Thursday, October 30, 2008

Briar Cliff Preview

We will get a good first look at the Irish tomorrow night as they play host to Briar Cliff. I will not be able to attend the game in person, it being Halloween night and all, but will certainly write a full post-game analysis complete with stats and what-not.

There isn't a whole lot to tell you about tomorrow's opponent. They hail from Souix City, Iowa and have no out-of-state players on the varsity roster. Tallest player is 6'9" freshman Tim Loan. Expected to finish 6th in the vaunted Great Plains Athletic Conference. Last year did include a trip to the conference title game and a final 22-12 record.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Something I failed to mention previously, the home jerseys are much improved this year. Reverting to the script "Irish" instead of the block "Notre Dame" on the front was a very good idea. Check out the photo gallery and interviews here. The old jersey is shown in a picture on that page.



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Season Preview

The students received their tickets today, so that makes it official: basketball season is back in South Bend.

Black and Green returns for its third year. I am certainly looking forward to joining you for the ride over the next five months. With a much improved football team this season, the hoops squad will stay under the radar until January, but that's not the end of the world. A trip to Maui will make this nonconference schedule rather interesting before the normal December lull. The new year brings Big East action and all the excitement that comes with it.

Its good to be back.


Predicted wins in BOLD

O31 BRIAR CLIFF (Ex.) 9pm
N09 STONEHILL (Ex.) 2pm

Exhibition games are good for playing with lineups and giving redshirts and transfers a chance to play (Carleton Scott got some action last year and I believe Scott Martin and Ben Hansbrough will be eligible for these games, not certain on that though), but don't make for exciting basketball.

N16 USC UPSTATE 7:30pm
N21 at Loyola Marymount

Raise your hand if you had heard of USC Upstate. Raise both if you knew they played D1 basketball. Now, stop lying. That's South Carolina Upstate, the team that only beat dreadful North Florida (a Notre Dame opponent last year) by one. Loyola Marymount is even worse.

N24 vs Indiana (Maui) 5:30pm ESPN2
N25 TBA (Maui)
N26 TBA (Maui)

This will be tough to predict. Tom Crean is a very good coach who we know well and might start playing every year in a nonconference series. Fortunately, IU is so decimated by Kelvin Sampson's departure that they return one varsity player. The Hoosiers are expected to finish last in the Big Ten. If we win, it'll probably mean a date with Texas. I'll give us a loss there or against North Carolina in the final, finishing 2-1 on the trip.

N30 FURMAN 2pm

A team in the upper 200s and a squad entering D1 hoops. Two wins.

D06 vs Ohio State (Indy) 4pm ESPNU

Like Kansas State last year, the team has to show it can win against a solid, if not great, opponent on a neutral court. Good practice for the Tournament.

D13 BOSTON U 7pm

Quick sidenote, I've won multiple national championships playing as Boston U. in EA Sports' NCAA March Madness series. This isn't a video game. Irish win all three easily to get ready for conference play.

D31 at DePaul 8pm
J03 at St. John's


J12 at Louisville 7pm ESPN
J17 at Syracuse Noon ESPN
J31 at Pittsburgh 7pm ESPN
F04 at Cincinnati
F07 at UCLA 1pm CBS

F18 at West Virginia 7:30pm ESPN2
F21 at Providence

F28 at Connecticut 4pm CBS

I'll break down the individual Big East games in my conference preview before that part of the season starts.

Predicted Record- 25-5 (15-3)

I have the Irish undefeated at home again this year, but that could easily change with Louisville and Connecticut visiting. For now, I'll say we get the split in both of those home-and-home series.

Overall, I would be extremely happy with 25 wins. More realistically, the team trips up a couple more times but still secures one of the top four spots in the Big East. Lots of difficult opponents are padded by cupcakes (what's wrong with just playing a few decent mid-majors each year?), which will provide tests away from the JACC, but not much excitement at home until the Big East starts. Nonetheless, it should be a lot of fun to follow this team.

Also, an interesting article on the new three point line. A few people have asked about how it will impact the Irish. Tom Crean says it will be beneficial for Notre Dame.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Luke Harangody

Now to our All-American. Your Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody. Averaging 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in 29 minutes a game last year, Luke was the clear MVP of the team. The fear this season is that teams will learn how to stop the big fella like Big East squads did a few times at the end of the year. His improved shot will hopefully keep teams from crashing inside and taking away the post. Without Rob Kurz helping out on the boards, Harangody will need to be especially efficient rebounding this season.

Overall, give me another year like last season and stay fresh down the stretch. We will see if LH can take the next step and take over tournament games like a true star forward. If he can continue to develop, a top-10 NBA pick and big money awaits. Or an even better senior year (we can hope, right?).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Zach Hillesland

The other starting small forward last season, Hillesland has more athleticism and strength than Ayers. While he showed little ability to step outside and make the jump shot last season, he has reportedly improved his shooting ability dramatically over the summer. As Lucid reported in one of the comments further down, a 21 point game in Ireland reinforces the belief that he will be a much improved offensive force this season.

Hillesland will take Rob Kurz's high post position in the offense and will hopefully grab Kurz-like numbers in rebounds this year (adding two a game from 5.2 last year). In 07-08, he also averaged 6.1 points per game in 22.4 minutes. Somewhat of a point forward last year, Hillesland has the ability to run the offense from the perimeter. His overall play has made him one of Coach Brey's favorite players. Look for Zach to make some big strides from contributing a little in each category to becoming an overall force.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ryan Ayers

A pleasant surprise last season, Ayers shared time with Zach Hillesland in the starting lineup. He actually looked better off the bench with his ability to shoot the three and play at the top of a 3-2 zone. 7.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 25.2 minutes a game. 45% from beyond the arc. In addition to starting fulltime, Ayers' main job this season might be tutoring Ty Nash and Carleton Scott. Nash and Scott have the same body type as Ayers and Hillesland, with more athletic ability. If Ayers can teach the two youngsters some of his long-range prowess, both will become very effective offensive weapons.

Kyle McAlarney

Missed the post last night, so you get a bonus today.

Kyle McAlarney was superb last season. Returning from suspension, K-Mac played last season primarily as the shooting guard for the first time in his career. His ability to make any shot from any distance more than made up for the loss of Colin Falls' long range shooting. 15.1 points and 3.5 assists in 35.7 minutes per game. He can shoot from the outside (44% from three) or drive the line and finish with a floater. Should be every bit as good in his senior year. Enjoy watching him because he will be missed once he leaves.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tory Jackson

Our floor general is an upperclassman this season. Following a campaign in which he averaged eight points and five rebounds a game with a 1.85 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, Jackson should blossom into a true team leader this season.

Tory needs to continue to develop his jump shot to add a scoring dimension to his arsenal and keep defenders from playing off of him. With the ability to create off the dribble, Jackson can cause a lot of damage by getting to the basket or dishing to open shooters on the perimeter. His man defense has been very strong since arriving on campus. One downside to his game has been a number of mental errors passing the ball. The talent is all there, he should become a more polished conductor in his junior year.

Preseason Coaches Poll

Nice to see the team actually get some respect by the rest of the league in this year's poll. K-Mac and Harangody are on the huge preseason team. Gody is both a unanimous pick and preseason player of the year.

I'll be more happy if they get the same awards after the season.

2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll

1. Connecticut (9) 214
2. Louisville (3) 205
3. Pittsburgh (3) 200
4. Notre Dame (1) 195
5. Villanova 153
6. Marquette 146
7. Georgetown 141
8. Syracuse 139
9. West Virginia 121
10. Providence 99
11. Cincinnati 91
12. Rutgers 53
13. Seton Hall 50
14. St. John's 44
15. DePaul 43
16. USF 26

First-place votes in parentheses

2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Co-Rookies of the Year
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Samardo Samuels, Louisville

2008-09 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
*Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (Player of the Year), F, Jr., 6-8, Schererville, Ind.
Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, G, Jr., 6-1, 195, Indianapolis, Ind.
A.J. Price, Connecticut, G, Sr., 6-2, 181, Amityville, N.Y.
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut, C, Jr., 7-3, 263, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
DaJuan Summers, Georgetown, F, Jr., 6-8, 241, Baltimore, Md.
Terrence Williams, Louisville, F, Sr., 6-6, 210, Seattle, Wash.
Jerel McNeal, Marquette, G, Sr., 6-3, 200, Country Club Hills, Ill.
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame, G, Sr., 6-0, 196, Staten Island, N.Y.
*Sam Young, Pittsburgh, F, Jr., 6-6, 215, Clinton, Md.
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, G, So., 6-0, 185, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-2, 195, Herndon, Va.

*unanimous selection

2008-09 Preseason BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut, F, Sr., 6-7, 243, Brookline, Mass.
Earl Clark, Louisville, G/F, Jr., 6-8, 220, Rahway, N.J.
Dominic James, Marquette, G, Sr., 5-11, 185, Richmond, Ind.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Guys Off the Bench

On to two of the players who played solid minutes in the rotation last season.

Jonathan Peoples-

The backup point guard is a junior this season. With Jackson and McAlarney playing side by side for the second straight year, Peoples will have very similar numbers as last season. In 07-08, he played 11.5 minutes a game, averaging 3.3 points and an assist per contest.

Luke Zeller-

Coach Brey may play around with the lineup a bit in the early going, so don't be surprised to see Zeller starting at some point during the year. For now, I'll keep him as a substitute. He should get an increase in minutes and will need to take over some of Rob Kurz's vacated role. Last year, he averaged 11.8 minutes, 4.5 points, and 2.2 rebounds a game. That 38% number from beyond the arc should be increased a bit. I'd like to see him be a solid 40% guy from three point game.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stepping Into the Rotation

Two players should receive significant increases in playing time this season.

Tyrone Nash-

The 6'8" sophomore wing was expected to crack into the rotation last season, but only saw action in fifteen games behind more experienced players. Big and athletic, Nash should add a dimension that has been lacking since Russell Carter graduated.

Carleton Scott-

Scott redshirted last season and has four years of eligibility remaining. He used the year off to beef up significantly. A twig at 6'7", 198 pounds last year, Scott now weighs 215 and is more in the mold of Ty Nash. More athletic than Nash, he will also help with penetration from the wing.

I am very excited to see how these guys contribute this season. We really missed Carter's ability to break down the defense last year. Tory Jackson has that ability, but lacks the height and strength to finish. In some looks at practice, Scott has shown off some great dunks and the capability to play above the rim.

Monday, October 20, 2008

End of the Bench

Starting our season preview in earnest today, we will take a look at the reserves who will not be getting a lot of action this year.

Tim Abromaitis-

The 6'8", 232 pound sophomore forward from Unionville, Connecticut played sparingly last season. Scoring 1.7 PPG in 12 contests, Abro provides decent size on the wing and might see some time as a Rob Kurz-type high post player. Probably still a year away from serious minutes.

Tim Andree-

A second generation Notre Dame forward, the junior walk-on from New Jersey plays a bit like Zach Hillesland. Tall and lean at 6'8", 213 pounds, he will probably not see any more action than his five games last year.

Tom Kopko-

The sophomore walk-on from Chicago turned down a few D1 offers to attend Notre Dame. With solid ball-handling skills, Kopko can run the offense. As he fourth point guard (behind Jackson, K-Mac, and Peoples), he will only see more playing time due to a starter's injury or possession of marijuana.

Ty Proffitt-

The backup point guard played in eight contests last season and transferred back home to Morehead State in August. Best of luck to him.

Ben Hansbrough and Scott Martin-

Two very talented transfers will not see action in the regular season this year, but will contribute next season.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Time To Come Back Into the Fold

Welcome back. With Midnight Madness around the country a couple nights ago and the football team idle this weekend, it's time to start thinking about basketball again. Sounds like fun.

In this first post of the season, let's get a few things out of the way:

We will not win the national championship.

Not that I lack faith in our players or coaching staff. This team has the potential to be very, very good this season. However, I have to learn more towards Sporting News' preseason ranking (12th) over Athlon (5th) or even Lindy's (9th). I think we can expect a Sweet 16 performance this year. Moving into the Elite 8 and further depends mainly on matchups, something that cannot be predicted this early.

We could finish with double digit losses and be better than last year.

The Maui Invitational is always stacked. One, maybe two losses possible there. Ohio State on a neutral court, UCLA on the road, an always tough Big East schedule, plus the conference tournament all combine to create a less than smooth road to March. Ohio State is not the 35 win team from two years ago, but is still well-coached and should provide a Kansas State-style test. Going to Pauley Pavilion in the middle of our conference schedule may not have been the best move. Players get worn down from the Big East season as it is, adding a very tough road game will be an extra fight just five days before coming home to host Final Four hopeful Louisville. Winning that game could launch the Irish to a two seed in the Tournament, but requires that the Irish are on and play strong defense for forty minutes.

The Irish will have plenty of stretches where they look NIT caliber.

Following with the negative mood of the last two points, Notre Dame has to prove it can bounce back from the bad ending to last year and win against Washington State-style defensive teams. Luke Harangody has to be able to produce against the double teams he will clearly draw, Kyle McAlarney has to be consistent from beyond the arc, Tory Jackson has to grow into the director of this offense and eliminate bad decisions. Hillesland, Ayers, Zeller, Nash, and Scott all have to produce to draw defenders away from Mac and Gody. When defenses can shut Luke down and Kyle is not hitting his shots, we end up with a result like last March 22nd. Prove to me that we can win those games, and I'll start feeling more confident about our ability to win big games away from the Joyce Center.

This team will be fun to watch.

Finally, enjoy this year. This is our last chance to watch a very special senior class (and possibly Harangody). Kyle McAlarney was fantastic both on and off the court following his suspension sophomore year. He will graduate as a person of which Notre Dame can be proud. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers have grown into very good players and should improve playing alongside each other for extended minutes. While Luke Zeller never showed the talent that made him the top high school basketball player in the state, the coaches are confident that his senior year will bring an added rebounding ability that will give the team's tallest player a low post game to help his perimeter attack.

Tory Jackson should continue to grow and become a leader on both sides of the floor. Ty Nash and Carleton Scott enter the rotation and will add a different look. If they can contribute, Coach Brey will have good teams the next couple of years as well.

But this season is what matters right now. Our most talented and seasoned collection of players since the Sweet 16 team, the 2008-09 Irish could go down as one of the best in program history. Showing an ability to win on the road and in low-scoring games is key, but if they can pass those two tests the ceiling is extremely high.