Sunday, March 21, 2010


After four seasons, it is time to call it quits. What started as just a side project for my own satisfaction grew into a pretty respectable site with followers from around the world (seriously, Marco's holiday e-mails from Italy were the best). With time constraints adding up and an extended stay in Uganda planned for next spring, I simply can no longer count on providing the same kind of coverage that I have expected from myself over the past few years.

This really has been a tremendous ride and I would encourage anyone who is considering starting their own blog to jump into in wholeheartedly. At the beginning, this site was just something I started on a whim to kill some free time. 793 posts later, I can sign off with the firm knowledge that I have grown as a basketball fan and leave with no regrets.

For future reference, Rakes of Mallow is probably the most professional ND hoops blog out there. Be sure to check that out if you need a new place to read up on Irish basketball. Matt Mattare's blog is also a pretty good upstart. Of course, if you think you can do it better, the internet is always ready for someone new to enter the conversation.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has read and contributed to the blog over the past few years. This site would be pointless without your interaction. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have and I'm looking forward to continuing to cheer on the Irish in the future along with you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Next Year

We lose the winningest senior class in program history, but a lot of talent returns to propel the program forward to a new decade under Mike Brey. Obviously Luke Harangody's contributions will be missed. Though his style this season left a lot to be desired, no one should underestimate the effect of losing a 20 point, 10 rebound guy. There will be a large leadership gap with Tory Jackson graduating and the program will need a new point guard for the first time in four years. Walk-on Tim Andree always worked his butt off in practice for almost no reward. Non-scholarship players put in all the time and effort and receive no credit. Thanks, Tim. Jonathan Peoples... nevermind.


Eric Atkins looks to start at the point as a freshman next season. He is a very talented guard from the Baltimore area. Given four-stars by Rivals (more than Tory Jackson as a high school senior), he seems to be as ready as anyone to take over his first year. Ben Hansbrough will be back and time will tell if he will match Atkins' style better than Jackson's. Though I do like to bash Peoples a lot, his experience as a backup guard who can play both positions will be missed. Look for Joey Brooks to get minutes off the bench at the 2 and for Hansbrough to slide over and play point from time to time. Freshman Alex Dragicevich or Jerian Grant may also see very limited action off the bench.


Scott Martin is the big question mark next season. He could play any frontcourt position or even shooting guard when the Irish go big. Think of him as a left-handed Abro. I think his role will start off as the sixth man off the bench, but should any of the starters falter he will be ready to fill in. Tim Abromaitis will return to play on the wing. Hopefully he can figure out whatever was dogging him at the end of the year to get back to his early season form. Adding Martin to the rotation may reduce Abro's minutes and keep him from getting dead legs down the stretch. Carleton Scott should get first crack at the 4 after he played so well at the end of the season. If he can develop better ball-handling skills to go with his athleticism and decent stroke, I see him as a potential breakout star. Ty Nash may be the weakest starter amongst the forwards, but his physical play and improving post game will be much needed. Jack Cooley will get time off the bench and could compete for a starting spot. Mike Broghammer and redshirt Tom Knight will most likely ride the pine all year.


PG- Atkins
SG- Hansbrough
SF- Abromaitis
PF- Scott
PF- Nash

Bench- Brooks
Bench- Martin
Bench- Cooley

Friday, March 19, 2010

Season Report Card

What an up-and-down year it's been. After an 11-2 nonconference record against the one of the easiest schedules in the country, the Irish caught some national headlines with a 70-68 home win against West Virginia. That one really was a shocker. Though it foreshadowed the great stretch run to come, there were a lot of frustrating results on the way. ND went 3-7 over its next ten games and placed itself well off the bubble with a 6-8 conference record. Luke Harangody was lost to a knee injury during this stretch and all seemed to be lost.

Starting with a home win against Pittsburgh, Coach Brey's decision to hit the brakes really saw some good results. Our "Burn" offense led to six straight wins over a few very talented opponents. All of a sudden, the Irish played themselves off of the bubble and into a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament, a result that exceeded my expectations at the beginning of the year. Another frustrating first round exit ended the season on a sour note, however, as the team couldn't buy a late basket against Old Dominion.

Coaching- (C+) The team's struggles led to my calling for Coach Brey's head in the middle of the season. Though I still do not believe that this coaching staff is the right one to take the program to the next level, they impressed by completely changing the offensive philosophy for the most inspiring late season turnaround I've seen in awhile. However, making the Tournament was the expectation this year. Another first round exit doesn't cut it.


Tory Jackson- (B) Not his best year statistically, but Tory showed off his leadership this season. The true heart and soul of the program, this season revolved around him. He will be greatly missed on the floor and in the locker room.

Ben Hansbrough- (B-) He impressed me this year. A more complete shooting guard than Kyle McAlarney, his style didn't always mesh with Jackson, but he provided an offensive threat from the shooting guard slot. On defense, he was one of our best on-ball defenders, but got lost frequently off-the-ball.

Jonathan Peoples- (D) A decent backup point guard who never should have sniffed a starting role. By the end of the year, his contributions were effectively nil.


Tim Abromaitis- (B+) Though he dropped off at the end, Abro had an excellent year. Until a skid over the last four games, he scored in double figures in all but three contests. Very impressive for a guy who redshirted last season and wasn't on the radar freshman year.

Carleton Scott (B) Growing from a guy who couldn't crack the starting lineup into our best rebounding threat with a pretty clutch stroke from three. He could be great next season.

Ty Nash (C+) Respectable season, but nothing flashy. Grew into a serviceable post threat, but was never able to put up big numbers. With Harangody out, it was Scott who carried the team on the glass.

Luke Harangody (C) One of the greatest players to ever put on a Notre Dame jersey, but used this season as an extended NBA tryout. His tendency to throw up bad three-pointers killed our offensive flow before his injury. Gets a decent grade due to his pure statistical greatness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Old Dominion 51, Notre Dame 50

Irish let a nine-point lead slip away and fall in the first round with some bad shot selection against a second-half Monarch zone.

ND attempted three-pointers on nine of its last eleven possessions, making just one of them. With no offensive flow to speak of, Coach Brey's team allowed Old Dominion to slowly take control of the contest and end the game on an 11-5 run over the last six minutes (Luke Harangody's buzzer-beating layup not included). For the game, Notre Dame shot 24% from beyond the arc while attempting twice as many threes as ODU. The biggest culprits were Abromaitis (who has struggled for the last couple of weeks) and Jackson.

Defensively, the Irish played well enough to win the game. Really, it was the offensive letdown the cost the team a chance for a Tournament run. Old Dominion's zone cut down on any points inside down the stretch while Ty Nash and Luke Harangody played a very ineffective 40 minutes between the two of them.

Tory Jackson ended his career with 5 points and 5 rebounds. He also pitched in 4 assists and 3 steals. Unfortunately, he couldn't hit the broadside of a barn with his jumper. 2-11 from the field, 1-7 from long range. Falling in love with the three pointer just killed any chance at a late run to close out the game.

Ben Hansbrough did shoot pretty well, making seven of his eleven attempts from the field. He finished with 17 points. Add in 6 rebounds and 3 assists for the senior shooting guard. I expect he will be back next season, but you don't know for sure.

Tim Abromaitis finished off a very good season on an extended cold streak. 0-5 on his three pointers today. He chipped in for 3 rebounds, but has never seemed to get comfortable in the "Burn" offense.

Carleton Scott played a bit of Jekyll and Hyde today. 14 points, 10 assists, made a couple big threes, but was awfully disappointing with the ball in his hands. He turned the ball over 5 times, almost all in the first half. On defense, he finished with a pair of blocks and a steal.

Ty Nash played just 18 minutes with foul trouble. 1 point, 3 rebounds.

Off the bench, Luke Harangody finally got in the scorebook late. He did help out a lot on the offensive glass, but was unable to find any flow inside against the zone. Jack Cooley played six minutes while Nash and Gody were on the bench. Peoples got in the game for 3 minutes and didn't see action after a really dumb attempt to save the ball under the opponent's basket. He should have learned not to do that in middle school.

Just like that, the season has come to an end. For much of the game, the Irish looked pretty strong, but simply could not overcome their offensive woes at the end.

I'll do some season recap stuff over the next couple of days. Thanks for the hard work, seniors. It was good to get back in the Tournament after last season, but ultimately another disappointing result will end the year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Start the Tourney

Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop grudgematch tonight. Winner takes on Duke.

Also, an announcement. After four years, I will be relinquishing control of the blog at the end of the season. It's been a great ride and I've enjoyed every minute of it, but time constraints have made me limit my posting this season. Next year, I will be out of the country for most of the Big East slate. While I would love to continue posting, I simply cannot continue to bring the same caliber of coverage that I hope you have come to expect from Black and Green.

My last post will be the Sunday after the Irish play their last game this season (if ND loses this weekend, I will finish up on March 21st). Until then, I promise to give you my best effort in the remaining posts and hope to continue going for as long as possible!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Regular Season Year in Review (Part II)

Remember this post from last week? Here are Matt's responses to the same questions:

1. There have been multiple nationally televised Big East conference games where the lower bowl of the student section wasn't even close to full. To be perfectly blunt, it seems that the majority of the student body couldn't care less about the basketball team. You're a current student. Is the indifference that comes through on TV--and the message boards--as bad as it seems?

As much as I'd love to still be a student I'm not. I will now pull out my old student ID, stare at it, and silently sob. But for the record I think the student body should be ashamed of their showing this year.

2. Mike Brey deserves applause for getting Cooley, Scott, and Broghammer to contribute when Harangody went down... but does he deserve equal criticism for not utilizing them more at an earlier point in the season?

He absolutely does. I don't understand why he's so slow to move toward putting in younger players who can make a contribution if even it's limited. It happened with Russell Carter a couple years back, it happened with Nash, and it happened this year with Cooley and Scott. To me there is little to no upside having Jonathan Peoples on the court yet all year he ate up minutes while Scott and (even more so) Cooley collected splinters on the bench. Everyone--especially the media--has short-term memory though and the only thing people will talk about is how Brey brought the team out of the ashes when his superstar went down. Those that watched all season will realize he was responsible for being in the ashes in the first place.

Perhaps the thing that blows my mind the most is the fact that it took a shade under ten years for Brey to adjust to an effective strategy that neutralizes the athleticism of elite Big East teams. He's cried about how we can't possibly match up with the top tier of teams in the conference yet did little or nothing to adjust until three weeks ago. Now he's in the middle of a month-long coaching clinic where we might—HUGE, HUUUUUGE might--be on the verge of taking the leap to the next level. It's beyond baffling. When I try to understand it my nose starts to bleed.

3. Who is your MVP of the regular season?

I'm really torn. Ben Hansbrough blew away the expectations I had for him coming in to this season, but when push comes to shove I have to go with Tory Jackson. He's been a gutsy performer all year who was a big part of keeping the high-octane attack going for the first part of the season and an even larger part in making the adjustment to a slow, grind it out attack a smooth one. He's a sparkplug and when Brey gushes about him it's totally deserved. Tory really helped the team stay afloat when they could have closed up shop after Harangody's injury

4. In your eyes what was the season's biggest disappointment?

Uttering this on ESPN would lead to my public crucifixion, but honestly it's Luke Harangody. I'm of the opinion he got terrible advice when it came to what he needed to do this season to prove he could make it in the NBA. Luke had shown over the course of his first three seasons that he could be an extremely effective scorer on the interior. What he needed to do this year was prove he could man up and be more than a human turnstile on defense while continuing to be a Barkley-esque force on the boards despite being a little on the short side (you can call this the DeJuan Blair Strategy). Instead he went the route of trying to prove he could be a perimeter threat. The result was a softer Luke Harangody that hovered around the three point line Luke Zeller style and launched twice as many threes this year as he did last year.

To say we're a better team without Luke is inaccurate, but I commented a couple weeks ago that if there was a way I could have freshman year Luke instead of senior year Luke down the stretch I'd make that trade in a heartbeat. Harangody was much more raw then, but he went down low and punished people with his physicality. He used to knock teeth out, he was like the big kid who didn't know his own strength and hurt all his little friends. I blame Brey a lot for enabling him to take on this new approach at the expense of the team's success.

Fortunately, since he's returned from his injury it seems like he's snapped back into freshman year mode at least a little bit. He attempted zero threes in his first two games back—the only two games all year he didn't launch one. Perhaps he's finally seen the light. Or maybe Brey flatout demanded he see the light. I don't really care which it was, but I hope he embraces his new role because we'd become a FAR more dangerous team. Until we confirm that though I'll still label him with the unsavory title of biggest disappointment.

5. How did this season play out in terms of your preseason expectations?

Before the season I predicted we'd be living on the bubble which means we're right about in line with what I thought. It's been a roller coaster season but it appears we're peaking at just the right time. If we get the right draw (please for the love of God throw us in a 7-10 game with Purdue as the 2 seed in our pod) we can do some serious damage, which would far surpass my preseason expectations.

6. Let's take a small lead of faith and say the Irish sneak in the Big Dance. What's their ceiling when they arrive?

Well this isn't a leap of faith anymore. Their ceiling is based 100% on the draw they receive. If they land in the 8-9 game and have to match up against Kansas or Kentucky then the buck will stop there (see: ND-Arizona Sweet 16 game from '03). If we're in the 7-10 spot and find a weak 2 seed then we can start to dream big (Elite 8 isn't likely, but not totally unreasonable). It's just a matter of how the deck breaks. Check back on Sunday night and I'll tell you exactly what our ceiling is.

7. Nearly ten years are in the books of the Mike Brey era... do you believe he's the guy who takes Notre Dame to the next level?

As recently as three weeks ago I would've answered with a resounding NO, but I'm granting him one last reprieve. The reinvention of his squad has been a beautiful thing to watch and it's the most striking evidence as to why he's held in such high regard by colleagues. My decision as to whether he's the guy to take us to the next level will not be determined in the NCAA tournament; rather, it will come this offseason when Brey will be faced with the choice of talking his team down or embracing the challenge of being the hunted. I really think next year's squad has a lot of potential and thanks to this late surge of success it won't be under the radar like he hoped it would be. If he spends the entire offseason campaigning to avoid the "TV Schedule" like he did during the '08-'09 season then it'll prove to me he's not the guy. Should he go the other route then maybe there's hope.

8. What will be your lasting memory of the 09-10 season?

Boy has this changed over the last few weeks. It was going to be Harangody's de-evolution at the expense of the team's success, but now it will forever be how the team rallied after Harangody's injury and played itself back from miles off the bubble to potential middle seed in the tournament. No matter what happens in the Big Dance I'll vividly remember the fantastic stretch of basketball we played to end the season.

Irish in the Tournament

It feels a lot better to be talking about a tough first-round matchup than another year in the NIT, especially considering how this season started.

ESPN's Bracketologist Joe Lunardi pegged the Irish as an 8-seed (as did the majority of people who predict this stuff). Thankfully, the Committee decided to look favorably on the Irish this year and grant them the same seed as three years ago... when ND went 24-7 and 11-5 in the Big East.

That year, a very talented Winthrop team picked up the first round upset. Notre Dame's opening matchup is no easier this season, as Old Dominion will present as close to an equal opponent as one can find on the opening weekend. However, the other 6/11 games are just as tight.

ODU is ranked 33rd by Ken Pomeroy, boasting a quality win over Georgetown and just one bad loss to George Mason on its way to the CAA title. The other 11-seeds, San Diego State (40th), Washington (29th), and and Minnesota (25th), all pose similar challenges to their first-round opponents. Indeed, each game is predicted to be a one-point contest by Pomeroy.

Should the Irish advance to the second round, a date with Baylor is most likely in store. The Bears are ranked 12th nationally, a better matchup than one of the top seeds we would have seen as the winner of an 8/9 game. However, Pitt (30th) and New Mexico (47th!) are 3-seeds just waiting to be upset.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Selection Sunday

Irish land a 6 seed. Old Dominion is a very talented first round opponent, but it is hard not to see this as a best case scenario for a potential run. We avoid the 8/9 game and could take on a pretty beatable opponent in Baylor in the second round. I like it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

BET Semis Live Blogging

Pregame: test

7:34- Gtown up 26-21. Two Catholic schools, so it's a bit tough to decide who to cheer for.

8:02- 37-34 Gtown at the half. I've decided to cheer against the Hoyas now. Personal reasons (their admissions department).

8:51- Georgetown for the win. Let's go Irish.

10:09- Down 17-12. Tory is struggling. Abro and Hansbrough also not shooting well. What else is new.

10:25- Down 23-20 at the half. Not too bad, it's a slow pace, which is good.

11:01- Have to shut down Da'Sean Butler. He is killing us right now.

11:26- Down 48-45. Bring it back!

11:45- 53-51 not the end of the world, sorry about the bad blogging. See you Sunday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

*BET Semis*

So here's the deal. I will be without internet from tomorrow morning to Sunday night. I did not predict that this would be an issue at all when the trip was planned. I will do my very best to figure out how to do some (limited) blogging via Blackberry. Go Irish, keep this going!

Notre Dame 50, Pittsburgh 45

Somehow, this team just keeps getting it done. The Irish controlled the pace once again and will play in the Big East semis tomorrow. Hopefully this will help us avoid that dreaded 8/9 game in the NCAAs.

ND overcame a nine minute drought without a field goal and only scored 18 in the second half, but was able to come up with consecutive stops with the game on the line. Tory Jackson led the team with 12 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. One of those was an ultra-clutch bucket with 3:30 left that put the Irish up 6 when we couldn't manage a point for two full minutes. His classmate Harangody also scored 12 but was not quite as efficient as we saw last night.

54.5% from the field, 46.2% beyond the arc, a very hot night shooting. The Panthers relied on eight offensive rebounds to keep this one close all night, but only managed to shoot 37% for the game. Another strong defensive effort for the Irish.

Tory only took one attempt inside the arc. He shot lights out on those three-pointers, however, and showed a ton of confidence in his ability to just step up off the dribble and knock a few shots down.

Ben Hansbrough has had some trouble getting his points off of the slower pace the last few games. He has just two made three pointers and has not scored in double-figures since our win against Georgetown. 5 points tonight with 3 assists. He also racked up 4 fouls. However, he and Tory have done a very nice job forcing the team to slow down. On multiple occasions, he was the guy to motion to his teammates to hold the ball. Good leadership.

Tim Abromaitis continued his offensive struggles. He only attempted five shots (one three pointer) and wound up with 7 points. Like Hansbrough, he isn't getting his looks in the "burn" offense, but has stepped it up a bit on D. His two blocks were SportsCenter-worthy and took a pair of easy buckets from the Panthers.

Carleton Scott had foul trouble again tonight, scoring 6 points before fouling out. He made all three of the shots he attempted but just managed to pull down one rebound.

Ty Nash impressed with his tenacity on the blocks. While Harangody forgets to post-up from time to time (more on that later), Nash manages to put his body on someone every time on the floor. In the first half, he racked up a career-high 6 assists by distributing the ball out of the low block. He also managed 8 points and 6 rebounds for a very strong stat line, especially in such a slow contest. The one big negative in his performance was his 2-6 line from the charity stripe. A couple more of those free points could have been vital at the end.

Luke showed off a bit of his frustrating old self again off the bench. He picked up an offensive foul by driving to the post with his head down in double coverage, took a few bad jumpers, and completely forgot to use his body in the post for several long stretches. That final note was most frustrating to watch. Harangody's post-ups led to many of his points last night, but on several possessions tonight he just stood around looking lost. He needs to watch how Nash uses his body every chance he gets on offense. Of course, beyond the negative points Harangody had a very solid game. 12 points on a decent 4-9 shooting. Just a pair of rebounds, but there weren't a ton to be had.

Jonathan Peoples also played off the bench. I only know that because he picked up one foul.

And now we are headed to the Big East semifinals, matching the deepest run ever by a Notre Dame team. The winning streak is six and shows no signs of stopping. "Burn" might be a boring offense to watch, but I hope we never go back to the old run-and-gun style. This has been incredibly effective.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Notre Dame 68, Seton Hall 54

Fantastic win. The Irish are really rolling right now.

Give Coach Brey some credit for how he has reorganized this team. Bilas and Raftery talked about the slow-down offense all game. It has improved our overall efficiency and, more importantly, forces the guys to work harder on defense. Hopefully this style will continue the rest of the year and into next season with a less star-centric team.

Harangody was great today, looking like his sophomore self all over again. This is how he should have been performing all year: avoiding the jump shot and racking up a ton of points on layups and fastbreak dunks. He was ruthlessly efficient tonight, such a difference from how he has played most of the year.

We struggled a bit with Seton Hall's press, but controlled the pace very well for most of the game. The Pirates wanted to run, but the Irish stuck to the gameplan and didn't panic after falling behind by seven early. Our slowdown offense may have been ugly to watch and seemingly ineffective when we used it to protect big leads earlier in the year, but now it is very hard to beat.

Tory Jackson had the play of the game when he dived to save the ball from going out of bounds and tipped it forward to a streaking Harangody for the basket. Great hustle. For the game, he had 14 points (all in the second half) and 6 assists to just one turnover. On defense, he was very effective in slowing down the Seton Hall fast break. He came away with one very heady steal that led to his own layup on the other end of the floor.

Ben Hansbrough had a tough night, but recorded one very nice offbalance three pointer. He added in 4 assists and 3 boards, but has struggled a lot the past three games. 5.6 points per on 14% shooting since the win over Georgetown.

Tim Abromaitis was not able to take advantage of a less physical defender in Jeremy Hazell and just scored 9 points, but didn't force it out there. He shot 3-5 from the field and played very well in a support role. He was named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year yesterday, a much deserved honor. I didn't realize that he is on track to graduate in three years. Congrats, Tim. He will be back next season while completing the accelerated MBA program.

Carleton Scott was limited with foul trouble, but still had a very good night. I believe Sean McDonough mentioned how surprising it is that the Irish now look for Luke Harangody to fill in when we're missing Scott's production. 8 points, 7 rebounds. He missed a pair of threes, but otherwise had just about as much production as you could want in 19 minutes.

Ty Nash had 7 points and 5 rebounds, but played in the shadow of Harangody and Scott most of the game. His free throw shooting woes came back, just 1-4 from the line.

Off the bench, Harangody was the star. 20 points and 10 boards. He just let the game come to him tonight and didn't try to dominate anything. If that is what we can expect from him the rest of the year, the Irish will be very dangerous at any pace. Jack Cooley played pretty well in a couple of minutes. It was interesting to see mimi-Gody play alongside his doppelganger. Jonathan Peoples turned the ball over twice on a couple of really dumb plays, but did score a pair of baskets.

On to Pittsburgh, the team that started this current winning streak. Keep it up, Irish.

Seton Hall BET Preview

Seton Hall-
Pomeroy Ranking- 57th
Record- 19-11 (9-9)
Best Win- Pittsburgh (ranked 27th)
Worst Loss- South Florida (ranked 72nd)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 80-79

Key Players-
#21 Jeremy Hazell- 21.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 35.0% 3PA- Dropped 35 on the Irish who came in talking a big game after shutting down Dominique Jones. Production has dropped off somewhat recently as he has not been the team's leading scorer in the past four games.
#32 Jeff Robinson- 11.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG- Production has hovered in the teens since the ND game in February. Has gotten in foul trouble in three of the past four games.
#15 Herb Pope- 11.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG- Has stepped it up lately. Didn't score in double digits for nine straight, but has had two 20+ outbursts in the past three game.

Last Game- Seton Hall 90-87

-This was the game we lost Harangody to an injured knee.
-Irish clawed back from a ten-point halftime deficit to pull the game close in the second half.
-Tory Jackson scored 25, going 9-12 from the field.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Regular Season Year in Review

This is one of two pretty big posts for the day, so be sure you also check out the Championship Week post below.

Matt from We Never Graduate sent over a batch of questions for a year-end collaborative post. I'll share a link to his responses when he completes them, but here are mine:

1. There have been multiple nationally televised Big East conference games where the lower bowl of the student section wasn't even close to full. To be perfectly blunt, it seems that the majority of the student body couldn't care less about the basketball team. You're a current student. Is the indifference that comes through on TV--and the message boards--as bad as it seems?

The student support has been up and down this year. Obviously ND never has the kind of support seen at universities where basketball is king, but we typically can get a much better turnout than has been the case in several of the games this year. While there has been an uptick recently (the student section was pretty full for the UCONN game), Sunday afternoon contests against South Florida and St. John's barely drew anyone.

I think the way last season ended and this season began has been the number one factor behind our low student attendance. With the football team struggling and Coach Brey's squad ranked in the top-ten, basketball was king on campus for the first couple of months of the 2008-09 season. The College Gameday experience and subsequent support for the Irish against Connecticut that January was one of the highlights of my basketball watching career. At the time, I felt that the program could carry that momentum and the construction of a new arena into a permanent place amongst the college basketball elite.

Unfortunately, that opportunity was wasted. The UCONN game just became loss number three of a seven game slide and even a huge win over Louisville and deep NIT run were not enough to keep the students interested. The football team may have sucked again this year, but the hiring of Brian Kelly has kept students looking forward to next fall instead of focusing on the present.

With last year's letdown still a recent memory and nonconference losses to Northwestern and Loyola Marymount seemingly dooming the season from the start, it's been hard for anyone to get excited about a bubble program. The recent success has helped turned things around in the students' minds a lot, but it has come too late to display a consistent increase in attendance.

I think much of the internet bashing of students has been a bit unfair. It's a consistent topic for the message boards, but I haven't really addressed it too much on the blog. Yes, student support is too low and we need to see a change in the way the student body views the basketball program. However, there are so many factors involved: hangover from yet another frustrating football season, terrible South Bend weather, cupcake nonconference opponents, the sheer number of home games. Without a good team to watch (a Sweet Sixteen contender), the students just aren't going to put in the effort to follow the program like they do for football. That's not an excuse, it's just a fact we have to deal with.

2. Mike Brey deserves applause for getting Cooley, Scott, and Broghammer to contribute when Harangody went down... but does he deserve equal criticism for not utilizing them more at an earlier point in the season?

Absolutely. As always, this help has been better late than never, but there is no reason why we could not have been playing Scott on a more consistent basis all year and giving Cooley/Broghammer at least five minutes per game. Scott has really come into his own recently and developed into the kind of athletic rebounder that the program has needed for years. His offensive development has been surprising, as he seemed to struggle with the ball at the start of the year, but could have come even sooner with a bit of game experience.

We could have used a big man off the bench all season and there is no excuse for why Coach Brey would have been willing to burn redshirts on two of his freshman bigs in meaningless contests without giving them a chance to spell Harangody in short stretches during the Big East season. Gody's injury forced him to open up the rotation a bit and we were able to see that these guys actually do have a bit of talent.

3. Who is your MVP of the regular season?

That's a really tough one. Harangody was the obvious choice, but the team has improved so much without him that it's hard to stick with the All-American. Scott is most-improved. He has been the most valuable guy during this winning streak and has kept a level head while persevering through a playing time crisis to develop into one of our best players. Abromaitis has come off a redshirt year to score in double digits on all but three occasions. His scoring ability and support on the glass has been much-needed all year. He's been utterly reliable in every game this season and should continue to develop into a star.

But I'll go with Tory Jackson. He scores less than ten points per game, frequently takes ill-advised shots in the lane around much taller defenders, and has seen a sharp decrease in his rebound numbers this season. Yet his contributions to the team have been immeasurable. For two-thirds of the year, he was the only guy who seemed to give a damn about playing D. He will continue to be matched up with the best scorers from our opponents in the postseason and I can't wait to see him challenge some of the best players in the country. On top of everything, he is the heart and soul of the program. He is a passionate leader and bleeds blue and gold. Many will remember his 22 points against UCONN that kept the Irish Tournament hopes alive, but I'll never forget the pure excitement that was in his voice for the postgame speech. The Notre Dame senior class of 2010 boasted a former Big East Player of the Year whose individual accomplishments rank amongst the greatest in Notre Dame and Big East basketball history, but he pales in comparison to what Tory has meant to this program. Harangody will go on to have a very successful pro career, but I can think of few better players to start a team around than Tory Jackson.

4. In your eyes what was the season's biggest disappointment?

Just the overall underperformance we saw for much of the year. Obviously, this team had the talent to perform amongst the league's best, but managed to throw away contests to Northwestern, Loyola Marymount, Cincy, Rutgers, and St. John's. I blame the short bench and the handling of Harangody for much of those problems.

Luke used this season as an extended pro tryout. I don't hold that against him too much, but the coaching staff should have had him riding the pine every time he threw up yet another dumb three pointer. He vacated the paint and destroyed the offensive flow by operating as a shooting guard in a center's body. The rest of the players were more than willing to watch him jack up 20+ shots a game and be our sole rebounding threat on the floor. With him out of the lineup, the ball movement has improved and every guy has been able to play to his ability. Call it the Ewing Theory or whatever you want. Luke Harangody's injury was the best thing that could have happened to our Tournament chances this season.

5. How did this season play out in terms of your preseason expectations?

That's such a tough question. I entered this year thinking we would be better than last season's team. Not the top-ten early season ranking for the program a year ago, but certainly good enough to merit NCAA consideration. Tim Abromaitis has been everything I expected and more. His performance has been such a great improvement over the Hillesland/Ayers fiasco that we should have been two or three games better on that basis alone. On paper, the addition of Abro and Hansbrough replacing McAlarney should have made this team a lock for the NCAAs.

Yet they weren't. Until recently, this team would have been lucky to nail down an NIT bid. Its defensive effort was god-awful for 27 games. The once great star of the program turned into a selfish shell of his former self and Mike Brey was another losing streak away from finding a new job.

The recent success hasn't made me change my mind about this season being a disappointment, indeed I think we should have played like this all year, but there is something endearing about the current squad. Without Harangody, they have been transformed into something we haven't seen on campus in years: a gritty underdog that is willing to fight with anyone and can actually play a little defense when it counts. Sure '07 and '08 were surprises, but this one is different. I have never seen a team completely transform its identity over the course of the year like this. They could very well make a run over the next few weeks and reach a level of success that Mike Brey has only seen once. Or they could completely flame out and lose their next two. Regardless, it's hard to be surprised anymore. This season has been nothing like what I expected.

6. Let's take a small lead of faith and say the Irish sneak in the Big Dance. What's their ceiling when they arrive?

Again, I really need to stop predicting this team's behavior. With the right draw and the current momentum, I could really see them making it to the second weekend. However, this luck could play itself out very quickly. Regardless, it will be interesting watch.

7. Nearly ten years are in the books of the Mike Brey era... do you believe he's the guy who takes Notre Dame to the next level?

No, I really don't. I like Mike Brey a lot as a person and still think he is a very good coach, but my patience finally wore out on him this season. Unfortunately, I have no idea who the right guy could be. Is it Fran McCaffery? I like what he's done at Siena, but it is hard to say definitively that he would be an improvement over Brey. Earlier in the year, I supported a coaching change if only to breath new life into the program. Now however, that would be a much harder sell. There simply is not a Brian Kelly-type coach (or better) available for the hoops program. Any new blood would involve a lot of risk. If Brey continues to make the Big Dance at the current rate, he's going to be retained. I don't think that is the right mentality for the program, but I really don't know if there is anyone out there who can bring about the success we should strive for under the current conditions.

8. What will be your lasting memory of the 09-10 season?

That is still to be determined. I'm glad we didn't do this two weeks ago, because it would have been pretty negative. That still might be the case if the team regresses from its current form. However, if the season ended today I would have two major memories of this year.

First of all, the Loyola Marymount loss now seems like a harbinger of the struggles we saw in Big East play. There was no need for good defense, little intensity all day, and a late-game collapse against a vastly inferior opponent. My proudest moment right now is that UCONN game. It wasn't our best win (that would be against West Virginia way back in January, a game that was seemingly ages ago), but it was one we needed to win. After two big upsets, the team was due for a letdown but somehow pulled out a much needed victory in a low scoring defensive battle. The Marquette game came close to topping it, but there's nothing like getting the W on Senior Night like that with your best player in street clothes.

Championship Week

As Mike Brey has wanted all season, the Irish are officially "in the conversation" for the NCAA Tournament. Riding high after a four-game winning streak, that conversation has shifted somewhat to talk about seeding and first round matchups when just two weeks ago it seemed unlikely that ND would even make it in. First things first, however.

The Big East Tournament begins today. Obviously, the game of note is that 10/15 matchup tonight which will decide our second round opponent. With a 15 point win over Providence in hand (from way back in December), it's pretty fair to say that a Friar win would be beneficial. However, this Irish team can expect to be favored against Seton Hall, as well.

As far as Big East bubble teams go, watch the Pirates and South Florida this week. Seton Hall doesn't have any really bad losses this year and could potentially steal our bid with a win against the Irish on Wednesday. The Bulls have a bit of a tougher road, with Georgetown and Syracuse potentially waiting in the wings. If they made it all the way to Thursday and played the Orange tough, however, this could also be a late entry into the Tournament.

What about Notre Dame's hopes? I think that it is safe to say that the Irish are in with at least one win in the BET this week. That would place the Irish at 11-9 in the conference and 4-1 in their last five. The committee loves to see teams that step their game up down the stretch, perform well without a star player, and beat other bubble teams when it counts. This ND team has done all of that, a huge improvement over previous seasons.

Notre Dame's Record over its Last Five Games (Regular Season and BET)-
2010- 4-1 (barring a Big East Championship)
2009- 2-3
2008- 3-2
2007- 4-1
2006- 2-3
2005- 1-4

While the Irish faltered big time under the microscope in other big bubble years such as '05, '06, and '09, this squad has been able to turn it on when it counts and has been successful against much better competition than the 2007 and 2008 Tournament teams faced in crunch time.

Other Bubble Teams-

Of course, the other part of this postseason equation relies on how other potential Tournament teams fare in their conference playoffs. With Saint Mary's, Siena, and Old Dominion all taking care of business, the bubble picture has cleared up just a little bit. By comparison, the Irish are 21-10, 10-8, 49th (Pomeroy), and 59th (RPI).

Washington- (21-9, 11-7, 33rd Pomeroy, 49th RPI) Joe Lunardi and The Bracket Project's first team out, the Huskies face Oregon State before a probable bubble play-off against the Sun Devils.

Arizona State- (22-9, 12-6, 37th Pomeroy, 52nd RPI) Split the season series with the Huskies and performed well in a very bad Pac-10, but most likely need to reach the conference finals to earn a bid. Friday could be a very big matchup.

Illinois- (18-13, 10-8, 56th Pomeroy, 74th RPI) Has just fallen apart down the stretch, losing five of their past six. Play a very good Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Tournament that just trounced them. Even a win in that game may not be enough. It will be a travesty if this conference gets more than four teams in.

San Diego State- (22-8, 11-5, 44th Pomeroy, 36th RPI) The exact opposite of Illinois, San Diego State is a pretty good small conference team that has performed well enough when it counts to merit some consideration. As long as they don't drop a first round matchup with Colorado State, they will have a shot at solidifying an entry into the NCAAs against top seed New Mexico.

Mississippi- (21-9, 9-7, 51st Pomeroy, 57th RPI) Have played well down the stretch and could potentially face Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Need a win there to be a lock, but could still make it as long as they are not upset by the Tennessee/LSU winner on Friday.


As always, The Bracket Project does a nice job of compiling a whole bunch of different projections for you. Currently the Irish are listed as a 10 seed and make the Tourney in 73 of the 76 brackets. I'd take that in a heartbeat over the 8/9 game.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

All-Big East

Congrats to Luke Harangody for making first team All-Conference and Tim Abromaitis for making Honorable Mention.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Notre Dame 63, Marquette 60

Irish cap off the season on a four game winning streak with an incredible come-from-behind performance. Down seven with a minute to go, a pair of Ty Nash free throws and two clutch threes sent the game to OT, where the Irish outlasted the Golden Eagles.

That just might have been enough to send this team to the Tournament. A BET win should seal the deal. Huge congrats to Coach Brey and the whole team.

Tim Abromaitis pulled the game within three with just under a minute remaining, but was unable to deliver the tying basket at the end regulation. However, some great hustle by Ben Hansbrough kept the possession alive and set up Carleton Scott to notch things up at the buzzer. Can you imagine a better finish than this one? For a program with notorious history in close games (2006 still burns in my memory) and a reputation for keeping a tight rotation, the Irish miraculously pulled themselves out of the grave with a clutch basket by the poster child of limited playing time.

This finish was our season in a nutshell. With Luke Harangody on the bench, the rest of the team was able to rally with their backs against the wall to defeat another very talented opponent in a defensive battle. This game, along with the three previous contests, was the polar opposite of what we have been used to watching in the Joyce Center for the past several seasons. Good defense, loads of hustle, and a lineup composed of a bunch of unselfish overachievers. I love it.

Tory Jackson wrapped up his regular season career with 9 points and just a single assist. After an incredible performance against Connecticut, the point guard was a bit of an afterthought in a weak Irish offensive performance. On defense, however, he helped to hold Maurice Acker and David Cubillan to just five points apiece.

Ben Hansbrough was 0-5 from beyond the arc. That was pretty standard for the game, as neither team shot over 17.4% on their three-point attempts. He also tacked on 4 fouls and 4 turnovers in a bit of a struggle.

Though the backcourt failed to impress, Abro, Scott, and Nash cleared up on the glass and provided some necessary offensive oomph. Abro struggled with his shot for the third straight game, but was able to contribute 7 points from the charity stripe and 18 total (with just one three-pointer). He is so much more of a complete player than we had in Ryan Ayers last year. A fantastic shooter, to be sure, but he has enough athleticism get rebounds from the perimeter and take the ball inside to draw fouls or create offensive opportunities for the rest of the team.

Just as I love watching Abromaitis develop, his classmate Carleton Scott seems to be growing in front of our eyes. 14 points, 13 rebounds. His offensive output is expanding with each game and that freakish leaping ability has made him the best rebounder on the team right now. It's a shame that he couldn't have gotten more playing time at the beginning of the year, but no one can complain with his performances now.

Ty Nash also scored in the double-digits and grabbed 9 rebounds. Five of those resulted in second chances for the Irish. Most importantly, Nash sank 7 of 10 free throws, including a clutch pair to help the Irish tie the game at the end of regulation. If he can continue to improve his reliability from the line, he will be pretty dangerous as a scorer with how often he draws contact in the lane.

Luke Harangody will come off the bench the rest of the year. That's a sad way for such a great player to end his career, but I wouldn't want to mess with the system we have going right now. In just eleven minutes, he had 5 points and a pair of rebounds. We will see what kind of role he plays the remainder of the season, but I have to think that bringing an All-American off the bench in limited stretches will provide a nice boost in the postseason.

The Irish have claimed the seven seed for the Big East Tournament. They will play either Seton Hall or Providence on Wednesday at 7. Bracketography, one of the better independent projection sites, lists the Irish as solidly in the NCAAs as a nine seed. I'll break down more of that this week as other sites update their projections.

Four straight wins through our hell stretch to end the year. Remember this? Seems like an awful long time ago.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Marquette Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 19th
Record- 20-9 (11-6)
Best Win- Xavier (ranked 20th)
Worst Loss- DePaul (ranked 165th)
Pomeroy Prediction- Marquette 75-67

Key Players-
#32 Lazar Hayward- 18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 33.5% 3PA- Has been Mr. Reliable for the Golden Eagles this year. Eight double-doubles to his credit.
#33 Jimmy Butler- 15.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 50.0% 3PA- Takes very few three pointers, but has made half of them. Good for 6 or 7 boards just about every game.
#1 Darius Johnson-Odom- 13.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 48.9% 3PA- Dead-eye shooter from long range. Went 4-6 from downtown for 22 points against Louisville.

Scouting Report-

In the top ten nationally in fewest turnovers allowed.
7th in the nation in three-point percentage.
Block very few shots on defense.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bracket Project

I didn't think we'd need this, but all of a sudden it's time to start watching the bubble.

The Bracket Project lists the Irish as a twelve-seed, just a couple steps down from the vanquished Huskies. We'll see if anything changes before Saturday.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Notre Dame 58, Connecticut 50

Huge win. It was an ugly one, but the Irish took one step closer to a possible NCAA bid and, perhaps more importantly, eliminated the Huskies from Tournament contention. ND has moved into a tie for seventh in the Big East and holds the tie-breaker over Georgetown.

Both teams shot very poorly from the floor. Give the Notre Dame D some credit, but UCONN also missed a few open looks and airballed a bunch. Someone forgot to turn on the heat in the building.

However, you can't overlook the effort our guys put in tonight. This has been a huge improvement the past three games. In addition to moving their feet on defense, the Irish threw their bodies around inside to nearly break even in rebounding against a team with three guys at 6'10" or taller. Led by Tory Jackson and Ben Hansbrough, ND forced 15 turnovers, tying a season-high against Big East opponents. Out 10 steals for the night marked just the third time this year the Irish finished with double digits in that category.

The offensive output was the second worst of the year (to the Northwestern game) but that just underlined how effective the home team was in other areas tonight. If we can win with 37% shooting and ten missed foul shots, more success will follow with a good night shooting the ball.

What a fantastic Senior Night for Tory Jackson. The vocal leader of the team for the past four years, Tory led the way with 22 points. He was ruthlessly efficient at the rim with 8-14 shooting and added in a pair of assists and three rebounds even though the Irish put the brakes on the pace of the contest, frequently waiting until the shot clock read five before attacking the basket. When he was pulled from the game with a few seconds remaining, he received a much deserved standing ovation and gave a very nice postgame speech after putting the team on his back tonight. Thank you for four great years, Tory.

Ben Hansbrough had no shooting touch tonight, but tied Tory Jackson with 4 steals. Like any good shooter, he tried to get shot back with multiple trips to the free throw line. He was able to come away with 6 points even though he finished 0-8 from the field. He was also the second highest rebounder with 4.

Tim Abromaitis also struggled a bit with his shot, but had a little success inside the arc. 10 points and 4 rebounds for the Alumni Dawg. At the end, his teammates had some trouble getting him the ball in an opportunity to get fouled, which needs to change. Going 4-8 as a team from the foul line during a crucial minute-long stretch allowed UCONN to cut the lead by four.

Carleton Scott was excellent. 12 points, 14 boards, 2-4 from three-point range. His athleticism overcame the height disadvantage and allowed him to finish as the game's highest rebounder. Add in a pair of assists and 3 blocks for a great all-around effort. He combined all of his best attributes: solid wing defense, athleticism on the glass, and a bit of clutch shooting, for a fantastic performance.

Ty Nash had a bit of trouble putting the ball in the basket like a few of his other teammates. 5 points, just 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. When the Irish looked to kill the clock, he caught the ball far too away from the basket to be effective and we relied on some perimeter drives for points. That's not the kind of offense in which he can be effective.

Off the bench, Jack Cooley combined 3 points with 3 offensive rebounds in just 7 minutes on the floor. Jonathan Peoples' Senior Night was forgettable, just 2 minutes and a turnover, though he did get the token start in Abromaitis' place. Joey Brooks got in at the last second and so did Tim Andree, senior walk-on. Thanks to him for playing hard in practice all these years with so little reward in games.

So now we're looking at a very realistic NCAA bid all of a sudden. Who would have thought? With no Harangody tonight, you have to think we will be out against Marquette on Saturday. Keep playing like this and the Irish could enter the BET riding high on a four game winning streak.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Connecticut Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 40th
Record- 17-12 (7-9)
Best Win- West Virginia (ranked 7th)
Worst Loss- Providence (ranked 85th)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 76-74

Key Players-
#11 Jerome Dyson- 18.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 30.3% 3PA- Double digits in every game this year, 20 and 10 against the Irish in the first contest. He really is not a great three point shooter, but keeps throwing them up. 5-30 in the past seven games.
#21 Stanley Robinson- 15.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 36.6% 3PA- Double-doubles in the past two games. He is another guy who is guaranteed at least ten points. Against the Irish in January, he dominated the glass with 16 rebounds.
#15 Kemba Walker- 14.8 PPG, 4.1 APG, 37.6% 3PA- His acoring average has shot up recently with his ability to get to the foul line. 23.5 PPG in the past four contests, with an average of 11.5 free throw attempts per.

Last Game- UCONN 82-70

-Led by Robinson and Alex Oriakhi, the Huskies held onto a ten rebound advantage.
-Irish pulled the game within three with five minutes remaining, but UCONN answered with seven straight points to put the game out of reach.
-Luke Harangody finished with 31 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Irish.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Less Than 50/50 Chance Luke Returns for Senior Night

That really is too bad, it's awful to see his career end like this, but I'd hate to mess up the team's flow right now. If the current squad can keep playing the way they are, Luke will come back for the Big East Tourney with a shot at the NCAA's on the line.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Notre Dame 78, Georgetown 64


The Irish used some great ball movement and high-intensity defense to grind away at the Hoyas on the road. This was exactly what you want to see from a team on the ropes: unselfish play with loads of hustle and smart decisions on both ends of the ball. Once again, I liked how this team played without its All-American. Everyone was on their toes today, looking to contribute for forty minutes, instead of letting one guy take most of the responsibility. There were a few stretches that were simply beautiful to watch.

ND stole the ball ten times, equaling its total from the double-overtime loss to Louisville. That also marks only the third time all year that the Irish have finished in double digits in that stat. Tory Jackson led the way with five takeaways, but everyone helped out. Ben Hansbrough's steal at the top of the key with five minutes left was one of most heady defensive moves we've seen all year.

The Irish outrebounded Georgetown by eleven, an incredible stat when playing without our top rebounder and facing one of the best big men in the conference. Carleton Scott had a big coming-out party, hitting the glass hard for nine boards. We haven't had anyone who can rebound from the perimeter like that in a very long time. Glad to have him in the rotation, better late than never.

Georgetown's leading scorer Austin Freeman was out of his element with just five points. We caught a break with him being sick, but the Hoyas certainly had enough fire power to win without him. Playing without our top guy, I have to rate this as the best win of the year.

Tory Jackson had 9 points and 3 assists to go with his fantastic defensive performance. His step-up three when the lead had dwindled to four was clutch. Without that shot, Georgetown could have gotten right back into the game. That bucket ended a five-and-a-half minute scoreless streak and snapped an 8-0 Hoya run. Bigtime play by the senior leader.

Ben Hansbrough carried the team at the beginning of the second half, going on a personal 10-3 run in the first three minutes after the break. 19 of his 21 points came in the second half and in a variety of ways. His three three-pointers were standard fare, but he also took it to the basket with confidence. He was 4-5 on shots inside the arc. He also filled in the stat sheet in a variety of other ways: 4 assists, 3 rebounds, a block, and that nice steal.

Tim Abromaitis really struggled with his long range touch (1-9), but was able to still contribute all over the floor. He managed 19 points, almost entirely inside the arc and from the free throw line. A couple baskets came on broken presses at the end, a nice sign. In recent years, the Irish have caved to late game pressure and have never been able to close out the way we want. Today, Georgetown paid for its decision to keep up the full-court pressure by giving up dunks on the other end. Great job, Irish.

Carleton Scott was the player of the game. 17 points, 9 rebounds. He was 7-8 from the floor, almost perfect. Four of his rebounds came on the offensive end. He blocked three shots with that long wingspan and grabbed a pair of steals as well. We knew that his athleticism could lead to that kind of defensive ability, but the offensive performance was what I was most impressed with again. He drilled three three-pointers with confidence and looks like he is improving as a scorer with every contest.

Ty Nash had 8 points and 6 rebounds. Once again, his free throw percentage was impressive, 4-5. He also finished with 3 assists, as the Irish dished out 16 in an almost perfect distribution among the starters.

Off the bench, Jack Cooley really filled in well in his twelve minutes. Coach Brey used him primarily as a minute and foul eater on defense since Nash has struggled with that so much in conference play. His effort resulted in 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 fouls that didn't get called on #1. I like that usage of Cooley and wish we could have seen it a bit earlier this season. Peoples' career seems to be winding down in a whimper. Just one steal in 5 minutes.

The Irish opened the second half with two great stretches of play. My favorite came right before the 12:30 mark, as our ball movement led the way to a 7-2 run capped off by back-to-back Cooley layups. Carleton Scott's dish from the top of the key for an Abromaitis mid-range jumper should be replayed over and over as the team heads back to South Bend. When Harangody gets back into the lineup, I hope that the guys are able to keep up that kind of movement and unselfish play. We are very hard to stop like that.

UCONN at home Wednesday and at Marquette next Saturday. Win both and a BET game and the Irish are in the Tournament. Who would have thought?

Great job, guys. Please keep this up.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Other Stuff

Great article.

Better video (you've seen it before, of course).

Georgetown Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 16th
Record- 19-7 (9-6)
Best Win- Duke (ranked 1st)
Worst Loss- Rutgers (ranked 143rd)
Pomeroy Prediction- G'town 81-70

Key Players-
#15 Austin Freeman- 17.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 48.1% 3PA- Has been clutch against Big East competition. Hasn't scored less than 17 in the past month.
#10 Greg Monroe- 15.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG- Living up to his bidding after a ho-hum freshman year. Nine double-doubles on the season.
#4 Chris Wright- 14.0 PPG, 3.8 APG, 32.6% 3PA- Hot and cold. Either drops 20+ or doesn't get into double-digits. Also gets into foul trouble a bit.

Scouting Report-

Up and down, have beaten some very good teams in Duke and Villanova, but also lost to South Florida and Rutgers.
5th in the nation in effective field goal percentage.
Have played the 2nd hardest schedule in the country.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Notre Dame 68, Pittsburgh 53

After a rough two weeks, the team was due for a good game. It was great to see them finish off a good opponent after missing a great chance at Louisville. Oh, what this season might have been...

Say what you want about yesterday's result, whether it was merely a blind squirrel finally finding a nut, how the team should have been performing all year, or an example of Luke Harangody's (negative) impact on the team's cohesiveness. To be honest, there is a little bit of all three there.

The Irish played very good defense, holding Pitt to just 42% shooting for the night. They hustled out there. I haven't seen the Irish go after loose balls or challenge shots with that kind of effort all year. They would have been a lock for the tournament if last night's performance had been the norm this season.

Jack Cooley and Mike Broghammer really showed up off the bench. While it is easy to use their success now as an indication for how Coach Brey has mismanged the rotation, I guess it's better to play the two freshman bigs late than never. Cooley's four boards helped the Irish finish with a nine rebound advantage for the contest. When was the last time that happened against a ranked opponent?

Tory Jackson had a great offensive game. 14 points and 7 assists with just 3 turnovers. He shot extremely well, including 3-5 from beyond the arc. While Tory has never developed into a primary scorer, the team needs him to contribute like this in order to be successful.

When your top rebounder is injured, you need other people to step up and hit the glass. Ben Hansbrough had 9 rebounds last night to go with his 15 points. His outside shot wasn't falling, but he was able to take it inside and get most of his points on layups and midrange jumpers. That's an important quality in a shooting guard, one that we did not get a whole lot from Kyle McAlarney or Ryan Ayers last year.

Abro was the leading scorer with 17. 9 of those points did come from downtown and he chipped in with a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe. Throw in 5 rebounds for good measure.

Carleton Scott is starting to look more and more comfortable in his starting role. I liked how he was able to chip in with a couple open threes when he got a chance, but never forced anything with the ball. For most of the year, that shooting touch has been lacking. If he can develop into an under-the-radar scorer (usually the fourth or fifth option on offense) in addition to the solid defense and rebounding he provides, it will be hard to take him off the floor.

Ty Nash might have been the most impressive one of the bunch. Finally looking confident as a post scorer, he was able to pick up 13 points on the night. Most importantly, he went 7-8 from the line. That physical style will rack him up points in a hurry if he can figure out how to shoot free throws. Last night was a huge step in the right direction. He also finished with 7 rebounds. This was the first game where he really started to look like he belonged as a Big East post player.

Off the bench, Coley earned 13 minutes. He did not score, but played a huge role in filling the paint on defense and grabbing 4 rebounds. Likewise, Mike Broghammer played well as another large body, though he didn't do anything too impressive on the stat sheet. Five minutes for Jonathan Peoples marked the first time all year he hasn't earned double-digit playing time.

I like this team better without Harangody than when he is healthy, I really do. This squad plays tough defense, hustles all over the floor, and is very unselfish. While I love Luke and have enjoyed watching him put up big numbers the past four years, games like this make me excited for next season. With the right work ethic and a chip on the shoulder mentality, next year's bunch might actually see a bit of sustained success.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pittsburgh Preview

Luke Harangody will be honored before the game Wednesday, but will not play. ESPN will also be there to film a special on Luke before the game.

Pomeroy Ranking- 20th
Record- 21-6 (10-4)
Best Win- Syracuse (ranked 3rd)
Worst Loss- Indiana (ranked 150th)
Pomeroy Prediction- Pitt 70-68

Key Players-
#12 Ashton Gibbs- 16.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 38.4% 3PA- Sophomore has picked up a big role this year in the offense. 20+ points in three of the last four games.
#22 Brad Wanamaker- 12.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, 33.3% 3PA- All-purpose guard leads the team in assists. Second in points and boards.
#52 Gary McGhee- 7.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG- Hasn't played a big scoring role on the team, but is a very strong rebounder. Could have a breakout game with no Gody.

Scouting Report-

Very good at defending shooters, 19th in effective field goal percentage allowed.
Don't force many turnovers on defense, however.
Unselfish. Assist on a higher percentage of made baskets than the Irish.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Two Weeks Left

Just a few more games remain in the regular season. Though the Winter Olympics might be taking up the brunt of ESPN's attention (and every single channel operated by NBC), there are a few very good stories to watch in the Big East.

1. Villanova is starting to slide away from a chance at the Big East regular season title. With two straight losses and games remaining against Syracuse and West Virginia, the Wildcats could find themselves dropping as low as fourth in the standings after leading for much of the year.

2. Syracuse may have locked up the first seed. Pomeroy now places the Orange as an eight-point favorite at home against 'Nova with their toughest game coming on the road to a Louisville team that defeated them a week ago. The law of averages could play a role in a 'Cuse win there, but expect no more than one loss for the Orange as they finish atop the standings at 15-3.

3. The list of Big East teams receiving bids to the Tournament this year could be pretty slim. ESPN just list five teams as "locks" from the conference with four needing to boost their resumes a bit. After eight a couple years ago, the league will receive no more than last year's total of seven this season, but even that could be a serious stretch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bracket Busters

The Irish will not be in action again until Wednesday, so you can turn your attention to other sports for a few days. By sporting events, I mean anything other than Tiger Woods' mess of an apology.

Actually, there is still a lot going on in the world of college basketball with Bracket Buster weekend upon us. It's always interesting to see the mid-majors get their shot at glory.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Louisville 91, Notre Dame 89

Just an awful way to lose a really hard fought game. Completely wasted possession at the end of the second overtime, but this thing should have been won in regulation. Four straight missed free throws from our guards threw it away then.

Can't fault the team for its effort, though. Without Harangody for the second straight game, our reserves showed why they should have been playing all year. Carleton Scott earned the minutes he took from Peoples, Mike Broghammer was tough as nails on both ends of the floor, and Jack Cooley picked up 5 rebounds before fouling out.

The officiating left much to be desired, as Samardo Samuels single-handedly fouled out four (almost five, with Abromaitis) of our players. While a lot of the whistles tonight were bad calls, I also have to think that guys like Broghammer and Cooley would have benefitted from more experience in their post defense.

Tory Jackson was a real leader on the floor tonight, but just couldn't get it done at the end. His shot selection in clutch time was a bit frustrating and he missed a pair of free throws in the final minutes of regulation, however. For the game, he shot very well (6-11) for 19 points and had 7 assists while playing all 50 minutes.

Ben Hansbrough was the culprit of missed freebies with just over a minute left. Other than that, he was a perfect 10 for 10 from the line, though his shooting touch failed to carry over to the rest of the contest. His three-point attempts, including a couple K-Mac-esque 25 footers, were frequently off the mark and he turned the ball as many times as he had assists (3). He did chip in with 8 boards, as the Irish were able to maintain an even rebounding total with the home team.

Carleton Scott played 34 minutes. That's a career-high (though helped by the overtimes). 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks. Coach Brey finally realized that he deserved more of a look than Peoples and he delivered. The open three he sank to put the Irish up late in the second half was a clutch shot. You expect that from our veteran guys, but it was nice to see someone who has struggled mightily with his scoring step in at a critical moment.

Tim Abromaitis finished with 29 points and 5 rebounds, his second straight big performance with Gody out. Hats off to the Alumni Hall resident once again. He very nearly fouled out, like four of his teammates, but was able to finish the contest while playing 45 minutes.

Ty Nash did foul out. Just 4 points and 4 boards in 28 minutes for him. Though he struggled, it was a bit of a mixed blessing, because I really liked what we saw from the reserves tonight. It's unlikely that they would have gotten as much playing time with him in the whole contest.

Off the bench, Mike Broghammer really stuck out for me. More than what he did in the stat sheet, he hustled all game and created opportunities with his energy. His bone-crushing screens were great to watch and the energy he displayed on defense has been missing from this team for a long time. Jack Cooley also played very well in the paint. His 5 rebounds in just 19 minutes tied for third on the team.

The commentators loved to talk about those two guys stepping up tonight after not playing all year, but the real story is how the Irish have been coached into a seven-man box when there is some talent on the bench. Neither Brogs nor Cooley is anything near starting material, of course, but you can't tell me that a few minutes for one of the two would be a worse scenario than leaving a bunch of tired started in all day. Joey Brooks should be taking a lot of Jonathan Peoples' minutes, as well. This should be happening regardless of an injury or foul trouble. Credit Coach Brey for having these guys tested enough in practice to be able to contribute in a pinch, but they should be getting more game-experience than this.

Tough, tough loss. They really deserved to win this one. Hopefully we can get Harangody back soon and continue to make things difficult for some Tournament teams down the road.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Louisville Preview

As much as I'd love to see this again, it's probably not going to happen. Luke Harangody will be a game-time decision.

Pomeroy Ranking- 26th
Record- 16-9 (7-5)
Best Win- Syracuse (ranked 5th)
Worst Loss- Western Carolina (ranked 170th)
Pomeroy Prediction- Louisville 84-74

Key Players-
#15 Samardo Samuels- 15.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG- He has the talent and strength to stay with Harangody if he plays. Without Luke, the Irish could struggle to stop him inside.
#10 Edgar Sosa- 13.0 PPG, 4.2 APG, 38.7% 3PA- Averaging double-digits for the first time since his freshman year. Didn't score in their loss to St. John's.
#34 Jerry Smith- 8.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 26.9% 3PA- Played a big role in wins over UCONN and Rutgers, but has disappeared lately. Shooting struggles are perplexing. He was a 41% guy beyond the arc a year ago.

Scouting Report-

For the first time since 2005, the Cards' offense is more efficient than its defense (10th ranked offense, 80th ranked D).
The defensive struggles have been mostly due to an inordinate amount of offensive rebounds given up, but they also get more than their fair share of second chances on offense.
Very rarely have shots blocked, but take too many three-point attempts for shooting such a low clip (32.7%).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. John's 69, Notre Dame 68

The slow-motion train wreck just keeps rollin' along. With a one-point lead going into the final minute, the Irish managed to drop another close game. Two awful shot choices by Tory Jackson at the end put the icing on the cake. The Irish went 2-3 in their "easy" five-game stretch. The hellish end-of-season games await. This could be a seven game losing streak.

In fairness, the team did fight hard to come back after falling behind by nine in the second half. They played without their top scorer, a guy who is third nationally in percentage of shots taken. The Irish had to start completely from scratch. Additionally, having no experienced post player available to come off the bench was a big, though self-inflicted, handicap.

Still, this loss is the worst of the conference season for a variety of reasons. The one-point defeat to Rutgers came on the road. While the Scarlet Knights looked like a very bad team two weeks ago, they have been improving with every game, beating the Red Storm and now boasting a three-point victory over Georgetown. Tonight's loss in South Bend served only to highlight coaching failures including the mismanagement of timeouts and a horrid final possession. There is not much of a silver lining.

Tory Jackson's final two three-point attempts displayed a complete lack of self-awareness by a guy who should be the most reliable player on the floor. Down by one, the Irish needed to take the ball to the basket, either to get a high-percentage look inside or potentially draw a foul. Tory dribbled to the left side of the court and took a contested off-balanced three pointer. There was enough time left on the clock for him to get the ball back and heave it up again. Such a waste.

For the game, he shot 1-10 and displayed bad decision-making throughout. 5 turnovers to go with his 3 assists. With the other senior leader off the floor, we needed Tory to step up and carry the team a bit. It did not happen.

Ben Hansbrough scored 13 and had a pretty good night shooting the ball. Thankfully, Jonathan Peoples only saw twelve minutes of action. He didn't do a whole while on the floor.

Tim Abromaitis filled the scoring void rather admirably. His 24 points led the team and he only needed eleven attempts to get them. Throw in 6 rebounds for a pretty good night.

Ty Nash also played pretty well. He had 16, but was not nearly as much of a force on the boards as Harangody normally is. Just 3 rebounds for the fill-in center.

Off the bench, the Irish really only played two guys. That's a bit of a disadvantage against an opponent that went eleven deep. Carleton Scott ate up a lot of Peoples' floor time, which was good to see. 5 points, 6 rebounds in 27 minutes. Joey Brooks played for a few minutes, as well.

Buckle your seatbelts, it just gets harder from here on in.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

St. John's Preview

St. John's-
Pomeroy Ranking- 87th
Record- 13-10 (3-8)
Best Win- Louisville (ranked 38th)
Worst Loss- Rutgers (ranked 156th)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 75-69

Key Players-
#1 D.J. Kennedy- 15.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 34.1% 3PA- Team's leading scorer has been up and down in conference play. Dropped 27 in their loss to Rutgers, but has scored in the single digits in four of the past eight games.
#12 Dwight Hardy- 10.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 38.5% 3PA- Streaking shooter has not made a three-pointer in the past three games. He is 0-8 since January 28th.
#23 Paris Horne- 8.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 36.4% 3PA- Has seen his minutes and production slashed dramatically this year. He averaged 14.6 points a game a year ago.

Scouting Report-

Struggle shooting the ball as a team.
Rarely make it to the free throw line.
One of the worst foul shooting teams in the country.

View From the Opponent's Bench: St. John's

Thanks a bunch to Pico Dulce from East Coast Bias for his answers to my questions.

1. What went so right against Louisville after a five game losing streak?

The thing about the losing streak is that the team has been the same in Big East play - they just cannot score. At all. They're out of sorts, they need more of a playmaker at the point, and the team doesn't look to the post. Even in the wins, the team didn't look great (except against DePaul... no, not even then.

The Louisville game was bizarre and I don't have a strong, rational explanation for it. Louisville was terrible. Their press was terrible, unenthusiastic. And for once, St. John's found a weakness they could take advantage of. It helped that the team had faced Louisville and played pretty decently against them before their offensive lull in the second half (happens every time). The Johnnies were aggressive at going to the basket and the Cardinals were lax in defending the basket. You can see that St. John's didn't shoot particularly well from beyond the arc; but guys who had been struggling drove the ball. And they got the ball to Justin Burrell, who has been on fire in the past 4 games (but still isn't starting).

Think about it this way: St. John's has posted a higher offensive efficiency twice - once against Long Island University and once against Bryant University (they got close against Cornell). They played great, but I'm not assuming I will see that game again.

2. D. J. Kennedy is your leading scorer, but has been up and down
against Big East competition. How can the Irish stop him?

Kennedy likes to shoot threes or drive from the baseline. He'll take some straight on jump shots, but doesn't often shoot the pull up mid-range jumper which he can hit. He's more of a jack of all trades than a scorer, though; he rebounds, brings the ball up, slashes, makes plays. The team leans on him to make plays but the Red Storm aren't constructed to have a "star"; the team's best offenisve performances have a number of double digit scorers. I would say the Irish have to get a player or three to stop Justin Burrell.

But the coaching staff stops him by leaving him on the bench for half the game.

3. Who could have a breakout performance on Sunday?

Aforementioned - Burrell. He's had good games against the Irish, I think, in the past. And without the "slow Harangody" assignment, I could see him pulling off a rare road win for Norm Roberts' team - he's been playing that well, drawing fouls, hitting the jump shot, and even rebounding again.

Given room, Dwight Hardy and Paris Horne can stroke it from outside.

4. How much more time does Norm Roberts get? It's about time that a
New York university turns into an upper-half Big East program.

... well... rumor has it this is likely his last year. What happens if they beat the Irish, maybe win 2-3 more games for 7 wins? I don't know. The fans have jumped far, far from his ship, but still love to see a win; but most die-hards also think the NY school should have a winner , or a near-winner.... something close to competing with the top of the league. There were Pitino to St. John's rumors flying around last week; the fans would love McCaffery (but I think I read the Irish job would be his dream job).... I think even the administration has gotten past their notion that the job is so very hard and the school is well-served by a hard worker who keeps his kids out of trouble and academically solid. The team needs to win, and with 9 seniors next year, the team needs to establish that they can win so they can continue to win.

5. How will the rest of the year go for the Red Storm? The next three
games seem pretty winnable, but St. John's has also played pretty well
against good competition at times.

It's hard to say. If they play like they played yesterday, they could beat Notre Dame, Seton Hall (two defensively indifferent squads), and USF/ Marquette are winnable. As is DePaul. But I don't believe in it. If the other teams are playing hard and keep the Johnnies out of the lane, they could lose most games, winning at DePaul and vs. Seton Hall. Even the DePaul contest isn't a gimme, St. John's has been just terrible on the road. The inability to score consistently in the halfcourt will hurt them against most teams, and Seton Hall is better scoring in transition.

After the Louisville game, I don't know. Coach Roberts, to his credit, keeps the guys motivated. But they usually get one "WTF!!" win at home. Last year it was Notre Dame + Georgetown; this year, Louisville... they could get another, but I predict no more than 3 more wins for this team.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Seton Hall 90, Notre Dame 87

The jig is up. A great game on offense just wasn't enough to overcome how bad this team is on D. It's fitting, really.

Luke Harangody hyperextended his knee and missed the final several minutes of this contest. However, the team rallied around the flag and reduce a nine-point deficit to one with four minutes left. Tory Jackson led the way with 25 points, including a clutch three with 53 seconds left. Two last second attempts to tie the game were off-target, as the Irish just failed to come back from being down double-digits at the break. Kudos to the team for working hard to come back and playing well without their top scorer. Make no mistake, there really is some scoring talent on this roster.

But the defense... wow. For a bunch of guys that made a big deal out of shutting Dominique Jones down on Sunday, they sure let Jeremy Hazell run wild tonight. 12 three-pointers from Seton Hall for the night, including 8 for Hazell. He went 12-16 from the field and finished with 35 points, his highest total since December. Going into this game, the defensive strategy should have been pretty simple, especially so soon after playing another star-centric offense. All we needed to do was stop Hazell, but we gave him open looks all night.

My reviews tend to be pretty offense dominated, which surely was not the problem in this game, so I'll skip the individual reviews for the most part. As a team, the Irish shot 54% from the field, 53% from beyond the arc, and had five guys in double figures. While Tory had a career-high in scoring, he also was a bit reckless in the lane at times with six turnovers. Tim Abromaitis scored 18, two-thirds of which came from the line. Hansbrough scored 10, but couldn't tie the game at the end. Both Harangody and Nash scored 13.

Of course, the Pirates were even better. You would be hard-pressed to find another game with both teams shooting over 50% with so many three-point attempts. Hazell carried Seton Hall, but he got plenty of help with four other guys scoring at least eight.

The scariest outcome here is Harangody's injury. Without him the rest of the year, the team could lose out. I would hate to see such a great player's career go down the drain like this, though we are assuredly in the NIT (at best) now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Seton Hall Preview

Seton Hall-
Pomeroy Ranking- 64th
Record- 12-9 (3-7)
Best Win- Louisville (ranked 24th)
Worst Loss- South Florida (ranked 65th)
Pomeroy Prediction- Seton Hall 86-80

Key Players-
#21 Jeremy Hazell- 22.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 33.8% 3PA- Averaged only 5.5 points in two games against Pitt. Has scored at least 25 in his other three previous contests.
#15 Herb Pope- 11.8 PPG, 10.9 RPG- One of the better unknown big men in the league. Has struggled with his shot during their current three game losing streak.
#32 Jeff Robinson- 9.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG- Transfer from Memphis has played well since starting in December. Does get into a bit of foul trouble, with at least three in 7 of his 13 games.

Scouting Report-

Great handling the ball, second lowest turnover percentage in the country.
Allow a lot of offensive rebounds.
Rely heavily on Hazell on offense.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Harangody Player of the Week

Luke Harangody was named Big East Player of the Week for his performances against Cincy and South Florida last week. That's the second time this season he has picked up the award and sixth time in his career. Against Cincinnati, he had 37 points and 14 boards. His performance against the Bulls was less efficient, but he still finished with 19 and 15. Congrats to Luke.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Larger than Average Monday

Yet another BIG(!!!) Monday on ESPN, this one with a few very interesting contests. 'Nova/West Virginia headlines the evening, with a shot at the regular season title on the line. Afterwards, #1 Kansas travels to Austin to face a struggling Longhorn team. This would have been a fantastic contest a few weeks ago, but now it's just the undercard. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Notre Dame 65, South Florida 62

Very good win against a team that could be knocking on the door of the Tournament in a month. Things could have fallen apart when South Florida took the lead in the second half, but the Irish pulled things together and gutted out a very important win.

After a 16-2 run to start the game, ND let the Bulls get back into the contest over the next fourteen minutes, finally tying it up at the half. In the second period, South Florida threatened to break open a tight game, taking a six point lead with ten minutes remaining. Instead of buckling to the pressure, the Irish responded with six straight points of their own.

Offensive efficiency down the stretch was the key. Scoring at least two points on six straight possessions put Notre Dame ahead by five with a minute remaining and some clutch free throws by Harangody at the end gave this game its final margin. The Irish made their final ten attempts from the charity stripe, taking care of business when they needed to.

Hats off to Tory Jackson for a great defensive effort on Dominique Jones. The conference player of the year candidate who hadn't scored less than 20 in nine straight games was held to just ten points on 3-17 shooting. Tremendous job, Tory. On offense, Jackson scored 18 himself and dished out 4 assists. 4-5 from the line for a guy who is only shooting 61% on the year.

Ben Hansbrough was pretty efficient. 13 points, 6 rebounds. Like Tory, he played 39 minutes. Our backcourt is going to be on life support by the end of the season if they continue to play entire games.

Abro scored less than ten for only the third game this season. That should underline what a great year the breakout junior has been having. To be honest, it was still a pretty good performance by Tim, but he only had six shot attempts for the afternoon.

Ty Nash was very effective on the glass, which should be his first priority in every game. I'll take 8 rebounds in 24 minutes, even if that means he is using a little extra energy and only winding up with one basket of his own.

Harangody finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. However, he did have a couple stretches where he decided to jack up jumpers early in the shot clock. I was impressed with his effort on the boards, as he tied his season-high. It would have been very interesting to see him matched up against Gilchrist, but the Irish were fortunate enough to avoid playing him in both contests this year.

Off the bench, Peoples logged 20 minutes. There is absolutely no reason for him to get that much playing time when our guards are not getting any rest. He is taking time away from Abromaitis and Nash, when Carleton Scott and Jack Cooley are better fits at those respective positions. Scott played nine minutes with not a lot to show for it. Cooley got in for a few seconds, as well.

On to Seton Hall. Tory will certainly have his hands full again, this time with Jeremy Hazell.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

South Florida Preview

After the Cincy win, you have to feel a bit more confident going into Sunday. However, the Bulls (our second-easiest opponent left) are riding a four game winning streak and just knocked off Georgetown on the road.

South Florida-
Pomeroy Ranking- 67th
Record- 15-7 (5-5)
Best Win- Georgetown (ranked 16th)
Worst Loss- Central Michigan (ranked 186th)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 76-73

Key Players-
#24 Augustus Gilchrist- 18.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG- Out with an ankle sprain for most of the year. Could be a huge difference-maker down the stretch if he gets healthy and plays to his potential.
#20 Dominique Jones- 22.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 36.2% 3PA- 26 points in the first contest. Hasn't scored less than 20 in a game since December. Dropped 46 in an overtime win against Providence.
#31 Jarrid Famous- 11.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG- Has filled in admirably in Gilchrist's absence. 6 double-doubles this year. Could create a very dangerous tandem down low if #24 comes back.

Last Game- ND 74-73

-South Florida shot 53% from the floor, but the Irish survived by turning the ball over a little less and picking up extra points from beyond the arc and the charity stripe.
-Luke Harangody scored 36 points, including a 4-5 night from three-point land.
-#2 scoring threat Gilchrist was out with injury. He might be back for the first time since December 2nd.

Watch this team as the season goes on. They are favored by Pomeroy in 5 of their remaining games and could get much better with a healthy Gilchrist. If the Bulls go 10-8 in the conference, the committee will give them an at-large bid and ignore the losses without their second-best player. The fact that Stan Heath has been able to coach his players to a win over Georgetown shows that everything is pointing up right now.