Tag:Notre Dame
Posted on: March 1, 2011 7:45 am
Edited on: March 1, 2011 7:54 am

The Morning Drive: Irish light it up from deep

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Not a bad way to start the final week of the regular season. A top-10 team goes down at home, a top-10 team sets records from 3-point range and another team likely locks up an NCAA bid. Oh, and by the way, welcome to March. Follow me on Twitter: @jeffborzello

Top Performer: Another night, another Big East star states his case for player of the year. Last night, it was Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough. Hansbrough had a tremendous night, finishing with 30 points, 10 assists and five steals in a 93-72 win over Villanova. He went 7-for-10 from 3-point land, including 4-for-6 in the first half.

Filling it up: Hansbrough’s teammate, Tim Abromaitis, didn’t do too shabby himself. The fellow senior had nine 3-pointers en route to 30 points, four rebounds and four assists in the blowout win over Villanova. He was 10-for-17 overall from the field. The nine 3-pointers he hit were one shy of the school record, held by Kyle McAlarney.

Numbers Don’t Lie, Notre Dame Edition:

  • With 20 3-pointers, Notre Dame set a new school record for most 3-pointers made in a game.
  • Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis became the fifth set of teammates in the last two years to each score at least 30 points in a game.
  • Hansbrough was the second player from a BCS conference in the last 15 years to register 30 points, 10 assists and five steals in one game.
  • The 20 3-pointers tied West Virginia’s January 2006 performance for the most made 3-pointers in the last 15 years in the Big East.
  • Notre Dame shot 20-for-32 from 3-point range, and just 9-for-20 from inside the arc.
  • The last time a team made at least 20 3-pointers and fewer than 10 2-pointers was Northwestern, in December 2009 against North Carolina A&T.
  • The Last BCS team to hit 20 3-pointers in a conference game while hitting fewer than 10 2-pointers was USC in January 2000 against Oregon State.


Stat-Sheet Stuffer: Chicago State’s Christian Wall went into last night averaging 5.6 points and 1.6 rebounds. Those numbers are going to rise quite a bit, after the 6-foot-1 guard dropped 27 points on four 3-pointers, and grabbed six rebounds in a 74-52 loss to North Dakota. Wall also nabbed two steals on the defensive end of the floor.

Stepping Up: Kansas State had won six of seven heading into last night, but the win over Texas cemented a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Guard Rodney McGruder could end up being a key down the stretch, especially after his 22-point performance against the Longhorns. He nailed four 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds. McGruder is averaging 15.8 points in his last four games.

In a Losing Effort: Texas is struggling right now, but it was certainly not due to Tristan Thompson last night. The freshman forward put up 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 75-70 loss to Kansas State. Thompson was 9-for-14 from the field and 8-for-13 from the free-throw line, grabbing six offensive rebounds, dishing out three assists and blocking three shots.

Round of Applause: With Morgan State’s road loss at North Carolina A&T last night, Bethune-Cookman clinched the regular-season title in the MEAC. The Wildcats have won six in a row to get to 12-3, while Morgan State dropped to 10-5 in the league with back-to-back losses. The Bears are locked in a three-way tie with Hampton and Coppin State for second place.

Set the DVR: There’s plenty of interesting games on the schedule tonight. The marquee game is Vanderbilt at Kentucky – an SEC battle between two teams many people can’t quite figure out yet. Then we get to the must-win bubble games, with Penn State hosting Ohio State, Alabama traveling to Florida, Nebraska playing Missouri and Baylor going to Oklahoma State. There is also Illinois at Purdue – the Boilermakers are looking to stay in the hunt for a No. 1 seed and Big Ten title, while Illinois would lock up a bid with a win. The Big South and Horizon tournaments also get underway.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 28, 2011 9:25 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Record-breaking game for undervalued Irish

Posted by Matt Norlander

What I lament the most: the likelihood Notre Dame will not get its due.

Whether it ends up with a two or a three seed, few will respect this team and pick it to reach the Elite Eight and see the Irish as the threat they truly are.

Is some of this because the Irish are tossed in the full pot with the rest of the quality in the Big East? Maybe — but that doesn't make much sense because it is the Big East, and teams' reputations are often boosted because of such an affiliation.

The Irish have been a top-10 team in both major polls since Jan. 31, yet they're still under the radar. Amazing, isn't it? I almost wanted to title this post, "Notre Dame: the Invisible Team," but that's no longer applicable in the wake of such a dominating win. Still, with Pitt atop the league, St. John's stealing a lot of the headlines with its recent tremendous play, and Villanova, Georgetown and Syracuse occupying our time with their streaky play, injuries and sexy coaching soundbites, Notre Dame will coast just beneath our collective consciousness.

The biggest reason the Irish have potential to reach Houston this year — we must now consider this team's Final Four chances — is the team's age and collective scoring ability. It doesn't foul much either. How often do we see major-conference basketball teams with such senior productivity? That's the go-to criticism of college roundball today, right? That we don't get to know most of the players. Most of the good players are long gone.

And here's Notre Dame, which is now 24-5 after knocking Villanova (I have no idea why that team was ranked coming into the game; last week at this time, I tipped you off to Villanova's tailspin) on its rear two minutes into tonight's game, a game in which a number of records were set and/or smashed. The big one is the 20-for-32 from 3. The 20 bombs from deep tied a Big East record while setting a new Notre Dame one.

Big East tournament double-bye: clinched.

Tim Abromaitis (right), he's a senior. He nailed a ridiculous eight 3-pointers.

Ben Hansbrough, he's also a senior, he also set a personal record with seven treys. Hansbrough's father was caught by television cameras, his face red as a tomato, after his son hit a 3 to get to 30 points, which he and Abromaitis ended the game with. "Pyscho B," as some have dubbed him (an homage to older brother Tyler's moniker, "Psycho T," during his days at North Carolina) also set a personal record with 10 assists.

The Irish had a ridiculous 1.48 points per possession scoring rate tonight. When a team gets 1.10 points per possession, it's considered very good. But 1.48 is most-teams-don't-do-that-in-a-season type scoring.

The win over Villanova clinches the Irish as a three seed, at worst, for the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame can actually still fight for a one, but that's a long shot; it'd need to run the table and win the Big East tournament to do so. But it's got Ws over these likely/potential tourney teams: Georgia, Gonzaga, UConn, Georgetown, St. John's, Cincinnati, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Villanova.

Either way, regardless of the Irish's age and legitimate backcourt/forward size and respectably win total, this team will be undersold and underplayed — if it doesn't win the Big East tournament. That 16-team bracket is a perspective-changer.

And for as good as it looked tonight, Notre Dame isn't that good. Nobody's 20-for-32-from-3 good. But it's plenty talented and able to make the Final Four. This team is playing its tail off and begging the rest of the country to notice. It's our own fault if we don't oblige.

Photo: AP

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 9, 2011 10:29 pm

With one move, Mike Brey changes the game

Posted by MATT JONES

The difference between victory and defeat in college basketball often comes down to one play. Even in a forty five minute game that was as well-contested and intensely fought as Louisville and Notre Dame’s battle Wednesday night, the outcome can often be traced to one decision by a coach or player that totally shapes both teams’ fortunes.   

On Wednesday night, that play was not an individual’s dynamic move or a long-distance bomber’s clutch shot. Instead it was one decision by Notre Dame coach Mike Brey that took his coaching rival Rick Pitino slightly off guard and ensured his Irish team would have the opportunity to pull off their 89-79 win in overtime.

With the game tied in regulation, Louisville called timeout with 26 seconds left to set up a last-second shot and try to escape with another late victory. End of game situations have been especially fruitful for the Cardinals this season, as they have found a way to steal three late victories against Marquette, West Virginia and Connecticut based almost entirely on their ability to out execute against their opponent down the stretch. In the latter two games, Louisville found great success in clearing out for guard Peyton Siva and allowing him to create a final shot attempt one on one versus his man. Twice against Connecticut and one against West Virginia, Siva beat his man off the dribble and created a bucket that helped pull out a huge victory.

Fast forward to the end of game scenario on Wednesday night and the Notre Dame huddle before the final possession. Having seen the game tape of Louisville’s final possessions in past Big East games, Brey made one simple coaching adjustment that could have a profound effect on his team's season. Rather than allow the Cards to clear the floor and have Siva take advantage of his quickness against the defender guarding him in man defense, Brey told his Irish to play zone. If executed properly, this would keep Siva or one of the other Louisville guards out of the lane and force the Cardinals to find a different method to get off a final shot.

When Pitino’s team broke the huddle, it was clear the change in defense confused the Cards. They stood at the top of the key looking around frantically and then were forced to reverse the ball around the perimeter and settle for a contested three from Preston Knowles. Louisville had clearly prepared to face a man defense and the team was unable to change effectively enough on the fly to counter Brey’s clever change of strategy. The game went to Overtime with Notre Dame carrying the momentum and the Irish rolled to the win easily.

Had Brey not made the change, and simply defended Louisville in the same way Bob Huggins and Jim Calhoun, two bright coaches in their own right, had done, then we might be talking about how the gritty Louisville team stole another impressive road win. Siva could have taken the ball to the basket, finished with a layup or a pass to an open shooter and his role as a clutch finisher would have been the topic of this column. But instead, Brey made one small adjustment. And that adjustment set the table for the No. 7 ranked team in America to get a huge conference win.

It has been said in the past that a great college coach is worth at least 5 games a year. If that is true, Brey certainly got 20 percent of his quota on Wednesday in South Bend.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 24, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 10:33 pm

Irish prove worth, get huge road W at Pitt

Posted by Matt Norlander

The country was waiting for Notre Dame to legitimize itself.

Defeating No. 2 Pittsburgh on the road, in the Petersen Events Center, a place the Panthers seldom lose, is as legitimate as the plane ride the Steelers earned to Dallas Sunday night. The Irish were perfectly OK playing a slow game against highly efficient Pitt, defeating the Big East’s highest-ranked team 56-51 Monday night. They did it in a molasses-like 48 possessions, easily the lowest and slowest game in the conference this season.

“That’s music to my ears, because that was our goal,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of the 48-possesion game from the team bus. “We have not burned it for a whole game but we went into this burning the whole night. We did that to them last year, in the Big East tournament. We watched a little bit of that tape last night just to remember.”

It was Notre Dame’s fourth win against a ranked team in this 2010-11 campaign. Last season, it took until the second round of the Big East tournament for Brey’s team to get four Ws against ranked opponents. None of those wins were as impressive or methodical as what his team did tonight on enemy maple.

“I talked to our captains before we left on the bus, I had them up to my room, and told them I need four for four in terms of fighting and competing,” Brey said.

Senior starting point guard Ben Hansbrough — he of the no-longer-an-afterthought variety and younger brother to college immortal, Tyler — was caught by ESPN’s cameras eagerly embracing his head coach once the handshake-line formality was through. Hansbrough (right) led his team with 19 points and 7 assists. He’s taken on the role of being a point guard in his senior year and played beyond what many expected of him. It could be the biggest reason this team is now 17-4 and 6-3 in the most difficult conference in the country.

How's he managed playing the 1 in his final year of college ball?

“Coach has done a great job at slowing down my tempo,” Hansbrough said over the phone just minutes after he walked off the floor. “And I think, instinctively, I’ve always been a guy who can get in there and find people, especially in the lane.”

“Maybe as much as what he’s doing with his basketball is how he’s leading us," Brey said of his senior point guard. "He made us believe. His decisions with the ball, tonight was a great example, but he did the same things Saturday night. His play has been contagious.”

The most important thing about Monday night for Brey's team: It was the first road win in four tries this year for the Irish. Funny how the first comes at what's statistically been the hardest place to snag a W in the past eight years in the Big East.

“What a lot of people don’t understand, for two of those road wins, we were without Carleton Scott,” Hansbrough said.

Despite the fact normally reliable deep threat Tim Abromaitis didn’t make a field goal, Hansbrough and Co. overcame Abromaitis’ bad night, mostly due to the return of Scott, a senior forward. He had his most productive game since coming back from a hamstring injury, scoring 16 and making 5 of 6 shots from 3-point range, adding nine rebounds in the process.

"Carleton — when he came back to practice a week ago Monday, he really lifted the whole building up and lifted Ben up," Brey said. "Ben missed his voice. Carleton and Ben are the most vocal guys of our captains.”

Hansbrough deflected talk and questions about his play, choosing instead to shine a light on Scott’s play and the coaching staff’s pinpoint scouting of the Panthers.

“Coach Brey came in here with a great, great game plan,” Hansbrough said. “We didn’t even try to get a shot off until there was 10 or 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Having Carleton back is a huge key for us. He gives us a lot of heart; you can’t teach or coach it. It’s something you have or you don’t.”

The Irish kept Pitt who, again, has been extremely efficient on offense (the very best, in fact) this season, to a season-low 51 points and 44 field goal attempts. The praise of Notre Dame's effort and execution, with repeated emphasis that this came on the road, can't be overstated. Why’s Notre Dame been able to do this, to be one of those quintessential Big East teams who surprises many and streaks near or to the top of the conference? Hansbrough did his best to explain before being swept away to talk to local media on the scene in the Steel City.

“I would say we have lot of guys, maybe the best team that plays together in the country — we’re right up there with Duke in terms of sharing the ball and playing as a unit,” Hansbrough said. “This could be the jumpstart for some more [good] teams we could beat down the road.”

Brey will give the team two full days off while he goes on the road for recruiting. The Irish don’t play against until they’re at DePaul on Feb. 3.

“I love the gap in schedule we have right now. We could use a little bit of rest," Brey said. "And we’re older, it’s not like our veterans need two hours of practice each day.”

Such a shame, this long break. The country needs to see more of the Irish as soon as possible.

Photo: AP
Posted on: January 19, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 10:11 am

What we know and don't know: Wed night edition

Posted by MATT JONES

It was a relatively quiet night in college basketball, headlined by blowouts and embarrasing performances. Duke beat N.C. State, West Virginia got clipped by rival Marshall and Ohio State kept rolling by crushing Iowa. As far as the other important games, a review of what we know and what we don't know coming out of each of the most important scores of the night (picture of current St. John's "assistant" Gene Keady's hair included just for my amusement):


What we know: Mark Turgeon’s team is talented enough to get victories against good opponents at home, but tonight showcased that it is nowhere near worthy of its current top-10 ranking. The Aggies were dominated in every facet of the game in Austin and took a beating that should for the time being eliminate them from their status as a March “sleeper." Fortunately for Texas A&M, this was only one of two road games against ranked teams it will play, giving Turgeon’s group a chance to still finish with a gaudy record, before collapsing in March.

What we don’t know:   How good can Texas be? When their freshmen are playing under control and Rick Barnes is able to get big time production from Jordan Hamilton, Texas can look scary. The loss at home to UConn made me skeptical, but maybe we just write that up to the travelling show that Kemba Walker has become. Tonight, Texas was quite impressive and looked like a national contender, setting up a great battle on Saturday versus Kansas for early Big 12 supremacy.

LOUISVILLE   88,   ST. JOHN’S 63 : 

What we know : Louisville coach Rick Pitino has put together one of the better coaching performances of his career, taking arguably the worst set of talent he has had since the early Kentucky days and turning it into a team that will make the NCAA Tournament. This demolition of the team that in the preseason Pitino said could win the Big East, combined with the amazing comeback against Marquette, has the Cardinals sitting pretty as they head to the meat of their Big East schedule.

What we don’t know: What type of team is St.John’s? The Red Storm is in the middle of a brutal stretch in which it plays five ranked teams in six games and thus in theory, one dud of a performance isn’t a shock. But to lose by 25 in a winnable road game against a team that potentially could have provided a needed quality win ... well that makes one wonder if the senior-laden team will be worthy of its assistant coach's marvelous hair down the stretch.


What we know:   Purdue got handed a gift by a costly referee error that will sting the 10 people in Nittany Lion country who care about basketball. With Penn State up one and five seconds to go, a ball was clearly deflected off a Purdue player out of bounds, thus giving the Nittany Lions a likely road victory. However the referee standing right in front of the play gave the ball back to the Boilermakers for no discernable reason, giving Purdue one last shot at saving face. The Nittany Lions can only look in the mirror for the poor defense and open look on the ensuing play, but the opportunity should have never occurred.

What we don’t know:   Will Penn State’s run of shocking finishes be enough to get an NCAA Tournament bid? The Nittany Lions are only 3-4 in the Big Ten, but have beaten Michigan State and Illinois and nearly pulled off shocking upsets at Ohio State and Purdue. The schedule still gives Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin at State College, and if the plucky group could win 2 of those 3, they could be the surprise story of the Big Ten.


What we know: Wake Forest is bad. I mean, like, historically bad. In the worst ACC in at least 20 years, Wake Forest has a legitimate chance to go winless, placing it in the discussion for worst team in the history of the conference. Think I am exaggerating? Then you didn't watch this travesty of a performance.

What we don’t know: Will Paul Hewitt save his job? Georgia Tech is now 9-8 overall and 2-2 in the ACC. One of those wins is an impressive victory over North Carolina, but the natives are still restless. The non-conference mediocrity probably puts a NCAA Tournament bid out of reach, thus his future job prospects likely rest on a finish above .500 in the ACC.


What we know:   Notre Dame is a different team when in South Bend than when they travel to non-Irish climates. The Irish are now 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road in the Big East, and every game has been a relatively wide margin of victory or defeat. The Irish are able to beat anyone on their home court, but the chance to get a good seed in March will come down to grabbing road victories in the winnable matchups at Depaul, South Florida and Providence.

What we don’t know:   Will Cincinnati get any win to impress? The Bearcats are an impressive 16-3 overall, but in the Big East, their losses are to Syracuse, Villanova and Notre Dame, while the wins are over Depaul, Seton Hall and South Florida. No team is more difficult to rank nationally, or even in conference, as games against teams of similar strength have been few and far between. One of those however comes this weekend against at St. John’s in the first true test to see if the Bearcats are worthy of our attention.


What we know:   South Carolina’s early conference success means that the six best teams in the SEC likely all reside in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are now 3-1 in conference and have the potential to sneak into the discussion for an NCAA Tournament berth, after a start that included a road win at Florida. Darrin Horn’s team has a huge home game coming against Kentucky on Saturday, which could officially turn them into a conference contender. For Kentucky, coming off a loss to Alabama, the game has become somewhat of a must-win, making Saturday’s game in Columbia a sneaky must-watch.

What we don’t know:   Will any team from the SEC West make the NCAA Tournament? With the return of Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, Mississippi State looks to have the talent of a member of the field of 68, but early losses while the two were ineligible probably keep them out of the field. The only two other teams with legitimate chances to go dancing are Arkansas and Alabama and the loss by the Razorbacks tonight will hurt come Selection Sunday. The SEC West as a division owns college football and is low mid-major in college basketball.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com