Thursday, September 1, 2011

Accolades Start To Flow For Irish Hoops

A 33 game home court winning streak, sole possession of 2nd place in one of the best conferences in the country, a current three game winning streak, as well as, one of the best inside-outside duos in the country, Notre Dame's men's basketball team is finally getting their props! Yesterday, the Irish were ranked 21st and 22nd, respectively, in both the ESPN/USAToday and AP polls. The team is not the only one getting attention though.

Big man Luke Harangody was awarded his second Big East Player of the Week honors. After registering his 11th double-double of the season, Harangody is now averaging double figures in both points and rebounds. In fact, he is currently 29th in the country in scoring (20.4 ppg), and 18th in rebounds (10.0 rpg). If Luke can keep this up, not only should he be the Big East Player of the Year, but he will most likely make some All-America lists.

After their hard fought victories last week, ND has also moved up the RPI ratings at 40. Even though the Irish are currently second place in the conference standings, six conference foes are ahead of them in the RPI rankings. Below is a breakdown of the conference standings, win-loss record, conf. win-loss record, and current RPI and SOS rankings:

1. Georgetown 18-2, 8-1, 6 RPI 51 SOS
2. Notre Dame 16-4, 6-2, 40 RPI 93 SOS
3. Connecticut 16-5, 6-3, 16 RPI 7 SOS
Marquette 15-4, 6-3, 17 RPI 47 SOS
Louisville 16-6, 6-3, 37 RPI 32 SOS
6. Syracuse 16-7, 6-4, 34 RPI 6 SOS
7. Pittsburgh 16-5, 5-4, 19 RPI 37 SOS
W. Virginia 15-6, 5-4, 41 RPI 46 SOS
Seton Hall 15-7, 5-4, 45 RPI 50 SOS
10. Cincinnati 10-12, 5-5, 84 RPI 3 SOS
11. DePaul 9-12, 4-5, 126 RPI 21 SOS
12. Providence 12-9, 3-6, 65 RPI 24 SOS
Villanova 13-7, 3-6, 74 RPI 83 SOS
14. St. John's 8-12, 2-7, 137 RPI 17 SOS
15. Rutgers 10-13, 2-8, 169 RPI 87 SOS
16. S. Florida 10-12, 1-8, 150 RPI 72 SOS

Key Irish opponents, Kansas State and Baylor, are 28th and 32nd, according to the RPI.

With 10 games remaining on the regular season slate and a little over six weeks before Selection Sunday, Notre Dame is in good shape. In all the 31 projected NCAA brackets, the Irish are a lock as a 6th seed. ND was as high as a number 4 seed (Schmolik 64 and CBS Sportsline), and as low as 13th (Joey Bracket Buster). Possible opponents could be UMass, Miami, or UNLV. Big East member, Syracuse, is the other current 11th seed.

ESPN's Bracketologist, Joe Lunardi did have some decent things to say during his weekly chat, but would like to see more from the Irish.

Travis (DC): Enough ACC questions!! Notre Dame is 16-4 overall and 6-2 in conference with the two losses on the road at G-Town and Marquette. If Luke Harangody continues his 20 and 10 pace for the rest of the season and the Irish keep on winning, how high of a seed do you think they can get?

Joe Lunardi: (2:43 PM ET ) What I'll be watching most closely is how well N.D. plays on the road. The Irish have one true road win, at fading Villanova and will need to show better against the other top teams in the conference (away from home) to be seeded accordingly.

Well the Irish will get their chance to shine on the road against two traditional powers, Connecticut (Feb. 13) and Louisville (Feb. 28). Their home slate isn't a pushover either with Saturday's contest against Marquette, and then back-to-back games with Pittsburgh (Feb. 21) and Syracuse (Feb. 24). A 2-2 split or 3-1 record versus those teams will propel the Irish even farther up the ratings chain.

Here is the breakdown of the current NCAA Tournament seedings for the eight Big East teams. Seton Hall is listed as one of the last teams left out in all of the brackets. Lunardi placed the Irish 6th in the Midwest against former Cinderella, George Mason, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

2. Georgetown
5. Marquette
5. Pittsburgh
5. Connecticut
6. Notre Dame
8. Louisville
9. West Virginia
11. Syracuse

With the Irish making their debut in both the AP and ESPN/USAToday polls, that makes five Big East teams ranked, which is the most in the nation. The Big 12 and Big 10 are next with four teams ranked. Kansas State checks out at 20th (AP) and 24th (ESPN/USAToday).

Georgetown 6 (AP), 6 (ESPN), 5-2 (v.1-50 RPI), 0-0 (vs. 51-100), 9-1 (last 10 games)
UConn 19 , 19 , 5-4 , 1-1 , 7-3
Marquette 16 , 16 , 3-5 , 2-0 , 6-4
Pittsburgh 21 , 25 , 3-2 , 2-2 , 6-4
Notre Dame 22 , 21 , 3-3 , 3-1 , 8-2
Syracuse NR , NR , 1-5 , 3-2 , 6-4
Louisville NR , NR , 4-5 , 1-1 , 8-2

As you can see, the Irish compare quite well against their Big East counterparts. It's now down to the final stretch during these last ten games. I predicted before the season started that the Irish would be in store for 22 wins. With remaining games against Rutgers, St. John's, and South Florida, I'm going to up their regular season total to 24. So when the conference tournament comes around, the Irish will have another first round bye with a 14-4 league mark and an overall record of 24-6. For the record, I see the Irish losing on the road to both Connecticut and Louisville, and also see ND going undefeated at the JACC (37 straight). Hey, I'm an alum and I'm bias, so don't shit in my cheerios!

Tomorrow will be another big road contest against Seton Hall. Even though the Pirates are 5-5 in their last ten games, 1-6 against Top 50 teams, and have most of their wins against the lower tier of the conference; this is a trap game for the Irish. But with a solid group that is playing some of its best basketball, Notre Dame will prevail and set their sights on Marquette.

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