Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Irish Look to TKO Cardinals Tonight
Tonight’s matchup of Big East heavyweights is slated to go the distance, as long as, the Irish have the same energy it did in their last major road contest against Connecticut. Despite the loss to the Huskies earlier this month, Notre Dame was in it towards the end after missing shots they’ve normally made during the season. However, against Louisville the Irish will have to be on their “A” game to pull out the most important game of the season to date.
With a win tonight, the Irish will be in the thick of it for the regular season championship, as well as, having the coveted first round bye in the Big East Tournament. But there might be too many “ifs” for Notre Dame this evening.
1.) If Tory Jackson can play under control and know that he doesn’t necessarily have to take it all on himself.
2.) If Notre Dame can hit their Big East leading average (40.9%) from 3pt. range.
3.) If Jonathan Peoples and Luke Zeller can provide meaningful minutes and points.
4.) If Rob Kurz, Luke Harangody, Zach Hillesland, and Ryan Ayers can win the battle of the boards.
Something has to give as Notre Dame has the highest scoring offense in the league (80.8), while Louisville combats with the second-best scoring defense in the Big East (60.5). To make matters worse for the Irish is the 37.5 field goal percentage defense for the Cards, ranking fourth nationally. Louisville has held 16 teams under 40 percent shooting this season, including 10 of its last 12 opponents. The Cards held Syracuse to 29.1 percent shooting two games ago. 15 of Louisville’s opponents have scored 60 or fewer points this season. So the Irish will see an unrelenting defense and a deep bench tonight.
On the flip side, the Irish do have a few things in their favor tonight. If it comes down to the wire and to free throw shooting, Louisville is one of the worst in the Big East. The Cardinals are shooting 66.2% from the charity stripe. Louisville is also middle of the pack in 3pt. FG % too at 34.7.
After the Syracuse win, many alike were discouraged by the fact that the Irish were out rebounded by a huge margin to the Orange. As the best rebounding team in the Big East, Notre Dame should dominate the boards defensively, as the Cardinals are the second-to-worst offensive rebounding team in the Big East. Louisville does have some decent size, but can 6-11 David Padgett really bang around with Harangody? We shall see.
Speaking of Luke, he would be just the second Big East player in the last decade to average 22 ppg and 11 rpg in conference play for a season. (Georgetown's Mike Sweetney did it in '02-03.) Only five players have averaged 22 and 11 in league play for a BCS conference in the last decade. If he does not get the Big East POY, then there is no justice in college basketball.
Year Player PPG RPG
'07-08 Luke Harangody (Notre Dame) 22.4 11.9
'07-'08 Michael Beasley (K-State) 28.3 11.9
'07-'08 Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) 24.5 11.6
'06-'07 Kevin Durant (Texas) 28.9 12.5
'02-'03 Mike Sweetney (G'town) 25.1 11.4
Harangody will definitely get his points tonight; that is not the issue. Whether or not a few others can step up and have solid games is the question. A win would mean a whole lot tonight, but a loss would not be devastating either. With that said, I’m still sticking to my midseason prediction that the Irish will end the regular season 24-6 and lose this contest.
Prediction: Notre Dame 72 Louisville 80
~ Louisville leads the all-time series 13-8, including 8-1 in Freedom Hall.
~ This will be the third time the two schools have met as BIG EAST foes with each team winning on its home floor. The Cardinals earned an 89-86 overtime victory against the Irish on Feb. 4, 2006 and Notre Dame came back last season to post a 78-62 victory at the Joyce Center which snapped an eight-game losing streak.
~ The Irish have won 19 of their last 22 games and are off to a 21-5 start through
26 contests of the season which also matches the best start by an Irish team under head coach Mike Brey.
~ Notre Dame ranks in the top 15 of the NCAA statistics in two categories: assists (4th-18.6), rebounding margin (10th-7.5) and three-point field goal percentage (7th-40.9).