Friday, February 27, 2009


February 28, 2009

Following a seven-game losing streak, Notre Dame has made things interesting by coming back to win four of their last five games, moving to 7-8 in the conference. However, climbing to that magical benchmark of .500 in the Big East is a tall order on Saturday as the Irish have to travel to Storrs to take on UConn on Senior Day.

The Huskies will be honoring their senior basketball program members, including AJ Price, Jeff Adrien and Craig Austrie. The energy and emotion of the day will have Gampel Pavilion abuzz from the get-go, making it a tough atmosphere for any visitor.

Earlier this season UConn defeated the Irish 69-61 at the Joyce Center in the game that ended the record-setting Irish home win streak. While there might be an element of revenge at work for Notre Dame, the Irish do not match-up well against the Huskies.

Neither team has much depth and the presence of 7’3 Hasheem Thabeet and the powerful Adrien will make things very tough for Luke Harangody, the reigning Big East Player of the Year, who is a walking double-double for the Irish. While Harangody is likely to still register his normal 25 points and 14 rebounds, expect it to be an extremely hard-earned stat-line. Even during the seven-game losing streak, Harangody continued to put up big numbers, but the efficiency of his output dropped significantly. Much of that was due to the lack of support from the players around him.

While Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney have picked up their games in the recent weeks as the Irish have returned to winning ways, they will have to do so on Saturday against once of the stingiest defensive teams in the nation. With the perimeter in lock-down mode and Thabeet inside, the high-powered Irish offense will likely be tested like no other time this year.

With the loss of Jerome Dyson, UConn is definitely a more vulnerable team as they will miss Dyson’s ability to break down defenses and his own defensive abilities. However, one very uplifting development from their recent win at Marquette was the 19-point, 10-rebound performance of Stanley Robinson. Finding offense from Robinson, which has been sorely missed this season, could go a long way to helping the Huskies recover some of the punch lost with Dyson’s injury.

Saturday is likely to be a very emotional day for UConn point guard AJ Price who has been through a tremendous amounts of highs and lows in his five years as a member of the UConn program. Wednesday night was among one of the highest highs as Price poured in a career-high 36 points in a win over Marquette and helping Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun to his 800th career win. Now on Senior Day, the coach and his seniors can be honored together for their accomplishments and are likely to go out in style.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 84
Notre Dame 69

UConn-Notre Dame Preview Capsule (Norwich Bulletin)
Seniors Still Working on UConn Legacy (Hartford Courant)
Poor Record Could Hurt Luke Harangody's Player of the Year Hopes (Chicago Tribune)


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


February 25, 2009

Mike Brey has stated his goal is for the Irish to make things interesting come Selection Sunday. Things were not looking like it would be very interesting when the Irish were mired in a seven-game losing streak, however ND has rebounded to win three of four including a thrashing of Louisville and a road win against Providence to make things interesting yet again. At 6-8 inthe Big East, they certainly have work left to do, and it starts tonight with a game they can not afford to slip up on against Rutgers.

As for Rutgers, playign out the string of another season is not sitting well for fans. The Scarlet Knights are 1-13 and in Fred Hill's third season, fans are quickly growing tired once again of the lackof success on the court. Some recruiting excitement lifted expectations heading into the season, but the continued losing ways will quickly wipe away any of that momentum.

Rutgers is led by freshman shooting guard Mike Rosario and classmate Greg Echenique has manned the paint adequately this season. While those two are certainly the building blocks for the future, they need help. The season long struggles on the court of Corey Chandler have been very evident by his drop in production and effectiveness after a promising, yet injury-plagued freshman season. Mike Coburn, another sophomore, is coming off a solid outing in their 74-56 loss versus WVU on Sunday, but he has not built on a solid frosh campaign either. Seniors Jaron Griffin and JR Inman continue to underachieve as their time on the floor seems to vary from half to half. Senior point guard Anthony Farmer has been solid throughout, but the lack of player pushing him for time does not give one much hope for a brighter future anytime soon for RU.

Luke Harangody continues to be a double-double machine and that is not likely to slow down against Rutgers. While the shot-blocking ability of Hamady N'Diaye and length of Inman might cause Harangody some difficulty at times, it is nothing greater than what he usually sees and is unlikely to deter him from racking up the points and rebounds. Teams are able to expose 'Gody defensively and wear him down to make him less efficient on offense, but RU seems adverse to going inside on offense, so do not expect them to challege the reigning Big East Player of the Year on that end of the floor.

With Rutgers likely in a 'playing out the string' mode at this point in time, do not be surprised to see Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers finding open spaces to 'tee-it-up' from beyond the arc. When they get time, they are deadly. The Irish offensive abilities will carry them a long way against RU in this game.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Notre Dame 84
Rutgers 65

Irish Still Have Shot to Salvage NCAA Hopes (Post-Tribune)
Patience Pays Off for Notre Dame Bench Players (Chicago Tribune)
Notre Dame Not Taking Rutgers Lightly (Star-Ledger)
Fighting Irish Not Giving Up on NCAA's (Asbury Park Press)
Ejection Reaction Positive for Nash (South Bend Tribune)


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Saturday, February 21, 2009


February 21, 2009

It is crunch time for Big East teams as we have just three weekends left of regular season action. Saturday is a day full of NCAA Tournament bubble implications and the Big East starts it off with Notre Dame and Providence meeting in Rhode Island.

The Irish are 5-8 in the Big East and 14-11 overall. They are coming off a disappointing road loss to West Virginia where they wasted a quick start that saw them get out to an early 10-point lead and eventually lose 79-68. Once again, their defense let them down as it was too easy for the Mountaineers to erase the deficit and pull away in the second half.

Almost any way you look at it, Notre Dame MUST have this game. A lose would make them 5-9 and they still have to play at UConn and host Villanova, meaning they would have to sweep their final four games to reach .500 in Big East play, the number Rick Pitino thinks a team MUST have to be considered for the NCAA Tournament.

“If you don’t have a winning record in your conference, you’re not getting an NCAA berth,” said the Louisville coach in this week’s Big East coaches conference call.

Providence is 8-6 in the Big East, but just 16-10 overall as they failed to win any of their meaningful out of conference games, aside from in-state rival Rhode Island. They have a road game with Rutgers left, but Pittsburgh and Villanova also are on the schedule. Winning a marquee game is probably a must, but dropping this one is likely fatal to their NCAA chances.

Providence failed to earn such a marquee win in their last outing, a 94-76 loss at Louisville. The Friars led the game 46-45 at the half, but the Cards went on an early run in the second half to gain full control of the contest.

Both teams prefer a similar style of game, wide open with plenty of shooting opportunities. A free flowing game is not very common in the Big East, but it should be here. However, whoever will dedicate themselves on the defensive end of the floor could come up with the advantage. Mike Brey believes his team is ready to finish strong.

“Every league game now, there’s a lot riding on it [especially] when you’re in the position we’re in,” Brey said this week. “There’s no question about it. It’s not lost on us.”

While there is no magic mark for a conference record in order to make the NCAA Tournament, the Irish coach knows that, at a minimum, a .500 record will put you in the conversation on selection Sunday.

“I don’t think anybody would argue that a .500 record in the Big East this year is a very respectable record,” said Brey. “I think 9-9 is pretty good in our league this year.”

With Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney on the side of the Irish, they are likely to have the two best players in the game. However, finding complimentary players to step up and play with toughness, both mentally and physically, is the key to the Irish. Too often this season, that has not been the case and Harangody and McAlarney are seemingly on their own to decide the Irish fate. In the Big East, that is not going to win many games.

The Friars have a deeper team of contributors and are a very experienced group. Seniors Weyinmi Efejuku, Geoff McDermott, Jonathan Kale and Jeff Xavier all start, along with redshirt junior Sharaud Curry, and senior Randall Hanke is first off the bench. That experience has helped PC to a record of 8-6 in the conference to this point.

The Friars can usually count on contributions from all their veterans. Sophomore Marshon Brooks has been a big contributor off the bench. That consistent production from multiple positions and players is something the Irish do not receive. While Harangody will get his points and rebounds, that has not been enough to carry the Irish. Ryan Ayers seems to disappear too often and Tory Jackson is not enough of a scorer to add to an attack that seems to have to score more to be effective.

At this point in time, it just seems that Providence is the better team. While the Irish showed in their win over Louisville, they can still look pretty good, this is coming on the road and they have only managed to beat DePaul away from home in conference play. They have lost at St. John’s and Cincinnati among others.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Providence 81
Notre Dame 76

Notre Dame Knows Stakes vs. Providence (Chicago Tribune)
Expect a Shootout at the Dunk: Neither PC nor Notre Dame Can Defend (Providence Journal)


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009


February 18, 2009

As we head down the stretch of the big East conference season, key games carry more and more weight. Tonight in Morgantown is such a game as Notre Dame travels to take on West Virginia. The Irish have won two in a row following their seven-game losing streak, but now they leave the comfy confines of the Joyce Center to hit the road.

West Virginia, coming off Friday's 93-72 romp over Villanova in the Coliseum, is looking to start a favorable stretch of scheduling off on the right foot. The win over 'Nova should restore some confidence for a young team as they clumbed back to .500, at 6-6, in Big East play. Following the game with the Irish, WVU hits the road for three games against Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida before finishing up at home with DePaul and Louisville.

Much like WVU, Notre Dame ended their recent slide in memorable fashion with a 90-57 dismantling of Louisville last Thursday. The Irish followed that up with a 67-57 win over USF on Sunday. At 5-7 in the Big East and 14-10 overall, the Irish need wins and need them in a hurry.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

Kevin Jones Unsung Part of Heralded Frosh Class (Times West Virginian)
Can ND Locate its Road Swagger (South Bend Tribune)
Notre Dame vs. West Virginia (Chicago Tribune)
3 Pointers Could Decide It (Charleston Gazette)
WVU Hosting Skidding Irish (Journal News)
Huggins Confident RPI Will Get WVU NCAA Berth (Charleston Gazette)
Fighting Irish Will Test Mountaineers Perimeter Defense (Daily Mail)

Everyone still seems perplexed about Notre Dame's seven-game losing streak. Looking at that stretch, it really does seem rather simple...six of the teams were rated in the top 10 at one time or another in that stretch. The other team, Cincinnati, is a pretty good team and that game, along with four of the other six, was on the road. I do not think the stretch of losses proved the Irish are not good, maybe not quite top 25 good, but it was a stretch than many teams would have found themselves 0-7 in.

However, it is about winning and that is what the Irish need to do now. The perimeter shooting from multiple players that was missing in the seven game losing streak has returned the last few games, now it needs to show itself on the road. Luke Harangody seems good for 25 points and 15 rebounds each time out, but the level of efficiency of those numbers rises significantly when he is getting help from the perimeter.

West Virginia is not always the prettiest team, but like a Bob Huggins-coached team, they will battle and scrap and there is not a shortage of long, lean and athletic players that will wreak havoc on offenses. The Mountaineer attack is driven by senior guard Alex Ruoff and junior win Da'Sean Butler. Their veteran leadership is needed as they have a young supporting crew, which includes freshmen point guard Darryl Bryant and forward Devin Ebanks. In the win over Villanova, Butler rebounded from a four-point night in a loss at Pitt to explode for 43 points in the win. Ebanks matched his career high of 16 points, originally established in the Pitt loss on Monday, and added 10 rebounds. The pair are very tough match-ups for the WVU defense and could be in line for big nights. If Ruoff can connect on a few three's, the Mountaineer momentum can start to roll again.

The Mountaineers are a healthy 9 1/2-point favorite at home. At first blush, that numbers seems high, but looking at the Kenpom.com effeciency ratings, it shows WVU as a 12-point winner. I still contend that much of the WVU strength in the power numbers was built on the backs of the poor in their non-conference schedule, but they still should be a match-up tonight that is difficult for the Irish to handle as WVU will keep coming at them in waves of athleticism.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

West Virginia 74
Notre Dame 66


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Sunday, February 15, 2009


February 15, 2009

The frustrations of seven consecutive losses were unleashed in a perfect storm Thursday night as Notre Dame blasted Louisville, 90-57, at the Joyce Center in South Bend. With the perimeter shots falling and Luke Harangody finding room inside for an efficient 32-point effort, the Irish blew the Cards right out of the building from the get-go.

With confidence restored, the Irish will look to start a revival of a season gone awry on Sunday afternoon when South Florida visits South Bend. The Bulls are 3-8 in conference play, just one-game behind the Irish, who are 4-7. USF is coming off a 15-point home loss to Providence last week. They have won once on the road in conference play, at DePaul, and a fourth conference win would be their most since joining the Big East.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on today’s game:

Notre Dame Preview Capsule (Post-Tribune)
Tyrone Nash Searching for Consistency for Notre Dame (Chicago Tribune)

Even the big win over Louisville probably has not emptied the tank of frustrations that have built up for the Irish, who were ranked among the top 10 in the nation before a seven-game losing streak set in. The key for the Irish is to get offensive production from others to open the paint for Luke Harangody, who should find plenty of opportunities against a small and thin USF front line.

If Kyle McAlarney is hitting from the outside, it energizes the home crowd and extends the defense. Add in a few a threes from Ryan Ayers and a solid floor game from Tory Jackson and that is the Irish squad we expected in the preseason. That team showed, for the first time in quite some time, in the win over Louisville. As a 13-point home favorite, will it come again on Sunday?

The Bulls have a solid backcourt, led by dynamic scoring guard in sophomore Dominique Jones and senior Jesus Verdejo. They will have opportunities to score against the Irish defense, which is not very stout, but can the Bulls keep up offensively? Probably not…

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Notre Dame 80
South Florida 65


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Thursday, February 12, 2009


February 12, 2009

It has now been more than a month since the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men's basketball team has tasted victory. Their last win game at home on January 10th, 88-79 over Seton Hall. The losing streak started off normal enough, losing back-to-back road games at Louisville, which went into overtime, and at Syracuse. Then came back-to-back home losses, ending the 45-game Irish home win streak. Again, however, losing to arguably the nation's best team, Connecticut, and a surging Marquette squad in itself would not be something to sound an alarm on. The came out swinging against Pittsburgh on the road, but were run out of the building in the second half and the losing streak was suddenly at five games.

In the Big East, it is funny (well, not if your a coach, player or fan of a team in the conference) how a little snowflake can turn into a snowball and then start an avalanche. Losing at Louisville, in overtime, a game they had chances to win, probably did not knock the Irish down too much...but, it got the snowball headed down the hill.

Those five losses dropped the Irish to 3-6 in the Big East. Still, one could reason that more than 90% of Division 1-A college basketball teams would have gone 0-5 in that gauntlet, so Notre Dame headed to Cincinnati looking to re-start their season. Instead, they allowed 93 points and looked like a defeated team when they were run out of the building against UCLA on Saturday.

So, now ND has a seven-game losing streak. Overall record has dropped to 12-10 and the NCAA Tournament, which just a month ago seemed like a lock with a possible protected seed is now a long-shot. ND needs wins, they need big wins, but really, they need ANY win right now. It will not come easy hosting a Louisville team that is 9-1 in the Big East and 18-4 overall, but seeing that UL has really struggled offenisvely in their last 100 minutes of basketball, maybe there can be some life yet for the Irish.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on tonight's game:

Banged Up Louisville Visits Fighting Irish (Chicago Tribune)
Many Reasons for Notre Dame's Collapse (Chicago Tribune)
Formula Found to Fluster Fighting Irish (Journal-Gazette)
Cardinals' Samuels Banged Up, Fired Up (Courier-Journal)
Scary Talent Await Irish (South Bend Tribune)
Irish Attempt to Stop Bleeding Against Fifth-Ranked cards (Kentucky.com)

If your offense is struggling, there might not be a better site for a major conference college team on the horizon than a date with Notre Dame. After scoring 45 points in the opening 20 minutes in a 69-63 win over West Virginia almost two weeks ago, somebody turned the switch off on the UL 'O' and has forgot to turn it back on. Since that first half, UL scored 24 points in the second half against WVU, 51 in the entire game against UConn and then struggled, before hitting a plethora of late minute free throws, in a 60-47 win on Sunday over St. John's.

In their last three losses, ND has allowed nearly 92 points a game against teams that are not known for high offensive outputs (UCLA, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati). The free-flowing game that the Irish prefer is certainly to allow the Cards to find their comfort zone more easily and with buckets, Louisville will unleash their full court pressure, and area that the Cards should have excellent success with against the Irish.

I keep waiting for the Irish to come out on fire and knocking down three's at a high rate. Well, they did do that against Pitt, making 11 in the first half alone, but this team seems so allergic to playing defense that any success almost seems like foos gold as once the game gets into a grind, they do not have the willpower or confidence to overcome any adversity. Louisville is a team that thrives in putting the opposition through adversity, can Notre Dame respond?

Louisville is a 3 1/2-point favorite on the road. The proof in this one is all on the Irish to compete, you know Rick Pitino will have his team defending and rebounding. Look for their offense to return and earn the road win.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Louisville 77
Notre Dame 70


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Saturday, February 07, 2009


February 7, 2009

It is getting bad to worse for Notre Dame as the Irish left the conference Saturday and were destroyed by UCLA in California.

The Bruins Run Away from Notre Dame (South Bend Tribune) in an 89-63 win that was not even that close.

Tory Jackson, despite not starting, led the Irish with 17 points and Kyle McAlarney scored 16. The UCLA defense did quite a number on Luke Harangody, holding the reigning Big East Player of the Year to just five points on two of 12 shooting from the field in a frustrating 25 minutes of play.

UCLA shot 57% from the field in handing the Irish their seventh straight loss. Notre Dame will look to end their losing streak Thursday night when they host Louisville.


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Thursday, February 05, 2009


February 5, 2009

So with their season most likely on the line last night against Cincinnati, how does Notre Dame respond to the challenge? By giving up 93 points for the second consecutive game as the Bearcats Deep-Six ND (South Bend Tribune), dropping them to 3-7 in the Big East.

The Bearcats Shock Irish, Extend Losing Streak to Six (Journal Gazette) as junior Deonta Vaughn scored 34 points while just making five (all three's) shots from the floor. Vaughn was 19-22 from the line and as a team UC was 31-41.

Larry Davis added 21 points and Yancy Gates had 15 points and 8 rebounds as UC Takes Down Irish (Cincinnati Enquirer) at US Bank Arena in Downtown Cincinnati and even their conference mark at 5-5.

Notre Dame's next outing is a non-conference encounter with UCLA in California on Saturday. The Irish return to Big East action when they host Louisville a week from today.

Luke Harangody had a team-high 28 points and added 14 rebounds and 5 assists. Irish frustrations seemed to boil over near the end of the 1st half when Kyle McAlarney was assessed a technical foul for a shoving altercation with UC big man Steven Toyloy. The Irish led by three, but Vaughn hit one of two foul shots from the T and then was fouled after the inbounds and made both free throws to knot the score at 37-all heading to the break.

McAlarney was just two of 12 from the floor, finishign with 13 points. Ryan Ayers came off the bench to score 14 before fouling out, Tory Jackson, who was scoreless in their loss at Pittsburgh over the weekend scored 11, as did Zach Hillesland.


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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


February 4, 2009

Notre Dame looks to snap their five-game losing streak when they hit the road once again to take on Cincinnati. Over the weekend, ND played just down the Ohio River in Pittsburgh and saw an early 10-point lead behind some hot three-point shooting evaporate as the Panthers ran them out of town, 93-80. The Irish now sit at 3-6 in the Big East and in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament if they do not turn thing around VERY quickly.

Cincinnati had won four of five, including a home game with Georgetown, and were looking to begin to push their way onto the NCAA bubble when they traveled to meet Villanova on Sunday. The result was not pretty as the 'Nova defense was turned up in the second half and the Bearcats went down, 71-50, and fell to 4-5 in the Big East.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the web:

Irish Come Skidding into Town (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Harangody Needs Some Help on Offense (Gary Post Tribune)
Irish in Dire Need of a Victory (Journal Gazette)
Notre Dame Knows it is Now or Never (Chicago Tribune)
Time Running Out on Irish Season (South Bend Tribune)

We all know that Notre Dame has lost five games in a row and, out in cyberspace, panic has set in among the Irish faithful and fueled by those looking to stir the pot. However, closer in spection of those losses reveals that four of them have come at the hands of teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the country and the other was to #20 Syracuse on the road (when they were ranked in the top 10). So, what we have probably learned is that the Irish are NOT a top-10 team. Now, we shoudl be able to really see what they have. Their recent 5 game slide is probably a slide that 90% of the Division 1-A teams in America would also be on with those five games.

That is not to say there are not some alarming traits with this club. Obviously, their defense is as spotty as it comes. In their three road losses during the slide, they have given up an average of 91 points a game! Their rebounding outside of Luke Harangody has been non-existent. Luke Zeller, the starting power forward who stands at 6'11, had what amounted to a season's-best game against Pitt on Saturday, draining six threes and scoring 18 points in 21 minutes. However, Zeller did not grab a single rebound or block a single shot. Pitt's 6'3 guard Jermaine Dixon had 5 rebounds and was able to register a blocked shot. Also, Kyle McAlarney is just nine of 38 from the field in the last three games, including seven of 23 from 3-pt range. Since nobody has stepped up on the perimeter consistently, teams have gone all out to shut down McAlarney. While Luke Harangody is still getting his points, averaging 26.6 in the five losses, he has taken 116 shots, over 23 a game, to do so. Not very efficient.

When Cincinnati began with three straight losses to start conference play, it was their defense that was letting them down. Two of those losses came at home as they were being blitzed from beyond the arc. Notre Dame will have to hope that porous defense returns tonight.

The Bearcats have made improvements defensively, but they still have not really been tested in that regard. Their best win was over a slumping Georgetown team and this game will be played at the US Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati, not their normal on campus home at Fifth Third Arena in the Shoemaker Center.

Deonta Vaughn is still the one to make UC go, they have been getting more help from the supporting cast, including Yancy Gates and Mike Williams, but it has not been as consistent as they had hoped to this point.

The early NCAA basketball betting odds have the Irish as a 3 1/2-point road favorite. At first, that was a little bit of a surprise. Looking closely at the game, seeing it is at US Bank and the schedule the Irish have faced, we think they do come out and put things together for a nice win tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Notre Dame 75
Cincinnati 68


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