Who: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-14)
When: Tuesday, 9:30 PM
Where: Madison Square Garden
Opposing Blog: Black and Green
-What they do well
- Score points – 111.0 efficiency – 23rd in the country
- Take care of the ball – 13.8 TO% – 2nd in the country
- Assist – 60.4 Assist% (39th), 1.76 A:TO ratio (best in the country)
- Make 3’s – 310 3PM – 7th in the country
-What they don’t do well
- Get to the foul line – 27 FTR – 338th in the country
- Force turnovers – Opp 15.1 TO% – 343rd in the country
- Play defense – 6.1 Block % (288th), 7.5 Steal% (320th), 1.09 O-PPP in the Big East
Actually, ND and UF are very similar teams. Neither are any good defensively and both shoot a ton of threes. Calathes, however, is nowhere near the match-up nightmare that Luke Harangody will be. I don’t know how we will try to defend the double-double machine. He’ll shoot over Cornley and maneuver around Jones. If we try to double down, he’ll it kick out to McAlarney and Ayers. I’m content with letting him score 30, if we divert our attention to stopping ND’s perimeter attack. PSU has faced great shooters before in Craig Moore and Jimmy Baron. If McAlarney and Ayers are contained, I like PSU’s chances. However, that requires PSU to communicate and switch off on defense effectively, something we haven’t seen all year. How about that breakdown in the first half of the Florida game, where the ESPN camera in the corner showed Walker on the wing by himself? That absolutely cannot happen, but it probably will at least once tomorrow. We just can’t afford to let ND’s shooters get in any sort of rhythm.
While I have no idea how PSU will slow down ND’s offense, I also have no idea how ND will slow down PSU. PSU has the clear athleticism advantage. Pringle and Battle should be able to breakdown McAlarney and Jackson off the dribble consistently. If those two get out in the open floor, goodnight. Who’s going to stop Cornley (hopefully not his own left shoulder)? What about David Jackson? He’s on a nice hot streak right now. Andrew Jones can always be depended on for some garbage points. Chris Babb or Danny Morrissey can come off the bench a drain a few treys. And (the biggest if), what if Jeff Brooks plays in the paint? Regardless, I like the potential of this matchup. Harangody can’t play D, and I still have no idea how they’ll defend Cornley, especially if Drew Jones can draw some attention inside. We’ve been struggling through the Big Ten season the last 3 months, but we’ve looked pretty comfortable on offense the last two games against weaker defensive teams. I expect that ‘trend’ to continue.
So this game looks like it could be a barnburner. However, neither team turns the ball over so I’m not expecting a hectic tempo. PSU only runs when Battle gets the rebound, and I highly doubt Mike Brey has ND trying to push it with the lack of athleticism on the Irish roster. I expect a game in the 60-65 possession range, but both teams will be efficient offensively. Neither team will hold a significant rebounding, turnover, or free throw advantage. I’d bet whoever shoots at a better percentage will be victorious.
PREDICTION: PSU is a 4 point dog. I simply can’t pick against this team in close games. This team has been through all sorts of adversity. They’re one of the most mentally tough clubs I’ve seen this year. They never say die and refuse to quit, regardless of the situation. Talor Battle lives for stages like this. Jamelle Cornley’s leaving it all on the court (as if he never does). Too much going PSU’s way for me to take ND. PSU wins, 79-73.
*A couple of things for those making the trip:
- There will be a Penn State mixer here from 5-6pm. There will be plenty of PSUers there if you’re looking for a bar before the game.
- There’s also a PSU pep rally in the MSG theatre lobby at 6:30 (before Baylor-SDSU)
- As I’ve said before, I’m in Section 12, Row C, Seat 1. Basically, I’m three rows up from behind the basket. I’ll probably get some air-time on the broadcast, which includes Ron Franklin, Fran Fraschilla, and Bill Raftery. Any sign ideas out there?
A few more Battle articles from the NY Times today