Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Penn State 67, Notre Dame 59

It's been a really long season.

Fair play to Penn State. I really doubted them and still don't think they're all that great. Still, the Lions deserved to win and really outplayed us tonight. I wish the Irish could have made one of their seven or eight wide open layups to make this competitive, but it was not to be. A really poor offensive showing throughout.

Thanks to the guys for working to make it competitive and showing some heart down the stretch, but the outcome was really never in doubt. A Kyle McAlarney layup (why he froze under the basket with no defenders within sight, I'll never know) and a Ryan Ayers three pointer would have cut the lead to one with over three minutes left. Unfortunately, it was not to be. When you shoot under 25% in the first half, you really don't deserve to win.

Tory Jackson was pretty good tonight. 9 points, 5 assists, no turnovers. Kyle McAlarney missed a bunch of chances near the basket and was the culprit on a few of those missed layups. Ryan Ayers was ice cold. 1-7 from the arc really killed us. Zach Hillesland had 2 points and 6 rebounds and was 1-5 from the field. Luke Harangody bounced back from a completely awful first half to finish with 17 and 10 on 5-16 shooting.

Off the bench, Jonathan Peoples provided a couple nice threes to keep it respectable. 8 points for him. Ty Nash had 7 rebounds before fouling out. Luke Zeller had 8 on 2-5 from beyond the arc. Carleton Scott made a three pointer in less than a minute of playing time, making you wonder why he hasn't seen any more action this year.

33% shooting for the team. That just killed us. Penn State played pretty solid defense, but the Irish shot themselves in the foot over and over. As you may have noticed, this was a pretty short recap. I'll try to knock out the year-end stuff tonight as well.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Penn State Preview

Penn State-
Pomeroy Ranking- 64th
Record- 25-11 (10-8)
Quality Wins- Purdue, Michigan, @ Michigan State, Illinois (x2), Florida
Bad Losses- None
Common Opponents- Lost to Ohio State 73-59, Beat Indiana Three Times
Pomeroy Projection- ND 72-68

Key Players-
#12 Talor Battle- 5'11", 165 lbs.- 16.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 34.9% 3PA
#2 Jamelle Cornley- 6'5", 250 lbs.- 14.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 40.4% 3PA
#11 Stanley Pringle- 6'1", 180 lbs.- 12.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 47.0% 3PA

Scouting Report-
Don't turn the ball over (19th).
Don't allow offensive rebounds (21st).
Don't allow many trips to the line (2nd).

In case you were wondering, here is what a preview for the Irish would look like:

Notre Dame-
Pomeroy Ranking- 33rd
Record- 21-14 (8-10)
Quality Wins- Texas, Georgetown, Louisville, UAB, New Mexico, Kentucky
Bad Losses- St. John's

Key Players-
#44 Luke Harangody- 6'8", 255 lbs.- 23.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 36.1% 3PA
#23 Kyle McAlarney- 6'0", 195 lbs.- 15.1 PPG, 3.4 APG, 42.6% 3PA
#2 Tory Jackson- 5'11", 193 lbs.- 10.6 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.5 RPG, 36.4% 3PA

Scouting Report-
Don't turn the ball over (2nd) or get it back on defense (343rd).
Great three-point shooting team (18th).
Don't get to the line very often (336th).

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Fill out Terrence's survey if you've got the time. Thanks in advance.

Go Irish, beat Lions.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

View From the Opponent's Bench, Part II

Thanks again to Devon Edwards from NittanyWhiteOut.com. Check out his site and read his answers to the questions below as we prepare for Tuesday's game.

Who besides Talor Battle do the Irish have to worry about and what will Battle bring to the table on Tuesday (besides his own web site)?

Well, Penn State relied all season on their "big three," Battle, guard Stanley Pringle, and power forward Jamelle Cornley. Each bring a different aspect of the game to the forefront. Battle, our all-big ten point guard, is without a doubt Penn State's best all-around player, who excels both from behind the arc and in driving to the hoop. He's really good at sucking in the defense and finding an open Nittany Lion for a quick two. Pringle is a lights-out three point shooter (48% from the year, tops in the Big Ten), who is a phenomenal on-the-ball defender, and can drive if given an inch. Cornley is listed at 6'5, but is probably closer to 6'4. That said, he's an absolute beast, checking in at around 240 pounds of pure muscle. That alone makes him a phenomenal inside presence, but he's one of the toughest mo-fo's in the NCAA. He just doesn't know the definition of giving up. He's also a pretty nifty shooter from outside and can create his own shot on occasion, though it looks really ugly.

38-33, seriously? Convince me that's good defense and not just terrible basketball.

Well, the Big Ten brand of basketball tends to favor low scoring games, and it's mainly due to the molasses-slow tempo that our teams tend to favor. Take our teams out of the conference, and you see that they're better scorers than they look. For instance, Penn State didn't top 73 points in conference, but bested that number nine times in non-conference play. That said, watching that game was absolutely painful, even for a fan of the winning team. It's not unusual for a couple shooters on a team to have an off-day, but both teams were having off days. They shot a combined 6-33 from downtown, and not much better from inside the arc. But the fact that Illinois shot a grand total of zero free throws shot by Illinois tells you that if Penn State didn't play lock-down defense, then the refs weren't calling much.

How good do you think the Big Ten was this year and how many bids did they deserve?

I think the Big Ten deserved every one of the seven bids it got, but it's very interesting to look at the breakdown of the bottom few teams in the conference that made the tournament. You look at Michigan and Minnesota and you see three phenomenal pre-conference wins, against UCLA, Duke, and Louisville, but little else. Then you take a look at Penn State and see that we really cleaned up against the top few teams in the conference (4-2 against Michigan State, Purdue, and Illinois). I'm not too bitter that we weren't in the tournament, but I feel like Penn State deserved to be in. As far as the top few teams, there's not a lot of elite teams, but Michigan State is, as you see, an elite eight team, and Purdue might have been the same if it weren't for a tough matchup with UConn. Illinois was probably overrated throughout the year, but I do think we were the second best conference, top to bottom, next to the Big East.

What do you think the Lions need to do to win on Tuesday?

Penn State has a very athletic team, and some very decent depth, so the key to winning and advancing to the NIT Finals will be running up and down the court and beating Notre Dame in a high scoring game. If we can push the tempo, create fast breaks, and force turnovers, like Penn State did against Florida, I don't think there will be too much resistance. Frankly, I think Penn State matches up well with the Irish, because we tend to guard the three point line well, and Cornley, small as he is, is a tough body to move in the low post. Penn State is at their best in an up-tempo game, which tends to implement itself in close games or when trailing. Almost all of Penn State's big wins came after a double digit deficit, because once Penn State gets up they tend to hold the ball for 30 seconds and jack up a three. If they can keep the intensity up for 40 minutes, well, I think that Notre Dame should be an easier beat than Florida. not to mention Michigan State.

View From the Opponent's Bench, Part I

We haven't done one of these this year, but Devon Edwards from NittanyWhiteOut.com has been very kind in working with me to preview Tuesday's game. My answers to his questions are here:

You said, " I really think they have been overrated this season and like our chances of getting to the finals." Don't you think you're overlooking a team that has wins over Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, twice, and Florida?

I'm a big Ken Pomeroy fan and study his rankings far more than I follow the RPI. His rankings have Penn State 67th, far lower than our previous three NIT opponents (43rd, 36th, and 49th). There are a few reasons for this. The Nittany Lions don't get a high percentage of blocks or steals on defense and give up a pretty high field goal percentage inside the arc. Andrew Jones, the most likely candidate to cover Harangody averages less than six points and rebounds per game. He'll struggle against a guy who has cut his teeth against the likes of DeJuan Blair and Hasheem Thabeet all year. Penn State has a few good wins and only one bad loss in Iowa, but overall I don't see the strength of schedule. Florida was no better than the three teams we beat to make the semis. You matched up well with a good Michigan State team, but so did we against a better Louisville squad (sent them to OT in the first meeting, laid a whooping on them in South Bend). Purdue figured y'all out in the second meeting. As for Illinois, I watched some of that 38-33 game and just saw bad basketball. Sure, there are some great defenses in the Big Ten, but Penn State ain't one of them.

Looking over the stats, Notre Dame is ranked second to last in the Big East in steals, and last in blocks. Do you guys play any defense?

No is the easy answer. For some reason (the departure of our best assistant coach, the graduation of a good all-around player in Rob Kurz, or otherwise) this year's team decided to take it easy on defense. It's worse that previous Mike Brey-coached teams. Our zone is very ineffective and we have gotten lost a few times in man-to-man. Frankly, it's embarrassing that such a veteran squad could be so inept in half of the game. Part of the reason is our tendency to recruit unathletic players who can shoot. Only one guy (Tory Jackson) has the quickness to stick with a majority of players at his position. We have gotten a bit better in the postseason, but defense will still be an issue Tuesday.

What happened in that seven game losing streak?

It was a tough schedule and we just crecked under the pressure. Seven games, including three against #1 seeds, all but two away from home. Had the schedule been a little more evenly spread out, we could have won one or two of those. As it is, we let an overtime loss to Louisville get us down and didn't recover for a month.

Basically, it seems like the Irish are a bunch of slow unathletic white guys who can shoot, and Luke Harangody. Why am I wrong?

No, you're right. Luke Harangody fits that description, as well. Our point guard, Tory Jackson, is the only one who can take a defender off the dribble. The rest of the rotation (expect Hillesland and Nash) and very good shooters. Mac and Ayers three-point threats, but not much more. Harangody has a very good midrange game that will help him in the pros and can hit the open three (a recent development). Off the bench, Luke Zeller is a seven foot shooting guard and Jonathan Peoples has been known to hit a couple clutch three pointers.

Thanks to Devon for being a good sport. We should have his answers to my questions about the Nittany Lions tomorrow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Elite Eight

The Big East has half the teams in, with Pitt/Nova guaranteed a spot in the Final Four. My money's on Louisville and/or UCONN joining them as well.

Also, a personal request to help Terrence with his survey. The topic is interesting (leaving early for the NBA) and you're helping out a guy who has contributed to this blog on multiple occasions with just a couple minutes of your time. Thanks a bunch in advance.

NCAA Tournament

Congrats to three Big East teams making the Elite Eight out of the four who punched tickets today. We could see as many as two more tomorrow (one, Louisville, should be a pretty solid lock).

Best conference, no question.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Beau Kautzman, a graduate of the ND business school, sent along this link to a sports-focused aggregation site called Buzztap. Check out, see if you like it. At least you're helping out a few fellow Domers.

As he wrote to me, "Buzztap brings together sports content from various news sites, blogs, and discussion forums into a single location, providing sports fans with a better method of following the latest in sports buzz. ND fans can find links to Irish-related content (including your blog) on the buzztap Notre Dame page and associated twitter account - @irishbuzztap."

Thanks to Beau for that heads-up.

The Million Dollar Question, Part 2

Would you rather win the NIT or lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament?

Like any good Political Science major, I reject the premise of the question. Obviously, making the Tournament (and having a shot, albeit a long one, to win the National Championship) is preferable to playing in the NIT. Regardless of your situation, however, the objective is to win basketball games.

I completely agree with some of Bryan's comments in the previous posts. This season has been disappointing and I find it unacceptable to be playing in the NIT this year. However, we've been over this already. Failing to meet your expectations is no reason to quit on the season while there is still basketball to be played.

While I certainly would rather be in the NCAA Tournament, I'll take a trip to the NIT Final Four over the kind of effort we saw in 2005. That team embarrassed itself and the University by mailing it in against the regular season champ of a terrible conference. Holy Cross' best prior victory? Boston University in the first game of the year. Led by Chris Thomas, that squad underachieved and then just threw in the towel. I'm definitely glad we have not seen that.

Instead, this team is attempting to turn a very negative campaign into something somewhat worthwhile. While an NIT championship would not make up for a seven game losing streak, a 26 point drubbing to UCLA, or having to watch a top ten team play itself out of the Tournament, it would provide a soft landing for a program that keeps trying to take off to an elite status. Whereas 2005 threatened to set the program back a step or two (Chris Quinn's leadership in 2006 really kept things from spiraling downward), 2009 has the opportunity to make sure that the current disappointment does not turn into an extra year or two of underachieving.

No one's happy with playing in this tournament, but while the players keep competing they deserve our support. No matter the outcome, big demands should be made to ensure that the Irish move forward next season and do not face this kind of year again. However, the players (and yes, even Coach Brey) should be given some credit for the dedication they have shown and willingness to compete, even in the face of such disappointment.

It's a long-winded answer to a seemingly simple question, but my conclusion is this: making the NCAA Tournament is always preferable to the NIT, but once you're there 3-0 is a hell of a lot better than 0-1.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Million Dollar Question

Would you rather win the NIT or lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament?

I'll try to give my opinion on this tomorrow (there's no good answer, really neither is a good end to the season).

Also, a quick note about the Kentucky faithful. I e-mailed A Sea of Blue about this and should probably post here as well. I'm too young to remember the "neutral" site games of the '60s and '70s and didn't watch enough basketball back when Eddie Sutton was FedEx-ing recruits a thousand bucks in cash, so I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to the Wildcats.

Tonight, the Kentucky fans showed up two or three thousand strong to support its first NIT-bound basketball team since before Rick Pitino discovered hair gel. The band was loud, if not the world's greatest (never respect a band with a drum set), and the cheerleaders also performed well and took pictures with our cheerleaders.

The Kentucky fans I came across were knowledgeable and absolute die-hard fanatics for their team. Not fake sun-tanned frontrunners like USC football fans or obnoxious like the Cameron Crazies can sometimes be, just good old basketball supporters. Thanks to them for being well-behaved (for as much as I can tell) and gracious.

Now, let's never let another team infiltrate the Joyce like they did tonight.

Notre Dame 77, Kentucky 67

Good win, now it's off to Madison Square Garden. Kentucky showed up with a bunch of blue-clad supporters and helped fill the JACC, but it never got close enough to make the Wildcat faithful really get into the game. Off to the NIT Final Four it is, then.

We knew Meeks and Patterson were the ones who could beat us and they never took control. Meeks scored only 3 in the first half but you knew it was only a matter of time before he took off. Kudos to Ryan Ayers and the host of other defenders who kept Meeks in the bag for so long. The preview I wrote last night came true as only Perry Stevenson (8 and 6) remotely kept up with the two best players in blue on offense. Nobody else was really a factor.

We did make a couple big mistakes on D that gave up easy buckets. The worst was a baseline drive in transition that beat three Irish defenders. My fourth grade CYO coach taught me to defend the baseline better than that. However, our rebounding in the second half took away all the second chances that the Wildcats received in the first 20 minutes. Good work by Nash and Harangody evening things up on the boards.

Last night's preview also talked about how we would have to hit from outside. If Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney ever needed to both have good games at once, it was tonight. They combined for 29 points. Clutch shooting by Tory Jackson, Jonathan Peoples, and Luke Harangody (2-4!) also took advantage of the open three point opportunities.

Tory beat Michael Porter on a couple key drives tonight late in the shot clock. These were much needed to keep the Irish offense from getting too inefficient in the second half 1as Meeks held a shooting clinic on the other end. 10 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers. That's a great night overall.

K-Mac was 3-10 from the floor, but made all six shots from the line. The Irish made eight straight as a team in the final 90 seconds to ice this game. Remember when foul shooting looked to be a weakness? 15 points, 2 assists for Kyle.

Ryan Ayers scored one less, but was better from beyond the arc. 4-7 on three point shooting, 14 points. He added a block and two assists. Meeks turned it on in the second half, but Ayers did a solid job to keep Jodie under his season average. Tory was too small to cover Meeks and Hillesland a liability on offense so Ryan drew the short straw on defense tonight. He worked his butt off and Meeks didn't take over the game until it was too late. Kudos, Ryan.

Zach Hillesland played a couple possessions on the other side of Meeks. Other than that, he was pretty much useless. No points, 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. Thanks a bunch, Zach.

Luke Harangody was great. 30 points, 11 rebounds, stepping his game up in the second half. 4 assists, 8-11 from the line. 2-4 from beyond the arc, taking advantage of that awful Kentucky perimeter defense. He carried us.

Ty Nash needs to be the starting power forward. 2 points, 7 rebounds (4 on offense) to go with a pair of assists in 18 minutes. He gave the Irish second chances and has a knack for getting inside position in the paint. With Harangody looking to score from outside, we need a guy like that on the floor. Luke Zeller played ok defense in 9 minutes, drawing three fouls. Better him than our other bigs. Johnny Peeps hit a pair of open three pointers.

NYC once again, this time against Penn State. I really think they have been overrated this season and like our chances of getting to the finals. The team seems to be fired up and now stands two wins away from the first postseason tournament championship in Notre Dame history. Go and get it, boys.

NCAA Second Chance Sweepstakes

I usually try to put in a good word for anyone who takes the time to contact me via e-mail about other sites, promotions, etc. Today I received an e-mail about the SNY Second Chance Sweepstakes. It's a fun way to pick the rest of the NCAA Tournament games if your brackets are busted (like mine). If you win, some tickets to next year's BET might be on the way.

Looks like fun. Thanks to Jamie Cottle for the heads-up and a reminder to anyone with questions/comments/suggestions to feel free to e-mail me (click view my complete profile to the right).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kentucky Preview

Last game in the old Joyce Center. Winningest college basketball program in town. Chance to go to NYC and win the first postseason tournament in Notre Dame basketball history. What the hell, might as well get excited for this.

Pomeroy Ranking- 46th
Record- 22-13 (8-8)
Quality Wins- Kansas State, West Virginia, Tennessee (x2), Florida
Bad Losses- VMI, Georgia
Common Opponents- Lost to UNC 77-58, Beat West Virginia 54-43, Beat Indiana 72-54, Lost to Louisville 74-71
Pomeroy Projection- ND 74-69

Key Players-
#23 Jodie Meeks- 6'4", 208 lbs.- 23.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 40% 3PA
#54 Patrick Patterson- 6'9", 235 lbs.- 17.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG
#21 Perry Stevenson- 6'9", 207 lbs.- 7.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG

Scouting Report-
Shoot the ball and defend it well inside the arc (15th and 6th), we'll need to connect from outside.
Make 77% of their free throws (7th).
Block a lot of shots (3rd).

Meeks and Patterson are the only two guys who can do real damage, but both are fantastic players. Each saw some foul trouble against Creighton and only managed 28 points and 8 rebounds between them. Stevenson stepped up with 13 and 10 (only his fourth double-double of the year), but I'll wager he's a little rusty two days after playing 38 minutes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

NIT Action

Creighton has sold out tonight's contest with Kentucky (17,500+). That should be a good one with the winner taking on ND on Wednesday. Doug Gottlieb called the matchup between St. Mary's and Davidson "better than any of the first weekend NCAA games." Not true, but should be pretty good nonetheless. The NCAA Tournament made Stephen Curry a household name (instead of, say, just another Keydren Clark). Mills was great against Washington State but we'll see if he can repeat the magic with his second good game since returning from injury (Eastern Washington does not count).

EDIT: Poor Creighton just couldn't finish the job. We play Kentucky tomorrow.

I'd rather just watch Stephen Curry and Paddy Mills play one-on-one. Outdoors, ones and twos, chain baskets. Pretending to play a team game is just silly. I'm sure Bob McKillop is a smart guy. He wouldn't let Curry jack 25 footers and turn the ball over half a dozen times if the rest of his squad was any good. The other eight players are fluctuating from serviceable to clearly intimidated by the surrounding star power. Hubert Davis, I get that both of these guys are fantastic college players (they really are fun to watch), but I don't buy either one's stock on the next level. Having each take twice as many shots as the next guy on their respective teams just makes me more sure that neither school deserved to make the Tournament.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Weekend Conference Comparison

Sweet Sixteen-

Big East- 5
Big XII- 3
ACC- 2
Big Ten- 2
A-10- 1
Pac-10- 1
C-USA- 1
WCC- 1

Some nice games closed out the weekend. Say what you want about Lazar Hayward's step-over (dumb play, good call by the refs), Marquette blew its chances by allowing a three-point play with 48 seconds remaining. Michigan State survived by holding Southern Cal scoreless over the final 3:53. Louisville did not deserve to win, but still outlasted a game Siena squad.

As always, the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament lived up to expectations. With all but two of the top sixteen teams in the country still alive, next weekend should produce a few good contests, as well.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Second Round Games

Kind of a dead few days ahead of us. I can't really preview next Wednesday's contest until we have an opponent (that will be decided Monday night). Until then, a little open-ended discussion on the big-boy tournament is in order.

UCONN and Villanova both looked very good earlier today, the Huskies dominating Texas A&M and the Wildcats defeating UCLA. 'Nova has outscored its opponents by 43 in sixty minutes since going into halftime down ten against American on Thursday. Memphis cruised as well, keeping alive the possibility of a very good defensive Regional Final between the Tigers and Huskies.

Friday, March 20, 2009

NCAA Tournament Comments

Jerel McNeal's got some class. He was tackled by Utah State's Pooh Williams in the closing seconds of their game today, an overaggressive foul by a guy just trying to save his team's season. I can think of a few players who would have started a fight after a foul like that. Instead McNeal slapped the Aggie on the back and helped him off the hardwood. 'Atta boy Jerel.

Nice wins for Siena and Dayton, two Catholic schools with very solid mid-major basketball teams. Unfortunately Dayton provided the coup de grace to my bracket, as I had the Mountaineers in my Elite Eight.

More Discussion of Yesterday's Game

The Irish played some really solid defense last night. It was our fourth good effort on that end in five games, a noticeable improvement over the beginning of the Big East season. The emphasis on defense has allowed Notre Dame to overcome a poor offensive performance.

Average Offensive Efficiencies in Losses- 99.4
Average Defensive Efficiencies in Losses- 116.7
Offensive Efficiency Last Night- 101.4
Defensive Efficiency Last Night- 98.6
Offensive Efficiency Last Five Games- 101.4
Defensive Efficiency Last Five Games- 93.6

Our offense has been tanking since the Providence game (want to bet if tired legs are a factor?), but it has been shadowed by an improvement in offense. While one might want to argue that it has come against easy competition, early season games against DePaul and Seton Hall were shootouts highlighted by poor effort on defense.

A commitment to man-to-man propelled us to a big win against Louisville. Since that game, there has been a noticeable difference in the success of our opponents against the man and the 2-3 zone. Our players are too slow to close out on the perimeter and struggle to shut down the lane against penetration. Stick to man-to-man and keep the other team under a point per trip. A week off should give Ryan and Kyle ample time to rest their legs and I'll wager we see a better shooting game by both players.

An Addendum-

Pomeroy Rankings of NIT Teams-

San Diego St.- 31
St. Mary's- 55
South Carolina- 64
Kansas State- 40
Illinois St.- 61
Davidson- 63
Washington St.- 37
Weber St.- 114

Auburn- 57
Virginia Tech- 56
Baylor- 50
Tulsa- 59
Northwestern- 70
Georgetown- 26
Duquesne- 86
Tenn-Martin- 126

Creighton- 74
Notre Dame- 36
New Mexico- 38
Kentucky- 48
UNLV- 71
Nebraska- 68
UAB- 45
Bowling Green- 140

Florida- 42
Penn St.- 78
Niagara- 76
Miami- 34
Providence- 81
Rhode Island- 72
George Mason- 89
Jacksonville- 129

I tend to use Pomeroy's rankings as a crutch too often and this is only one good comparison, but it is interesting to note. The Irish faced the most difficult road to the quarterfinals of any two seed and have now beaten two of the best teams in the tournament. With Washington State and Georgetown out of the tournament, only two teams remain (Miami and San Diego St.) that are ranked higher than New Mexico. Yeah, it's the NIT, but we have a good shot at winning this thing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Notre Dame 70, New Mexico 68

This game seemed to be a microcosm of the season: strong start, fall apart in the second half. The boys worked their butts off after New Mexico finally tied the game with eight and a half minutes left and hung tight against a pretty good team. Tory Jackson's heroics with two seconds left won the game and left a much needed smile on the faces of the Irish faithful. It's been a rough year, we needed one like this.

We played strong defense in the first half, holding the Lobos to only 24 points. The New Mexico comeback was marked by a noticeable breakdown in fundamentals by Notre Dame. The Irish began slapping at rebounds and allowing multiple chances for New Mexico on offense. With ND in possession, a missed layup by Hillesland and back-to-back forced three pointers stick out most in my mind.

The first offense came in the ultra-critical first four minutes of the second half. Zach streaked down the court and received a baseball pass under the basket with no defenders in sight. Instead of catching the ball with two hands, landing, and laying it up for an easy two points, Hillesland attempted an impossible midair reverse layup. The result was a missed opportunity to boost the lead to 13. Four minutes later, New Mexico had crawled back to only four down.

With 3:22 remaining and the Lobos ahead by four, Notre Dame attempted three shots from beyond the arc in seven seconds. The last shot by Ryan Ayers was a leaner with no real chance of going in. You have to be smarter with your chances in crunch time. Thankfully, we finally got two points out of the possession (on Hillesland free throws) after four attempts.

Enough with the negative. After the Irish went down four point with 6:04 remaining, I really thought we were done. New Mexico showed up with a bunch of fans and, quite simply, seemed to want it more. Then Luke Harangody scored a basket and led to another two points with one of his three steals. Down six with 2:08 left, the nail was clearly in the coffin. Clutch efforts on both ends of the floor tied the game just over a minute later. With another stop, Harangody pulled down the rebound and drained two clutch free throws with 29 seconds left and the Irish pulled ahead for the first time in eight minutes.

Elkhart product Dairese Gary missed on a drive to the basket and Luke Harangody's rebound seemed to seal the game. However, Luke threw the ball away while falling to the floor and New Mexico regained possession down two with 15 seconds left in the ballgame. After the timeout, Gary attempted to drive the lane again and was fouled off of the screen by a switching Ryan Ayers. It was a touch foul, something you probably don't like to see called at that point in the game, but a foul nonetheless. Gary, who had bricked a couple earlier in the game, tied the game with two big foul shots.

Enter Tory Jackson. With no timeouts, Tory dribbled the length of the floor to the free throw line. Fighting off contact with Gary (a good no-call on the touching and possible travel), Jackson slipped to the low post and banked in the winner with just over two seconds left on the clock. Tony Danridge very nearly stole the game back with a half court buzzer beater, but the shot safely bounced out of the basket. Game over, clutch come from beyond win for the Irish.

New Mexico's a good team. Getting to 20 wins against a solid competitor with such a hard-fought game is something to be celebrated. We've beaten the disappointments of this year to death already, so I'll enjoy this one tonight.

Tory really had a great game overall. 16 points, two clutch three pointers, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists for the junior. Only 11 assists for the team, a very low total for one of the best teams in that category. He was perfect from the line and obviously won the game with the last play, a drive that no one else on the roster can execute.

Kyle McAlarney scored 11, but was only 3-9 beyond the arc. Craig's pregame prediction did not come true, as both teams struggled on three point attempts. No assists and only 1 rebound for K-Mac.

Ryan Ayers scored 7 points before fouling out. He did pull down 8 rebounds, a really high total for the senior small forward. That good work on the boards balanced a poor night shooting and propelled ND to its six rebound advantage in the game.

Zach Hillesland was solid in 25 minutes. 7 points, 5 rebounds. He didn't make a big contribution on the offensive end, just 1 for 2 shooting (the one miss was mentioned previously), but made 5 of his 6 free throw attempts. Remember at the beginning of the year when foul shooting really hurt us against Texas? Both Zach and the team have come a long way from the stripe since then. The team went 21-25 tonight.

Luke Harangody played very well, scoring 26 and pulling down 11 boards. 8-10 from the charity stripe, 9-20 from the field. 3 big steals gave the Irish scoring opportunities and topped off much-needed defensive stops. Since the Providence game, Luke has five double-doubles in eight games. The Irish are 5-3 in that stretch, the five wins coming on nights of Harangody's double-doubles.

Off the bench, Ty Nash with a pedestrian 3 points and 2 rebounds. 3 rebounds and 3 assists for Jonathan Peoples. No scoring on three attempts. Not much for Luke Zeller in 5 minutes of play.

For as much as Coach Brey has been (justly) criticized, it was nice to see the guy pumping his fist to the student section after the game. He's a guy you want to see succeed at Notre Dame. You just hope that someday he'll figure this coaching thing out.

I know no one wanted to be celebrating second round wins in the NIT this year. It;s frustrating to even be in this position. Still, we won a good game and get to play next Wednesday, maybe at home. The story of this season is not quite over.

EDIT: Thanks to the 3013 who showed up today. If we get a home game against Kentucky next week, we should get a decent turn-out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Mexico Preview

New Mexico-
Pomeroy Ranking- 36th
Record- 22-11 (12-4)
Quality Wins- BYU, San Diego St., Utah
Bad Losses- Central Florida, Drake, Wyoming
Common Opponents- None

Key Players-
#32 Tony Danridge- 6'5", 215 lbs.- 15.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG
#30 Roman Martinez- 6'6", 180 lbs.- 10.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 41.9% 3PA
#53 Daniel Faris- 6'9", 245 lbs.- 12.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG

Scouting Report-
Don't allow offensive rebounds (11th).
They foul a lot, giving opponents nearly a free throw for each two shots attempted (330th).
Don't get shots blocked or the ball stolen (17th and 15th), two things the Irish don't do well anyways.

Also, a reminder that after the Irish play their last game I will have a Season in Review and Look Forward to Next Season. Here's to a couple more weeks before I have to write those.

Next Game

Thursday at 7 on ESPN2 at the Joyce Center. Opponent looks to be New Mexico, ranked one spot below us by Ken Pomeroy and a team that split the regular season title in the Mountain West.

EDIT: SienaSaintsBlog.com mentions a possible contract extension for Fran McCaffery and how the former Irish assistant would probably not leave Siena for any job except Notre Dame. Also links to this site, so I'll reciprocate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Notre Dame 70, UAB 64

Pretty uninspired effort by the Irish is enough to get the job done and propel them into the second round of the NIT.

With a couple thousand fans on hand (probably something like the 3314 we had in '06 [EDIT: 2039, worse than Chris Thomas' senior year]), the Joyce Center was embarrassingly barren. Can't really blame the locals for not showing up to see a former top-ten team play in the NIT.

Robert Vaden was very impressive in his final game as a Blazer, scoring 24 on 6-13 shooting from beyond the arc. He shot over every defender we put on him and really made our perimeter defense look bad.

Tory Jackson was pretty iffy, matching 4 turnovers with his 4 assists tonight. He wasted a couple of critical possessions down the stretch by draining the shot clock and taking some pretty unhelpful drives to the basket. Those failed trips nearly single-handedly gave UAB a chance to get back in the game. 9 points with a nice night from the line (4-4), but poor shooting overall (2-9).

Kyle McAlarney scored 12 points on 3-6 shooting. Very Ryan Ayers-esque in his approach, not forcing anything and just knocking down the open looks. He did assist on baskets four times without a single turnover. 4-4 from the line as well.

Ryan Ayers finished with 9 points and 4 rebounds. Add 2 steals and an assist to that total. Zach Hillesland hurt himself, yet again, and only played 12 minutes.

Luke Harangody picked up a tenth rebound in the final minute to finish with yet another double double. He settled down in the second half and scored 22 in the game. In the first half, Luke missed some layups under the basket and bricked a couple three pointers. When he resolves to spend some more time in the paint and stop fading away on every shooting attempt, the Irish run well on offense. However, Luke often turns himself into a midrange player and runs back on defense like a guard which impairs offensive efficiency and eliminates any opportunity for second chance points.

Not a whole lot to say about this game. The guys just seemed flat playing in front of the empty seats at home. UAB bailed them out on the charity stripe (5-13) and generally looked like a vastly inferior team after watching Big East competition since January. Hopefully we can shake out the cobwebs and play better on Thursday or Friday against the winner of the Nebraska/New Mexico game (most likely Steve Alford's bunch). We do know that the next game will be at home, unless the women's NCAA tournament moves it to Fort Wayne.

In other news, Luke Harangody has been named a second team All-American by the USBWA. Congrats, Luke.

EDIT: Next game will be Thursday at the Joyce Center. Come one, come all.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Coaching Carousel

Black Monday for a few jobs of importance. Former Irish assistant Matt Kilcullen got the ax at North Florida today. At least that means we won't schedule a team with the second fewest wins in the country again. Virginia coach Dave Leitao also was fired, leaving open the possibility of a Mike Brey departure or a Fran McCaffery promotion.

UAB Preview

We've gone over the season a few times already. Win the next five games and this season seems a little less depressing. Lose, and well it can't really get any worse than this, can it?

Pomeroy Ranking- 42nd
Record- 22-11 (11-5)
Quality Wins- @ Arizona
Bad Losses- None
Common Opponents- Beat South Florida 78-77 OT, Lost @ Cincinnati 87-80, Lost @ Louisville 82-62
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 76-71

Key Players-
#24 Robert Vaden- 6'5", 205 lbs.- 17.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 34.1 3PA
#4 Paul Delaney III- 6'2", 200 lbs.- 16.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 37.9% 3PA
#21 Lawrence Kinnard- 6'8", 210 lbs.- 14.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 30.8% 3PA

Scouting Report-
Don't turn the ball over a lot (9th).
Don't allow offensive rebounds (40th).
Don't let opponents shoot a lot of free throws (43rd).

In short, the Blazers play pretty good D (39th) with a decent offense (67th). We should beat them with a good game, but a cold shooting night and sluggish defense will almost certainly lead to our demise.

On a personal note, I'd like to ask anyone in the South Bend area to attend tomorrow's game. It's St. Patrick's Day and possibly your last chance to watch four seniors who have had a tremendous impact on the program and have at least been great ambassadors for the University during their short time here. This isn't Chris Thomas and Dennis Latimore tanking against Holy Cross in '06. I'm not certain if we will win tomorrow or not, but I know for damn sure that these guys will play their hearts out. Let's send them off with more than just a couple thousand people in the stands.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


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

Dropped Out: West Virginia (#24).

NIT Selection Show

It's UAB at home on St. Patrick's Day. 9 PM, ESPN2.

EDIT: Tough, tough draw. The other two 7 seeds released so far were St. Mary's (61st) and Duqesne (87th). UAB is ranked 42nd by Ken Pomeroy. If we can make it past the first round, we play New Mexico (38th) or Nebraska (73rd). Top seed in the bracket is Creighton (67th).

Oh, well. We're in the NIT, so we might as well win it. Go Irish, beat Blazers.


My Final Four:


Cards v. Zags in the final
Cards win

Upset: 12 Wisconsin over 5 Florida State
No real Cinderellas, but I have 6-seed West Virginia in the Elite Eight.

EDIT: Digger just picked both Pittsburgh and Xavier to make the Elite Eight on ESPN. That's not possible, buddy.

Flawed Bracketology

Selection Sunday, one of the best sporting days of the year. Selection Sunday, the only reason Joe Lunardi makes more money than you do.

His Last Four In (Pomeroy Ranking):

Minnesota (45th)- The Big Ten is ridiculously overrated this year, but the Golden Gophers get a pass from me because they aren't Penn State. They beat Louisville on a neutral site, a good win even if it was at the beginning of the year. I don't get how 9-9 is clearly good enough in the Big Ten (not listed in the "Last Three In") when the Irish are well off the bubble at 8-10 in a much better conference and ranked eight spots higher by Pomeroy.

Maryland (54th)- 7-9 puts the Terrapins in but the Irish are well out at 8-10? Not that I think Notre Dame deserves to be in the Tournament (they don't), but this is the best example I know of how erratic basketball seeding is. Beat UNC and Miami at home, but was absolutely pounded by Georgetown on a neutral site. Ranked 28 places below the Hoyas by Pomeroy.

Creighton (68th)- Talking heads have to be careful talking about mid-majors because they don't want to offend anyone. However, there's a reason high-major teams take almost all of the at-large bids. They're better, it's not even close. With the exception of George Mason in 2006, a team that was actually seeded far too low at 11, mid-major schools just don't stack up against ACC and Big East programs. The Patriots' numbers ranked them 23rd that year. If there's anything I've come to learn about Ken Pomeroy's computer rankings, it's that they are the single best predictors of future success that I have found in college basketball. 23rd is good, 68th is not.

St. Mary's (60th)- Speaking of overrated small school teams, I give you the Gaels. Much is being made about how they lost Paddy Mills in the middle of the season and could have contended for a WCC title with him healthy. But who have they beaten? San Diego State? Utah State? Providence is decent, too, but no other wins over the top 100. The game of basketball is about winning, not trying really hard with your leader out.

Teams Who Should Be In-

Arizona (39th), San Diego State (34th), New Mexico (38th)- The Wildcats have fallen down the stretch, but they have some really big wins to their credit. Beating Gonzaga, Kansas, Washington, and UCLA as part of your nine top 100 wins is much better than St. Mary's joke of a resume. The Gaels did beat San Diego State head-to-head, but the difference between strengths of schedule is enormous. The Aztecs played a non-conference schedule ranked about 160 spots above Creaighton. If you're looking for a mid-major to support, why not one that's actually battle-hardened? New Mexico is another good option, having beaten Creighton by seven on the road. Their quality wins have come in conference, but BYU and Utah are ranked much higher than anybody the last two teams have defeated.

Team Who Should Be Really Really Far Out of the NCAA Tournament-

Penn State (78th)- 10-8 puts you on the bubble in the Big Ten, but Big East team Providence is sniffing a 3 or 4 seed in the NIT. In the words of Dick Vitale, "Are you kidding me?" Sure, they beat Purdue by three at home, but have since been clearly out of their element against the Boilermakers. Michigan State is a good win, same with two against Illinois, but 38-33 is an incredible load of filth. Their defense, one of the few remaining excuses for Big Ten apologists, is worse than Notre Dame's (117th).

NIT Bracket Project

Congrats to Louisville. I love watching their full-court D. Nice to know they should be a 1 seed tomorrow.

Speaking of Bracketology, how about the NIT Bracket Project? (yes, there is one) Most other NIT projections have us as a 3 seed against a variety of opponents. We'll find out for sure tomorrow night.

As for the real tournament, the Bracket Project has three Big East teams on the top line. It would be cool to see, we'll find that out a little earlier tomorrow night.

EDIT: I knew about the CBI, but the CollegeInsider.com Tournament? Just give the bad teams an early break.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today's Games

Syracus continues their improbable stretch of great play in the BET and made the finals with an overtime win over West Virginia. They play Louisville tonight. The Cards have a shot at a 1 seed with a win.

Memphis used some great D to win the C-USA tourney 64-39. LSU is out of the SEC Tournament. Good game between Florida State and UNC right now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Great Syracuse/UCONN Game

I didn't think anything would top 'Nova/Marquette today, but this one is good. Punk Devendorf hit a great three that was not allowed by the slimmest of margins and just bowled Jeff Adrien over behind the ball like a four-year-old who had his toy taken away.

Just this once I'll cheer for Hasheem Thabeet and laptop-thief A.J. Price.

EDIT: 6 overtime game. Unbelievable.

Good luck to West Virginia in the finals...

Short List

Any ideas for coaches ND should take a look at?

Here are mine:

Fran McCaffery- Siena- Former ND assistant who would take the job in a hurry. Solid at Lehigh and UNC Greensboro. Two straight NCAA berths at Siena. Not the best you could get, but would be a good fit.

Brad Stevens- Butler- Two great years at Butler, but it's still early in his career. Not a great recruiter, just average for a mid-major school.

Scott Drew- Baylor- Has local connections. Resurrected the Baylor program, but seems to have hit the ceiling a bit. Has recruited one five-star and a pair of four-stars in the past three years. Beat out teams like Texas and Marquette in recruiting battles.

Darrin Horn- South Carolina- Pretty solid at Western Kentucky, made the Sweet 16 once. Tied for tops in the SEC East in his first season after the program finished fifth last year.

Mark Few- Gonzaga- Chances of him leaving Spokane are slim to none, but he may be starting to wear out his welcome. Has taken Dan Monson's squad to the next level, but has kind of leveled out into a NCAA first weekend team. The question is if he can give a high major program the same kind of success.

Billy Gillispie- Kentucky- A bit of a jerk, but he worked miracles at UTEP and A&M. Kentucky fans may run him out of town soon, but he's a very good coach and brings home top-notch recruits.

With Regards to Coaching

Just a little preemptive post to avoid some of the comments that have been popping up on other Notre Dame fan sites.

If you want to criticize the coaching staff, by all means feel free. However, make sure you have specific criticisms and the facts to back it up. Let's avoid the "Mike Brey sucks" and mindless ranting that so often ruins what could be a good conversation about the future of the program. Once again, I think most if not all of you have been model citizens here in the past, so I'm not expecting anything untoward.

That said, I'd be shocked to see a coaching change this season. Maybe Virginia or Maryland will open up, leaving Coach Brey and the University with an opportunity to separate amicably. Who knows. I'm thinking about doing a little research on some possible names for a short list post should the job become available, so feel free to drop any names you think might be a good fit.

Hey, I'm as frustrated as of you. However, eventually I think we'll end up in the same position as the football team. Coach with an ultimatum to improve next season or be shown the door. All things considered, I feel the same way about Coach Brey's job here as I do about Weis (though personally I like Brey a hell of a lot more than Weis). We're closer to where we want to be than when he started, but we might need someone else to take us to the Promised Land. That doesn't make him a bad guy or a bad coach, it just means we might need to move in a different direction soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

West Virginia 71, Notre Dame 62

First eight minutes of tonight's game: 17-2 West Virginia. The Irish came out in a zone defense and kept with it for most of this stretch. 4 offensive rebounds led to 6 second chance points for the Mountaineers. Game over before it even really begins.

Of course, scoring just two points in twelve early possessions does not exactly bode well for your squad. The Irish were tentative on both sides of the floor, failed to set screens, and just plain outworked under the basket. Poor coaching and motivation to start the game and an embarrassing lack of effort from the players for most of the first half just killed us. If you can't get up for a game like this, you have no business playing Division I Basketball.

In the second half, we played much better, but it begs the question why we could not have shown the same effort in the first 20 minutes. Coach Brey's technical with 11 minutes remaining was a welcome show of fire that really turned the calls in our direction. However, it would have been more valuable four minutes earlier down 12 instead of in an 18 point hole.

Tenacious man defense really turned the momentum in our favor and we turned a 20 point deficit into just 7 with three minutes remaining. Luke Harangody was his old self, going off for 27 points and carrying the team down the stretch. Our mentality completely changed with the switch to man and we started banging around in the post as well.

Overall, a very disappointing loss. The final score was not terrible, but it stings a little extra to see the quality of basketball we should have shown all game and in every game this year.

I've been supporter of Mike Brey for a very long time, but clearly we have not performed at an acceptable level this year. Jack Swarbrick should make it known that big changes need to be made (a la Charlie Weis after the football season) and improvement is expected. If we're floundering around in the NIT next season, let's take a look elsewhere. However, for as much as some may want a change (I'm starting to lean in that direction, but not there yet) it's not going to happen this year.

To the NIT it is. There's only one acceptable outcome now: win it all. No more losses the rest of the year.

6 points for Toy Jackson before fouling out. He needs to stop thinking of himself as a shooter and taking ill-advised threes on offense. Also needs to grow out of a tendency to dribble to the baseline in an attempt to create offense. More often that not it just turns into a trap.

K-Mac shot well in what might be his last trip to the Garden. 17 points on 4-9 from beyond the arc. Yet again he gave us nothing (1-5) inside. However, 5 assists to just 2 turnovers handling the ball.

Ryan Ayers missed a couple good looks that could have turned the tide but still finished with a good shooting line. 11 points on 3-6 beyond the arc.

Zach Hillesland grabbed 5 rebounds, a surprisingly solid number for how bad he looked at times. No points in 20 minutes, not a whole lot of help on offense or defense.

Harangody carried the team in the second half, but it was too little too late. 27 points, 8 rebounds. In the first half, he didn't establish himself in the post and was lazy on defense. He did pick it up a lot in the second half and his best position on defense might be that one-man zone we were playing as we made a couple second half runs.

Ty Nash was the only guy who really played physical basketball in the first half. He finished with 7 rebounds. There is no reason why Zach Hillesland should start over this guy. For a team that frequently plays soft, he's one player who likes to throw his weight around. Zeller gave nothing in 7 minutes, Peoples was just a touch better in 10 minutes.

West Virginia played really physical basketball with lots of rebounding and hustle on defense. They're better than any team we will see in the NIT, but you can be a couple squads will be just as tough. We need to play like we did in the second half to make an NIT run. A first or second round exit in the nation's tournament for losers would be one final kick in the stomach.

West Virginia BET In-Game

Go Irish. Beat Mountaineers.

EDIT: WHY ARE WE PLAYING ZONE? Ruoff just hit a wide-open three pointer and the defense has done nothing to stop scoring inside. Offensive rebounding, the reason we lost last time, is much much easier against the zone than man defense. Dumb coaching.

This is starting to look like a fitting end to a pathetic season. Coach, please stop clapping and encouraging your team for this embarrasing performance. Get in someone's face and make them realize that lazy defense and free passes on the boards are unacceptable.

On the offensive end, this is the Washington State game from last year. Bad shot selection, no good cuts on offense, I've never been more embarrassed to watch a Notre Dame team.

Providence Scapes By

You hear people talk about Notre Dame having a high "Basketball IQ" sometimes. It's kind of a weird term. What really is a high "Basketball IQ?" Don't ask DePaul, the idiotic shot selection and decision making by the boys in blue really killed a good chance to knock off Providence today. Three pointers that barely graze the rim on a two-on-one? Allowing a 15-1 run in five minutes highlighted by giving up two turnovers and three offensive rebounds? Just fire Jerry Wainwright already.

EDIT: I didn't realize that the injured ref in the St. John's game yesterday was Mike Kitts. Kitts, my most respected referee since the home Louisville game, was unconscious briefly and suffered a chipped tooth and some facial bruising. However, he should be back on the court tomorrow. Nice to see some toughness from the wily twelve year vet. Go get 'em, Mike!

Catholic Conference

A plan for an all-Catholic school conference laid out in the Dayton Daily News. As Marc Katz would have it:

Marquette- 23rd nationally by Pomeroy
Xavier- 24th
ND- 35th
Creighton- 67th
Dayton- 80th
Saint Louis- 138th
DePaul- 206th
Detroit- 278th
Canisius- 221st
Loyola Chicago- 224th

I'm intrigued by the idea, but I definitely don't buy his parity argument. There are only three or four solid basketball programs on that list, two of which are weak bubble teams right now. Sure, Dayton is good for an upset or two and DePaul really should be better than they are with a great recruiting base, but overall this league is much weaker than the A-10.

How about breaking the Big East into divisions? One Catholic and one secular.

Catholic Division-

Villanova- 20th
Marquette- 23rd
Georgetown- 27th
ND- 35th
Seton Hall- 75th
Providence- 77th
St. John's- 105th
DePaul- 206th

While not geographically perfect, it keeps a great basketball conference together and puts like-minded schools in the same division. Interesting.

EDIT: An idea from NDNation:

Catholic Conference with two divisions:

East Division-
St. John's
Seton Hall
St. Joe's

Midwest Division-

The second part of this post is what intrigues me the most, however. What about a rivalry with the all-Christian (seven Catholic schools and Pepperdine) West Coast Conference? Pair the Irish and 'Zags, Marquette and St. Mary's, etc. for a version of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

West Virginia BET Preview

Cleveland State just took a shot at the dreams of bubble teams everywhere by beating Butler. Whatever, we still need to keep winning.

West Virginia-
Pomeroy Ranking- 9th
Record- 21-10 (10-8)
Quality Wins- @ Ohio State, @ Georgetown, Villanova
Bad Losses- None
Previous Meeting- WVU 79-68

Key Players-
#1 Da'Sean Butler- 6'7", 225 lbs.- 17.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 35.5% 3PA
#22 Alex Ruoff- 6'6", 220 lbs.- 15.7 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.6 RPG, 37.6% 3PA
#3 Devin Ebanks- 6'9", 205 lbs.- 9.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG

Previous Matchup
West Virginia controlled the offensive glass, with 15 to our 5.
Alex Ruoff scored 24 with 9-16 (4-8) shooting.
19 points for Butler, but only 2-10 beyond the arc.

Notre Dame 61, Rutgers 50

Win. That's all that matters in March. Survived tonight and now it's a four-game tournament just like last year.

Pretty solid D all night helped out by really bad Rutgers shooting all night. Our offense operated in fits and starts, however. Three or four cold stretches won't cut it against good teams.

Harangody got a lot of rest, leaving him ready to go the rest of the way. Unfortunately, part of the bench time was due to poor play. He kills us on offense when he falls in love with the fadeaway and the shots aren't falling. I love Luke as much as the next guy, but would it kill him to follow his shot once in a while? Why is the best rebounder int he Big East the first guy back on defense?

ESPN gave Tom Kopko an offensive rebound and a basket during the game, so no promises on these stats being correct.

Tory Jackson played really well and was so effective that Rutgers starting giving him the McAlarney treatment. Being faceguarded down the stretch kept Tory from handling the ball and really hurt our ability to kill the clock. Jackson finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds. Add in 2 assists with a nice shooting night from the floor.

Kyle McAlarney has an annoying tendency to make easy shots inside more difficult. Nice shooting night beyond the arc, 3-6 for 11 points, but he missed four makeable looks inside. One was a floater in the lane with too much arc. Just finish with a finger-roll or bank it off the glass, no need to use a low-percentage shot in a high-percentage situation. The other that really sticks out was a blocked layup after a great backdoor cut. With defenders guarding Mac so heavily on the perimeter, that cut will always be available. He did a nice job taking advantage but really has to learn how to finish. Those negative examples aside, solid game by Mac getting a couple open looks and not forcing anything.

Ayers had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Same story here, good shooting outside with nothing inside the arc. With Ryan the missed shots were midrange jumpers off the dribble. Once he actually posted up and tried to hit a turnaround in the lane. Poor two point shooting, but a very nice final stat line for Ryan. He'll need to rebound like that against a West Virginia team that relies so much on the offensive glass.

Zach Hillesland got some points on early midrange jumpers, but disappeared after the first few minutes. 6 points, 2 rebounds in 19 minutes. Good job by Coach Brey benching him down the stretch for a much more effective Ty Nash.

As mentioned, Harangody was really off tonight. Luke is great but his game really relies on a hot jumper. 3-17 will not cut it. 7 points, 11 rebounds. Only 24 minutes, so he should be fresh tomorrow, but he really has to come out and play well.

Off the bench, a great game by Ty Nash. 9 points, 4 rebounds in 21 minutes. Made both his shots. The most important stat tonight, however, was his 5-6 line shooting free throws. He was on the floor in crunch time and extended our lead to seven with a minute remaining. I yelled at the computer screen for Ty to get rid of the ball, but he really impressed with two clutch foul shots. Add in 3 assists (and a nice pass to a wide open Zeller who should have hit the three) and Nash was fantastic all around. Threw his weight around under the basket, picked up a few boards, knocked down shots from the line, and passed out of the low post to the open man. Great job, Ty. Zeller hit two clutch three pointers to keep Rutgers from really taking over the momentum. Jonathan Peoples struggled a bit with 2 turnovers in 12 minutes.

Avoided the first round loss that killed Cincy and G'town's chances. Now we have probably have to win two more. Last game against West Virginia was decided on the offensive glass. If we can cut into the ten offensive rebound advantage that the Mountaineers held in Morgantown and keep Alex Ruoff from taking over on offense, we have a shot.

Cincinnati is Dead

After losing to an 0-18 DePaul team that wouldn't (and shouldn't) have even made the BET last year, the Bearcats are headed to the NIT. It's up to Providence and ND now to give the Big East a shot at an eighth bid.

EDIT: Georgetown's done too. Nice to see St. John's get a win and it would be good for the Red Storm to go on a little run. At least we can say that the Hoyas' season was ruined by Norm Roberts' team even more than our season has been.

Thabeet and Blair split Big East Player of the Year honors. Monroe is the Big East Rookie of the Year. Villanova's Jay Wright is the best coach.

Pomeroy Bracketology

Conference Champions (*-Projected, Pomeroy Ranking in Perentheses)-

ACC- North Carolina (2)*
America East- Binghamton (160)*
Atlantic Sun- East Tennessee State (161)
Atlantic 10- Xavier (25)*
Big XII- Kansas (10)*
Big East- Louisvile (8)*
Big Sky- Weber St. (101)*
Big South- Radford (172)
Big Ten- Michigan St. (11)*
Big West- CSU Northridge (107)*
Colonial- Virginia Commonwealth (52)
Conference USA- Memphis (1)*
Horizon- Butler (40)*
Ivy- Cornell (100)
MAAC- Siena (65)
MAC- Bowling Green (151)*
MEAC- Morgan St. (153)*
Missouri Valley- Northern Iowa (84)
Mountain West- BYU (13)
Northeast- Robert Morris (124)*
Ohio Valley- Morehead State (166)
Pac 10- Washington (14)*
Patriot- American (115)*
SEC- LSU (43)*
Southern- Chattanooga (213)
Southland- Stephen F. Austin (96)*
Summit- North Dakota St. (68)*
Sunbelt- Western Kentucky (103)*
SWAC- Alabama St. (203)*
WAC- Utah St. (56)*
West Coast- Gonzaga (5)

Top 34 At-Large Teams (Based on Pomeroy Rankings)-

Pitt (4)
Duke (6)
UCLA (7)
West Virginia (9)
Missouri (12)
Arizona St. (15)
Wake Forest (16)
Oklahoma (17)
Clemson (18)
Purdue (19)
Villanova (20)
Syracuse (21)
Illinois (22)
Marquette (23)
Georgetown (24)
Utah (26)
Texas (27)
Wisconsin (28)
California (29)
Miami, Florida (30)
Oklahoma St. (31)
New Mexico (32)
USC (33)
Arizona (34)
Washington St. (35)
Notre Dame (36)
Florida St. (37)
Tennessee (38)
UAB (39)
Kansas St. (41)
San Diego St. (42)
Florida (44)
Texas A&M (45)

Looking at it this way, the Irish are deserving of a bid (and so is a 7-11 Georgetown team).

Major Conference Teams In:
ACC- 6
Big East- 9
Big Ten- 4
Big XII- 7
Pac 10- 7
SEC- 3

Mountain West- 4

Monday, March 09, 2009

Conference Comparison

You're going to hear a lot of talk this week about which conference is the best. Obviously I am partial to the Big East and also dislike the Big Ten due to living in the midwest for most of my life, but you can judge for yourself.

Pomeroy Rankings-

Teams in the Top 10-
ACC- 2
Big East- 3
Big Ten- 0

Teams in the Top 25-
ACC- 4
Big East- 8
Big Ten- 3

Discussion over. Pomeroy ranks the ACC tops due to its strength at the bottom (all twelve teams are in the top 100) with the Pac 10 second (similar story, with 9 teams in the top 50 and 3 in the top 25). I can live with that. DePaul is awful with South Florida and Rutgers just a touch better, but the Big East has sixteen teams.

Average Rankings of the Top Ten Teams-
ACC- 38.3
Big East- 22.3 (nine in the top 35, then #76 Providence)
Big Ten- 45

This is a good comparison. Eliminate the cupcakes of each league (Virginia/Georgia Tech, the Big East bottom four, and Indiana), and see the true talent in each conference. It's not a competition.

I'm sick of hearing Big Ten homers put as many as eight teams in the Tournament. Only four are truly deserving. The rest would be eaten alive by the seven Big East locks. Heck, I'd put my money on Georgetown or ND (well, maybe not the Irish) against Ohio State or Northwestern on a neutral court right now. Michigan or Northwestern? It wouldn't be competitive.

That's not to say Notre Dame or the Hoyas are worthy of a tournament bid right now. Of course they aren't. However, considering the Big Ten for more than four bids is pure silliness. Watching the Big Ten Tournament this week will make you nauseous. Talking heads like Brent Musberger will try to convince you that the trash produced by Big Ten offenses is a product of great defense. Let's see if that's true.

Average Defensive Rankings of the Top Ten Teams-
ACC- 59.3
Big East- 43.2
Big Ten- 52.8

Teams With Top 25 (Top 10) Defenses-
ACC- 4 (1)
Big East- 4 (3)
Big Ten- 4 (3)

Average Offensive Rankings of the Top Ten Teams-
ACC- 40.2
Big East- 19.2
Big Ten- 57.6

Not even close.

Rutgers BET Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 142nd
Record- 11-20 (2-16)
Quality Wins- South Florida!
Bad Losses- St. Bonaventure, Lehigh, Binghamton
Previous Result- ND 70-65

Key Players-
#3 Mike Rosario- 6'3", 180 lbs.- 16.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 30.2% 3PA
#00 Gregory Echenique- 6'9", 260 lbs.- 8.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG
#2 Anthony Farmer- 6'1", 190 lbs.- 9.2 PPG, 2.7 APG, 29.4% 3PA

Previous Matchup-
Rutgers jumped out to a quick lead and was ahead by eight at the half.
Harangody's 20 and 15 led the team, helped by 18 points for Jackson and 13 for McAlarney.
Mike Rosario paced the Scarlet Knights with 20 points.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Final Regular Season Ballot

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

Dropped Out: Louisiana St. (#23), Florida St. (#24).

Pitt jumps to #1 with another convincing win over UCONN. The top four teams have really separated themselves from the field, however, and all four should receive first place votes. Oklahoma is a distant fifth with only five losses but some really damning computer numbers. Pomeroy puts Duke in the #5 slot, but four other teams could really lay claim to it. Seeding will be interesting in a week.

Big East Tournament and Awards

Official bracket here. Georgetown did luck out with a relatively easy first three rounds. 9-9 would have put us in Cincinnati's position with DePaul/Providence/Louisville. Oh well, we played ourselves into the slot we are now.

Harangody's back on the Big East First Team. Shame K-Mac couldn't get a little recognition.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Assuming Louisville Wins Tonight

I'll edit this after the game. If the game ended right now:
  1. Louisville
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. Connecticut
  4. Villanova
  5. Marquette
  6. Syracuse
  7. West Virginia
  8. Providence
  9. Cincinnati
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Seton Hall
  12. Georgetown
  13. St. John's
  14. South Florida
  15. Rutgers
  16. DePaul
Irish Big East Schedule:

First Round- Rutgers
Second Round- West Virginia
Quarterfinals- Pittsburgh

First two rounds are already locked in. West Virginia beating Louisville tonight would put the Cards in the two slot and make them our potential quarterfinal opponent.

Why This Team Has Underperformed

I don't read Basketball Prospectus as much as I should and an e-mail tipped me off about this article. Very interesting read.

The e-mail was from a very nice Italian guy who apparently stumbled across the blog somehow. Small, small world.

EDIT: Don't blame the short bench.

Number of Players in the Pitt/UCONN Game Who Played 10+ Minutes-
Pittsburgh- 7 (Gibbs played 3 minutes)
Connecticut- 6 (Edwards and Haralson played 6 and 5 minutes, respectively)

Also, it's time to demote South Florida, Rutgers, DePaul, and Georgetown to the Big Ten. An average of under 44 points? Make it stop!

Notre Dame 74, St. John's 55

A nice solid win in the final game of the regular season sends the seniors off on a high note but reminds us of what should have been this year.

Thge Irish shot 50% from the floor, but more importantly held the Red Storm to 29% shooting (a decrease from 45%) to avoid a second loss to St. John'.

Tory Jackson did not start, both an attempt to send a message to the off-and-on point guard and an opportunity to let captain Luke Zeller start his final regular season game. Tory responded well with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Most important stat of the day was Jackson's lack of turnovers.

Kyle McAlarney played more point guard than usual, resulting in 5 assists, and scored 8 points following an emotional Senior Day ceremony. Mac clearly was the fan favorite and gave the students in attendence a nice little wave.

Ryan Ayers shot very well. 15 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds. 4-6 from beyond the arc. Brother and recruit Cameron was in attendence today and stood on the floor for the ceremony alongside Ryan and mom.

8 rebounds for Zach Hillesland as he returned from injury. That is his second highest total of the Big East season. Added 6 assists and 3 steals to offset just scoring 4 points. Where has this overall production been all year?

Luke Harangody was back at full force. 31 points, 12 rebounds. 13-22 from the field. Perhaps most importantly, 2-3 beyond the arc. If he can show that consistent soft touch from outside, he will earn a living at the next level.

Luke Zeller started but only played 18 minutes. 5 points, nothing else. Ty Nash gave us 4 rebounds in 15 minutes. Only 5 minutes for Peoples and mop-up duty for Scott and Andree.

17-13 (8-10). That's where we stand after a long season of basketball. By the end of this weekend, everything will be wrapped up for the Big East regular season and we can focus on the tournaments. Let's see what happens.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Senior Week- Ryan Ayers

Check out the roundtable questions on the post below.

Ryan Ayers is a bit of an enigma. Unlike Kyle McAlarney, he was never really able to use his incredible shooting ability to develop into a consistent scorer. However, unlike Zeller and Hillesland, he honed his one skill and really became the best player possible with limited athletic ability. It isn't a development question as much as a lack of consistent scoring from the small forward spot.

Ryan entered the program as a three-star shooting guard. The son of a very good professional player and coach, Ayers always demonstrated a strong work ethic and commitment to improving his shot.

Ayers saw limited minutes freshman and sophomore year. Junior season, he became a starter but lost his position partway through to year to Zach Hillesland. Clearly a shooter with incredible talent, Ayers stroked 45% from beyond the arc in 2008. However, he disappeared in losses to Marquette and Georgetown and finished with an average of 7.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

This year, Ryan has improved his stats with increased minutes while dropping his shooting percentage a bit. In dip in percentage has been a small problem, however, due to his showing a bit more assertiveness in looking for his shot. My biggest problem with Ayers throughout his career was his inability to step up and become the needed third scorer. Against South Dakota, he flirted with the school record for three pointers and scored 35 points. He disappeared again at the beginning of the Big East season, but has responded to a midseason benching with seven double digit scoring games in his past ten contests. His performances against Providence and Villanova are indicators of his final development into the consistent third scorer we have needed so much this year. Unfortunately, it has been too little too late as other players have disappeared on offense and the team's defense has been terrible all year.

Ryan is a decent defender who uses his long wingspan to make up for a lack of athleticism. Unfortunately, that lack of athleticism has really held him back on both ends of the floor. Combine Ayers' shot with a guy like Carleton Scott and we would have one really good basketball player.

Still, you can't blame him for just making the most of what God gave him. I wish we could have him another year because you really get the feeling that Ryan has been turning the corner towards the end of this season. Finally overcoming the tentativeness to shoot that has held him back his whole career, Ayers is turning into a pretty decent option on the wing. Thanks for your hard work, Ryan. I wish we could have seen this from you sooner.

Big East Blogger Roundtable

East Coast Bias is hosting a roundtable discussion for Big East basketball blogs. My answers to their questions:

1. Who is on your all-conference team (if the all-conference team stopped at 5)? Who is your player of the year; coach of the year; freshman of the year?

All-Conference Team-

Luke Harangody- Notre Dame
Jerel McNeal- Marquette
DeJuan Blair- Pittsburgh
Hasheem Thabeet- Connecticut
Jeremy Hazell- Seton Hall

Player of the Year- Blair- Easily outplayed Thabeet head to head. Not the top scorer on the team, but changes games with his rebounding ability.
Coach of the Year- Jamie Dixon- Pittsburgh- Has team in position for share of Big East title after being picked third. Calhoun and Pitino are also good picks since no one has really surprised this season.
Freshman of the Year- Greg Monroe- Georgetown- Not the best stats, but very efficient and clearly the most talented.

2. How did your team do, in 100 words or less - surprises, disappointments, etc.

Very disappointing season. The Irish went from a top ten squad (probably overrated at the time) to out of the Tournament. A very experienced squad looked uncomfortable most of the time and could not score at the same level once Kyle McAlarney was discovered by opponents. Defense has been very poor all year.

3. Pick one "most overrated: most overrated player, team, coach, venue, or anything else you can think of (be creative).

Hasheem Thabeet hands down. He is a fantastic defensive player, but has received a ridiculous amount of hype for Player of the Year all season. He uses the fifth most possessions on the team (behind injured Jerome Dyson and substitute Kemba Walker), indicating he is a very small factor on offense for the team. Irish fans, think Luke Zeller, our #5 possession-user. Seriously, that's the kind of non-factor Thabeet is on offense.

4. Will a Big East team win it all? How many will get to the Sweet Sixteen (obviously, brackets and seeding will play a part)?

Yes, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Louisville could take it all the way. My money's on UCONN. I think we'll only see four teams in the Sweet Sixteen, with those three and Villanova/Marquette.

5. Good or bad, who was the most surprising team in the league?

The Irish were picked 4th. They'll finish 10th. No one else had that big a disparity from preseason to final standings.

6. Favorite and least favorite teams, aesthetically, to watch in the Big East.

I love watching Louisville. I'm used to seeing good offense with the Irish so some good D is fun to watch. Full court press is a fantastic weapon when used correctly. Guys like Andre McGee and Preston Knowles are defensive stoppers off the bench.

Georgetown's Princeton-style offense is frustrating for opponents when it works. Since John Thompson has been unable to teach his team how to play this year, it has been brutal for friend and foe alike. Six games with less than 60 points? 3-10 in their past 13? Losing to St. John's? Ugly.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

New Link

Villanova Viewpoint is now linked at the right. I think they were there previously, not sure why I deleted the link.

Senior Week- Kyle McAlarney

I was going to save K-Mac for Thursday, but we'll talk about him today. Full disclosure: I got some help with this article, but the co-author doesn't want any credit (so I'll take it all).

One of the things that some people who watch Kyle McAlarney may not know is how great a teammate he really is. Dating back to High School, Kyle was a team-first player who always treated players like they were the best on the court. Kyle's HS team was not anywhere the top of any national rankings, and not even near the top of their own league's standings, and the other players on the team lacked any real athleticism. Despite the other players dropping passes, and missing shots in games Kyle was never seen belittling a team, on the contrary building them up. This can be backed up by the fact that Kyle chose to speak about each of his teammates one by one, and saved a team manager who stayed to rebound after practice for last. Kyle simply stated that, "he makes me better."

While a great jumper, deep range, and nice plays catch the eye of a casual hoops fan, it's the deeper things that make Kyle such a popular player to fans back home, and basketball purists. It's things about his character that some will tell you are far better than his jumper:

Dedication to hardwork- began in HS when he would shoot at 4am before 6am practices.After his freshman season Kyle's coach grew tired of trying to beat him to the gym and gave him the key. A feature of Kyle's early morning workouts was on MSG's High School Weekly during 2005.

Loyalty to all his past coaches and teammates- After games in the local area of his hometown on SI, nearly 200 fans wait to say hello or ask for autographs. Kyle talks to nearly all who attend, and signs every request.

Friendship- Kyle's two best friends are in military services. Stories like this and this have been published in the last year that talk about just how much they mean to him.

Kyle was a kid who some said would never make a D1 roster, and wouldn't be able to succeed in The Big East, so for the people who believed in him, and enjoy everything about the way he carries himself and how much he honors the game, it's a joy to watch him succeed in something he loves so much.

Mac was the first recruit I really heard about well before he stepped on campus. With the departure of Chris Quinn, there was some fear that the point guard position would take a big hit. Kyle was recruited as a point guard and played alongside CQ for a season before taking over point guard duties his sophomore year. More on that later.

A four star recruit, Mac gained some renown as a pretty talented kid from Staten Island with solid ball-handling skills and a sweet shot. His freshman year, Kyle shot 43% from beyond the arc and averaged 1.53 assists per turnover in 22.4 minutes per game (a huge number for a Notre Dame frosh). Sophomore year, Kyle took over the reigns and really looked great in twelve games. 10.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 46% on his three pointers. Great stuff.

Then the pot arrest. You know the story, you know the eventual punishment. While the University was harsh with Kyle, it was certainly fair. A semester suspension would be the penalty for any other student in his position. There was no special treatment in this case, nor should there have been (we can argue about the school's drug policy another time). Kyle was understandably upset and considered transferring. In a move that demonstrated his maturity (and Coach Brey's strong relationship with his players), Mac returned in the fall of 2007 to play shooting guard alongside Tory Jackson.

He really made the transition back to the 2 well. 15.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, 44% from three as a junior. This year he started even hotter. In Maui, Kyle made a name for himself and probably earned a spot on an NBA summer league roster in front of the pro scouts. 39 points against #1 North Carolina, breaking his own school record with ten three pointers. Unfortunately, Ohio State laid out a blueprint for stopping Kyle a couple weeks later by blanketing him and not allowing any open looks. The rest of the season has been a struggle with Mac's three-point shooting percentage dipping to a still-impressive 43%.

He has been hurt by a lack of athleticism and ability to create his own shot. The open shots are no longer coming, and Kyle has been shut down on multiple occasions. His floater, a reliable part of the arsenal before his suspension, has been iffy at best the last two years. No longer able to fire away with impunity, Mac has been limited drastically in play. He's not a great defender and will need to prove an ability to run the point at the next level to earn Chris Quinn-type minutes in the NBA.

For his return from the suspension and gym rat mentality, K-Mac will always be one of my favorite Notre Dame players of all time. He is the best pure shooter I have ever seen live, a guy who can knock down 75% of practice shots from literally anywhere across the midcourt stripe.

Kyle, thanks for your hard work and maturity in returning to Notre Dame. You will be missed. Best of luck with your attempt to make an NBA roster. Though I doubt you will be drafted, the success of guys like Quinn and Rob Kurz leaves plenty of room for you.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Senior Week- Zach Hillesland

Of the four seniors, Zach Hillesland had the most disappointing final year.

Brought on as a three star recruit, Zach was known as a point forward with good ball handling skills and above average athleticism. A true small forward, he quickly become a fan favorite during his sophomore year.

After playing only 2.2 minutes per game as a freshman, Zach quickly achieved sixth man status in 2007 with 19.6 minutes per game. He scored 5.8 points and grabbed 4.8 rebounds a contest and nearly became the second Irish player to earn a triple double with his effort against Seton Hall (12 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists). Needless to say, great expectations were set for Hillesland's remaining two seasons.

Junior year Zach regressed a bit, but the overall success of the team overshadowed his falling stats. After the Georgetown game, Hillesland was placed into the starting lineup in place of Ryan Ayers and the team finished the season 11-3. Hillesland played the small forward position reasonably well and led the Irish in rebounding in a Big East Tournament loss to Marquette.

This season, Zach moved to the power forward slot, a position for which he clearly was not suited. In spite of a two minute per game rise in playing time, Hillesland's average points and rebounds per contest have decreased. He has managed more than 6 rebounds just once in conference play and has not demonstrated the improved jumper that was shown in Ireland before the season. His ability as a ballhandler has decreased, resulting in multiple possessions in which his dribbling has killed the flow of the offense. Never a good free throw shooter, Hillesland has dipped to 55% from the line (a year ago it was 69%).

The Irish clearly miss Rob Kurz in the high post this season and Hillesland's inability to adjust to the new position exemplifies Notre Dame's struggle. He is clearly out of position and playing more minutes than he has earned. Best case scenario for the individual and the team would be a return to the sixth man role of two years ago with Hillesland coming off the bench to play small forward.

It's a shame. Zach was one of my favorite players two years ago, but has quite obviously regressed as a result of additional playing time and playing out of position. His tempo-free points per shot (1.52, 1.35, 1.14) has significantly declined since sophomore year and he has never developed the ability to play down low.

Though, like Zeller, he has not been able to develop as hoped, I want to thank Zach for the time and effort he has put into the program. Best wishes after graduation.