Saturday, May 5, 2012

Irish Look To Put The Squeeze On The Orange

Another old nemesis comes to town on Sunday, as the Syracuse Orange look to bolster there postseason hopes with win over the Irish. After coming off en emotional high against Pittsburgh, the Irish look to keep pace with Georgetown, Louisville, and Connecticut, for the Big East regular season championship. Just like the Pittsburgh series anything can happen when the Orange and Notre Dame square off.

Even though they beat Georgetown last weekend in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse is struggling big time! Currently the Orange is 5-5 in their last ten games, including losses at South Florida and home to Villanova. Against the RPI Top 50, Syracuse is 1-7. In case you are wondering, Notre Dame is 5-4. The road hasn't been too kind for the Orange either, as they are 2-5 in the league. And to make matters worse, Syracuse only has six scholarship players playing. Yes, six!

Notre Dame, on the other hand, is rolling at the right time. Brey's boys are leading the Big East in almost every single statistical category, including scoring (80.3 ppg), FT% (74.3), 3pt. FG% (40.1), rebounding (43.5 rpg), rebound margin (+8.5), assists (18.48), and defensive rebounds (29.12). And the Irish also have league leaders in scoring (Harangody, 23.1), rebounding (Harangody, 11.8), assists (Jackson, 6.2), 3pt FG's made (McAlarney, 81), 3pt. FG% (McAlarney, 44.3), and FT% (Kurz, 94.4). Overall, the Irish have a lot more weapons for the Orange to handle.

Look for Syracuse's famous 2-3 zone to be tested early and often with the outside shooting of McAlarney, Kurz, and Ryan Ayers. This could be a game where Luke Zeller and Jonathan Peoples could contribute from behind the arc as well. But to be truly effective, the Irish will use Zach Hillesland to break the Orange zone and help dish to the open man. This will also be a game where Jackson will penetrate to the hole or kick it back out for three.

The Orange does have one of the best shooters in the league though. Arinze Onuaku, 6-9 center, is shooting 65.6% from the floor. 6-5 swingman Paul Harris will try and have another big day against the Irish. Harris averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds in two contests with Notre Dame last season. Freshmen Donte Green and Johnny Flynn will be introduced to the Leprechaun Legion and Player of the Year frontrunner, Luke Harangody.

Syracuse is one of the worst teams in Division I scoring defense (72.7 ppg), 3pt. FG's (5.1 per game), 3pt. FG% (32.9), FT% (67.1), and Turnovers (15.7 a contest). So look for the Irish to force Syracuse to beat them from behind the 3pt. line. Overall, I see another similar contest like the Pittsburgh game, with the same result.

Prediction: Notre Dame 87 Syracuse 78

Baseline Bits

~ ND is 20th in the RPI ratings. Syracuse is 47th.

~ The Irish are projected a #4 seed according to ESPN Bracketology. Their first round opponent would be Virginia Commonwealth (20-6).

~ Out of the 42 brackets complied by the Bracket Matrix (, Notre Dame averages out to be an overall #5 seed.

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