Sunday, September 11, 2011

Irish Look to Extend Streak at the JACC

Tonight's matchup with the Providence Friars is very intriguing. Although the Friars are 12-7 overall and 3-4 in league play, including losing two straight, Providence has a well balanced offensive attack this season. Five different players are averaging more than 10 points per game and six players have recorded 20 or more points in a game this season for the Friars. But tonight will not be the night for Providence.

Away from the friendly confines of the Dukin Donuts Arena, Providence is 1-4. The last contest was a 71-64 loss at the Carrier Dome to a Syracuse squad that has only six healthy scholarship players! Yes, SIX scholarship players. To their credit, Providence did beat UConn in Hartford 77-65 on January 17. So which Friar squad will show up tonight, the one that beat Connecticut, or the one that has lost at Syracuse and DePaul? My money is on the latter!

Providence reminds me a lot like Cincinnati. They've got some quickness and some size, but nothing too overbearing. The Friars' leading scorer is Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier. Xavier is averaging 13.1 points per contest, while Geoffrey McDermott is their all-around guy (ala Rob Kurz) with 10.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. PC's big man, 6-11 Randall Hanke, should not give Irish stud Luke Harangody too much trouble. Hanke is only averaging 3.2 rebounds per contest, YIKES!

The Friars lead the Big East in 3 pt. field goals made per game at 8, but that is very misleading. Providence is chucking up around 25 to 30 shots behind the arc a night. And only hitting at 38% is not that great too! The Friars live and die by the three point shot. Good thing the Irish have excelled in holding their opponents to 32.7% from 3 pt. territory.

Notre Dame, once again, needs to get it going from the get-go. Look for Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers to pick up where they left off on Saturday against Villanova. Ayers, who came off the bench with 10 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes, looked great hitting the trey and driving the lane to create scoring opportunities. McAlarney is becoming deadly from long range and in the lane with his driving one handed floaters. Good things definitely happen when he has the ball in his hands.

Rob Kurz, Luke Harangody, and Zach Hillesland will control the boards and will dominant down low, as Providence doesn't have the height or man power to stop the Irish. Look for Kurz to have a breakout performance, while Harangody will put up another double-double game. Hillesland is good for his usual six to seven boards, and four assists. Maybe he'll get some more poster dunk opportunities.

Overall, I don't see the Irish letting this one slip through their fingers. The streak is intact for another game, as they will take over sole possession of second place in the Big East standings.

Prediction: Notre Dame 86 Providence 71

Baseline Bits:

~ Notre Dame leads the all-time series 11-9 and has won four straight against the Friars, including last season’s 81-78 victory at the Joyce Center. Providence is 4-6 all-time at the Joyce Center. Its last win in the series came at the Joyce Center when the Friars defeated Notre Dame 73-58. Since the Irish joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, there have been 15 meetings between the two schools during the regular season and in tournament competition. In BIG EAST play, Notre Dame holds a 9-6 edge.

~ Notre Dame ranks in the top five of the NCAA statistics in two categories: assists (6th-18.9) and rebounding margin (7th-9.1).

~ Tonight’s game against Providence is the first of consecutive home matchups in less than 48 hours as the Irish will play host to the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday night at 6:00 pm.

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