Next week, it's just survive and advance.

Around the country, Georgetown clinched the league with a win over Louisville. The Cards fell to a tie with the Irish at 2nd in the league. #2 is the best Big East finish ever for ND, well deserved after a great year.

Coach Brey is third behind only Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim in all time Big East victories. There's a good trivia question for your next party. A guy who was on the hot seat two years ago is now going back to a top seed in the Big East tournament and could win his second straight Coach of the Year award (he deserves it the most, but will probably not win).

Duke/UNC is always lots of fun to watch if you're a basketball fan. At Cameron, no less. Enjoy the game, especially with not having to cheer for one team over the other.

Friday, March 07, 2008

South Florida Preview

The Bulls are 12-18 and 3-14 in the Big East. RPI of 164, two wins over Rutgers and one over Syracuse. Ken Pomeroy gives the Irish a 76% chance of winning with a projected score of 78-70.


Chris Howard- 8.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 29% 3PA
Dominique Jones- 17.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 37% 3PA- Scored 29 in loss to Villanova Wednesday
Jesus Verdejo- 10.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, 36% 4PA
Mobolaji Ajayi- 2.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG
Kentrell Gransberry- 16.1 PPG, 10.9 RPG- League rebounding leader, will be interesting to see how he matches up with Harangody


Solomon Bozeman- 5.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 31% 3PA, 19.0 MPG
Orane Chin- 4.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 35% 3PA, 18.5 MPG
Amu Saaka- 2.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 32% 3PA, 10.3 MPG

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bamm-Bamm Picks Up First All-American Honors

Open your Sports Illustrated to page 36 and find the All-American teams for men's and women's basketball.

There are two Big East players honored, one male and one female. The woman is freshman forward Maya Moore, a second teamer.

Also on the second team, Luke Harangody joins Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry (Davidson), Jerryd Bayless, and D.J. White. 7 of the ten players honored are underclassmen. Assuming that players such as Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, and Gordon will go pro after only one year, there is still plenty of room for Luke to move up the ranks next season.

One Week From the BET

Two things to watch in terms of seeding for the conference tournament:

Notre Dame is currently in line for no worse than a 4 seed in New York. The Irish could bump up to #3 with a Connecticut loss at Providence tonight (tied with 11 to go) or at home against Cincinnati on Saturday.

Playing as the 4 seed in New York would mean a likely contest against Marquette on Thursday. The 3 seed will probably play the winner of West Virginia/Seton Hall. No brainer as to who we'd like to play there.

Looking forward to the NCAAs, starting two weeks from today. The Irish stand as a solid 4 seed with the win last night and should solidify that seeding by defeating South Florida on Saturday.

Teams to Watch-

Atlantic 10-
Xavier- 2 seed, Bracket Project

Plays St. Joe's tonight and heavily favored against Richmond Saturday. An early exit from the conference tournament combined with a good ND finish to the year could put the Irish over Xavier on the seeding line.

Big Ten-
Indiana- 4 seed
Purdue- 4 seed
Wisconsin- 3 seed

Irish currently slightly above Indiana and Purdue. Watch the tournament to see how this conference shakes out. All three should win their last regular season games.

Big XII-
Kansas- 2 seed
Texas- 2 seed

Texas finish the year at home, but Kansas could face a tricky contest at A&M on Saturday. One of the two should win the conference, but teams like Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and the Aggies could all make a run. If either team fails to make the final, the Irish could leap them.

Big East-
Connecticut- 4 seed
Georgetown- 3 seed
Louisville- 3 seed

Obviously, the Irish will have the chance to separate themselves from the Big East teams by winning the conference tournament.

Pac 10-
Stanford- 3 seed

Stanford could lock up that 3 seed with a win over UCLA tonight, but losing 2 of the next 3 (@ UCLA, @ USC, Pac-10 first round) could give ND a chance to leapfrog them.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Notre Dame 68, St. John's 55

A historical win to close out a great year at home and Rob Kurz's career at the JACC. Irish revert to a solid defense after three straight offensively charged performances.

Working with an official box score tonight from the media tables, so you can count on the numbers being spot on.

Hard fought game overall, very physical. Ed Corbett, Jim Haney, and Glenn Mayborg did nothing to help the game flow on either side. Way too much emphasis on tough fouls as both teams got away with murder under the hoop. Corbett also has dreams of officiating the next level the way he ignored travelling violations all night.

The Irish shot surprisingly very well from the floor. A 68 point performance would indicate a shooting percentage far below 54% for this squad. Devensively, they did a great job shutting down a terrible Red Storm team. Fresh Prince Anthony Mason Jr. needed plenty of luck on two of his four three pointers and still made less than 1/3 from the floor.

Rebounding edge went slightly to St. John's. Dele Coker and Co. hung all over Luke Harangody in a successful effort to keep his rebounding total down. Neither side made many trips to the foul line. The Irish finished with 19 assists on 28 field goals, adding to their national lead in the assist category.

Even with all the physicality and losing the rebounding edge, Notre Dame outscored St. John's 36-28 in the paint. 20 points off 12 turnovers really helped the Irish as well.

Tory Jackson continues to come along as a player. 4 points, 5 rebounds, with 8 assists on 4 turnovers. Broke down the St. John's defense on a few occasions to set up his teammates. The assist total is more impressive when you note that the Irish made only 5 three pointers on the night, meaning Jackson had to create more to pick up his assists.

Kyle McAlarney with a solid game. 13 points on 5-9 shooting. After the DePaul win, K-Mac noted that his legs were feeling a bit sluggish. That could support the common complaint of Brey playing his starters too often. Nonetheless, McAlarney found his stroke when he needed (3-5 from three) even if it was a less than dominating performance.

Zach Hillesland is another guy who looks to be improving every game. 6 points, 6 assists in 30 minutes. The most playing time of the season even with 4 fouls. For a wing, he does a great job distributing the ball and has great handles for a 6'8" guy. He was called a "point forward" coming out of high school and seems to be showing that ability to control the game from the side.

Luke Harangody with 20 and 6. Only 27 minutes played, but was very efficient on the floor. 9-12 shooting. As the game wore on, the team looked to Harangody to keep the lead from falling below 10. He put the ball in the basket when needed and overcame physical defense for yet another 20+ point performance. Only 6 rebounds is low for the big guy, but no reason to think that he won't be back in double figures Saturday.

Thanks to Rob Kurz for a great career with the Irish. The lone senior and captain scored 15 and grabbed 4 boards. Surprising to see how he scored the points tonight. With only one three-pointer, Rob showed some surprising agility with his ability to cut in the paint and receive passes going towards the basket. Cut like a knife through the defense on a few occasions. Truly a great leader and all-around good guy, it will be sad to not see him at home again, but here's to several more games in an Irish uniform.

Jonathan Peoples with 3 assists and no turnovers in 10 minutes. That's what he is asked to do. Ryan Ayers with a poor shooting night (that's always tough off the bench), but still scored 5 in 18 minutes. Luke Zeller with the best game off the bench, with 5 points and 4 rebounds. He is looking more confident in the paint and will surely get a shot at Kurz's starting position next year.

With a low scoring contest and such a different game from what we have been used to in the last few weeks, a 13 point win is great tonight. St. John's truly is a bad basketball team (it takes more than suiting up 5 athletes to play hoops), but they had plenty of reason to go all out tonight. Seeing how Norm Roberts used his timeouts down the stretch and kept the defensive pressure up with the game lost, you could tell that they really wanted to win the game.

Two straight years unbeaten at home. That's a Big East record and very impressive indeed. Maybe Wyoming can pull off the upset of BYU tonight and place ND at the top of home streaks nationwide.

Need to stay focused and beat South Florida on Saturday, but this team rarely has trouble with its focus. A win in Tampa and a solid run next week means a 4 seed or better. Who predicted that at the beginning of the year?

Happy birthday to Rob and thanks once again to him. Good luck in the future, but first lets end your career on a happy note.

St. John's Preview


Justin Burrell- 11.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG
Anthony Mason Jr.- 13.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 37% 3PA
Eugene Lawrence- 7.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 26% 3PA
D.J. Kennedy- 7.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 37% 3PA
Malik Boothe- 3.0 PPG, 2.3 APG, 18% 3PA


Larry Wright- 9.0 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 39% 3PA, 19.0 MPG
Paris Horne- 4.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 37% 3PA, 14.6 MPG
Sean Evans- 3.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 13.8 MPG
Tomas Jasiulionis- 2.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 11.4 MPG

Sorry for the late (and rather lame) post today.

We need a victory tomorrow to finish up a perfect season at home. Shouldn't be too hard, but there are no easy victories in this league.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Big East Bloggers Poll

Team Rankings-

1) Louisville (15): 314 points.
2) Georgetown (4): 302 points.
3) Connecticut (1): 276 points.
4) Notre Dame: 265 points.
5) Marquette: 243 points.
6) Pittsburgh 215 points.
7) West Virginia: 204 points.
8) Villanova: 167 points.
9) Syracuse: 157 points.
10) Cincinnati: 152 points.
11) Seton Hall: 123 points.
12) Providence: 96 points.
13) DePaul: 73 points.
14) St. John’s: 71 points.
15) South Florida: 39 points.
16) Rutgers: 23 points.

Big East Bloggers’ Player of the Week: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Big East Bloggers’ Freshman of the Week: Dominique Jones, South Florida

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Big East Ballot- Week 16

Not sure why Blogspot won't let me list by number anymore...

Team Rankings-

Notre Dame
West Virginia
Seton Hall
St. John's
South Florida

Player of the Week- Luke Harangody- Notre Dame
Freshman of the Week- Dominique Jones- South Florida

*Assuming Louisville beats Villanova

Notre Dame 98, DePaul 91

Interesting to be on the opposite end of one of these so soon after the Louisville game.

Up 28 points 3 minutes into the second half, this had the makings of a huge statement win... exactly what was needed after the loss to the Cardinals. Unfortunately DePaul outscored ND 59-38 the rest of the way and created a little anxiety for Irish fans near the end.

Let's look at the positive aspects first. Notre Dame closed with a 13-4 run at the end of the 1st half to go up 15 at the break. More importantly, they kept up the intensity with a 13-1 run to start the 2nd half. Great job running the floor and beating Blue Demon defenders back for transition baskets.

After a Dar Tucker dunk broke up the Irish momentum, DePaul kept Notre Dame on its heels the rest of the contest. The Blue Demons did a great job of keeping the Irish off the foul line while consistently breaking down the Irish D with long range shots against zone and athletic drives vs. man-to-man.

Overall, the 2nd half was a disappointing reminder of what went wrong against Louisville. Notre Dame had little trouble scoring (51 in the 2nd period), but was completely unable to stop anyone on the opposite end of the court. We like to rate our players based on their offensive abilities, but sometimes overlook defensive holes. Who are the true stoppers on this team? Tory Jackson is very good against quick players, but can be outmatched by stronger guards. Kyle McAlarney rarely gets lined up against the top ball handler of the other team due to Jackson's better quickness. Hillesland usually will be switched out for Ayers, who is a pretty solid wing defender. Unfortunately, both Harangody and Kurz have holes in their defensive games. Bamm-Bamm was shoved around by Koshwal and usually looks unwilling to push back and risk a foul. Kurz covered Donte Greene well against Syracuse but struggles in the post.

Overall, the team plays better in a zone set (usually the 3-2 with Ayers or Hillesland up front), which can be picked apart by a strong shooting team. In man-to-man, athletic teams are able to take advantage of some Irish players' limited mobility. We can't just outscore everyone and need to look for ways to strengthen that D (last three games have been 94-87, 85-90, and 98-91).

Individually, a solid game across the board by Tory Jackson. 9 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds. Made a few good drives and was able to see open perimeter shooters when he was unable to finish himself. He's going to get a triple-double sooner or later and it definitely looked like a possibility today.

Kyle McAlarney had another below average game shooting. 3-10 overall, 3-8 from beyond the arc and 13 points. 4 rebounds, 3 assists. In successive possessions, he didn't even look to be one of the options in the play. He has to be #1 or #2 in every halfcourt set, next to Harangody. Of course, the game's high pace kept McAlarney from getting a lot of opportunities in the halfcourt.

Zach Hillesland had a very solid game as a "point forward." 9 points, 6 assists. Next to Jackson, he is the best creator in the starting lineup with a willingness to drive the open lane. That will open up opportunities when defenders are forced to crash the paint.

Rob Kurz with a surprising game. He made 4 of 5 three point attempts, but I was shocked to see the final line of 21 points, 7 rebounds. First game of 20+ points since December. His solid shooting from beyond the arc followed the rule for most of the team.

Luke Harangody really deserved his fourth straight double-double, but was unable to get off his 9 rebound hump in the closing minutes. 24 points to go with those nine boards. Picked up his game a bit in the second half and was the go-to guy as the lead continued to slip.

Off the bench, we need to take notice of two players in particular: Luke Zeller and Ryan Ayers. With Mac's shot off a bit all game, we needed those two guys (along with Kurz) to pick up the slack shooting from beyond the arc. The three were a combined 10-12. Zeller scored 13 points, his most since November. Only his second game of the year with 3 or more three-pointers. Ryan Ayers was a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. 9 points off of those shots. Hopefully one or both of those guys can keep that solid shooting up and make a play for a starting job next season. Jonathan Peoples had four assists and no points in 10 minutes.

Overall, a very well played game for both teams. Only 7 turnovers for Notre Dame. 6 for DePaul, extemely low in a game with so many possessions. The 57% shooting for Notre Dame from beyond the arc made up for so few trips to the line (14 free throw attempts, but nine came in the final minute). DePaul was much better rebounding this time around, 35 to ND's 34 (advantage Irish 43-32 in the first contest). Four guys in double figures for both teams. 12 blocked shots between the two teams, including 3 a piece for Harangody and Kurz.

Two more games in the regular season for the Irish and they should be a little easier than this one. A win against St. John's wraps up another unbeaten home run this year. Closing out the season at South Florida with a strong effort could wrap up a top 16 seeding in the NCAAs.

Hopefully we'll see more of the first 23 minutes of this game next week. No reason to let teams in the bottom of the conference hang around with us.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

DePaul Preview

Welcome to March!


Dar Tucker- 12.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 33% 3PA
Matija Poscic- 2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG- Back in favor starting last few contests, but still averages 10.9 MPG
Mac Koshwal- 10.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Cliff Clinkscales- 3.0 PPG, 3.9 APG, 30% 3PA
Will Walker- 9.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 45% 3PA


Draelon Burns- 17.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 32.3 MPG, 33% 3PA
Karron Clarke- 8.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 25.5 MPG, 37% 3PA
Wesley Green- 4.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 19.6 MPG, 36% 3PA

Marquette's loss to Georgetown means the Irish can wrap up a tournament bye with a victory tomorrow. Any hope for a split regular season conference title lies on Louisville losing tomorrow against Villanova. A loss by the Cardinals combined with them beating Georgetown on the 8th in DC and the other two teams holding serve would create a four team tie at the top.

Most importantly, the Irish need to take care of business. Let the rest handle itself.