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.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Notre Dame 83, Cincinnati 65

A very good win. It's hard not to just see this as a flash in the pan after Rutgers, but a game like this should always be appreciated.

The 2-3 zone worked very well for much of the game. Since the Bearcats shot only 25% beyond the arc, our defense was able to shut them down pretty much all game. The big difference this time compared to our last contest was how the Irish controlled the glass. 37-31 tonight. Great job, boys.

On offense, the Irish shot the ball very well, always necessary for a Notre Dame win. Luke Harangody pulled down 6 offensive rebounds, helping the Irish gain more second chances than Cincinnati for the night.

Tory Jackson really struggled, going 0-6 from the floor. He dished out 8 assists to 2 turnovers in 38 minutes. If the missed shots continue down the road, especially Tory's effectiveness from beyond the arc, you have to wonder about the intelligence of continuing to play him for almost 40 minutes a game. Hopefully this is just an outlier, because we will definitely need some points from Tory in the home stretch.

Ben Hansbrough sniffed a triple-double yet again. I'd be shocked if he doesn't end up with one this year or next. 12 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds. He chipped in a pair of steals to make up for his two turnovers, as well.

Tim Abromaitis played very well before fouling out. 22 points on 6-10 shooting and a perfect 7-7 on free throws. He also had a career-high four assists.

Ty Nash was in foul trouble, as well. He picked up four in 26 minutes of play. Just 4 points and 6 rebounds to show for those minutes. We didn't need a whole lot more from him, though, as Harangody pulled down 14 rebounds by himself.

Luke also scored 37 points and was very close to a new career-high in scoring. As it stands, Gody has pulled into second place on the Big East all-time rebounding list and fourth in scoring. Big congratulations to him. He has also tied Adrian Dantley for second place on Notre Dame's list of 20+ point games. He was a very efficient 15-25 from the field, hitting a mix of jumpers and off-balance driving layups in the paint.

Off the bench, Carleton Scott was actually a part of the rotation again. He scored 2 points and pulled down 2 rebounds, not the best stat line but still better than Peoples. It's ridiculous to think that the Irish can survive in the Big East with a backup point guard as the only guy coming off the bench. Joey Brooks and Jack Cooley also got a minute, with Brooks banking in a nice three.

This was a great game to see and the best way to bounce back from an embarrassing loss. Of course, it's hard not to just see this as a tiny ray of hope after so many disappointments. Hopefully the team will do this again a few more times.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Cincinnati Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 60th
Record- 14-7 (5-4)
Best Win- Maryland (ranked 12th)
Worst Loss- St. John's (ranked 88th)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 74-73

Key Players-
#33 Lance Stephenson- 12.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG- 9 points, 5 rebounds in the first meeting, turned the ball over three times and was just 3-9 from the field.
#5 Deonta Vaughn- 12.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 36.0% 3PA- Had a tough shooting night, but kept at it enough to lead the team with 15 points. 3-9 from beyond the arc, 7 rebounds, no assists.
#34 Yancy Gates- 10.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG- Owned the offensive glass. 6 of his 13 boards led to Bearcat second chances. Added 11 points of his own.

Last Game- Cincy 60-58

Bearcats outrebounded the Irish 48-28.
Notre Dame squandered a seven-point halftime lead and led by one with two minutes to go.
Yancy Gates tipped in a last second game winner.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Morning Practices

The 8 AM practice this morning made one of the top headlines at ESPN. It's a good gesture, but a few of the quotes in the article stuck out to me.

First, Coach Brey mentioned that winning five of our next nine games will put us in the NCAA discussion. That would make the Irish 9-9 in the Big East, a record which most assuredly would have kept us out of the Tournament even before the loss to Rutgers. To say that finishing .500 in the conference would put us "in the discussion" is both unrealistic and disheartening. That's a pretty low standard to shoot for.

Also, Tory Jackson: "We have to outfight teams. We're not the tallest group. We're not the most athletic group," he said. "We have to be able to fight and not lay down or back off."

I can safely say that I have not seen a Notre Dame team in the last several years that consistently outfought its opponents. In the one big win of the year, against West Virginia, the Irish were still outhustled. The only thing that keeps ND in big games against superior opponents is a strong shooting streak, which is a tough thing to rely on.

Monday, February 01, 2010

NCAA Tournament Expanding

The NCAA may be expanding its field to as many as 96 teams, perhaps as soon as next year. This has been on the table for a while and coaches love the idea, but like many fans I think this will be a disaster.
  1. It will water down the best postseason in sports. There are many reasons why people hate the BCS. One that is commonly overlooked is how it continues to support mind numbingly pointless endeavors such as the "R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl." Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss on national TV? No, thanks. Now imagine taking the next step and making a game like this one of many to decide the national championship.
  2. In a similar vein, bad coaches will keep their jobs as bad teams can now "boast" about making the Tournament. While going back to the NIT this year could put Mike Brey on the hot seat, making an expanded tourney could provide inept athletic directors with enough reason to keep underachieving coaches around.
  3. It will ruin the regular season. While the regular season is already overshadowed by what happens in March, it at least plays an important role in deciding who gets to compete for the big crown. The last few weeks before Selection Sunday are especially exciting as bubble teams fight for their playoff lives. Every game becomes must-win. Now those teams will be subpar programs in small conferences or really bad squads in the major leagues, who very few people will care about.