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Notre Dame Fighting Irish

by Andrew Force | February 11th, 2009

Good Wins: N-Texas, Georgetown
Bad Losses: @St. John’s

Strengths:

1. Flow. The Irish get good shots. Between Luke Zeller, Kyle McAlarney, and Luke Harangody the Irish have good shooters at three key positions. Mike Brey has a great success rate on plays out of timeouts. This shows the strong link between coach and players. His diagrams and their interpretations thereof coalesce to generate easy looks. The Irish’s floor spacing really helps.

2. Team Trust. ND led the nation in assists last year. Often, facilitators like Hillesland and Zeller find the right spots on the floor, set screens, make small passes and dive to the rim. Coach Brey teaches the unselfish element well as Morgan Wooten, the longtime Dematha HS Head Coach, ingrained it in him. Brey led his own college squad in assists per 3 straight years.

Weaknesses:

1. Balance. Teams around the Big East are resigned to the fact that Harangody will score 25 against them. Fortunately for the opposition his impact has greatly diminished in recent weeks simply because it takes him more shots to reach his average. The supplementary players are not living up to their part of the contract. Ryan Ayers, who began the season red hot from deep, has fallen off a cliff numerically speaking. You might have seen his mug on a milk carton next to Kyle McAlarney’s shot.

K-Mac’s shot has been wack and needs to comeback to help the ND attack. In mid-February, when McAlarney made 3 or fewer 3pointers in a game, Notre Dame was 4-7. His shot takes a split second to release so disrupting the attempt is not feasible. Shadowing and denying him the ball are the best deterrents. The Irish as a whole are a thoroughly average team when missing the triple.

2. Defense. Notre Dame doesn’t stop people. The philosophy seems to be Jesse James mentality. A quick trigger never helped anyone but them. The more shots fired the better they fare. The high scoring system only collapses like a house of cards when the shooting Aces struggle. Ayers and K-Mac will finish their Irish career as two of the three most accurate shooters of all-time. They need to play like it again.

Other Factors:

Bench: Luke Zeller. Four players in the ND starting lineup average over 30 minutes per game in Big East play. Truthfully Zeller is the only impact bench player. Jonathan Peoples provides some energy but few results. Like his namesake from the bible Luke is a man of integrity and intelligence. More than just in the classroom where he carries a 3.5+ GPA, on the court Zeller understands. Despite standing 6’10″, Zeller abandons the paint for the other glossier Luke. He is a nice piece and a reliable flat-footed shooter.

The Departing: Four of the six top loggers of minutes are seniors. McAlarney, Ayers, Hillesland, and Zeller. Luke Harangody will finish his junior year as a top-10 Big East scorer. He still might not go pro. His father wants him to graduate and the league is hardly beckoning him. Oddly the top 20 BE scorers list is littered with pro busts. Players like Bill Curley, Jamel Thomas, Danya Abrams, and Darius Rice earned the term prolific, just not the first three letters. All four were 6’6-6’8 players with hard-nosed play. LH plays a little more artfully but still epitomizes the classic tweener scenario.

Tournament Prediction:

Two wins. If the Irish are not careful those two wins could come in the NIT rather than the Big Dance. This team can really score and should make the Sweet 16. Not until a strong rebounding unit or a team founded in defensive principles surrounds the center jump circle will the Irish be outfought. Sweet 16 if invited.

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