Thursday, February 28, 2008


February 28, 2008

This week's Thursday Night spotlight is a dandy as Notre Dame and Louisville battle it out for what could be a showdown for the conference title. The Irish finish up their schedule with DePaul, St. John's and South Florida after tonight, so this is obviously their biggest challenge in their last four games. Louisville will host Villanova on Sunday and travel to Georgetown to close out the conference regular season schedule.

Here are the local media previews and game stories on tonight's showdown:

Irish Battle Tested for Showdown (South Bend Tribune)
It's Time for Irish to Take Title Shot (Chicago Tribune)
Season Heading into Interesting (Journal Gazette)
Notre Dame Offense Will Test U of L (Courier-Journal)
UofL Bracing for Hot Shooting Notre Dame (Kentucky.com)
Cards to Try Bit of Everything Against Notre Dame (Courier-Journal)

An exciting match-up is set for Freedom Hall tonight and the two teams that seem to be playing the best basketball right now in the Big East go head to head when Louisville hosts Notre Dame.

Louisivlle has won nine of their last 10, losing only by two points at Connecticut in that stretch. The Cards have won with defense, they have won with offense, whatever is needed, they have responded with it. Senior David Padgett has overcome a series of injuries the last few years and has stepped up his game down the stretch providing leadership and production on a consistent basis. He scored 18 in the win over Georgetown, added 20 in a victory at DePaul and scored 21 on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Tonight, he will use his post moves and height to work against Luke Harangody of the Irish. Harangody will look to bull his way through Padgett and continue his assault on the Big East. Harangody has emerged as the favorite to win the Big East's Player of the Year award, but the way Louisville has taken off with a healthy Padgett, you could argue that Padgett might be the most valuable player to his team.

The Louisville defense will be challenged by the inside/out combination of Kyle McAlarney and Harangody. McAlarney is coming off a Notre Dame record nine three's against Syracuse on Sunday and will challenge and stretch the Cardinal defense. Rick Pitino has seen it all before and will try to come up with different wrinkles to contest McAlarney's shots and try not to allow him to get comfortable on the perimeter. Super-quick Tory Jackson will provide another challenge as his dribble penetration could provide kick-outs to an open McAlarney on the perimeter.

The Irish, winners of eight of nine, also have had their last loss handed to them at Connecticut. Notre Dame is not the deepest team in the league, normally playing seven or eight players with Luke Zeller and Jonathan Peoples getting spot minutes behind a top 6, that also includes consistent Rob Kurz and small forwards Ryan Ayers and Zach Hillesland. How the Irish handle the pressure defense from the Cards will decide this game.

Louisville will look to get their athletic forwards Earl Clark and Terrence Williams free against the ND defense. The Irish were destroyed on the boards against Syracuse on Sunday and the Cards have the size and depth on the front line to give them fits on the boards as well. Juan Palacios and Derrick Caracter could start for nearly every team in the Big East, so they have high-quality depth behind Padgett and Clark. Williams is the x-factor, he is capable of taking his game to another level, especially if his shot is falling. The UL guards have been getting more consistent in playing both sides of the ball in Pitino's preferred style, brining it all together for the Cardinals.

Louisville started the season as the preseason co-favorite with Georgetown and after suffering through the injury bug, it looks as though they have put the pieces together for a late season run. Notre Dame has faced a tough schedule and they just keep on winning, setting themselves up to be in position for the league title. It has been a great season that still has more success to come for the Irish.

Playign at home, I think Louisville controls this game. They are the 8-pt favorite and I think they jump on Notre Dame defensively and work the boards hard to get key second chance points when needed.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Louisville 77 Notre Dame 67


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Thursday, February 21, 2008


February 21, 2008

Notre Dame puts their 34-game home win streak on the line Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Panthers come to town. The Irish barely escaped the RAC last weekend with a win over Rutgers their last time out. Pittsburgh will look to like their wounds inflicted by the drubbing Marquette put on them last Friday night.

Here are the local media previews and game stories on tonight's contest:

Critical Couple Facing Panthers (Tribune Democrat)
Irish 34-Game Win Streak at Home More than Just Luck (Post-Gazette)
Pitt, No. 21 Notre Dame Finally Set to Battle (Tribune-Review)
Pitt Prepares for Notre Dame (Tribune-Review)
Irish Sophomore Loses Anonymity (Journal Gazette)
It's Nice to See You Again, Pitt (South Bend Tribune)
Rebounds Will Tell Story for ND-Pitt (South Bend Tribune)

Believe it or not, this is the first meeting between Pitt and Notre Dame since opening the 2006 Big East season against one another. That game was won by Pitt 100-97 in 2OT when Ronald Ramon hit a late-game three to give Pitt the lead. Ramon scored 12 in that contest and Sam Young (15), Levance Fields (11), Tyrell Biggs (4) and Keith Benjamin also saw action for Pitt. Luke Zeller (11), Kyle McAlarney (3), Rob Kurz (6), Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers saw action for the Irish in the marathon contest.

Both of these teams match-up fairly well with one another. Neither is the most athletic in the conference. Of course, when discussing the Irish, the inside/out combination of Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney dominate the discussion. What has been key for the Irish is the rest of the roster has accepted and grown into their roles in support of their star duo.

Harangody will be matched in a battle of bruisers with DeJuan Blair. Harangody has the experience and the solid footwork and fundamentals to score in the paint on just about anyone and he shoudl get his opportunities against Blair. The Pitt freshman should also be able to be productive, but if he finds himself in foul trouble against the effecient Harangody, Pitt will be in trouble trying to stop the likely Big East Player of the Year inside.

Where Pittsburgh could make life difficult is while guarding McAlarney. In the three Irish league losses, Harangody still has managed to average nearly 25 PPG and 13 rebounds, monster numbers for the sophomore. However, McAlarney is at just 10 PPG, but more importantly for the opposition, shooting just 11-37 from the floor and averaging just 2 assists against 3.3 turnovers a game in their losses.

A key for the Irish is the ability of Tory Jackson to use his quickness on each end of the floor to exploit the Panthers. Jackson can hound the ball on defense and break down the opposition with the ball in his hands, leading to kick-outs to McAlarney on the perimeter or dishes to Harangody for easy buckets. While McAlarney seems to be the barometer for the big wins, Jackson may be the ultimate key fr future Irish success, including on Thursday.

Pittsburgh is not a deep team because of the injuries they have faced and word that Levance Fields has been limited in practice since the Marquette game does not bode well for the Panthers. Fields played 20 minutes in the loss to the Golden Eagles, but apparently suffered an additional foot injury in the game. The injury is not related to the broken bone, but is with the same foot. Having Fields get healthier would have been a huge lift for Pitt in the match-up with Jackson, now Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin will be once again asked to carry a heavy load on both ends of the ball. The seniors are definitely capable, but the minutes seem to be catching up with them.

Pitt's biggest advantage is probably at the forwars position where the need a big game from Sam Young. The athletic but sometimes enigmatic Young will be matched up against ROb Kurz, a very solid player that can take advantage of any mental lapses Young might suffer. If Young is on his game and motivated from start to finish, he has the ability to carry the Panthers to a win against nearly anyone in this league, especially if Blair is out of foul trouble and the guards give some support from the perimeter.

Both teams are not likely to go more than 7 or 8 deep, Pitt could get a lift if Fields can give more minutes, but the Panthers will use four freshmen in that rotation while the Irish will not turn to any newcomers. That experience is tough to overcome on the road.

However, there is just something that leads me to believe the Irish home win streak is in jeopardy in the near future. Pittsburgh's losses have come against teams that like to pressure the ball with their athletic guard line-ups (although, it does not explain the loss to Rutgers). The Irish will not be as aggressive defensively as Marquette, UConn, Cincinnati or Villanova was with the Panthers, so, Pitt might be able to find some comfort and coming off that bad loss, they should be plenty motivated. The pressure of the home win streak can sometimes be a distraction and a source of added pressure...call me crazy, but I think it ends in a classic battle of two very good teams.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 74 Notre Dame 71


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


February 13, 2008

The feature game on the schedule tonight pits two Big East championship contenders as Notre Dame travels to Connecticut to meet the Huskies in a rematch from an early January contest. Notre Dame jumped out early on UConn in the first meeting, lost the lead, but rallied behind Kyle McAlarney's career night to earn a tough victory in their first meeting. Connecticut will look for revenge tonight...

Here are the local media game previews and stories on tonight's game:

Anonymity Getting is Getting Tougher for Irish (Journal Gazette)
Huskies Will Hound McAlarney (South Bend Tribune)
Ayers Shows He Has Something in Reserve (Chicago Tribune)
Harangody Takes Over for Irish (Hartford Courant)
Notre Dame Has Tough 1-2 Punch (Connecticut Post)
Thabeet, Price Will Be Targeted (Journal Inquirer)

Back in early January, Kyle McAlarney lit up Connecticut for 32 points in a 73-67 Notre Dame win over UConn. The Irish led by 15 points at the half (and, much more earlier in the 1st half) before UConn stormed back to take the lead. However, big baskets by McAlarney and Rob Kurz put the Irish over the top in that game.

Look for the Huskies to throw everything they can at McAalarney on the perimeter to see if anyone else can hurt them from the outside. Inside, Hasheen Thabeet was definitely in the head of Irish star Luke Harangody as Thabeet blocked 10 shots in the game and Harangody shot just 5-23 from the field. While I find it hard to beleive Harangody will have a similar shooting effor, it is a tough match-up for the Irish bruiser. Thabeets size and length, and his increasing comfort in playing physical, is likely to cause difficulties again for Harangody.

Connecticut is quite a different team from the one that came up short in South Bend. The Huskies are on an impressive winning streak where they have shown the ability to win tough games. They have also shown they can handle adversity. AJ Price has grown by leaps and bounds as the leader from the point guard position. Thabeet and Jeff Adrien are as tough as any duo in the paint and Craig Austrie has settled into the shooting guard position with the suspension of Jerome Dyson.

Except for a repeat performance by McAlarney, I feel UConn is a tough match-up for the Irish to get a win on the road. Notre Dame is playing well and confident, but the Huskies will have revenge on their minds and they are one of th efew teams that have the bodies inside to make life difficult for Harangody.

UConn is a 5.5-point favorite and their win streak should continue tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 75 Notre Dame 67


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Friday, February 08, 2008


February 9, 2008

The Notre Dame home winning streak gets one of its toughest tests yet as the Irish host Tom Crean's Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon. With the Irish coming off one of their best performances of the season, a 95-69 win over Seton Hall, and Marquette coming off one of their worst, a 71-57 loss at home to Louisville, it will be interesting to see how each team responds from very different experiences.

One thing on the mind of the Notre Dame players to keep them from relaxing going in this game is the memory of Marquette's 92-66 drubbling of the Irish back in January at the Bradley Center. Marquette was all over the court that afternoon, forcing Notre Dame into 24 turnovers and shooting 50% from beyond the arc with 12 made three's. Was that really the same Marquette team that struggles so much shooting from the perimter?

Even in their defeat in the last meeting, Luke Harangody was dominate inside, scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Against Marquette's soft interior, look for similar success inside again on Saturday.

What Notre Dame has to do a better job in is defending Jerel McNeal and Lazar Hayward as the Irish had little luck defending the pair in the first meeting. McNeal and hayward combined for 35 points while forcing Kyle McAlarney and Rob Kurz to shoot 6-16 from the floor and commit a combined 10 turnovers, clearly winning that match-up.

Notre Dame will almost certainly settle into a zone defense and dare Marquette to shoot the ball that well again. The Irish do not have the lenght and athleticism that UConn and Louisville have that have given the Golden Eagles so much trouble this season. However, they can provide a similar challenge to what West Virginia did when MU lost in Morgantown.

Both teams should have plenty of motivation in this one. If Kyle McAlarney provides the outside threat to Luke Harangody's inside dominance, Notre Dame should continue their home win streak. It will not be easy as Marquette provides a challenge to the Notre Dame guards that they could be vulnerable to.

I expect a back and forth game, but when it settles into crunch time, Marquette will not have the answer to keep Harangody from scoring.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Notre Dame 74 Marquette 70


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Tuesday, February 05, 2008


February 5, 2008

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Jack Cooley (BF), Glenbrook South HS (IL)

Projected 2008-2009 Roster

Seniors: Ryan Ayers (F/G), Kyle McAlarney (G), Zack Hillesland (F), Luke Zeller (BF/C)
Juniors: Luke Harangody (BF), Tory Jackson (PG), Jonathan Peoples (G)
Sophomores: Carlton Scott (F), Tyrone Nash (F), Ty Proffitt (G), Tim Abromaitis (F)
Freshmen: No Commitments yet
Early 2009 Commitments: Joey Brooks (SF), Jack Cooley (BF)

Although Notre Dame has yet to receive a commitment from the class of 2008 (two scholarships open), the Irish have already added a pair for 2009. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish Land Class of 2008 Glenbrook South Star Jack Cooley (Chicago Hoops) after a weekend visit to South Bend.

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Jack Cooley's recruiting was picking up steam in the last few weeks as Illinois, Notre Dame and Wisconsin all were present at recent games and the offers began coming in quickly. After making an unofficial visit to Notre Dame last weekend, Cooley and his family decided the Big East school was the place for him.

Cooley is the heir to the throne in the post for Notre Dame that is currently occupied by Luke Harangody. Cooley is a very similar player to Harangody as he comes to work every game and thrives in a rugged game. He is well equipped for the physical play of the Big East. Cooley is a double-double machine with Glenbrook South and knows his place is in the paint.

Cooley joins Joey Brooks, who chose Notre Dame over Arizona State, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest back in early Novemeber. He was an AAU teammate of another Irish target Steven Tchiengang who the Irish pursued until he committed to Vanderbilt. Brooks averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season, his first on the varsity. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 205 pounds.

The Irish still have two scholarships open for the class of 2008, and they could still add someone in the spring period, although nothing seems to be on the cusp.

The 2009 class will have four scholarships available plus any unused from 2008. With Cooley and Brooks in the fold early, the Irish are in very good position for a strong class in 2009. Cooley's Rising Stars AAU teammate Nik Garcia, a 6'5 G/F from Niles West HS has also received attention from the Irish as has Illinois guard Diamond Taylor.

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Friday, February 01, 2008


February 2, 2008

Notre Dame's home win streak reached 32 games with a thrilling overtime win over Providence Thursday night. The Irish have to turnaround quickly and take on DePaul Saturday evening as the Blue Demons take their turn in attempting to end the Irish home win streak.

The Blue Demons got the conference's attention by winning three of their first four Big East contests, but they have settled back into the conference back, losing three of their last four to even their record at 4-4. Their last game was a disappointing home loss to Syracuse as the short-handed Orange used their zone to watch the Blue Demons build a wall with their bricks from the perimeter.

Look for Notre Dame to do what they do best, go inside to Luke Harangody and then look outside to Kyle McAlarney. Harangody scored 31 in the win over PC, making up for the off-night shooting from McAlarney, which can't be good news for DePaul as the law of averages points to a big night on Saturday for the Irish junior.

DePaul definitely has some pieces to compete, but they still drive onlookers crazy with their inconsistency. Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker are among the league's best freshman duos, but the up and down play of seniors Karron Clarke, Wesley Green and Cliff Clinkscales leaves you wondering what you will get from DePaul. Senior Draelon Burns is one of the league's leading scorers, and he is putting up points consistently, but it can take a lot of shots at times for him to accrue those points.

While DePaul is likely to step up and beat someone again soon, I just do not see it happening against Notre Dame this weekned.

NBE Blogger's Prediction: Notre Dame 78 DePaul 70


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