Friday, January 27, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Villanova @ Notre Dame

January 28, 2006

Some of the biggest upsets in college basketball history have come on the Notre Dame campus, although an Irish win on Saturday would hardly fall into that category, it would be quite a win for a team in desperate need of something good to happen!

The Irish prepare to take on the Villanova Wildcats, who are 5-1 in the Big East Conference, while Notre Dame sits close to the bottom of the conference at 1-5. One could argue that over the course of their last six games the Irish have played fairly well, just coming up short, while, the Wildcats, in their last six games, have not been playing all that well, just getting enough to win four of those games. So, does this game reverse the trend for either club?

For our the rest of our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


First thing of interest is the sore hamstring of Villanova star guard Allan Ray. Ray missed Villanova's narrow 49-46 win at South Florida earlier this week and had not practiced during the week at all. Villanova was impressive in their win against Syracuse last Saturday, but in their last six games, that was the only time that impressive really fits as a term in describing the Wildcats. However, when a team is forced to go with predominately a 4-guard line-up, shooting and defense will be what carries them through. To their credit, when their shooting has let them down, their defense has remained consistent, allowing them to survive on most nights. Even if they are forced to go to a 3-guard line-up, their match-ups with the Irish are still pretty favorable as their style of perimeter defense could give the Irish preimeter trio of Chris Quinn, Kyle McAlarney and Colin Falls all they can handle with their athleticism and extended on the ball pressure, taking their shooters out of their comfort zone. Notre Dame should be able to make some progress inside with their group of Torin Francis, Rob Kurz, Luke Zeller and Ricky Cornett against Will Sheridan, Jason Fraser, Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark, but the way the Irish inside game has been utilized and cultivated, it is unlikely to be much of an advantage.

There is no way that Notre Dame could defense the athletic group of guards Villanova will put on the floor man to man. Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry would have a field day putting the ball on the floor and utilizing dribble penetration to score on their own, dish to the big men once help is needed or kicking back out for an open 3 if the defense pinches to help. Of course, having a healthy Allan Ray knocking down the perimeter shots would be a big help in this game plan. The Irish would likely use a lot of Russel Carter to help on the perimeter defense and could go really small in a line-up with him, too.

Kyle Lowry seems to really be the x-factor in this game. Even if the Irish do all they can to limit the rest of the Wildcats, there probably is no answer for Lowry. His presence really poses match-up problems and if they have to adjust for him, then look out of Foye and Ray getting their games going. This just seems to be one of those nightmare match-ups for the Irish who seem a step slow at getting key rebounds or big defensive stops. That is not a good sign against a team like Villanova, who will make you play small and quick. The Irish do not play big enough to try to impose their will, so it looks to be a bad match-up, even at home.

However, something tells me Notre Dame stays in this, with a chance to surprise. Villanova's shooting has not been that great lately and Ray's questionable status worries me a bit. But, Villanova is a little deeper than given credit for and they pull out a close one.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Villanova 68 Notre Dame 64

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Georgetown @ Notre Dame

January 24, 2006

Georgetown, fresh off their huge upset of Duke at the MCI Center on Saturday will have to come back to earth a bit and be ready to head out to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who dropped another close game, losing 67-65 to Marquette on the road on Friday night.

Here are some of the pre-game articles from around the net we have found:

Hot Hoyas Provide Tough Test for Irish (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette).
Small Roles for Big Men? (South Bend Tribune)
After Big Win, Hoyas Seek Another (Washington Post)
Ranked Hoyas Face Test With Irish.

For our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


Georgetown enters tonights game a 2-pt underdogs on the road, playing as a ranked team as they find themselves #21 in the AP poll. The Hoyas are 3-2 in the Big East and face a reeling Irish team that finds themselves just 1-4 in the Big East, losing games by 3 (in 2 OT), 6, 5 and 2 pts. If there ever was a team in need of a break to go their way, it is the Irish. Both teams split a pair of games last season, winning on each other's home court.

Last week, we saw Georgetown struggle mightily in their game prior to facing Duke, barely escaping with a win over South Florida, 50-47, on their home floor. Tonight, we see how they bounce back from the emotional high they have been on and all the additional national attention after knocking off the previously unbeaten Blue Devils of the rival ACC.

For Notre Dame, they have to be chomping at the bit to get a win in this spot. The added exposure on the Hoyas should be something that will play into their minds as they want to show the basketball world that they are not to be forgotton yet.

However, this looks to be a very tough match-up for Notre Dame. The Hoyas run a Princeton-style offense forcing the opposition to play defense for longer periods of time, something Notre Dame has usually shown a disinterest in. Also, a front line of Brandon Bowman, Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert is both bigger and more athletic than anything the Irish can put on the floor. Georgetown also has the ability to bring in some instant offense off the bench with Darrel Owens.

So, how can Notre Dame win this game? Well, the Irish can shoot and will have up to four players on the floor at one time (Chris Quinn, Kyle McAlarney, Colin Falls and Luke Zeller) that can hit shots from beyond the arc. They will need the three-ball working early and often tonight. The students are back at Notre Dame which should create a better home atmosphere tonight and Georgetown does have a tendency to go cold offensively at times. Notre Dame is due for a win and a good performance, I think it comes against a Georgtetown team that might be just a little flat tonight, allowing ND to get off to a good start. The Irish might be able to zone Georgetown and limit some of their advantages. It should be a game that comes down to the wire, the luck of the Irish finally prevails in this one.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Notre Dame 67 Georgetown 66

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Notre Dame @ Marquette

January 20, 2006

The Big East takes on a Friday night stage this week as Marquette and Notre Dame lock horns at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee this week. On paper, it is probably very hard to find two teams that have more similar numbers in terms of scoring, defense and shooting as these two teams, with similar overall records (Marquette is 13-5 and Notre Dame is 10-5).

However, in terms of perception, both teams are looked at very differently. Marquette sits at 3-2 in the conference and the program has a new buzz of excitement with their entry into the Big East and a young team performing above expectations early on. Dominic James has scored 57 points over the last two games and the freshmen is being touted as one of the best in the country, let alone the Big East. Senior Steve Novak has elevated his game to become the leader and steadying force the young squad needs and everything else is falling into place. Another freshmen guard, Jerel McNeal, adds a fearless persona and aggressive style at the guard position that the rest of the team seems to have fed off of and Marquette has quickly become a team to watch in what many had thought would be a transition year for the program.

Notre Dame is coming off a pair of NIT seasons and, with a bit of a softer conference schedule, were looking to make a run for the NCAA's this season again. However, with a 1-3 start in the conference, things are getting a little impatient in South Bend for better results. The Irish start 2 seniors and 2 juniors and starting conference play 0-3 got them the attention they were not looking for. Irish coach Mike Brey was quick to defuse any potential panic situations and the Irish seemed to play loose in last week's win over Providence. Everyone knows the Irish are skilled and can shoot, but they still have not shown the ability to defend in key situations and tough out the tough situations this conference brings on a nightly basis.


Marquette is not going to hunker down and try to go after you blow by blow like some of the teams that give the Irish fits in this conference. Neither team is anything normal than adequate on the boards, so they will match-up well there, but where the Irish could be in trouble is against the quickness of the Marquette guards, especially Dominic James. The Irish will most likely have to play zone, which does not help them on the boards and they will be forced to be aware of where Steve Novak is at all times as he can shoot any opponent right out of the game, especially against a zone. Marquette has lost some backcourt depth with the injury of Wesley Mathews, but senior Joe Chapman has stepped up his game in his absence and Dan Fitzgerald is a versatile backcourt player that can add some depth. Marquette will rotate some big people in against the Irish frontcourt and the Irish should have the advantage inside, will they try to use that advantage is entirely another story.

What Marquette needs to do is improve the amount of open looks from the perimeter they give up. Last weekend against West Virginia, the Mountaineers nailed 20 of 38 from beyond the arc and many were wide-open looks. Marquette likes to play fast and sometimes that will allow more opportunities for quick hitting three's and that is what Notre Dame also likes to use to keep them in games.

Marquette will look to explot the lack of speed of the Notre Dame team. When Notre Dame lost earlier this month at DePaul, the lack of quickness of the Irish was evident and Mike Brey pointed it out as a reason they had trouble defending the Blue Demons. There will not be too many combinations as quick as James and McNeal in this league, so the Irish better be ready. Notre Dame also needs to avoid a slow start and match the energy and intensity as best they can from the start. It could be another tough atmosphere for the Irish to compete in, especially if Marquette gets off to a hot start.

This is an absolutely HUGE game for the Fighting Irish as they begin a four game stretch after this game with Georgetown and Villanova at home before travelling to West Virginia and Louisville. Their schedule eases up considerably after that, but this could be a game that determines what they are playing for down the stretch when they finish with a real possibility of winning 6 of their last 7.

For Marquette, this is another test to keep their resume rising for the NCAA selection committee, which was something not too many people were thinking about two months ago. They have a very reasonable schedule in this conference that could allow them to be a major surprise nationally and this is a game that would continue to force people to keep an eye on the Golden Eagles. With a crowd in their corner that will be fired up for Notre Dame, they should get the job done!

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 78 Notre Dame 73

What is your prediction??

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Providence @ Notre Dame

January 14, 2006

Here is a battle of two winless conference teams, both in desperate need of something positive to happen. Notre Dame has lost to Pittsburgh on the road in 2 OT, at DePaul by 6 and at home to Syracuse by 5. They have certainly been right there, but have been unable to get over the hump.

Providence has led in each of their games in the conference at the half, before falling at Georgetown and at home to Louisville, in a game where the Cardinals scored the last 7 points to win by 6.

Each team is likely to play 8 guys, Providence because that is all they have and Notre Dame has limited their rotation to 8, and sometimes 7 depending on Mike Brey's mood with Rick Cornett. With Providence, 6 of the 8 are freshmen and sophomores while the Fighting Irish have 5 juniors and seniors in their mix.

Looking at the match-ups, they seem to heavily favor Notre Dame and Providence is not the most physical team in the league, which always helps Notre Dame. The friars are getting tougher with Geoff Mcdermott who looks to be a player that should cause havoc defensively and on the boards against the Irish and Torin Francis will have to at least make Randall Hanke work for everything he gets by using his strength.

The Irish should be able to crank up their 3-pt shooting in this one and have a decided advantage in rebounding numbers.

The Irish need this one and at home, they should prevail. I like these young Friars, but these road games in the conference are a rpized commodoity and this does not look like one that matches up well for them, unless the Irish have totally lost their will to fight, which I doubt.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Notre Dame 83 Providence 72

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Syracuse @ Notre Dame

January 11, 2006

Syracuse embarks on their first true road test tonight as the travel to South Bend, IN to meet the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Over the last three seasons, the Orange and Irish have met twice a year in the regular season, this is the only regular season meeting this year. Even though Syracuse has dominated in terms of wins and losses, the average score in the six contests has been 76-73 in favor of Syracuse, who have also won the last three on the Irish home floor during this timeframe.

Although Mike Brey has downplayed the importance of this game in the media, it is a game the Irish have to have at home. The Irish schedule does favor them this season as it does not have the likes of Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Syracuse two times (instead, it is Marquette, DePaul and Providence twice each), but an 0-3 start in the conference will keep you staring up hill the rest of the way. The latter half of their conference schedule turns easy, but with their next six after SU featuring road trips to Marquette, Louisville and West Virginia with home dates against Villanova, Georgetown and Providence, avoiding an 0-3 start is crucial in keeping the Irish on the minds of the NCAA Selection Committee.


For Syracuse, this is also a very big game. Any time you have a chance to steal a road game, you must take advantage and Syracuse is in the midst of a killer stretch of schedule. After the game at Notre Dame, the Orange travel to meet Cincinnati on the weekend and turnaround for a Monday date with Connecticut at home. Then, they conclude the stretch with a trip to Villanova on the following Saturday and then travel across the state for a Monday meeting at Pittsburgh. With their conference schedule, that is more of the norm for the Orange who have Connecticut, Villanova and Cincinnati twice this year. Kicking this stretch off with a win would be a huge statement for a team that seems to be teetering on the edge of being a conference contender.

This game highlights two of the better senior lead guards in the conference with Chris Quinn of the Irish and Gerry McNamara of Syracuse. Quinn is averaging 16.3 PPG with a team high 6.5 assists a game to 2.3 turnovers. McNamara is putting up similar numbers with 16.6 PPG and 6.6 assists with 3.1 turnovers. Where they are really different this season is with their shooting percentages. Quinn is shooting 43.5% from the floor and 42% from beyond the arc while McNamara is hitting just 32.6+ from the floor and 32% from deep. If McNamara can get his offensive game to be more efficient, it would be a great help to the Orange, but he seems to try to do too much as the lead guard offensively, taking away from some of the rest of the team. With Josh Wright battling a sore toe, McNamara has not been getting much time off the ball, which seems to impact his shooting.

Syracuse should have the advantage with the rest of their line-ups as they look to start freshmen Eric Devendorf (10 PPG) alongside McNamara and Demetris Nichols (15 PPG) at the wing and Terence Roberts (12 PPG and team high 8.6 rebounds) and Daryl Watkins (6 PPG and 7 rebounds) up front. Junior Louie McCroskey seems to be back in the flow off the bench and could be a key perimeter defensive presence on the floor. Josh Wright’s health definitely impacts the Orange depth and freshmen Arinze Onuaku is the only front court reserve that sees regular time. Andy Rautins and Matt Gorman add some additional depth, but are kind of last resort type subs, even though Rautins is coming off a 10-pt performance against USF.

For the Irish, they have the inconsistent Colin Falls and Torin Francis to rely on behind Quinn. Falls is a player that can spot up against the Syracuse zone and shoot the Irish right in the game. Or, the Orange can go man to man and Falls could be rendered useless on the court as he does not add much of a presence on the boards or on defense. Francis has averaged 16.6 PPG and nearly 10 rebounds a contest in his career against Syracuse. He will have to have similar numbers tonight to help the Irish produce a balances offensive effort. The athletic Russell Carter adds nearly 10 PPG as a starting guard and the sweet shooting freshmen Kyle McAlarney adds about 7 PPG off the bench in the guard rotation. Up front, freshmen Luke Zeller and Rob Kurz both add about 5 PPG and 5 rebounds a night splitting time at the PF position and Rick Cornett adds about the same spotting Torin Francis at the C position.

I think both teams can, and will try repeatedly, to attack and expose the other’s weaknesses. I look for Syracuse to play more man to man than they are used to and go to their full court press to push tempo, something Notre Dame in the past has fallen into the trap with. For Notre Dame, I look for them to play somewhat of an extended zone against the Orange shooters and try to make Syracuse beat them in a half court setting on offense, something Syracuse can get really frustrated trying to do because their big men have not shown the ability to be consistent offensive threats in a half court set. If they game slows down, advantage Notre Dame, if the game gets shifted into a higher gear, advantage Syracuse….so, who will dictate tempo? My fear for Notre Dame is that Mike Brey will not commit to the half court style and integrate his big men into the offense on a consistent basis. However, with it being the first real road test for the Orange and a MUST win game, no matter what they say publicly, for the Irish, you can not count out a desperate home team.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Syracuse 73 Notre Dame 70

Leave your prediction in the comments section!

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh

January 4, 2006

Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh tonight in the Big East opener for both teams. This is a difficult match-up for each time as the style used by the other is almost the polar opposite of their own. Pittsburgh is still a physical, defense-first and tough rebounding team while Notre Dame prefers a more free-flowing game where their skilled perimeter shooters find space to drill open jumpers. Pittsburgh loves to be physical on the cuts and make the opponent have to go out of their way to receive the ball.

Pomeroy's computer has Pittsburgh by 12 on their home floor tonight and the Panthers have won the last four in the series. Notre Dame has been to the NIT in each of the last two years, probably coming up one big win short in each season of the NCAA's. Losing to Pittsburgh four times over that span might have been the final nail in the coffin in their NCAA resume each year. Pittsburgh enters the game with an RPI rating of 10 and are 2-0 against the RPI top 50 and 11-0 overall. Notre Dame, despite a 9-2 record, has an RPI of 78 and are 0-1 against the top 50 and 1-2, overall, against the top 100.


In Notre Dame's two losses, Colin Falls shot 1-12 from the floor (and 1-11 from 3-pt range) against NC St (neutral floor) and Michigan (home). In the 9 wins for the Irish, Falls averages 14 PPG. Falls hits nearly 37% of his 3-pt shots and 32 of his 41 made baskets this season have come from beyond the arc. Pittsburgh has been known to give up 3-pters in bunches, so, a little extra defensive attention will probably be played to Falls. When he is taken out of th egame by the defensive behind the arc, the 6'5 wing can be a liability on the floor because he does not rebound (1.7/game) and is not a gifted athlete defensively. But, he is a threat on the floor at all times and is a crafty player that can find ways to get open for his jumper.

Senior Chris Quinn, who has had some good games against Pittsburgh, leads the Irish with 14.2 PPG and 6 assists. Fellow senior Torin Francis adds 13.6 PPG and a team high 9.5 rebounds. Russel Carter (9.5 PPG) and frosh Luke Zeller (5 PPG) round out the probable starting line-up for the Irish, which will also use frosh Kyle McAlarney (7.8 PPG 49% from 3-pt range) in the guard rotation and senior Rick Cornett and sophomore Rob Kurz will rotate with Francis and Zeller in the front court.

Pittsburgh is led by 5th year senior Carl Krauser who leads Pitt with 16.6 PPG and 4. assists playing primarily from the 2-guard position. Krauser never seems to be rattled and playing off the ball has made better use of his offensive mentality. Sophomore Ronald Ramon and freshmen Levance Fields run the show for the Panthers and they have a combined 3.25 to 1 assist/turnover ratio. Big man Aaron Gray anchors the middle for Pitt and averages 11 PPG and 10 rebounds, although he has struggled in their last 2 games (wins at South Carolina and home against Wisconsin), but freshmen Sam Young has picked it up off the bench, scoring 16 in each game and averages 8.8 on the season. Levon Kendall is the starter at PF and rotates with Young and Kendall, a 4th-year junior, averages 7 PPG and 6 rebounds. John DeGroat is the starter at the SF slot and splits time with Keith Benjamin and Antonio Graves is likely to see action there as well against a 3-guard team like Notre Dame.

For me, I see a very tight game tonight. Pittsburgh will try to be very physical and wear down the Irish, who will knock down 3's and stay in the game. Pittsburgh's rebounding as a team will be their strength and Krauser's experience in the clutch will be enough tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 69
Notre Dame 65

Here are the game previews from around the net:

Fort Wayne Journal
South Bend Tribune
Beaver County Times
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Ttib-Review
Trib-review Pittsburgh Notebook

Feel free to leave YOUR game prediction in the comments!

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