Monday, November 30, 2009

Idaho State Preview

Long Beach State did beat UCLA yesterday... scary that the 49ers might be our best nonconference opponent.

Idaho State is certainly no Long Beach, so we should be ok. The Bengals have gotten pounded by three good teams, beaten a pair of bad ones, and dropped a game at Bradley. Hopefully we're better than Bradley.

#1 Amorrow Morgan is the clear leader of this team, as they return no one else who averaged more than 6.6 points a game last season. He is 6'5", 210lbs. and has scored 17.7 per while playing almost every minute of the Bengals' six contests so far. He displayed a decent three point shot last season, making 35% of his attempts, but is only 5-20 this year. He plays sort of a point forward role and the offense has run through him in the past (3.7 assists in '08-'09).

Juco transfer #2 Broderick Gilchrest will give Morgan more of a traditional point guard to help out in the backcourt. Gilchrest started his collegiate career two seasons ago at Middle Tennessee State, but stopped off last year at Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas before making his second switch to Idaho State. Like Morgan, Rolando Little, and Sherrod Baldwin, he hails from Memphis. Kind of an weird recruiting hub for a team in the middle of nowhere.

#21 Demetrius Monroe is the only other player who averages more than 20 minutes per game. He is the team's leading rebounder and a very efficient scorer from inside. A bit undersized at just 200 lbs, he may have a little trouble holding off Harangody in the post. Yet another reason for Luke to keep his game inside.

Games This Week

A few contests to check out:

#21 Maryland @ Indiana- Tuesday 7:30 ESPN2
#2 Michigan State @ #11 UNC- Tuesday 9 PM ESPN
#11 UNC @ #5 Kentucky- Saturday 12:30 PM CBS

Michigan State will drop a bit after losing to Florida, but these should still be some good games to watch. The ACC has won the ACC/Big Ten "Challenge" every year, but there is usually still good competition.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Notre Dame 64, Saint Louis 52

Nice to get a win, but this one was a little too close against a mediocre Billiken team. Now it's back to playing cupcakes until UCLA comes to town on the 19th. Then again, the Bruins are 2-3...

Tory Jackson struggled a bit, as the Irish uncharacteristically turned the ball over 15 times. He scored 7, but was only 1-5 from the field. He picked up most of his points from the charity stripe. 2 assists with 3 turnovers in 35 minutes, as well.

Ben Hansbrough was much improved shooting the ball today, as he went away from the long range shot to attack the basket. That's something Kyle McAlarney was never able to do a year ago and will really benefit Ben down the road. He scored 14 and had 5 assists. I'd like to see him find a good mix of driving the basket to go with his outside game so we don't see another game like last night. After you miss two or three, take the ball to the hoop and get a little confidence back before going back to attempting contested threes. 4 turnovers were an issue, however. Aggressive offense is great, but you have to be in control.

Peoples was decent, definitely a step-up from his recent performances, but was once again outshadowed by Abromaitis. 5 points, 6 reounds for Peoples. He was 2-3 from the field, a nice shooting night. However, one shot attempt per ten minutes is not a very good contribution from any player, especially a starter.

Ty Nash was similarly ineffective on offense, but came through with a very nice night on the boards. He recorded only official two shot attempts. Fouled on multiple occasions, he showcased another very frustrating night from line, missing half of his eight shots. He really has to figure that out. What very well could been a double-digit scoring performance was watered down because he could not figure out how to accomplish the most basic of basketball tasks as well as a fifth grader. Spend some more time in the gym, kid. On the plus side, he did finish with 10 rebounds, 3 on offense. That's his game. If he can be the most aggressive player on the court in going after loose balls, he can play a very important role for us.

Harangody played went back to basics a bit, which was nice to see. He did attempt two three pointers, but made one so it's hard to be too frustrated about that tonight. 18 points, 9 rebounds (4 on offense). Once again, I want to point out the improvement on the offensive glass. This is a very important aspect of the game in which we struggled mightily a year ago. Of course, Saint Louis' Willie Reed was much better in this category than anyone in a Notre Dame uniform, but we still showed a little closer to the effort I'd like to see.

Abro had another nice night. 12 points, 4 rebounds, made half his shots from the field and all of his attempts from the foul line. Seven straight double-digit scoring games, the only guy other than Harangody who can boast that stat. Carleton Scott had only 2 points and rebounds in a pretty ho-hum 14 minutes.

The Irish defense held Saint Louis to only 30% from the field, partially due to poor Billiken shooting, but it's always worth mentioning when Notre Dame plays devent defense.

Last game of the Charlie Weis era tonight. Good riddance, let's hope we land someone who can take us to the next level.

EDIT: The only thing worse than this season was watching Stanford rush the field after beating a 6-6 team...

Northwestern 72, Notre Dame 58

Well, that was pretty disappointing. While the final score doesn't demonstrate that it actually was somewhat competitive in the second half, it ended up being no worse than we deserved with a complete inability to handle the 1-3-1.

Tory Jackson was the player of the game for ND. 11 points, 4 assists, no turnovers. He was the only guy to shoot consistently from beyond the arc, making three of his five attempts. Really not a whole lot of complaints on how he handled himself. He was not as active as usual in taking the ball to the paint, but Northwestern's defense really did not set up opportunities for such play.

Ben Hansbrough was one of the many disappointments. His shot was completely gone. 0-7 from three-point land, 1-10 overall. Props to the Wildcats for negating any open looks all night, but at some point you have to rely on your players to stop jacking up low percentage shots when they aren't falling. Be patient and learn to break down a zone or you'll lose to any half-decent NIT squad that plays a 1-3-1.

Not going to waste space on Jonathan Peoples. At least he only played 15 minutes last night. He and Ty Nash are starters in name only now.

Nash did pick up 5 boards, but also played just 15 minutes. There is absolutely no reason to keep giving these two guys the honor of being the first on the floor when two substitutes are clearly better options at this point. Let's see if either Ty or Johnny can be an effective 6th man.

Which brings us to Luke Harangody. Seriously, Luke? You are a national player of the year candidate. You are one of the best big men in the country and in our school's history. The one thing you are not is a shooting guard. Starting tonight, please do not attempt another three pointer during a competitive contest. An 0-6 night makes him 31% from beyond the arc for the year. He needs to stick to the post and mid-range game that has been so effective the last two seasons. His current style is wasting far too many possessions. One last thing... if you don't get a call, quit whining about it and just run back to play defense. Constant appeals to the referees just make you look weak.

Off the bench Abromaitis struggled with his shot a bit, but looked much better in comparison to the rest of the squad. He was the second highest scorer with 13 points and pulled down 5 rebounds, 4 on offense. Carleton Scott had 7 and 8 (including 4 offensive rebounds). Both played about 25 minutes. I love to see both of them crashing the offensive glass. Last year, we left a lot of second-chance points by the wayside. It's about time a couple guys made an effort to rebound on both ends of the floor, especially with the best rebounder in the Big East imitating a blind Reggie Miller. Both should be starting.

Listen, it's not the end of the world. One game does not a season make, and all that. This squad will ultimately be judged in its ability (or inability) to make the NCAA Tournament, which relies heavily on how it performs in conference play. If we go 10-8 in the Big East and pick up a first-round BET win, this loss will be forgotten.

What is scary is the way we lost last night. The 1-3-1 is a fairly easy zone to use, at least in spurts. West Virginia likes it a lot, which spells disaster when the Mountaineers come in town. Any other program with half-decent scouting will see this performance and manufacture their own zone defense to shut off our offensive flow. Until we prove otherwise this team has met its kryptonite, much like when Ohio State shut down K-Mac a year ago. Future opponents will learn from this. We better learn how to react.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Northwestern Preview

It's a late fall afternoon in South Bend, Indiana. The boys have been putting in a great effort on the gridiron and a Notre Dame victory is in sight. The Band of the Fighting Irish begins to play the "1812 Overture" and a chant is heard from the student section. It's quiet at first, but grows louder. Eventually the entire stadium is joining in, "Stoops, Stoops, Stoops..."

We can dream can't we? At the very least, the whole coaching issue should be resolved within a week.

As for the basketball team, a contest with Northwestern is on the menu tonight in Chicago. The Wildcats are 3-1, with a loss to their only quality opponent (Butler). Look out for #22 Michael Thompson, the diminutive hometown shooting guard (16.0 PPG) and forward #24 John Shurna, who leads the team with 7 rebounds per game.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We'll see if a Northwestern preview happens today. If not, enjoy a day off from the blog and some time with family and friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What We Have Learned

Five games into the year, we are starting to figure out a few things about this team.
  1. Jonathan Peoples is not a starting small forward. He is not big enough to defend taller forwards and not quick enough to play against other Big East guards consistently. His ballhandling skills and decision making have been called into question as well. Not a bad choice as a backup point guard for 15 minutes a game, but definitely not starter-quality, especially out of position.
  2. Tim Abromaitis is the real deal. The redshirt junior should be starting at small forward right now and may take that spot very soon. He is a pretty talented three point shooter, but also demonstrates an athleticism and court sense that make him a much more complete player than Ryan Ayers was a year ago. He has been pegged into the power forward position a bit as Ty Nash struggles, but is much more suited for the 3.
  3. Luke Harangody is the real deal. Of course he is. Even though a tendency to stick to the perimeter has proven frustrating so far, we need to take a step back and just enjoy this guy. He will finish his career as one of the top three or four players to ever attend Our Lady's University. This is pretty cool to watch.
  4. The team has a lot of upside, but will ultimately be judged by how the inexperienced players grow into their roles. We know Harangody and Tory Jackson. Ben Hansbrough is starting to look like a great replacement for Kyle McAlarney, but the other two positions are up in the air. Can Abro be a 30 minute-per-game guy and average 15 points? Is Carleton Scott able to focus on defense and rebounding and be a stat sheet filler the way Zach Hillesland used to be (before his senior year)? Will a guy like Joey Brooks be able to crack the lineup to give the starters more rest and provide an extra focus on defense? Those three players (Abro, Scott, and Brooks) hold the keys to success this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Notre Dame 80, Kennesaw State 62

The Irish fell to the usual trap of catering to the opponent's style of play for the first half of tonight's game and made Kennesaw State look a whole lot more competitive than they should. However, solid defense throughout and an awakened second half offensive attack eventually won the day.

Tory Jackson had a very solid game at the point, finishing with 5 assists and rebounds. He struggled shooting the ball a little bit, but did not turn it over and had a very nice shot block on defense.

Ben Hansbrough had a very quiet game, as well. He scored 5, his lowest total in an Irish jersey, but helped out with handling the ball. 4 assists, no turnovers. I really like him as a backcourt partner with Tory. He is confident, very smart, and seems to have earned the respect of his teammates. Like Kyle McAlarney, he is a shooting guard who can be called upon the run the offense in spurts.

Time to sit Johnny Peoples. Unlike his fellow guards, Peeeps was absolutely terrible handling the ball. His 5 turnovers included a couple lazy passes that displayed a surprising carelessness. 8 points on a good shooting night, but he has to be done as a starter. He has never been good enough to be more than a role player for the Irish.

Ty Nash also struggled tonight. For whatever reason, he continues to lack a finishing ability close to the basket. Even wideopen layups are missing. With Abro and Scott looking so good in the last couple of games, Peoples is not the only starter who should be worried.

Luke Harangody carried the team with a Player of the Year-caliber performance. However, I would really like to see better scoring distribution in these nonconference games. You can't just lean on Luke every night and expect to be successful. He did finish with a big double-double (29 and 15) and now has over 1000 rebounds in his great career. Congratulations and good luck to him as he draws closer to the career school records in points and boards.

Off the bench, Abromaitis was very solid once again. Tim had his fifth straight game of double-digit scoring. He should start on Friday. Carleton Scott had 7 points and a big career-high 11 rebounds, many of which came on offense to keep scoring chances alive. After struggling in the first couple of contests, he seems to have found his way and would also be a much more valuable starter at the 3 than Peoples. If Nash continues to struggle, we might see more of Abromaitis playing alongside Scott as a Kurz-like power forward. I like Tim more as a small forward, but both guys are earning additional playing time.

One final nit about the game, Luke needs to stop messing around on the perimeter so much. With Nash struggling, we really do not have another scoring threat in the post. Let's focus on getting some points inside and let the three-point shooters do their thing outside the arc.

While this game was a bit more competitive than I hoped, there is something to be said about facing adversity this early. Our more inexperienced players like Scott and Abro are getting valuable playing time in reasonably tough contests while staying in the win column. Notre Dame is now ranked #23 in the AP poll, a pretty cool feat I overlooked earlier, but obviously pretty meaningless until we play a couple legit teams. Northwestern could provide solid competition next.

Kennesaw State Preview

Congrats to Liberty's Sam Chelanga for taking home the NCAA cross country crown yesterday. This mention is somewhat timely since we played their basketball team Sunday, but also just a lame attempt to give the sport a little extra press.

Another random note. The Irish are currently ranked 104th by Ken Pomeroy, a spot behind Long Beach State. Hmm, interesting...

Ok, on to Kennesaw State. The Owls were 7-22 a year ago and one of the worst teams in Division 1 basketball (ranked 338 out of 344 by Pomeroy). This scheduling is getting comical.

This season, they boast wins over North Greenville and North Georgia. Powerhouses both. They fell to Saint Louis on Sunday, a possible future opponent in the Chicago tournament.

Senior #30 Jon-Michael Nickerson leads the team with 16.3 PPG. He has made 5 of 6 three point attempts, but shot less than 30% outside a year ago. He is tall and quick enough to give Peoples problems on the wing, so we may see more zone tonight.

#2 Markeith Cummings seems to be a pretty talented redshirt freshman. He's another tall and skinny guy (6'7", 210 lbs.) and is the leading rebounder on the squad. 15.7 and 7.7 per contest.

#1 Kurtis Woods and #3 Kelvin McConnell like to let it fly from beyond the arc. McConnell is the more accomplished of the two. His career percentage is close to 40%. Woods was just 31% last season. McConnell and #5 Spencer Dixon split ball-handling responsibilities, averaging 2.7 and 2.3 assists a piece.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Notre Dame 91, Liberty 72

Good minutes for the freshmen as Luke Harangody carried the offense throughout an offensive shootout that raised a few more questions about our defensive ability.

Tory Jackson had a pretty solid night. He was the only guy who played over 30 minutes tonight, a nice change of pace for an easy nonconference game. 9 points, 4 assists. He struggled a bit from the field and the line (3-6 on free throws) but only turned the ball over twice.

Ben Hansbrough left the game early with a tight back and more issues with that ankle. Doesn't sound too serious and this is the time to take care of a few nicks before the Thanksgiving tourney in Chicago. He only scored 6 points before exiting midway through the second half.

Ho-hum Jonathan Peoples once again looked like the weakest starter. He was outscored again by Tim Abromaitis and finished with a pedestrian 8 and 3.

Ty Nash took advantage of his 17 minutes on the floor. A career-high scoring output with 12, but he could have added to that total with an improved shot from the charity stripe. He picked up 3 fouls while in the game, which is not necessarily a negative. I like that we have one guy who is willing to throw his body around inside. After the game, he mentioned that the team needed to loosen up on defense. A pretty good judgment.

Harangody also made sure to get to foul line as much as possible. Coach Brey wanted to slow down the game and focus on getting easy points while racking up fouls for the other side. For the most part, it really worked. Gody was perfect on his ten attempts. Chipped in a pair of three pointers and 9 rebounds for a great statistical night in just 28 minutes.

Off the bench, Notre Dame went ten deep for the most part. Abro scored 12 and went 2-3 from beyond the arc. Another very nice output. 4 points and 6 rebounds for Scott in 17 minutes. Nice job for him, as well. Carleton bounced back well from struggling against Long Beach. I was also happy to see Joey Brooks get serious minutes. 4 and 4 in the 12 minutes. He can also be a defensive stopper on a team that really needs a couple of guys who can focus on the other end of the floor. Mike Broghammer and Jack Cooley struggled to put the ball in the basket, but both put in a good day's work. Ten minutes in a game like today is much more helpful in the development of a young player than what we have seen recently. Let's keep it up.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Liberty Preview

Give me Liberty or...

The Flames come into town a wounded team, having been crushed in consecutive contests by Clemson (79-39) and Old Dominion (73-41). Shooting has been a bit of an issue. They only managed 28% from the floor on Thursday. Obviously Seth Curry's transfer has disrupted the program, resulting in the departure of Ritchie McKay, who took a step down to become an assistant at Virginia (his first non-head coaching position since 1995). Dale Layer, a McKay assistant at multiple schools who led Colorado State from 2000-07, came back to emphasize defense and spread out the scoring distribution. It hasn't worked so far.

Senior #11 Tyler Ohman is the only player who averages dougle digit numbers in points. He has 14.8 per game through four contests. He has a good shooting touch and has finished each of the two previous seasons above 40% from beyond the arc. He is also good for 5 rebounds a game.

#25 Jesse Sanders helps Ohman out with ball handling responsibilities. A year ago, he was a reliable point guard with a 2.4/1 assist-to-turnover ratio. This season he has had some trouble, averaging 4.3 turnovers per.

#10 Evan Gordan is the third-highest scorer at 6.3 a game. All three of these guards average 5.3 rebounds, tied for most on the team. There really does not seem to be a reliable big man, as 6'9" Tyler Baker (5.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and 6'11" Carter McMasters (3.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG) are the only two guys taller than 6'6".

Friday, November 20, 2009


Villanova survived against a very good Dayton team today. The 21st ranked Flyers beat Georgia Tech yesterday and almost pulled off their second upset of the week. Brian Gregory's team is looking very good already. A home-and-home series with this program usually pops up as a possibility every once in a while, but again we see some evidence for why the Irish will most likely avoid such a matchup. What a shame, I'd love to see Coach Brey fill our nonconference slate with decent Catholic midmajor schools such as this one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Notre Dame 82, Long Beach State 62

While the first half gave plenty of cause for concern, Notre Dame showed a ton of ability in the end and put away a talented 49er team with ease. If we can see a lot more of the interior offense and commitment to defense the rest of the year, this squad could surprise some folks. Of course, more lackluster effort like what we gave in the first twenty minutes will bring us down.

Tory Jackson had some trouble against Long Beach's defensive pressure. On multiple occasions Dan Monson broke out a really great surprise halfcourt trap which caused multiple turnovers or Notre Dame timeouts. The overall athleticism from the other team gave our offense fits and kept Irish defenders on their heels for the whole first half. Tory did settle down nicely in the second period, but his troubles mirrored the rest of the team when we were struggling.

Of all the Notre Dame players, Ben Hansbrough was the only one who did not seem flustered by Long Beach's constant up-tempo game and press defense. Irish basketball teams have an irritating habit of letting the opponent dictate pace and tonight was no different. The 49ers wanted to run and we went right with them. On multiple occasions, the savvy Mississippi State transfer took the ball and motioned to his teammates to settle down and slow the pace before starting the offense. Great heads-up play by Hansbrough to see that the team was out of its element (a ridiculously high 16 turnovers tonight) and forcing things on both ends of the floor. Ben also showed a little toughness in playing through two injuries, including a rolled ankle that needed additional in-game taping.

Jonathan Peoples was decent, but overshadowed by Abromaitis again. He scored 10 and shot pretty well in 34 minutes, but he just looked slow against the talent of Long Beach. He's the least atheltic of our three guards and not a terrific ball-handler. Since Hansbrough showed his reliability as a floor general tonight, I'm really having trouble seeing how Peoples helps the team as a starter. Let him come off the bench to spell both guard positions, but there's no reason to have a slow combo guard get 30+ minutes a night.

Nash displayed some good effort on the boards and scoring in the paint, but once again he lost a lot of minutes to Abromaitis. There is no reason why these two guys cannot start next to each other. With Harangody playing more on the perimeter, we need a player who can move bodies around in the interior. Tyrone is the only rotation man who has that ability.

Luke displayed an annoying tendency to stick to the outside at the beginning of the game, which hurt our offense from the start. He is good out there and has a future as a small forward at the next level, but has to stop acting like this season is a year-long NBA tryout. For our offense to be effective, we need a guy who can consistently score in the post. Once Harangody stopped taking 15+ foot jumpers and moved towards the hoop, the Irish became pretty efficient offensively. That's no coincidence.

Abro was the only player to earn real minutes off the bench. 22 for the redshirt sophomore, scoring 11 on red-hot shooting (4-5, 3-3 from downtown). He seems like the real deal and could be a big difference maker this season. If Scott Martin's injury was the opportunity this guy needed to step into the rotation and become a reliable player, the Irish may have a little luck after all. Carleton Scott was benched after some ill-advised shooting and never really looked comfortable out there. I guess the only thing scarier than a seven-man rotation is a... six-man team? Hopefully he can figure out whatever was wrong tonight. Just a little extra junk time for the three freshmen as well.

I was hoping for a double-digit win tonight against a very solid mid-major squad and the team pulled it off with much more ease than could be expected in the first half. This is a win a team can build off of, so let's hope they learn from the experience and get better from here. Coach Brey says this squad has the greatest potential to improve of any he has coached. Hopefully they will live up to that billing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long Beach State Preview

Tomorrow will bring one of the more interesting nonconference games for the Irish this year. The 49ers are in town, a young but experienced squad that has been picked to win the Big West. Apparently Long Beach called up Coach Brey to get this on the schedule, so they are surely not lacking in confidence.

Against Pepperdine last night, the 49ers came back strong with a big second half to blow open what had been a close contest. Though they really struggled on the boards (30 rebounds to Pepperdine's 47), Long Beach won the game with solid defense. 18 turnovers forced and a 31% shooting percentage allowed.

So who are these guys?

#21 Larry Anderson is the team's high scorer so far. A 6'6" wing with a deft shooting touch, the sophomore has averaged 19 points in his two games this year. Last season, he shot 40% from beyond the arc. He and fellow classmate T.J. Robinson were the most efficient scorers on the team a year ago.

#15 Robinson is the closest thing Long Beach has to a post player. He is the tallest starter at 6'7" and averages 10.5 rebounds per contest, but is very skinny at 210 pounds. Harangody should have a field day one on one in the post, so expect lots of switching and double teams tomorrow night.

#22 Casper Ware is the third sophomore starter on the team. A pass-first point guard, Ware dished out 6 assists last night but finished with only 3 points to show for himself. His is small (5'9", 170 lbs.) but quick enough to give more physical point guards (Jonathan Peoples) trouble.

#2 Eugene Phelps and #33 Stephan Gilling round out the starting five. Phelps is yet another sophomore and has only played 15 minutes per contest. Talk about bigtime foul trouble. 9 fouls in 30 minutes on the floor so far. Gilling is the old man of the group, a fifth-year senior who has been a great deep threat in the past. Coach Dan Monson has to hope that the Colorado State transfer will get back the shooting touch he displayed at Fort Collins.

Monson, the guy who put Gonzaga on the map with its Elite Eight campaign in 1999, really has Long Beach State headed in the right direction. After 6 wins in '08, he improved to 15-14 a year ago and is poised to take the next step with a great core of underclassmen. His last three recruiting classes have included one three-star player a piece (Anderson, Jules Montgomery, and Jacob Thomas), a nice haul for such a small program. Even though he didn't get it done at Minnesota, you have to think this guy will get another shot at a higher level very soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Basketball Marathon

We're in the middle of a College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon for you ESPN addicts. I can't imagine having to play a game at 6 in the morning, but I guess the chance to play on national TV is a decent reward for some of these schools.

A couple really good games on right now. Hofstra looks to take down Connecticut with six minutes remaining, Gonzaga has an early lead on Michigan State, and UNC-Ashville is staying tight with Tennessee... oh, nevermind.

I'll cheer for the underdog. Come on Pride!

Notre Dame 95, St. Francis 72

Solid win, if not as great as Saturday. We showed a lot of offensive firepower, but the defense certainly leaves some questions. I mentioned in the preview that St. Francis would not be a very good three point shooting team, but they really came through, going 13-19. Lots of open looks from beyond the arc.

Tory Jackson showed why I believe he will finish with a triple double at some point this year. 9 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds. Really good all-around game.

Ben Hansbrough had 18 and 7. I mentioned at halftime how he looks like a better point guard than Peoples and the stats seems to showcase his ability to distribute. I love how we now have a shooting guard who can take it into the paint.

Peoples was pretty depressing. Only 4 points in 24 minutes. With Abromaitis looking so good, it's only a matter of time before he loses his starting spot.

Ty Nash lost more minutes than Peoples to Abro tonight, which is surprising. Tim looks much more like a small forward and I would hate to take our rotation's one true post presence away from teaming with Harangody. Just 18 minutes for Ty, but he took advantage and scored 11.

Harangody finished with 27 and 9. A very good game to be sure, but once again the offense performed really well without having to rely too much on Luke. We'll need that against better teams.

Off the bench, Abro scored 17 with 5 boards in 27 minutes. Starter-like playing time, if not actually getting to take warmups off before the tip. He could be our second best player by the end of the year. 5 points, 4 rebounds for a solid Carleton Scott. Garbage time for Brooks, Cooley, and Broghammer. A seven man rotation scares me, so I really hope that Coach Brey is just waiting for one of the freshmen to earn 8-10 a game. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

Monday, November 16, 2009

St. Francis Halftime

A little in-game blogging:
  1. I can't believe I have not commented on this yet, but the new arena really looks great. Add in the proposed standalone practice gym and our facilities will finally approach the quality seen at high-major basketball schools around the country.
  2. I don't know how long this will last, but the decision to have only one championship banner (women's national championship) in the rafters is a good one. No more celebrating just making the Tournament sounds good to me.
  3. Once the Jonathan Peoples experiment ends (please God, let it end), this team could very well be better at every position than last year. Jackson and Harangody are back and presumably improved with time and Ty Nash is a better post guy than the very disappointing Zach Hillesland.
  4. At one of the other two positions, I'm really starting to like Ben Hansbrough. He looks to drive a lot more than K-Mac (which is more than, say, never) and really resembles Kyle's shooting ability. #23 was a good choice. He is a better passer and more athletic than Jonathan Peoples and could very well run the point in Tory Jackson's absence. A great first half transition stop on defense showed off what he can do on the other side of the floor, as well.
  5. Tim Abromaitis is also very fun to watch. If he finally does move into the final starting spot, he looks to be more complete player than last year's small forward, Ryan Ayers.
  6. Even with all of this improvement and what seems to be a potent offense, this could still very well be an NIT team. Last year's squad finished nowhere near the Sweet Sixteen predictions that were thrown its way. You have to think we'll find some holes in this version of the Irish, too.
  7. The first issue seems to be on defense, where we still look very disappointing even with all of that extra athleticism. This is clearly a coaching defect. Coach Brey has never been a stickler for D and there is no reason for him to change now. We'll have to outscore a bunch of people, as usual.
EDIT: And welcome to the show, Jordan Cornette. The former player takes LaPhonso Ellis' spot calling radio broadcasts of the Irish.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

St. Francis Preview

Game two tomorrow. St. Francis comes into town off of a 65-61 win over American University on Friday. The box score from that contest tells us two things: 6'6" wing Devin Sweetney is the star of the show and the rest of the team will do their collective best to chip in by heaving shots from long range. A couple of these three point specialists were simply awful against the Eagles. Sorena Orandi and Anthony Ervin went 0-10 from downtown. No idea if Ervin, a freshman, has the talent to take so many outside shots, but Orandi shot 15% from three point range a year ago. Pass the ball, young man.

#1 Sweetney and #33 Will Felder carried the team with over half of the Red Flash's scoring between them. Felder, another freshman, scored 17 off the bench. Sweetney overcame a 5-14 shooting night to finish with 21 points. Don't expect a repeat performance from the senior, however. He got lucky by knocking down half of his attempts from long range. His highest three point percentage in a season? 26%.

Another easy win in store? Let's hope so. Another easy start with a more complete second half would be very nice. Let's go Irish.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Notre Dame 86, North Florida 65

Very, very good win to start the year. North Florida did outscore the Irish by ten in the second half, but a 47-16 lead at the break allowed Coach Brey to play every guy on the bench, including Mike Broghammer and Jack Cooley for nine minutes a piece.

Tory Jackson was just about flawless from the point guard position. 9 points, 7 assists running the offense. He only turned the ball over once and shot 3-4 from the field, all three point attempts. He was only on the floor for 27 minutes, his second shortest non-injury shortened stint since sophomore year. It's nice to see our floor leader get a break out there for once.

Ben Hansbrough really impressed with his ability to knock down three pointers. The whole team was on fire today, but Hansbrough led the way with a 5-5 outing. 19 points in the contest, plus 4 assists to boot. If he can continue to stretch the defense with outside shooting, our additional athelticism in the rotation could lead to a more potent offense overall than last season.

Jonathan Peoples earned another start and played rather well. 11 points, 3 assists with some solid three point shooting, as well. This is about as good as it gets for Johnny, however, and I hope to see Tim Abromaitis get more playing time after a very strong game today.

Ty Nash had a bit of a ho-hum performance in the post. 4 points, 3 rebounds in 24 minutes. He did grab 3 steals and looked like one of our better defenders out there all day. He did miss half of his free throw attempts, a major problem last year.

Luke Harangody also struggled a bit with his scoring, which just made our 21-point win all the more impressive. 19 points and 7 assists, but most of his scoring came from the charity stripe. In sharp contrast to Nash, 'Gody was silky smooth from the line, knocking down all nine shots he attempted. That's what a veteran big man does when his game is a bit off (5-12 from the field). He drew fouls, picked up some free points for the team, and kept the Ospreys from ever making this a close contest.

Off the bench, Abro looked great. 13 points, 4 rebounds in just 21 minutes. He shot 3-4 from beyond the arc and also knocked down a couple shots inside the arc. More opportunities for this guy, please. LaPhonso Ellis, our radio commentator who will soon be moving to ESPN, has liked him from the start. I would not be surprised to see the Alumni Hall resident in the starting lineup before the beginning of conference play. Carleton Scott struggled a bit, missing his three attempts from long range. It is increasingly looking like only Tim has a shot of knocking Peoples out of the starting lineup. Broghammer and Cooley played rather well in their nine minutes a piece, some good experience for both guys. Joey Brooks played four minutes, the walk-ons two. Thomas Knight did not see the floor, I have to think he will redshirt.

Next game is Monday. Another easy win and wide playing time distribution will put us on the right track for the Chicago tournament.

Friday, November 13, 2009

North Florida Preview

We started playing the Ospreys a couple years ago because former Irish assistant Matt Kilcullen was their longtime head coach. He has since been reassigned into the administration. So hopefully this will be a nice homecoming for him and the Irish clean up once again.

Last season, North Florida really struggled, finishing 8-22. This year, only one double-digit scorer is back. That's #23 Eni Cuka. He scored 13.2 points per game and knocked down 37.5% of his three-point attempts last season, his first as a significant player in the rotation. Stan Januska is back as well, a 6'6" wingman who played 28 minutes a contest a year ago. After those two, the minutes distribution seems to spread out a bit, with several guys who played about 20 minutes a game last year return. Their eight-man rotation is much more evenly dispersed than what we have been accustomed to watching at Notre Dame.

This game should be on a pretty similar level to what we have seen already in exhibition contests. Get an easy win, play a couple of the freshmen, and let's go 1-0 on the young season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I'll preview the first real game of the season tomorrow, so hopefully this will be the last filler post for a while. It will be great to have some real ND basketball underway.

The Big East received 8 bids in Joe Lunardi's first Bracketology of the year, with the Irish sliding in as an 11 seed from the South Region. Obviously anywhere in the bracket would be an improvement over last year, but I hope the boys can play themselves into a much better seed by Selection Sunday. Villanova picked up the highest seed of the conference, as the top second-seeded team. West Virginia is a three-seed.

Ok, let's get rolling with an easy win on Saturday. Show us some good, balanced scoring and more tenacity on defense guys.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post Exhibition Notes

Nice write-up in the South Bend Tribune about the two exhibition games. Interesting information about a possible future pre-season scrimage (great idea) and quotes about Harangody spreading the ball around more in the second contest. That's what we need from Luke.

The only troubling aspect from the article is how Tom Noie reinforces the idea that the freshmen will be brought along a similar path as previous underclassmen, no significant minutes until the more seasoned players graduate. We have a SEVEN man rotation as it is. This is simply not going to cut it in the long haul of the Big East season. With eight solid veterans, maybe, but seven players (including no legitimate backup post presence) simply will not do.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Around the Country

A pair of interesting articles on for you to check out today.

Well, the first really isn't an article, per se, but the power rankings are interesting to peruse. Kansas holds the top spot in most balloting, with Jay Bilas ranking Tom Izzo's squad at #1. Villanova and West Virginia are each ranked in the top 10, a few spots above a very interesting Butler team. Here's to Brad Stevens getting his Bulldogs deep into the tournament this year.

Dick Vitale provides his always interesting analysis, as well. It's a little less annoying in print (I kid, of course, I'm a fan of his). The most interesting tidbit is his choice for National Player of the Year.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Update on Former Players

Slightly dated news, but I'm still struggling a bit to find solid news stories before the season officially starts. Rob Kurz, the Cavaliers' final cut of the summer, will start his second professional season trying out for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, an NBDL squad that has also invited Kyle McAlarney and Rob Kurz to training camp. The final roster should be ten men out of the seventeen in camp. Good luck to all three making the squad.

Chris Quinn is still in the NBA, but has yet to play a game this year for the Heat following a sprained ankle in the preseason.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Adios Charlie

After the football team's second loss to Navy in three years, I think we can start to look forward to basketball returning again. What a sad state Notre Dame fans live in.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Notre Dame 75, Quincy 54

A bit of a better distribution of playing time as the Irish cruised to a second exhibition victory. With a sixteen point halftime lead, Coach Brey was able to get everyone on the floor, including walk-ons Tom Kopko and Tim Andree.

In the backcourt, Tory Jackson had a solid 30 minutes. Even though he racked up four fouls, the 11 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds marked a very good all-around night. His wingman Ben Hansbrough showed a little range and a Kyle McAlarney-esque willingness to let it fly. Even though he shot only 3-9 from beyond the arc, those shots will start falling as the season wears on. Jonathan Peoples started again, but only played 25 minutes. He has to score more than 2 points a night if the Irish want to have any kind of success against D1 competition.

Ty Nash had 11 points and 4 rebounds. He only missed one of the four shots he attempted from the floor and made all five free throw attempts. That is a big improvement from last year that will hopefully continue all season. Luke Harangody finished with a double-double, 17 and 11. If we can win consistently without having to rely on thirty point outbursts from the big man, this team will be a lot better than I predicted.

Off the bench, Tim Abromaitis showed a lot of promise even if he wasn't making any shots. 9 points, 7 boards in only 18 minutes. Remember that, like Ben Hansbrough, Abro hasn't played a real competitive game of basketball in a year. Once he gets used to the flow of the game and his additional playing time, he could be a very special player. It is very possible that Peoples is just holding down the starting spot until Tim is ready to step in. Carleton Scott scored 8 points in 16 minutes and pulled down 4 rebounds as well. Freshman Jack Cooley got into the scorebook at the buzzer, as did Thomas Knight. The other two freshman played five minutes a piece.

Good to see a solid all-around effort in the second preseason game. The next one will count, so hopefully the Irish can start making those three pointers and get this season off on the right foot.

As for today, Go Irish, Beat Midshipmen.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

World Series

Yankees finish off the Phillies in six, making it officially... football season? The national pastime does really go all year. I guess the nice thing about being a Cubs fan is that I stopped caring about baseball in July.

Other than that, is there really anything to comment on? Syracuse lost to D2 Le Moyne, making our ho-hum win over Lewis seem impressive. Really not too much news in the couple week run-up to the real games. We play Quincy on Friday, but that doesn't exactly deserve a preview. Let's hope Coach Brey lets a few freshmen on the floor this time.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Harangody on the Radar

Luke Harangody has been receiving some very well deserved preseason hype so far this year, being named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year and a first team All-American by several publications. On Monday, he received the most votes on the AP All-America Team.

Great news for our star senior. When he won Big East Player of the Year two seasons ago, Luke really came out of nowhere to surprise people. Even last year, he was overshadowed most of the season by guys in his own conference like Hasheem Thabeet, to say nothing of the Tyler Hansbroughs of the world. This year, he is one of the biggest names in college basketball. That's great to see.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Season Preview

Time to get this thing rolling. After last night's contest, it looks like the Irish will be relying on an even shorter bench than in year's past with Jonathan Peoples having the inside track at the final starting position. With one exhibition game left, some things are still subject to change before the official start of the year, but I will work with what we know right now.


Predicted Wins in Bold

N14 North Florida 7pm
N16 St. Francis(PA) 7:30pm
N19 Long Beach State 7:30pm

Three cupcakes to start the year. North Florida and St. Francis both finished last season ranked over 300 by Ken Pomeroy. Long Beach State should provide a slightly more strenuous challenge, but should also be a comfortable double-digit win. If the Irish struggle against any of these opponents, it could be a long season.

N22 Liberty (CIT) 7pm
N24 Kennesaw State (CIT) 7:30pm
N27 vs. Northwestern (CIT) 8:30pm
N28 vs. STL/IA State (CIT) TBA

The Chicago Invitational Challenge comprises four rounds, two of which will be held at the Joyce Center followed by Thanksgiving weekend matchups at the Sears Centre in Chicago. The first matchup with Liberty would have been much more interesting last season, but Seth Curry has since transferred to Duke, leaving the Flames with a little less firepower and a lot less name recognition. Kennesaw State can make a strong case for being the worst team we play all year.

In Chicago, Northwestern will pose the first real test for the Irish. The Wildcats are gunning for an NCAA tournament bid this time around and proved to be a pretty solid team last season with wins over Michigan State and Purude. Even though most of those players return, I expect the Irish to get in a tough semi-road win and handle either Rick Majerus' Saint Louis squad or Iowa State and remain unbeaten.

D01 Idaho State 7:30pm
D06 Central Florida Noon
D09 IUPUI 7:30pm
D12 Loyola Marymount 7pm

When you schedule a bunch of cupcakes, you better take care of business. This stretch of opponents is the most difficult so far, but every one of these games should be won if Notre Dame seriously considers itself an NCAA Tournament team.

D19 UCLA 2pm CBS

More than one nonconference loss against this easy schedule will be unacceptable. Unfortunately for the Irish, that loss will come at the hands of a Bruin team that pasted them on the road a year ago, 89-63. While UCLA is much younger and ND will get a boost from playing at home, that will only serve to make the margin a little closer.

D22 Bucknell 7pm

The Bison have made a name for themselves the last several years by upsetting high-major programs in March. In 2006, they defeated 8 seed Arkansas. A year before, it was 3 seed Kansas. More recently, it has been a struggle to make the Tournament. Irish win.

D30 Providence 9pm BE

Keno Davis coached a veteran Friar team to a solid season a year ago. Season two will be more difficult with just one starter returning.

J02 @ Connecticut (Hartford) Noon ESPNU

No Thabeet this year for UCONN, but the Irish won't have enough to overcome a Husky team on the road that is just a year removed from the Final Four.

J05 @ South Florida 7pm ESPNU
J09 West Virginia 8pm ESPNU

Pretty basic split here. The Bulls are very bad, the Mountaineers very good. Homecourt will not have too much of an effect on who prevails.

J16 @ Cincinnati 4pm ESPNU
J18 Syracuse 7pm ESPN

Finally the Irish face two opponents of pretty similar ability. Both will compete for those final NCAA Tournament at-large bids. I'll pick a loss to Deonta Vaughn and the Bearcats on the road, but predict we get them on the second time around. As for the Orange, it will be nice to not have to watch Eric Devendorf and Johnny Flynn on the opposing bench.

J23 DePaul 2pm BE
J27 @ Villanova 7pm ESPN

Much like the South Florida/West Virginia pairing, we play the worst team in the league and the best team back to back.

J30 @ Rutgers 6pm ESPN2
F04 Cincinnati 9pm ESPN/2
F07 South Florida Noon BE

A trip to the RAC starts off a nice three-game winning streak. Both Rutgers and South Florida are perennial celar dwellars and should be solid wins. I'd take a season split against Mick Cronin's squad as well.

F11 @ Seton Hall 7pm ESPNU
F14 St. John's 7:30pm BE

A year ago, Jeremy Hazell only managed 12 points as the Pirates fell to Notre Dame on the road. This season, we won't get so lucky. We should have enough to get by St. John's the following Sunday, however.

F17 @ Louisville 7pm ESPN2
F24 Pittsburgh 7pm ESPN2
F27 @ Georgetown Noon CBS
M03 Connecticut 7pm ESPN
M06 @ Marquette 2pm BE

Five games against big-name programs finish out the year. We will be lucky to get two of these, which will lead to an uncomfortable feeling on Selection Sunday. Louisville should reload enough to handle us at home and Georgetown will be much improved this season. Pitt has always proven to be a difficult opponent but the loss of three stars will really put Jamie Dixon's coaching skill to the test. Marquette, the closest thing we have to a true basketball rival, is also low on experience but could have improved enough by the end of the year to pick up a home win. 2-3 to end the season will be a blessing.

Predicted Record- 22-9 (10-8)

The Irish will benefit from a very weak nonconference schedule, but reality will set in once Big East play starts. If things go according to plan, the Irish will finish in the top eight and lock up an at-large bid with a win or two in the Big East Tournament. However, loads of questions remain about how this team will fare. With three new starters added to a squad that failed to make the Big Dance last year, even this prediction could be a bit optimistic.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Notre Dame 70, Lewis 54

First exhibition game is in the books. I wasn't able to get back in town in time to see the game, but I'll break down the stats real quick for you. First thing to note is how only seven players saw the floor until the final seconds. In an exhibition game against a nobody opponent, one would hope that Coach Brey would allow the freshmen to get some valuable PT.

Tory Jackson started at point, no surprise there. Seven points and seven assists for a solid night handling the ball. Ben Hansbrough picked up seven rebounds to go with twelve points, but failed to show Kyle McAlarney-style range. He missed all four three-point shots he attempted. Jonathan Peoples landed the surprising start on the wing, a disappointing selection. I really hope we have a better first choice at the three than Peeps. Eight points, five rebounds for a decent night, but there is no way he deserves 35 minutes a game.

In the frontcourt, Ty Nash finished with six points and five rebounds. He lost the most minutes of all the starters to Abro and Scott. Harangody scored 33 and pulled down nine boards. Great individual game, but it is scary that we had to rely on him so much in a glorified practice.

Off the bench, it was just Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott. Tim finished with four points and rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time. Carleton had four rebounds in 13 minutes. Brooks and Broghammer played the final minute. Pretty sad usage there.