Saturday, February 28, 2009

Connecticut 72, Notre Dame 65

Hard fought game ends in disappointment as Harangody really struggled. For as much as I complain about Hasheem Thabeet, he did play very well today and took Luke out of the game.

Tory Jackson had his second really good game in a row after being benched at Providence. He attacked, but was not reckless. Only two turnovers on the day. McAlarney and Ayers were very cold from outside, but the shots they did make kept the game close until the end. Great to see Coach Brey give Ty Nash so much playing time with Zach Hillesland out and Nash earned it today.

Frustrating to lose a game like that, but no one can be upset with the quality of basketball we showed for 39 minutes. Need to bounce back with a big win on Monday.

Jackson finished with 17 points and 5 assists. He created with drives and made his fair share of jumpers as well. Add in 3 rebounds for a complete day.

K-Mac had 14 points and 4 assists. Overall, he shot pretty well with a good number of driving layups. From beyond the arc he was 2-8, surprising because he certainly didn't seem to be shooting that poorly. Can't be too upset with his overall performance.

Ryan Ayers did look cold and missed a few open looks. I liked his assertiveness, however, and definitely want to see him take a dozen shots a game when he gets the chance. On defense, he was unable to stop Adrien and was really overpowered on a few occasions.

Zach Hillesland went out early with a bruised sternum. It was a really physical game on both ends with Harangody and Thabeet both hitting the deck at times. Can't complain too much about the refs because we got away with a lot too, but it is frustrating to play a great shot blocking team also be the least penalized in the country.

Harangody was awful all game. 14 points, 5 rebounds. Thabeet really took him out and 'Gody relied too much on the jump hook without trying to make some 15 foot jumpers facing the basket (though shooting over Thabeet would be a feat in itself). At least it was nice to see the Irish play so well against the best team in the land without our best player.

20 minutes for Ty Nash and that's the way it should always be. 4 points, 9 rebounds. He is a terrible free throw shooter, a big problem for a power forward, but that is the only real disappointing part of his game. He's tough, hustles, and grabs rebounds. We need that. Peoples played well in 20 minutes also, with 5 points and 3 rebounds. Luke Zeller was cold in his 11 minutes of playing time and it is apparent that he has been passed by Nash on the depth chart. Good to see Coach Brey go with the youngster.

Good game by Thabeet, great game by Adrien. He is the Huskies' best player and really does not get enough credit. It's unfortunate that the moronic talk about Thabeet for player of the year has taken away from Adrien's press. I'd take him on my team any day.

Didn't go in expecting to win this game, so I still feel pretty good about our chances. If we play the same way against Villanova and St. John's, we can finish 9-9. 'Nova lost to Georgetown at home today so you know they will be ready come Monday. Let's beat them and make our way into the Tournament.

Connecticut Preview

Wow, no post last night. Weak.
Don't you bring that weak shhhh-shot in here!
-Len Elmore
Pomeroy Ranking- 3rd
Record- 26-2 (14-2)
Quality Wins- @ West Virginia, @ Louisville, @ Marquette
Bad Losses- None
Pomeroy Prediction- UCONN 81-67

Key Players-
#4 Jeff Adrien- 6'7", 243 lbs.- 13.4 PPG, 10.0 RPG
#34 Hasheem Thabeet- 7'3", 263 lbs.- 13.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG
#12 A.J. Price- 6'2", 187 lbs.- 13.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 42.3% 3PA

Scouting Report-
Don't force a lot of turnovers (328th), the only real weak part of their game.
Hold opponents to an insanely low amount of free throws per game while allowing one of the lowest field goal percentages in the country.
Don't shoot the lights out, but wear opponents down with offensive rebounding and trips to the free throw line.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Connecticut Governor Calls Out Calhoun

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell called Huskies coach Jim Calhoun's earlier argument with a reporter "embarrassing."

I very rarely defend Jim Calhoun, so this should be an interesting post. Mr. 800 was absolutely, positively, 100% right in what he said at that press conference. Could he have handled the situation with a little more tact? Absolutely, but anyone in his position would have been furious to answer such an asinine question at a press conference after a tough day at work.

Ken Krayeske is a hack of a political activist, a "reporter" in the loosest sense of the term. He attended Saturday's game on a photo press pass (you know, for professional photographers, not average guy with a Polaroid) and proceeded to ask the first question.

At a basketball game, talk about basketball. Sure Calhoun is making a whole hell of a lot more money than 99% of Americans in this economic crisis, but it's not your place to confront him on it. He does his job well, gets paid for it, and brings in money for the school. The governor should stand beside him instead of supporting some free lancer with a political beef.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The Wildcats beat an 0-15 Blue Demon team by two tonight. You can't predict anything in the Big East...

Notre Dame 70, Rutgers 65

It counts as a win so I will treat it as such.

A first half of really uninspired basketball set the stage for a great second period. The lackluster final 4:15 put a damper on what should have been a pretty good story. In the end, however, we're one win closer to the postseason.

The ugly stuff first. That first half was just pathetic basketball. A Notre Dame team should never look so uninspired and get pushed around as much as this squad did for half of the game. Luke Harangody relied too heavily on a jumper that was not working and the rest of the team let a really bad group of Scarlet Knights outhustle and outwork them on both ends of the floor.

The last few minutes of the contest saw the Irish nearly squander away a well-earned twelve point lead. A two minute 9-0 run by Rutgers made the game competitive once again with just over two minutes left. The Irish then had to rely on poor free throw shooting and decision making to keep Rutgers off the board as ND could not buy a basket down the stretch. With a chance to ice the game, a really dumb offensive foul by Harangody (it was a bad call, but Luke shouldn't have even made it a possibility) gave Rutgers one last chance. Twenty-four minutes of really bad basketball all around.

That said, I'll focus on the positives a little more now. I'm not sure what Coach Brey said to the team at halftime (the speech would have included a lot of four-letter words and finger pointing if it had been me), but it worked. 14-4 run before the first TV timeout turned an eight point deficit into our first lead since the 17:35 mark of the first half. We usually come out flat at halftime, so it was nice to see the team hustle when we most needed it.

After trading baskets for a while, the Irish played ten consecutive minutes of hard-nosed basketball on both ends of the floor to turn a one-point deficit into a twelve point lead. Luke Harangody and Ty Nash took the ball to the rim inside, setting a physical tone that was missing the rest of the game.

Tory Jackson played very well, taking the ball to the hoop on a few occasions. 18 points on 6-10 shooting. Only four assists and three rebounds, but he kept the offense going on a couple second half drives.

Kyle McAlarney finished with 13 points, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds. He turned the ball over 4 times, a problem since he took over a lot of the ball handling from Jackson. However, he made his open looks and did not force anything tonight.

If you just told me Ryan Ayers went 0-6 from the floor, I would have responded that the senior had a terrible game. However, he played some strong defense, including a game-changing block early in the second half that set the tone for our run. That play was the most athletic sequence I have seen by anyone on the team this year. He got so high in the air that he was able to palm Hamady N'Diaye's layup and bring it down with one hand.

The only thing Zach Hillesland really did right tonight was sit on the bench for 28 minutes. While on the floor, he managed just one assist with two turnovers and two fouls. I'm glad Coach Brey took him out, but I question the substitution for Peoples over Nash.

Harangody forced the jumper all night. It was not falling, but he just kept at it. His 7-25 shooting nearly brought down the Irish tonight. Watch the tape and you'll see that at least four of those made baskets came on layups where he actually challenged the defender. I love Luke, but he falls in love with that baby hook and jumper too often. It almost killed us.

Ty Nash showed Harangody how to play on offense in 8 great minutes. 7 points, didn't miss a shot from the field. He does need to work on those free throws though. Not sure why he didn't earn more second half playing time because he sure showed some much-needed toughness on the floor. Luke Zeller was solid in 11 minutes. 7 points, 2 assists, no misses. Jonny Peeps grabbed 5 boards and played pretty well in 21 minutes. No complaint with him, I just wish we could have seen more Nash.

Off to Ash Wednesday mass. "Remember man, you are dust and to dust you shall return."

We're not dust yet, but definitely could have been the way we played most of the night. A 2-1 finish sets us up well for the BET. Go Irish, knock off the Huskies, and throw everyone's predictions out the window.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Analysis of Big East Pro Prospects

Providence is giving Pitt a big scare tonight. Ideally, Pitt needs to win for us, but it would be nice to compare our 19 point win over Providence with this being the Friars' next contest.

Check these reports by NBA scouts:

Luke Harangody-

"I love him. Have you watched him step outside and stick jump shots? He plays in supposedly the toughest conference in the country, and he had 14 games where he had at least 20 points. He doesn't have the same range as Kevin Love, but other than that they have very similar games. He's going to look awful athletic at times, but he has so many shots in his bag. He has those little weird fadeaways, a one-dribble stepback. Even if he's just a scorer off the bench, he's going to find a spot in this league for seven or eight years. Why can't he be Matt Bonner?"

Matt Bonner is a bad comparison, but I like the rest. Bonner averaged just 15 points and 6 rebounds his senior year and was already an established three point shooter. Luke won't have the same range at the next level.

Hasheem Thabeet, UCONN-

"Of course I love his size, the way he runs, how hard he plays, the way he blocks shots, but I just can't get excited about a guy who's never going to be able to put the ball in the basket. In the NBA, they exploit your weaknesses. He won't be able to score against a 6-10, 6-11 NBA center. He can catch and score when he's open, but I don't really see much improvement in his post skills. He'll be a Mutombo type player who will probably be drafted in the top five, but he's not a star in our league."

No comment. He just read my mind.

Jeff Adrien, UCONN-

"Someone will take a chance on him. He doesn't fit any box. He's not quite like Ryan Gomes, but he's going to be undervalued. He's so tough, and he's going to guard threes and fours. I saw him at LeBron's camp one year, and he was the only one who wanted to guard LeBron. He's one of those tweeners like Renaldo Balkman and Craig Smith who have found a role."

DeJuan Blair, Pitt-

"He'll be a great rebounder in the NBA. He can also really pass, which just punishes a defense. He's going to be able to finish plays other people set up. Guys are going to block his shot, but he's used to that. He's a stud, leave it at that."

Earl Clark, Louisville-

"He's been disappointing. He has all the skills and a great body, but at the end of the day he's soft. He has small hands, which will prohibit him from being good around the basket at the next level. He's the same size as Jeff Green, but Jeff Green had great hands and wasn't soft. He can't really get his shot off unless he's wide open. Someone will take him high because they think he'll be an all-star in three of four years, but I don't think that's going to happen."

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma-

"The only downside to him is he's not 6-10. He's probably 6-8. He's not going to be able to bully guys like he does in college, but he's a great athlete who can get out in transition and dunk. He's a more athletic version of Karl Malone."

Tyler Hansbrough, UNC-

"Everyone has to be all over the map on him. I've been one of those guys who's been saying all along, 'How's he going to do that in the NBA?' Now I'm convinced he's going to do that in the NBA. He's not going to get that shoulder shot in our league, and he's not going to get the calls he's getting now. So the first couple of games he'll get his butt kicked, but eventually he's going to figure it out. He'll get in the gym and take 500 shots a day so he can become a pick-and-pop guy. I don't know if he's in the lottery, but he's definitely a first-rounder."

I can't see Hansbrough being a starter in the Association. He's more athletic than Luke and might be the better scorer next level, but doesn't rebound nearly as well.

Greg Monroe, Georgetown-

"Oh, he's my favorite. For me, it's him or Griffin as the top picks from college. His upside is off the charts, and he's probably the most cerebral player in the draft."

He's looked good for stretches, but just doesn't have the numbers. I'm surprised that he has only managed 13 and 7.

DaJuan Summers, Georgetown-

"I loved him as a freshman, but I can't understand what has happened to him. He's playing tentative, with no confidence, and he's not showing his athleticism. His shot used to be decent, but now it looks ugly. It's an enigma to me, because I always liked that kid."

Very surprising that the Hoyas have not managed to compete more this year with two big talents.

Terrence Williams, Louisville-

"I tell you what, he's made himself some money because his first three years he was terrible. He'll never be a great shooter, but he'll make enough. His assists are up, his turnovers are down, his rebounding is off the charts, and he can guard four positions."

Sam Young, Pitt-

"He'll go in the first round because he's blue collar. He's like Greg Buckner. He's not a playmaker and he's an average shooter, but he's going to will his way into games."

Rutgers Preview

This (along with St. John's) is one of the two "easy" games we need to finish 3-1. Take care of business, I don't care what it looks like.

Pomeroy Ranking- 136th
Record- 10-17 (1-13)
Quality Wins- None (I guess beating Robert Morris doesn't count...)
Bad Losses- St. Bonaventure, Lehigh, Binghamton
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 80-65

Key Players-
#3 Mike Rosario- 6'3", 180 lbs.- 17.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 31.5% 3PA
#00 Gregory Echenique- 6'9", 260 lbs.- 8.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG
#2 Anthony Farmer- 6'1", 190 lbs.- 9.3 PPG, 2.8 APG, 30.9% 3PA

Scouting Report-
Really bad offense, scoring exactly one point per possession (191st in the country).
300th from beyond the arc at 30.9%.
Defending the three is the only thing they do especially well (30.6%- 18th).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stats Per 40 Minutes

If every player in the eight man rotation played the same amount of minutes, how would they stack up? If every guy had the chance to play a whole game, what would their stats look like? Take a peek:

Assuming 40 Minutes Per Game (ex: PPG/MPG*40)-

Tory Jackson- 12.3 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.5 RPG
Kyle McAlarney- 17.7 PPG, 3.8 APG
Ryan Ayers- 14.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG
Zach Hillesland- 8.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG
Luke Harangody- 28.2 PPG, 14.6 RPG

Luke Zeller- 13.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Jonathan Peoples- 9.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG
Ty Nash- 12.9 PPG, 11.8 RPG

Exhibit A in the "Zach Hillesland plays too much" argument. Obviously, these averages can't be taken as gospel truth. Ty Nash plays 8.4 minutes a game, so it is possible (though rather unlikely) that his high averages are mere statistical noise, the result of a small sample size and the street ball nature of the last few minutes of a game. What gives makes these numbers relevant is how well they pass the "eye-test," the subjective grader within each of us.

If Zach Hillesland and Ty Nash played every second of a 40 minute game, Nash would dramatically outperform our current starting power forward. 4.5 extra points and 3.2 extra rebounds per contest would be a big help. It's not just Nash either. Slow footed seven footer Luke Zeller would provide five-and-a-half more points per game over Hillesland with no sizable drop off in rebounding.

Upon further review, Ryan Ayers seems like a pretty solid starter. He doesn't take enough shots some days and can hang out on the perimeter too much, but he clearly provides more offense than the alternatives. His offensive rating (points per possesion), rates highest on the team and in the top 50 nationwide.

With Hillesland eating floor time and having Zeller and Nash compete for minutes off the bench, the Irish are wasting an opportunity to improve an already offense that is already 5th in the country. Though Zach's athleticism makes him a decent defender, both Nash and Zeller have shown the ability to match up well enough most of the time. If Hillesland is not clearly the best option at power forward at either end of the floor, you have to wonder why he is earning so much playing time over two more productive post men.

EDIT: Zach Hillesland's Career Stats Per 40 Minutes:

2005-2006- 10.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG
2006-2007- 11.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG
2007-2008- 10.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG
2008-2009- 8.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

I wondered why my support of Zach has waned so much recently. It's pretty clear his production has actually decreased over the course of his career. As a sophomore, he was a pretty solid 6th man (his best role). In a little over one full season as a starter, his stats have dropped dramatically. More time, less production, not good.

BlogPoll and Bracketology

Blog poll results and all that here.

Joe Lunardi has the Irish in his last four out (and simultaneously the 10 seed in the Midwest, oddly enough), a very good sign at this point. At 15-11, I certainly wouldn't expect anyone to have the Irish in the tournament right now. However, if we take care of business, you know a spot in the bracket won't be far away.

EDIT: Added CollegeHoopsNet as a link. Check it out if you have some time to waste and/or need to treat your basketball addiction.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Preliminary Ballot

Some nice games today will affect how the final version turns out, but this is how I see it (assuming Nova, Illinois, Clemson, Xavier, MSU, Duke, and Arizona State all win)-

1 Pittsburgh 3
2 Connecticut 1
3 Memphis 2
4 Oklahoma 2
5 North Carolina 2
6 Missouri 2
7 Marquette 2
8 Clemson 2
9 Louisville 2
10 Duke 2
11 Arizona St. 2
12 Gonzaga 2
13 Wake Forest 6
14 Michigan St. 8
15 Kansas
16 Villanova 1
17 Illinois 1
18 Butler 2
19 UCLA 1
20 Brigham Young 1
21 Purdue 2
22 Washington 2
23 Louisiana St.
24 Syracuse
25 Utah
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Dayton (#21), Xavier (#22), Davidson (#25).

I had Pitt #1 going into yesterday, but Oklahoma and UNC losing should make it unanimous.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fran McCaffery

The Bracket Busters always provide a good tidbit or two about the smaller programs. This year it's a reminder of a former Irish assistant who is working his way up in the lower ranks of college basketball and should be on the short list next time the Irish need a coach.

Fran McCaffery spent 11 years as an assistant here before moving on to head the UNC Greensboro program. He took them to one NCAA berth in six years and is now completing his fourth season at Siena. The Saints made the Tournament last season and blew Vanderbilt out by 21 in the first round.

He's not the best case scenario for a possible new head coach down the line, but you can guarantee he will be the first or second interviewee should the position open up. I'd follow his career with some interest.

Great Breakdown of Thabeet

Not exactly topical for today's game, but a good read nonetheless.

Notre Dame 103, Providence 84

It wasn't pretty at times, but it was exactly what we needed to get back into the tournament picture.

We took care of business and won big on the road against a team with similar tournament hopes. Oh yeah, our best player was in foul trouble and ineffective all day. I'll take it. We knew that the bare minimum this week would be a split of West Virginia and Providence. We got that split and live a bit longer.

The ESPN360 commentators really played up Providence's three-point shooting. They take a decent amount, but by no means live on the perimeter (87th in the nation in three point field goals made). Oh, and they're not very good at shooting from out there (250th as of yesterday). Very poor commentary to repeatedly play up an aspect of Providence's offense that is neither essential nor all that effective.

Two guys really stepped up today: Ryan Ayers and Jonathan Peoples. A big tip of the cap to both as they had the best conference games of their respective careers. A nod also to Ty Nash, who fought hard in 12 minutes before fouling out. Every second he sits on the bench while Zach Hillesland plays in the high post is a negative for the Irish.

Hillesland reminds me a lot of myself on the floor... and that is definitely not a good thing. Decent athleticism and handles, but he causes far too many problems with the ball in his hands. He dribbles into traffic with his head down and either turns the ball over or kills the offensive flow. A couple bad decisions on the inbounds pass and weak defense against bigger players or quicker guys.

Tory Jackson played 12 minutes. I don't believe he was injured, but I'll wait to hear the official word on that. Jonathan Peoples played very well, so we had no problem sitting Tory a lot coming off of his worst game as a collegiate. 2 points, 1 assist, 4 rebounds in those 12 minutes.

Kyle McAlarney finished with 25 points. He was great in the first half beyond the arc, but forced a few looks in the final twenty minutes. He started making better cuts into the key and looking for twos down the stretch. That picked him up as the outside looks went cold and kept the Irish offense running. Nice game Mac.

Ryan Ayers finished with 28 points, the second game over twenty in his career. Unlike Mac, he never seemed to force looks and finished 7-11 from beyond the arc. Was only 2-6 with two pointers, but added eight rebounds and three assists for his most complete game ever. We need this guy to play at a high level the rest of the way. Good start this afternoon.

I've already mentioned Zach Hillesland. You just have to cringe every time he gets a touch on offense. Finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds, simply unacceptable in such a game played at such a fast pace. He can give you those numbers in 15-20 minutes. Anything more, like the 32 he had today, is an indication of how little trust Coach Brey places in his bench.

Luke Harangody took himself out of this contest with four really bad fouls. They weren't smart touches to eliminate a bucket and they didn't come as a result of hustle a la Ty Nash. Almost all were either a result of bad defense or a lack of concentration. He did come back in the second half with 17 points in the final period, but went 18 and 8 overall. With just 24 minutes, that's a huge stat line, but your best guy must be on the floor longer than that.

Off the bench, what a great game by Jonathan Peoples. 28 minutes, 14 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds. Easily the best game we have seen out of the junior reserve. Give those kind of numbers while playing within yourself (only 2 turnovers with as much as he handled the ball) and you're going to earn more playing time, Jonny. Great job. Ty Nash showed a lot of toughness with 8 points and 2 rebounds in just 12 minutes. He doesn't let blocked shots take him out of the contest and works his butt off. More PT for him, please. 4 points and 4 rebounds in 12 solid minutes for Zeller. Carleton Scott grabbed a rebounds in 11 seconds of game time. That's some really good experience that will significantly help his development of a player. Not really.

No real problems with the way we played today. The beginning of the second half saw Providence close the margin a bit but it never got too hairy. We needed to win and we put up a W that could be huge come Selection Sunday. Well done, need to go 3-1 now.

Dumb Quote of the Day

Talking about Notre Dame's tournament hopes:

"If they run the table the rest of the way and then win three or four and make the Big East championship game, I think they have a shot at an at-large bid."

-ESPN360 Commentator who thinks the Big Ten will get 8 bids this year

Providence at the Half

Up 12 at the break, I'll take it. I'm a little concerned at our reliance on three pointers, but you know Harangody will have a solid second half.

Ayers and McAlarney have converted on open looks all game. Great ball movement in the halfcourt offense and smart transition plays have really set us up for success. A nod to Jonathan Peoples for several assists. The cross-court pass to Ayers was a demonstration of the court vision a good point guard needs. This has been his best game in a while and we're only halfway home.

Harangody has been ineffective and slowed by two really dumb fouls. The first was a result of overreacting to a jump fake, not the end of the world but you can't let a guy make his shot to set up the and-one. The second resulted from a lack of self-control. My only problem with Luke is that he commonly allows his emotions to limit his play. Threw an elbow there, rightly picked up the offensive foul, and sat out almost all of the last eight minutes.

Props to Ty Nash for his hustle and heart while on the floor. He did make a few mistakes, including two misguided fouls and a bad pass to the backcourt, but he really throws his body around. We need that.

The ESPN360 commentators are pretty awful. Nice to know that the only away game the rest of the year is on CBS.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Providence Preview

Must-win if we want to make the Tournament. Pomeroy favors us by the slimmest of margins.

Pomeroy Ranking- 72nd
Record- 16-10 (8-6)
Quality Wins- Syracuse
Bad Losses- Northeastern
Spread- None Yet

Key Players-
#13 Weyinmi Efejuku- 6'5", 210 lbs.- 13.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 35.3% 3PA
#4 Sharaud Curry- 5'10", 170 lbs.- 11.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 38.2% 3PA
#11 Geoff McDermott- 6'8", 235 lbs.- 8.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG

Scouting Report-
Almost as bad as the Irish on D, with only the 45th best offense to back it up.
Grab a solid amount of offensive rebounds, but also give them up on 35% of possessions (268th in the country)
Very poor three point shooting team (250th) compared to a solid game inside the arc (35th)

Thursday, February 19, 2009


At this moment, the Irish are #1 in the nation for lowest turnover ratio... on both sides of the ball.

That's right, the Irish turn the ball over less than any other team and force the 344th most turnovers on defense.

Basketball BlogPoll Roundtable

The inaugural BlogPoll roundtable discussion has been started by A Sea of Blue, the Kentucky basketball blog. See the original questions here.

1. Who really looks like the best team in college basketball this season?

I had Connecticut #1 before Pitt beat them. Oklahoma was second, Carolina third, with the Panthers in fourth. Now, I have to go with Jamie Dixon's team. They have the second best record in the nation against the 9th hardest schedule (I'm going by Pomeroy rankings now). Memphis and Carolina, the top two teams statistically, have both lost at home. The Panthers' defeats? At Louisville and at Villanova. Not too shabby.

DeJuan Blair is a force in the paint and the only true contender to knock Luke Harangody off his Big East Player of the Year throne. At 6'7", he has the largest percentage of offensive rebounds in the nation. Add scorer Sam Young to the mix with one of the best point guards in the country (Levance Fields) and Pitt is my favorite to win it all.

2. Is Blake Griffin the Player of the Year already, or can somebody catch him?

No questions Griffin is tops in the country. 14.2 rebounds a game, the highest average nationally, with the third highest scoring average amongst high-major players. A nod to Luke Harangody from this ND blog for scoring a point and a half more per game, but he is nowhere near as efficient as the sophomore from Norman.

3. What currently ranked team is the biggest disappointment so far this year?

I'll go with the Irish because I've seen far more of their games than any other school. A Sea of Blue picked UCLA, a solid choice, but the Bruins manhandled ND in Los Angeles and are still a top 10 team statistically. Notre Dame may have been overrated when they were ranked as high as seventh, but this team is now on the verge of not even making the tournament. Returning four starters from a second round NCAA squad, far more was expected.

Unfortunately, Zach Hillesland never stepped into the reliable power forward role and the team was unable to find a third scorer. Once Ohio State learned to shut down Kyle McAlarney, the season went downhill. There is still time to make a case for an at-large bid, but that is the bare minimum right now in South Bend.

4. Predict the next team to beat Oklahoma.

I think they'll squeak by against Texas on Saturday and cruise until a midweek game at Missouri. The Tigers have a good mix of youth and experience and seem to be on the rise. On paper, Missouri has actually performed better than Oklahoma this year. That won't stop the Tiger student section from storming the floor after a home win against the #1 or #2 team in the nation.

Big Ten Basketball

Things I'd rather do than attend the Penn State/Illinois game:

Watch paint dry
Watch grass grow
Eat my hat
Marry a goat (no online video, just watch TV sometime to see the commercial)
Steal a car and drive it off a cliff

There are plenty of other things I would rather do than watch a Big Ten basketball game. Especially one that ended 38-33.

38-33 was the score of my 7th grade CYO games. 38-33 is a boring Big XII football game. 38-33 is the career record of a pitcher that spends a few years in the big leagues with limited success.

Stats from yesterday:

Penn State ("winning" team)-
28.3% shooting, 3-17 from three
30% shooting, 3-16 from three, zero free throws attempted

40 minutes of basketball, one player in double figures, worse shooting than a blind man in a pitch-black gym.

That's not good defense, that's just playing basketball at a level lower than five guys at your local YMCA.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

West Virginia 79, Notre Dame 68

Sometimes it's easy to break down a game. We played decent defense, average offense, and got killed on the boards. If we shot better free throws (10-20) and had some heart under the basket, this could have been a good win. We didn't and now Saturday is do or die.

Allowing an opponent to shoot 44% from the field is not too bad, especially for a Notre Dame team. If the Irish had kept West Virginia to one shot per possession, it would have been a very good outing. Instead, the Mountaineers grabbed 44 rebounds (17 on offense) to 32 for the Irish. 17 second chances. 17 possessions that should have ended with no points for Bob Huggins' team.

There's a reason Huggins never loses when his team shoots better than their opponents from the field. You know a Bob Huggins team will always outwork the competition on the glass and play tough. They did just that tonight.

Tory Jackson had a really rough game. 6 points, but no assists or rebounds. He's usually the kind of guy to help out on the glass. That could have been a good addition in this game. No assists from a point guard? Not acceptable no matter how many points you score.

McAlarney missed a few open looks, finishing with 12 points on 2-8 from beyond the arc. He really was a defensive liability, however, letting Alex Ruoff get free for several of his 24 points. His lack of quickness will be a problem at the next level, where you have to create your own shots and match-up some of the most athletic guys on the planet.

Ryan Ayers scored 8 points with 4 assists. Zach Hillesland scored 2 points and grabbed 6 rebounds 27 foul shortened minutes. We're not going to win with only two players scoring in double figures. Ayers was a big factor against Louisville and we really could have used that tonight. 6 rebounds is a good night for Zach, but it is never acceptable to have three guys on the other team (two with fewer minutes) outrebound your power forward.

Luke Harangody picked up from a tough first half to carry the team in the second period. 26 points, 13 rebounds. Missed more free throws than usual, but was a good performer in a hostile environment. Just like during the losing streak, Luke did his best.

Why only 9 minutes for Ty Nash? The tough sophomore grabbed 4 boards in limited minutes. In a game where rebounding was the difference between winning and losing, how can Ryan Ayers play 35 minutes? Move Hillesland to the 3 and let Nash bang down low. Jonathan Peoples scored eight points early on, but was not a factor for the final three-fourths of the game. Zeller and Scott with only token minutes.

We knew going in that this would be a long shot and it is not the end of the world. Frustrating? Absolutely. A win tonight would have been huge and it was there for the taking.

Now Providence is must win. They lost by 18 at Louisville tonight. 4-1 the rest of the way to feel confident on Selection Sunday.

West Virginia at the Half

Someone should tell the ESPN360 commentators that basketball shots do not bend. We're going to hear "bending, bending good" another dozen or so times in the second half.

Great game on offense and most defensive possessions. If we could just rebound, this is a double digit lead. Unfortunately, second chances have allowed the Mountaineers to hang around and finally take the lead at the end of the half. Be tough and actually box a guy out!

EDIT: It's gotten worse. At least we have a bit more class than the West Virginia student section. Really, you can't think of anything better than "Luke's a faggot" and booing him when he touches the ball? Weak.

Irish Out of the Running for Vinson

Vinson is now considering Massachusetts, Maryland, Cincinnati and South Florida. Too bad, we could have used a talent like him next year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

West Virginia Preview

The Mountaineers have a great computer ranking but are 6-6 in the league. That is partly due to a top 10 schedule and the sixth best defense in the country.

West Virginia-
Pomeroy Ranking- 6th
Record- 17-8 (6-6)
Quality Wins- @ Ohio State, @ Georgetown, Villanova
Bad Losses- None
Spread- WVU by 9.0

Key Players-
#1 Da'Sean Butler- 6'7", 225 lbs.- 18.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 40.5% 3PA
#22 Alex Ruoff- 6'6", 220 lbs.- 15.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.5 RPG, 36.8% 3PA
#3 Devin Ebanks- 6'9", 205 lbs.- 9.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG

Scouting Report-
They shut down three point shooters on defense, allowing only 26.6%
Create a good amount of turnovers on D, roughly one in every four possessions.
Weakness is shooting percentage on offense, 48.9% effective FG%

Greatest Rebound Ever

Sometimes you have to give props to an opponent, especially when he puts a 7'3" Tanzanian man in his place.

Thanks to Pitt Blather for the idea to embed this video.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nice Matchup Tonight

Yes, it's #1 UCONN hosting #4 Pitt. Also Big East Player of the Year candidates DeJuan Blair and Hasheem Thabeet matching up. I'll be cheering for the guy in blue, because he scores two more points and grabs one and a half more rebounds per game with eight fewer inches to work with.

EDIT: Good game to watch. I really think both teams have a Final Four run in them. DeJuan Blair had a fantastic game, with 22 points and 23 rebounds. He doesn't have the soft touch of a Harangody, but he is just a brute force. Sam Young had a great game too for Pitt.

For the Huskies, A.J. Price was the only force from deep but he got some help from Kemba Walker and Adrien. Jeff Adrien (or any other Huskies player) really doesn't enough credit. He's the offensive post player on that team. Cover Boy? 5 and 4 in 23 foul shortened minutes.

CBS Blog Poll

The new blog poll is here. The Irish picked up a vote! Very exciting, from a Michigan blog, no less.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Ballot

1 Connecticut
2 Oklahoma
3 North Carolina
4 Pittsburgh 1
5 Memphis 2
6 Michigan St. 9
7 Wake Forest 3
8 Missouri 10
9 Marquette
10 Clemson 1
11 Louisville 7
12 Duke 6
13 Arizona St. 10
14 Gonzaga 2
15 Kansas 2
16 Illinois 3
17 Villanova 5
18 UCLA 10
19 Brigham Young
20 Butler 7
21 Dayton
22 Xavier 8
23 Purdue 3
24 Washington 2
25 Davidson
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Utah St. (#21), Syracuse (#24).

Lots of losses this week really shook up the standings. Utah State and Syracuse drop out with defeats. Say hello to BYU and Dayton, new members of my ballot.

Duke took a tumble after two losses this week. Arizona State is the big mover after beating UCLA while the Bruins dove to 18th with two straight losses.

Notre Dame 67, South Florida 57

Lazy Sunday

A let-down is a bit to be expected after the Louisville game but this got a little too close for comfort. Still, a ten point win in the Big East is good to see after the past month. Winning a low scoring contest with a really cold day shooting is also something that has not happened in a while. Rather win ugly today and hope to be hot the next two games.

The defensive intensity was not there today. South Florida got a lot of open looks but just shot poorly. They are a pretty bad basketball team, pretty athletic but low on fundamentals. That Marquette win was a fluke. If the Warriors had made 20% of their three pointers (they finished 4-24) or half their free throws (10-23), that's another South Florida loss.

The second half saw baskets dry up for the Irish. The time on the clock for Notre Dame field goals over a twelve minute stretch: 14:47, 12:11, 9:14, 5:07, 2:48. That's about three minutes of game time between scoring points. Luckily for us, the Bulls were very more inept, going eight minutes (9:47 to 1:39) without a point as the Irish slowly pulled away.

I like the attention we payed to man defense in this game. It worked against Louisville and was decent today (the statistics look better than we played). Our zone, played for a short stretch then scrapped quickly, is too slow and does not react well against ball movement. Keep the man D, just crank up the intensity a bit to what we had on Thursday.

One guy who plays defense well is Tory Jackson. Two steals, had his hand in a couple others. On offense had 8 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Forced a few shots and turned the ball over twice, but was decent overall. Did have a rough day from the line, 1 for 4.

Kyle McAlarney got a bunch of open looks. 5-12 from three, but missed at least two more wide open shots. He did seal the game with two three pointers in a 90 second stretch in the closing minutes. Was poor inside the arc, as usual, and wasted a one-and-one, but made up for it by scoring six of the last ten Irish points.

Ryan Ayers also stepped it up a bit. He was a big part of the win Thursday and carried over some of that effort today. 12 points, 2-5 beyond the arc. I would like to see him be more assertive and he passed up a couple opportunities today, but it was a good shooting game overall. Does need to help out a bit more on the glass. Only two today.

One point wonder Zach Hillesland did provide five assists and five rebounds. He has to attack the rim more for boards. Three South Florida players finished with more rebounds, including two guards five and six inches shorter than Zach. Stop sitting on the perimeter so much and help out down low.

Luke Harangody had an "off" day with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Poor shooting with a lot of hooks and jumpers falling short. Give the guy some extra rest over the next two days. He can't be 6-15 against West Virginia.

Off the bench, Ty Nash was a spark before he picked up three dumb fouls in the first half. 8 early points and 3 rebounds. We stayed with the starting five most of the second half, but Peoples and Zeller also picked up single figure minutes. Props to Zeller for 3 rebounds in 9 minutes.

Terrible Jim Burr-style officiating which demonstrated how well officiated the game was on Thursday (shout-out again to you, Mike Kitts). Lots of ticky-tack calls on both teams ruined the flow of the game while ignoring scores of travels by South Florida players.

The jerseys worn by the Bulls were plain awful. Hopefully they lost their real ones and had to wear practice jerseys today. Even then, my high school looked better in practice than those guys.

5-7 in the Big East now. We need to go 4-2 the rest of the way, at least. That's at least one win in the next two away games plus perfect at home. At UCONN is still a bit of a pipe dream even without Dyson. We're 10th in the league with a chance to move up to 9th by beating West Virginia. Plenty of basketball to be played, so let's get ready for a fight Wednesday.

Big East Player of Year Race

With Hasheem Thabeet actually putting up a decent performance on offense last night, some have mentioned that the 7'3" hack might be pulling into first place for Big East Player of the Year.

Stats Against Big East Competition-

Harangody- 28.0 PPG (1st in the Big East), 14.5 RPG (1st in the Big East), 1.0 BPG
Thabeet- 12.1 PPG (Erm, not in the top 30 so I don't know exactly...), 9.8 RPG (4th in the Big East), 4.5 BPG (1st)

Not a contest. Thabeet is a very efficient scorer, but that is only because he has been the 3rd or 4th option on the team. We'll see how he does with Dyson out. Harangody has carried his program, such as it is. If the Irish make the Tournament, he will be hands-down the most valuable player in the nation. Even if they don't, his numbers are so superior to anyone else in the league (I think Blair might be the next best) that this vote should be unanimous.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Two Requests

1. Don't Rush the Court

Props to the Leprechaun Legion for staying in the stands last night. Arizona State could learn from your example.

Hey Sun Devils, you're the 19th best team in the country. You beat UCLA at their place earlier in the year. You were only one-and-a-half point underdogs.

Nothing screams "we're an inferior program" like overreacting after a win that surprised nobody. Congratulations, you have every right to be excited, just pretend like you've been there before. Notre Dame, unranked and reeling from a seven-game losing streak, knocked off a top 5 team by 33. No one saw that coming, yet the students sang the alma mater from their seats.

I'm all for expressions of pure athletic bliss and I love tearing down the goalposts when it is justified. However a game with two ranked teams is never the right occasion for something like this. The coaches and players know that bigger games lie ahead. Fans should figure that out too.

2. Don't Expand the Tournament

This comes up every once in a while as a shameless ploy to save coaches' jobs. It's similar to the new 16-team BET: add more teams to the pool, eliminate the accomplishment of just making it, and hope nobody notices. Let's be honest, even after last night the Irish have some work to do to make March Madness. That is the way it should be after a seven game losing streak. With a 128 team field (or some smaller equivalent) no Irish team, regardless of its success or failure in the regular season, would miss out on the Tourney. I'd much rather be in our position now than have already locked up a meaningless bid.

A Few Bonus Requests for Terrence Williams:

1. Don't dance to other teams' intro music.
2. Don't stare at the opponent's student section before the game.
3. Don't stand at halfcourt during warmups and talk trash to each member of the opposing team.
4. Don't do all of the above and proceed to drop two buckets in a 33 point road loss.

What Went Right

Three reasons why the Irish played 40 minutes of good basketball for the first time in a month:

1. Defense- Instead of sitting back in a zone, Coach Brey had the guys come out and play high-intensity man defense for 40 minutes. This strategy held Louisville to its third lowest offensive efficiency of the season. Tory Jackson lead the way with five steals and guys like Ty Nash stepped up to hold their own in the post. With how infrequently we turn over the ball, we should always force more than we give away. That happened just once over the seven game losing streak.

2. Work Ethic- In the five days following the awful loss in Los Angeles, Coach Brey turned up the intensity in practice. This included a short banishment of Ty Nash, kicked out of the gym Sunday, who was able to bounce back with 6 rebounds in 14 strong minutes. We outhustled Louisville in every faze of the game, most notably on the glass. We don't outrebound a lot of teams, but finished with 20 more boards last night.

3. Hot Shooting- The streak was spurred on by poor shooting on Ryan Ayers' account. Ryan bounced back with 19 points and Kyle McAlarney was 7-13 from the floor. That spurred on the offense and opened up opportunities for every other guy on the floor.

Looking back, that was still a great game. If we can continue the improvement shown last night, the rest of the season will be fun to watch.

Finally, props to Rick Pitino for saying some classy things last night:

"A few years ago we had to win eight out of 10 of our games and our guys dug in like Notre Dame dug in," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They didn't feel sorry for themselves. I think Notre Dame could do the same thing. These guys are terrific young men and I hope they rally the same way we did two years ago."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Notre Dame 90, Louisville 57

Best game I have seen a Notre Dame team play. One of the best games the Irish have played against any opponent in the Mike Brey era.

The seven game losing streak has us still up against the wall, but if we play like this the rest of the year, we've got a great shot.

It's kind of tough to put the all my thoughts together, but I'll do my best. Everything went right, including a bad pass off of Ryan Ayers' hands that landed in the basket. The Irish scored 132.4 points per 100 possessions to Louisville's 83.8. That's a gigantic difference.

The starting lineup went back to normal with Ayers and Hillesland back, but they earned it with good games. With the possible exception of Luke Zeller and Jonathan Peoples, who played sparingly, every single guy in white was on top of his game. tonight. If the last seven games showed how poorly the Irish can play, this was a fantastic example of Notre Dame firing on all cylinders. A Final Four-caliber performance, exactly what was needed after the worst stretch of Notre Dame basketball since the mid-90s.

Tory Jackson had 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Not a lot in the last two columns in the second half. If he had doubled his first half numbers, it would have been very close to a triple double. Nice jump shot when he got a little opening, though he forced a couple. 5 steals, the most by an Irish player in a while.

Kyle McAlarney was very good, his first game over 20 points since Syracuse. 21 points, 5-9 from beyond the arc. 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Louisville has the best defense statistically in the country, but they were unable to keep Mac in check like the rest of the league.

Ryan Ayers scored 19. 5-7 from three-point range. I've wondered why he has not been able to have Colin Falls-esque production in the ND starting lineup, but today was a little closer to that. Great game, way to step it up. We need that the rest of the year.

Zach Hillesland was solid, even with just 2 points. 9 rebounds, 3 assists. He was the guy to take the ball up the floor against the press on several occasions and performed well. Just one turnover while handling the ball on several occasions. Nice game, Zach.

Luke Harangody: 32 points, 17 rebounds. He's good.

Great game by Ty Nash off the bench. 14 minutes, 6 rebounds. Thanks to Coach Brey for giving the guy a chance to show off his skills. Luke Zeller's foul trouble (3 fouls in 5 miniutes) opened the door for a night like this and Ty took advantage. We outrebounded the Cards 48-28 and Tyrone (along with some attacking play by Hillesland) was a big reason why.

Mike Kitts gets the award for referee of the night. Nice guy who didn't mind interacting with the student body from time to time. I'll probably complain about him some time in the future, but here's a shout-out for being a good sport tonight.

We still have to go 5-2 the rest of the way to feel confident on Selection Sunday. However, a win like this makes that look more possible and opens up more possibilities seed-wise.

Need to play the same way on Sunday against South Florida. Let's start another streak.

Louisville In-Game

Any somewhat realistic shot at the Tournament requires a win tonight. Who knows, by Monday we could be back in the saddle and feeling a little better about the world. Or not. The losing streak has to end sometime, will it be tonight?

Edit: outside the gates with 30 some students. Good to see the spirit is still alive. 2 hours to tip.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Vinson could be visiting Sunday. The Irish are listed alongside a host of other schools, most notably Louisville and Wake Forest. Rivals has Georgetown and Maryland in the mix without ND. We'll find out more when he actually takes his visits.

And now that hockey has its plan in place, we can start looking forward to a possible basketball practice facility. The standalone hockey rink means that the North Dome could be converted into basketball-only, but it currently hosts Domer Fest, Junior Parents Weekend, and a host of other festivities. There isn't a convocation center of that size elsewhere on campus (the Stepan Center is small and a bit run-down), meaning the team could be looking for its own standalone practice facility. Either plan would be a few years away, but it is good to know that the ideas are out there and will be in motion once financing is available.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Villanova ran away from Marquette tonight, making Jay Wright's team look like a legitimate Big East contender now. Their three league losses? On the road against two top three opponents and by one at home to Louisville. Only one really tough game to go. The 'Cats will finish top ten nationally, book it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sportsline Blog Poll

The new BlogPoll is out and it's a pretty interesting read. At the risk of inflating my own ego a little bit more, I'll link it here.

The formatting needs some work, but they do some pretty cool stuff with it. I received the "Mr. Numb Existence" award for predicting the poll most accurately with my ballot (not on purpose, obviously, but interesting to note). Other "awards" went to the blogs furthest from the norm and with the largest bias. This midmajor blog attacked the establishment with a fervor both commendable and worrying (Utah State 5th? East Tennessee State?). All in all, it is an interesting experiment and a nice nod to the fans who spend their time on these blogs.

Ten Steps to Success

An anonymous poster mentioned a nice idea for a post and I am following through with it. So here they are, my ten steps to building the Irish into a national power.

10. Historical Rivalries- Restarting the UCLA series was a great idea. With Marquette and DePaul now in the Big East, our nonconference games have turned into a variety of easy opponents and one or two hot programs. Let's reintroduce a good home-and-home series (in addition to the Bruins) that taps into the success of the past. Dayton is a good one, being Catholic and a solid mid-major school, but they are tough to play at home and could be seen as a bad loss. Other ideas are Kentucky (big in the 60s and 70s) and Michigan State (played almost every year from 1908 to 1975).

9. Local Rivalries- Building off the last point and venturing into my "public relations" portion of the post, I'd like to see us reach out more to the townies. Bringing in an Indiana (played from 1946-2001), Purdue (1930-1966), or Butler (1922-1977) will energize the local fan base and sell out at least that one game. They're big draws for the South Bend area and have a lot of historical meaning.

8. Better Advertising- In addition, we need to work on promoting basketball games earlier in the season to see the Joyce Center fill up. The JACC can be one of the best places to play in the country when it is full in a big game. When we're playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, it's a graveyard. Tap into local support and try to sell out games year-round.

7. Ticket Distribution- Everyone knows that the gold seats remain half-empty even in big games. Hopefully the creation of a press box will keep the big donors away from the seating areas. With a smaller capacity next season, emphasis must be placed on selling tickets to fans who will actually show up to the game.

6. Open Pocketbook- To be successful, the basketball program needs full support from the board of trustees. That means allocating money. If we need a new coach, let's find the best one possible and pay him a competitive salary. We can pay two or three head coaches at a time for football, so let's make the hoops program more attractive with a strong financial reward for success.

5. Smarter Scheduling- Notre Dame played one of the toughest schedules in the country but you'd never know it by looking at the stats. Our strength of schedule is awful, hurting our RPI and tournament chances. I like playing a couple big programs a year, but more important is how you schedule the cupcakes. Louisville played a bunch of teams in the top 100 (5 to our 3). We played a bunch of teams in the 300s (5, the Cards had no one worse than 252nd). Schedule a solid group of midmajors ranked between 100-200 for your easy games, a couple at the bottom of the double digits, and one or two big games. Sure, you might slip up here and there, but you'll be better off in the long run (Louisville is tied for first in the Big East after three nonconference losses).

4. Attention to Defense- Rick Pitino's squad is another good example here. Defense wins championships. I love Coach Brey's teams when they score, but that is no way to build a championship caliber program. At the very least, the effort has to be there to consistently produce a top 25 defending team. The offense will suffer a little, but we will see some success in March.

3. Recruiting Mindset- In addition to the two big items which I have yet to address, the Irish need to work on building up their talent base. This has been argued before and there are some other factors that go into it (see step #1 and #2), but the overall talent level has to grow a bit. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers would never see playing time at a true national power. Let's crack into the four star ranks a bit more and also build a well-rounded lineup. Not just big white guys who can shoot, playing a couple athletic types (more like Carleton Scott) will allow for better production from a Kyle McAlarney or Luke Harangody.

2. Practice Facilities- This may in fact be a prerequisite to recruiting success. High school seniors know what they like. They like the new Guglielmino Athletic Complex. They don't like The Pit. Rumor is that the hockey team will get updated locker rooms and the like, opening the door for a possible North Dome expansion to include training facilities for basketball. They need to be state-of-the-art if we want to reach the level of quality at basketball schools.

1. Loosen Academic Standards- This may raise a red flag to some, but it needs to happen. I'm not saying we should let in every kid with a GED and some game, there just has to be consistency between the programs. Football gets far more concessions including, though they'll never admit it, three or four scholarships regardless of academic standing (see Golden Tate). If a player is willing to work hard in his classes and be a model citizen, let him in. It's no secret that many very talented basketball players come from poorer backgrounds with little access to the secondary education in the world. If a guy can come in and get a college degree from a better institution than he could otherwise attend, all the better.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

New Format

I'm working on a new look for the blog (one that doesn't scream "I picked some default template"). Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

Top 25

As mentioned previously, I am beginning my involvement with the blog poll. As part of the poll, each voter is required to post his ballot. So here it is:

1 Connecticut
2 Oklahoma
3 North Carolina
4 Louisville
5 Pittsburgh
6 Duke
7 Memphis
9 Marquette
10 Wake Forest
11 Clemson
12 Villanova
13 Butler
14 Xavier
15 Michigan St.
16 Gonzaga
17 Kansas
18 Missouri
19 Illinois
20 Purdue
21 Utah St.
22 Washington
23 Arizona St.
24 Syracuse
25 Davidson

The most notable team missing is West Virginia, the seventh best team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy. However, seven losses really keeps a team from top 25 contention at this point. They need to win a few of those higher profile games.

*The ballot is due tomorrow Morning, so it is subject to change. I am especially waiting on the Purdue/Illinois outcome.

A Quick Thank You

It can be difficult to be objective during a seven game losing streak, but the comments on this blog have been extremely informed and helpful. Perhaps it is just a bit of resignation setting in, but the vast majority of posters have been able to provide constructive criticism after every loss. Thanks for your contribution and continued support. That is what makes blogging enjoyable.

Keep it up.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

UCLA 89, Notre Dame 63

Awful. Hey, at least Georgetown lost today too.

Tory Jackson was benched in favor of Ryan Ayers at the shooting guard spot. Jackson did end up having a good game. So did Kyle McAlarney. Everybody else contributed to two hours of hell for the Notre Dame fan.

Tory scored 17 on 7-11 shooting. 9 rebounds, only 3 assists. He turned the ball over a couple of times (no numbers on that right now and the ESPN stats might be off so soon after the game), but overall played his best since Seton Hall.

K-Mac was the other bright spot. He was able to find a couple good looks and knock down six shots. 16 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist. Good to see him snap out of the prolonged slump. UCLA didn't worry as much about him as they did about Luke today, so Kyle had a bit more breathing room than usual.

Hillesland with 3 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. That is a solid line for him, but it is frustrating to see his overall lack of development the last three years. 3, 5, and 5 was a nice game sophomore year. Zach is still making mental mistakes and failing to crash the boards with authority. Once took he took the ball up the floor and every Notre Dame fan could predict the outcome. Lots of dribbling, an out of control spin, and an easy turnover. It happens at least once a game.

Zeller with 5 points, 3 rebounds. Luke Harangody had his first real struggle in a long time. 2-12 shooting, only 5 points and 1 rebound. The Bruin frontcourt took him out of the contest completely. It was sad, really. The heart and soul of our team was out of his element from the opening tip. Keep fighting, Luke.

Off the bench, I really liked what Nash and Scott showed in expanded time. 4 and 4 for Tyrone, 7 and 4 for Scott. They are the future and were two of our best players today. Need to give them more PT. Ayers, the starting 2 (correct me if I'm wrong, I missed the opening minute or so) was pretty flat from inside the arc. Did add a pair of threes and six points. Jonathan Peoples did very little.

7 straight losses as this season continues on its tail spin. Next Thursday at home against Louisville could be our final stand.

Friday, February 06, 2009

High School Senior Available

Terrell Vinson was granted his release from Loyola Maymount after Bill Bayno's retirement. I mentioned him here before our game with LMU. Bayno's problems with depression started to come out around that contest as well. Guess who is listed first on ESPN's Vinson page?

For all of his struggles recruiting top-notch high school players, Coach Brey has had some success with guys taking a second look (see Martin and Hansbrough). Maybe we can strike it big with this one as well.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Other Games to Watch

I can't stop posting today... Be sure to read the other two posts from earlier. They are below.

In addition to the games we have to win to get to 9-9, there will be competition among teams fighting for position in the Big East standings that could play a role. Teams we need to follow if we eventually turn this season around somewhat:

Syracuse- (6-4)- Already have the head-to-head win over the Irish but a tough road ahead could slide them into a final record around 9-9. Home games against Georgetown and Villanova could provide stumbling blocks along with three tough road trips.
  • 2/14- Georgetown
  • 2/22- Villanova
Providence- (6-4)- Schedule is beginning to get tougher. Four more projected losses plus their game with us could put them at 9-9.
  • 2/10- @ South Florida- Pomeroy only gives them a 51% chance of winning
  • 2/21- Notre Dame
Cincinnati- (5-5)- Three tough road games with less than a 20% chance of success, two home contests that are only slightly easier.
  • 2/21- Louisville
  • 2/26- West Virginia
West Virginia- (4-5)- Performed better against their rough stretch than the Irish did. Should finish strong.
  • 2/12- Villanova
  • 2/18- Notre Dame
Georgetown- (4-6)- Took care of their must-win midweek game, just a couple tough ones ahead.
  • 2/14- @ Syracuse
  • 2/23- Louisville
Pomeroy's Projected Big East Standings at the End of the Year-
  1. Connecticut- 15-3
  2. Louisville 15-3
  3. Marquette- 14-4
  4. Pittsburgh- 14-4
  5. Villanova- 12-6
  6. West Virginia- 11-7
  7. Syracuse- 10-8
  8. Providence- 9-9
  9. Georgetown- 9-9
  10. Cincinnati- 8-10
  11. Notre Dame- 7-11
  12. Seton Hall- 6-12
  13. St. John's- 5-13
  14. South Florida- 4-14
  15. Rutgers- 3-15
  16. DePaul- 1-17
Take it for what you will, we still need to win our games for a shot.

EDIT: Posting gobs of soon-to-be-irrelevant data is a pretty good therapy. The blood pressure seems to be dropping for the first time in 24 hours.

Strategic Differences

One team is great at offense, the other great at defense. They are below average, at best, on the other side of the ball.

Team A-

Offense- 94th
Defense- 1st

Team B-

Offense- 9th
Defense- 148th

(Pomeroy Adjusted Efficiency Rankings)

Guess which one is tied for second in the Big East at 8-1 and which one is seeing its postseason hopes slip away?

Whatever Hope We Have

Comes down to four games:

@ West Virginia
@ Providence

Need to win three of those four and carry the rest (except @ Connecticut). Rutgers, South Florida, and St. John's were gimmies at the beginning of the year, but certainly seem a bit tougher now.

If we only drop one of the four listed and the road trip to Storrs, we're 9-9 in the league and could sneak in with one win in the BET. Obviously spirits are down and we haven't done anything to inspire confidence over the past month, but there are still games to be played.

The nice thing about Saturday at UCLA is that the Irish have nothing to lose. It's really an exhibition game of sorts. A win would be nice, but our NCAA chances rely on conference games at this point.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cincinnati 93, Notre Dame 83

N-I-T. That's where this heartbreaker of a season is headed. There is plenty of blame to go around. It's just getting painful to watch now.

I said Deonta Vaughn was a terrible shooter before today's game and I don't think he turned into Reggie Miller overnight. The zone was the right call against this team, our players just close slower than Shaquille O' Neal with two broken ankles. Blame who you want for that, Coach Brey certainly deserves some complaints for poorly coached D.

Mick Cronin is a punk, Jim Burr is a fool, and this team is just plain bad. Hey, at least Manti Te'o signed...

The game was lost beyond the arc. The Irish, who entered the year as the Big East's best three point threat, shot 23%. Cincinnati wen 10% over their average with a 44% clip. 9 points for us from outside versus 30. Game over.

Again, I agree with the original gameplan to force outside shots. Cincy just isn't that good from beyond the arc. If you want, blame the coaches for not switching out of the defense when it was obvious that our guys could not adequately get out to the perimeter. The players did not execute on defense, a problem that has surfaced to varying degrees for the past decade.

Tory Jackson played solidly offensively, 11 points and 6 rebounds. McAlarney was taken away once again, only attempting five threes (and missing all of them). The Irish attempted 13 for the game, a few being desperate heaves in the closing minutes. We average 23 per game. Not only were the shots not falling, we didn't attempt enough to stave off the Bearcat onslaught.

Hillesland was decent in 35 minutes. 11 points, 5 rebounds. Coach Brey obviously did not take the thought of starting Luke Zeller seriously and played Hillesland as a power forward most of the game. As such, those stats are disappointing. Cincinnati freshman Steve Toyloy grabbed 5 boards in 17 minutes, matching Zach's total in half the time. Hillesland has never been a great rebounder and it would have helped a bit tonight. However, he did attack the hoop well at times and made half his shots. Can't really lay this one on him.

As mentioned, Luke Zeller played only 10 ineffective minutes. So much for that lineup.

Luke Harangody, of course, kept the team from being a complete disgrace. 28 points, 14 boards. Shot just under 50% from the floor, his second best shooting game since Georgetown. Forced a few, but you can't blame him.

Ryan Ayers was very good off the bench. 14 points on 6-7 shooting. He played 29 minutes. Peoples pulled down a pair of boards in 13 minutes.

We saw some of Carleton Scott tonight and no Ty Nash. Not sure what the story was there, but I'd like to see both of them for at least 10 minutes a game here on in. What can it hurt? The seniors are not getting the job done and are not part of the future. Let's see if we can build something for next year.

Very depressing. Maybe we were overrated to begin with, but no one expected this. Six straight losses, with the distinct possibility of two more on the way. Heck, nothing's impossible at this point.

We expect better than this. Everyone is to blame. I know Toyloy may have shoved Zach Hillesland at the end of the half and the refs blew the call, but when a senior leader like Kyle McAlarney is starting fights and laying an egg offensively, we look like the kind of team that waltzed into a 38-3 beatdown in Los Angeles. This basketball season was supposed to make everyone forget about a horrid football team. Instead, we're counting the days until a eighteen-year-old Hawaiian steps on campus. Embarrassing.

Everyone from McAlarney to Harangody to the rest of the team and the coaching staff needs to put their heads on straight and represent the school with pride. With the effort we've shown lately, the seniors will be lucky to close out their careers in front of 2,000 fans in a home NIT game. So much for the Sweet 16.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cincinnati Preview

Not a whole lot to say. This is must-win. Pomeroy has us at a 49% chance of victory tomorrow. If the losing streak continues, our tournament hopes may not make it to Valentine's Day.

Things to know about Cincinnati-

KenPom Rank- 79th
Best Win- vs. 19th (Pomeroy) ranked Georgetown
Worst Loss- Two losses to #78 Providence
2.5 point underdogs against us

Key Players-

Deonta Vaughn- 15.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.6 APG, 33.1% 3PA- Terrible shooter, let him stay on the perimeter.
Yancy Gates- 10.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG- Top rebounder on the team on a sqaud that really spreads them around.
Mike Williams- 9.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG- Only other rebounder with more than four a game.

The Bearcats only go eight deep, but use their bench players in a ture rotation. Vaughn is the only player averaging more than thirty minutes a game (at 35). 33.1% from three point land, so expect a lot of zone from the Irish.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hillesland Back in the Starting Lineup

Probably the best case scenario. Zach is awful as a power forward, but can be a pretty solid small forward. Zeller isn't the best 4 in the world, but he is the one we've got. Ayers was better off the bench anyways last season.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Blog Polling

You may have noticed that I am not participating in the Big East Basketball Report Bloggers Poll this year. There was no falling out, just an attempt on their part to get leaner and meaner. However, I am getting that itch to exercise my democratic rights and may soon be a part of the BlogPoll (football version located here). It will be placed on the Sportsline polls page alongside the more respected top 25 lists, which is a nice show of support to those of us who put some time into creating these blogs. Hopefully that will start rolling soon.

EDIT: The 10 Commandments of Heckling. Not that Notre Dame fans would ever heckle...

Remember This?


Ken Pomeroy might have been right. I certainly expected more that what the team has shown so far.

However. The nice thing about college basketball is that you always control your own destiny. I expect nothing right now, but certainly hope the team can get back on the right track. There is still plenty of basketball to be played and we must step up the quality from what has been seen the last three weeks.