Friday, October 31, 2008


November 1, 2008

Much has been said this season of Notre Dame entering the 2008-2009 season with expectations at levels much higher than the previous two seasons. The Irish finished in the top four of the Big East in both the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons, joining Louisville and Georgetown as repeat teams earning a 1st Round Bye in the Big East Conference Tournament. Each season, the Irish were picked middle of the pack, or lower, entering the campaign and that has changed this year.

The Irish are widely regarded as a challenger for conference supremacy this year and a pre-season top 10 ballclub. However, around the Big East, things are rather quiet in South Bend. While teams projected ahead of them seem to be adding additional question marks as the season nears, Notre Dame is going about their business with a veteran ball club that got a head start this summer with a team trip to Ireland. The Irish are healthy, they are together and they are preparing for a big season.

With the spotlight seemingly shining brightly on a few other conference rivals, Mike Brey still has his team slightly removed from the bright lights that other teams are operating under. Notre Dame also has a home court advantage that has become a major weapon and will be a target for opponents this season. The Irish have won 17 straight games at the Joyce Center in conference play and 37 overall. With a strong team expected for this year, it does bring a tougher in-conference slate, meaning the win streak will definitely be put in jeopardy with the likes of Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Villanova and Georgetown visiting South Bend. This is a team that can handle the schedule and will be ready to face it this year.

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In what really is a rarity these days, the Irish will not be adding any new faces to this year’s line-up. Notre Dame does have two new players in their program, transfer students Ben Hansbrough and Scott Martin, but both will be sitting out their year of residency before being eligible to compete in 2009-2010.


While the newcomers are non-existent, the Irish do not lose a lot from last year in terms of personnel, with one player graduating and one player transferring, but graduation has caused a hole that needs to be replaced for the Irish to reach their 2008-2009 goals. Rob Kurz takes his 12.5 points, 7 rebounds and tremendous complimentary leadership with him as he attempts to find a home in the pros after graduation from Notre Dame.

Ty Proffitt, a freshman guard from last season, left the Irish program following the trip to Ireland of late August. Proffitt played sparingly last season and has moved on for more of an opportunity to play.

Net Impact:

The loss of Kurz is really a dual blow to the Irish as he was their consistent third scoring option. So, not only does Mike Brey’s club need to find a third scoring option, but they will have to find a power forward that works well on the boards, on defense and can pass the ball inside to Luke Harangody, the Big East’s Preseason Player of the Year according to the league’s coaches.

Proffitt was unlikely to see much time this year and with transfer players Hansbrough and Martin waiting in the wings for ’09-’10, the future was going to be similar.

2008-2009 Backcourt Outlook:

Notre Dame will be lead in the backcourt by senior sharp-shooter Kyle McAlarney and junior point guard Tory Jackson. The pair have experience and past success to guide the Irish through the difficult Big East.

McAlarney exploded as a junior, returning from a University suspension from the second half of the prior year, to score 15 points a game and become one of the most feared perimeter threats in the nation. McAlarney hit 108 or 245 three-point attempts last season, a success rate of 44%. His sharp-shooting ability keeps teams honest on the perimeter, making things easier inside for Luke Harangody, the hammer. This inside-out duo keeps the Irish tough to defend as it is almost pick your poison. McAlarney eclipsed the 30-point mark three times in conference play last season, including a 30 point explosion against Syracuse where he nailed a conference record nine of 11 three’s against the Orange zone.

The ND backcourt works so well because the players compliment each other’s abilities perfectly. Jackson is not much of a shooter, but he is extremely quick and strong for his size. He can get into the lane and push the ball in transition and has a knack for finding the open shooter, who is often McAlarney. Jackson may have only averaged 8 points a game, but also contributed nearly 6 assists, 2 steals and, despite being just 5-foot-10, just over 5 rebounds a game. How is this for impressive: in a three-game stretch last season (at Rutgers, at UConn and vs Pitt), Jackson averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists a game. Jackson will likely never be a consistent offensive threat, and as long as he tries to stay within himself and play his role, he is a perfect point guard to be paired with McAlarney in the Irish attack.

At times on the Irish trip to Ireland, Mike Brey opted to start a three-guard line-up with junior Jonathan Peoples getting the nod. With a very thin backcourt this year (Proffitt transferring out, Hansbrough and Martin sitting out), that is an unlikely scenario as Peoples is probably the only depth Jackson and McAlarney have behind them. Peoples can spell both starters and is an adequate handler and shooter at the guard spot. He does play well defensively, so he is a very good glue guy between the starters.

The likely third starter on the perimeter is wing Ryan Ayers. The 6-foot-8 senior is a smooth shooting forward that spends much of his time out by the three-point arc as he connected on 45% from the deep, where over 60% of his shots came from. Ayers will need to show the toughness to go with his experience to be consistent in the Big East. He averaged 7.8 points a game last year and should have ample opportunity for a bigger role this year.

2008-2009 Frontcourt Outlook:

When discussing the Notre Dame frontcourt, the conversation has to start with the 2007-2008 Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody. After a solid freshman season, where many thought his production should have led to more minutes, Harangody proved those correct by amassing 20 points and 10.6 rebounds a game last season. With better conditioning, Harangody took it up another notch in the rugged Big East by putting up numbers of 23 points and 11 rebounds a contest.

How impressive was his season? He scored in double figures in all 18 conference games, eclipsing 20 points in 13 of them, including a 40-point outburst against Louisville. He had 12 double-doubles as well.

Harangody knows that teams will concentrate on him this season and be ready for him. The league’s coaches certainly made it known they are impressed with his work, voting him the conference’s pre-season Player of the Year and making him a unanimous pick for the preseason all-league team. The NBE Basketball Report Caught Up With Harangody at the recent Big East media day and the 6-foot-8, 250 pound battering ram shared his thoughts on how he can improve his game to make his team better in the face of the added attention by opponents.

As mentioned, the power forward spot has become open with the graduation of Rob Kurz. The Irish energizer bunny, Zach Hillesland is a candidate to fill the role. Hillesland also started games last year on the wing and the 6-foot-9 senior fills a role defensively and on the boards with consistency. Last year he averaged over 6 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes a game. Former highly touted recruit Luke Zeller also returns for his senior season. Zeller has seen his role decrease each season in South Bend as the 6-foot-11 forward still does not seem comfortable trading paint inside the Big East. However, his ability to handle, pass and shoot the ball on the perimeter could form a nice compliment with Harangody inside and Zeller could have a surprising senior season. He will still need to improve a lot on the boards and defensively for that to happen on a regular basis.

Two players to pay close attention to this season are sophomores Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash. Both players are combo forwards with their best basketball ahead of them. Scott did not play at all last season as a foot injury set back his development. Nash also played sparingly, but has the tools to be a very good combo forward in the Big East as he is a fundamentally sound player that will battle inside and has the developing skills to play outside. Scott might be the best athlete on the team, having his skills catch up to his athleticism could see him approach the high ceiling be possesses. Rounding out the depth chart at forward is another sophomore, Tim Abromaitis, another 6-foot-7 combo forward that could put himself into the mix with his ability to shoot the basketball.

2008-2009 Team Outlook:

Mike Brey has talked about the difference this season brings with the higher preseason expectations. He can no longer give the Notre Dame players the underdog motivational speeches as the Irish will be a favorite among college basketball odds to make noise come March. However, I think the Irish coach might also like the position he finds his team in at this point. Although the Irish are talked about nationally, they seem to be forgotten a little bit in Big East circles. While injuries and other questions have been popping up with the other three contenders, ND just goes about their business with a veteran club preparing for the season.

An area of concern for the Irish is depth. You really have to like the trio of Tory Jackson, Kyle McAlarney and Luke Harangody. Veteran complimentary players such as Zach Hillesland, Ryan Ayers, Jonathan Peoples and Luke Zeller also return, but after those seven, the drop off of experience is pretty steep to the final three that make up this year’s active roster. Plus, at least two of the four complimentary players need to step up into more assertive and productive roles this season.

Still, the Irish are a definite title contender, while other teams seem to be raising more questions, Mike Brey’s club could sneak up on them a little bit once again and finish higher than their universal ranking (it seems) of fourth in the Big East. While the others might have a little more upside we are forecasting them to reach, you know what you will get from these Irish and, night in and night out, it will be a quality team that will win more than their share on the road and, possibly, all of their games again at home. In the end, that is a top team in the Big East.

2008-2009 Big East Prediction: 12-6


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October 31, 2008

The Pittsburgh Panthers will look to rebound from a demoralizing 54-34 home loss to Rutgers last week when they travel to South Bend to meet the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Both teams will enter the contest with identical 5-2 records.

While the Panthers were embarrased on their home field as Rutgers' anemic offense rolled to a 54-point explosion, just 25 points less than they had scored in their first six games against 1-A opponents, there is reason to be cautious if your an Irish backer this week. The combined record of the opponents ND has beaten in their five wins is 9-30, with 4-4 Stanford being the best of the sorry bunch. That probably sheds some light on why Notre Dame is just a 4 and a half point home favorite according to the latest NCAA Football Lines.

The match-up to watch might center around the Pitt secondary against the Irish spread offense. Last week, Rutgers shredded the Panther defense for 371 yards in the air and six touchdowns and since moving towards the spread offense, Irish QB Jimmy Clausen has averaged over 300 yards passing the last four games.

The biggest concern for the Panthers is the Pittsburgh injury report which lists Bill Stull as doubtful for the game after suffering a concussion last week in the RU game that had him carted off the field. The likely replacement is sophomore Pat Bostick and JUCO transfer Greg Cross will also likely see action as well. The Panthers need a balance through the air to give room to their superb running back, LeSean McCoy, who is usually the best player on the field when he plays.

Tough game to call, we are not sold on the Irish as a good football team, however, playing at home against a team with a major quarterback question mark, we look for them to get the win by passing the ball against a secondary that was just exposed by a poor passing team. it will be close, because LeSean McCoy IS that good...


Notre Dame 27
Pittsburgh 24


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


by Raymond Balter

Under Head Coach Mike Brey, the University of Notre Dame Men’s Basketball program is on more of a roll then they have been in many years. The Fighting Irish are ranked in the top twenty-five in virtually every pre-season poll, are listed in the top ten in most of them, and are pegged to finish as high as third by Blue Ribbon. Leading the way for them this year once again will be reigning Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody, who NBE Report spoke with at last Wednesday’s Big East Media Day.

Luke Harangody had quite a season last year for Notre Dame. The 6’8 forward averaged 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, statistics that were good enough to earn him league player of the year honors. What is even more impressive is that his Big East totals were even better than those overall numbers: against league foes, his averages were 23.3 points and 11.6 boards per game. On top of it all, he did all that while just a sophomore.

Now the native of Shererville, Ind. is back for his junior campaign (which also makes him the first reigning BE POY to forgo a professional opportunity and come back since Pitt’s Brandin Knight, who shared the honor with UConn’s Caron Butler in 2001-02, returned to play for the Panthers the following year).

Since Indiana is such a basketball-crazed state and he was already a pretty big star coming out of high school (though hardly a McDonald’s All-America type), his sudden fame is not such a big deal.

“There have been a lot of people that have followed me over the course of my career and are still following me," he said. “There have been so many people that followed me back home and are still following me." About his new star status, he said that, “I don’t think it’s changed me personally, but it has put more pressure on me and got me in the gym more to become that much better of a player and that’s a positive."

Harangody said that his final four choices coming out of high school were Indiana, Purdue, Ohio St., and Notre Dame. What was it that led him to pick the Irish? “The coaching staff – and you’re not going to find a group of players like this anywhere in the country," he said. “That’s the one thing that stuck out about Notre Dame." About his coaches, he had particularly high words of praise for the head man.

“Coach Brey has given me the confidence to become the player that I am today," he said. “That helped me out a lot, because if not for him, I probably would not be sitting where I am now. He instilled in me the confidence that I could be one of the top players in this league." Still, Harangody appears to be in no rush for the next level, and seems more focused on the task at hand this year.

“It’s great for the program to be getting all the hype, but we’re a veteran group and we know how to go about our business," he said. About the NBA, he had this to say: “You think about it, people start talking about it. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA, and now I’m going to take it one step at a time and see how it goes."


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Friday, October 24, 2008


October 24, 2008

Even though Notre Dame is sitting at 4-2 with what looks to be a revitalized squad here in 2008, this weekends trip to the Great Northwest is a key game for the Irish hopes as the hope to land in one of the better college football bowl games this season.

Charlie Weiss' squad is coming off a tough 29-24 road loss to North Carolina and have had two weeks to prepare for the trip to winless Washington. The Irish have had plenty of time to continue to get their young squad, led by Jimmy Clausen on the same page with their new spread offense. Against UNC, the offense moved the ball (472 yards) with Clausen throwing for 383, but 5 turnovers, compared to NONE for the Tarheels, were easily the difference in the ball game. Expect the Irish to take MUCH better care of the pigskin this weekend.

While much of the primetime attention Saturday night will focus on Ohio State/Penn State, Notre Dame will be another popular draw on the tube and ESPN2 will broadcast the match-up. College Football Odds peg the Irish as 10 1/2 point road favorites, which seems a little rich. Sure, the Huskies are winless (0-6) and coming off a 34-13 home loss to the Beavers of Oregon State, but expect them to play up to the competition ND provides.


Notre Dame 33
Washington 24


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


by Zach Smart

My buddy Brett and I have little in common. He’s high-octane, confrontational, and easily agitated at little things. I’m laid back, chilled out, and amused by the little things at life.

I’m 6-foot-2 and he’s 5-foot-7. I don’t follow the pre-election mayhem or get into politics at all, and he’s more right-wing than Fox News. In fact, he’s been scouring the New York Post every day, trying to kick some dirt on the “condescending, tree-hugging limousine liberals” veins. Wow.

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Clearly, we have our differences. One big similarity, however, is our uncanny ability to evaluate talent. It’s not like we should be recruiters or anything, but we’ve both been able to determine whether or not a player is going to pan out. We both said Roy Hibbert, who couldn’t do a full push-up when he first arrived at Georgetown, would pan out. He has.

We also said that Noel Devine and Julio Jones would have eye-opening, headline freshman seasons at their respective colleges. They did.

Of course, that’s not very debatable. Anyone who saw Devine’s mind-boggling High School highlights knows that the blink-quick, speed demon was going to turn heads and leave safeties in the dirt. DeMario Anderson, who authored a storied career at low Division-I Quinnipiac University and currently plays professionally in Belgium (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJNLFZo3Nd4), was also high on Devine, who he habitually referenced as “the fastest dude on earth.”

Still, Brett and I like to avoid the process of hyping someone up and keep it real when it comes to recruits. For example, with both said that Curtis Kelly (who was dominant at Rice by the way) and Nate Miles would fit in at UConn like his little chick feet fit in my size 13 Adidas.

No joke. Have our words not proved prophetic? Have the young guns we pegged as promising not come to fruition?

So, after perusing the weapons of Notre Dame-bound running back, Cierre Wood, we’ve concluded that the 6-foot, 192-pound Wood will be the TRUTH.

Yeah, his name sounds like it’s fresh out of a smut flick but like Devine and Jones, his highlight clips show his blazing speed and ability to stay on his feet. He’s elusive, quick, and sports a vision that is just as polished as any pro.

Give the kid from Santa Clara, Calif. a good, hard look and tell me if you don't agree.


See what I mean? I'd be hard-pressed to find someone who does not believe that this kid's freshman season will drop jaws, pop eyeballs, make NFL scouts drool, get Irish fans in the pub screaming in joyous cohesion and allow "Rudy" to surface as the most popular-rented flick at some rundown Indianapolis video den.

He's definitely a dual-threat with his ability to rip through runways and corral long bombs. He jets the 40 in 4.5 seconds, while posting a 3.94-second shuttle run and sporting a 32-inch vertical leap, according to Rivals.com.

While the fighting Irish have had decent life in the backfield with the steady mix of Armando Allen (298 yards, 4.9 yards-per-carry), Robert Hughes (3.1 ypc) and James Aldridge (3.6 ypc), there's no question that they'll only be a beneficiary of Wood's presence next year as the College Football Odds in favor of the Irish should rise with Wood.

The statistics don't lie.

In his junior season at Oxnard, Wood rushed for 2,612 yards. He averaged a scorching 14.7 yards per carry and reached the end zone 34 times.

His senior season has featured more of the same. This five-star recruit has been killing it since he was a sophomore, when he carried the pigskin to the beat of 12 ypc.

He will help alter the perception of Notre Dame football next year. I promise. Brett promises. That should automatically tell you he's going to prolong his success at the next level. Keep an eye out for him.


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Thursday, October 09, 2008


October 9, 2008

Well, the Notre Dame football team is sitting at 4-1 through their first five games and face sudden rising ACC power North Carolina, who is also sitting at 4-1, on the road this weekend.

The Irish have beaten Purdue, Stanford, Michigan and San Diego State, losing to Michigan State while the Tarheels have beaten Rutgers and UConn handily and got past McNeese State and Miami (FL), only falling to Virginia Tech by a field goal.

College Football Odds show the Tarheels as an 8-point home favorite in this game and UNC should be plenty jazzed for this match-up. Butch Davis will likely treat this game as a potential showcase of his program and attempt to put a stamp on the fact that UNC is going to be a force to be reckoned with on the football side of things, too. This one might get away from the Irish...


North Carolina 38
Notre Dame 20


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Monday, October 06, 2008


October 6, 2008

Joey Brooks still has over a year to go before he will begin practice as a member of the Notre Dame basketball team. However, he already seems like a veteran of the program since he has now been a committed member of Mike Brey's 2009 recruiting class for 11 months, making his decision to pledge with the Irish last November.

The Houston native, who attends Strake Jesuit High School, impressed the NBE Basketball Report tremendously this summer as reported in the Lebron James Skills Academy Update, Part I as it definitely looks like the Irish Got a Pot of Gold in Brooks which is evident once again in his Q&A with NBE that follows below...

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NBE Basketball Report (NBE): What is your current height, weight?

Joey Brooks (JB): I'm 6'5, 200

NBE: On the court, what part of your game do you feel will be your biggest strength helping you from the beginning at Notre Dame?

JB: My biggest strength will be my ability to get into the lane and make plays for both myself and my teammates. Scoring, finding open shooters and getting to the free throw line, things like that.

NBE: What part of your game has improved the most in the last year?

JB: The range on my jumpshot has improved a lot in the past year.

NBE: What part of your game do you plan to work on the most prior to getting to ND?

JB: And at the same time, I really need to work on the consistency of my jumper, which will take me from being a pretty good shooter to being a really really good shooter.

NBE: What was the main reason for choosing ND?

JB: The main reason for choosing ND for me was the obvious opportunity to play significant minutes early, that was really big. And Coach Brey, I love coach Brey, he is my kind of coach, a players coach. Not to mention the top of the line education which will allow me to do whatever I want and be successful after basketball.

NBE: What is your relationship with Coach Brey and the staff members?

JB: I am really close with all (of) the staff, but I am closest with Coach Brey, because I was recruited mainly by Coach Cross and Coach Brey and when coach Cross left to take the head job at Toledo, a bunch of schools started asking questions and stuff like that but it was a blessing in disguise because coach Brey and I started talking a lot more and that made our relationship stronger. Also Coach Kearney, Coach Solomon, coach Inglesby and coach Balanis are all great guys who I'm very comfortable with.

NBE: What other schools did you consider?

JB: I was considering Wake Forest, Marquette, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Pitt and Vanderbilt.

NBE: What was the highlight of your recent visit to South Bend?

JB: The Highlight of my visit was just hanging out and talking with all the players and my future teammates (Jack Cooley and HOPEFULLY Ryan Kelly), especially Kyle M, Luke Z and Ryan Ayers. Three of the seniors who were giving me advice and confidence (whether they knew it or not). Those guys are great and it was cool hanging out with them and soaking up as much knowledge as I could!

NBE: What was on the weekend's agenda? Who did you spend most time with?

JB: I spent the most time with Carleton Scott, (luke Harabgody) 'Gody, Tory (Jackson) and like I said Kyle (McAlarney), but I got a chance to meet all the guys including the two transfers who I like a lot, Scott (Martin) and Ben (Hansbrough). The agenda was really hectic, we did so many things. We went to the pep rally which was ridiculous, played and worked out with some of the players, of course went to the football game, had dinner at coach' house. We pretty much did everything!

NBE: On a topic much more serious than basketball, the state of Texas has gone through a tough time in the wake of Hurricane Ike, could you relay some of your experiences related to the storm?

JB: Well as far as the hurricane, we had to stay in Chicago an extra day because of Ike, then when we finally got home, luckily we only had damage to our fences and some debris and tree branches in our front yard. Our electricity was knocked out for about a week which was interesting, nothing like a little perspective! But I have no complaints because My family was safe and no major damage really happened to our house or anything. I just want to send out prayers to the people who lost loved ones or had significant property damage because of Ike.

Anyone who would like to give to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fun to help victims of Hurricane Ike and other disasters, both present and in the future, please visit the National Disaster Relief Fund Page at american.redcross.org.

Thank you...and, thank you and best of luck to Joey Brooks. He has a bright future on and off the court ahead of him!


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