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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: Brunch With The Irish

In about couple of hours Bruins will take on the Fighting Irish in a nationally televised game (CBS) at Joyce Center. I am sure we will hear the usual nostalgic memories around this game during the pre-game teaser but the game will essentially be a chance for both teams to make one last ditch impression before the conference season.

While we have all discussed the early struggle of our basketball team last few weeks, Notre Dame without a marquee win during their 9-2 start will be equally desperate for a win. The Chicago Tribune has a piece on how the Irish who have already lost this season to Northwestern and to LMU, are hungry for a victory:

"If we're fortunate enough to beat (UCLA), it's a quality win," Brey said. "I think they can win double digits in the Pac-10. They still have really good players there -- they're just still trying to get a feel for the whole thing."

It is another dress rehearsal for surviving to Selection Sunday with a chance at an invite. For that, the ability to recover from gut-wrenching defeat is mandatory.

"You still can be in the mix for one of the bids out of our league if you handle that the right way," Brey said.

The conventional wisdom has the game going the Irish's way this afternoon:

The Irish are averaging a healthy 82.2 ppg on the campaign and Luke Harangody is the centerpiece of this team. The 6-8, 246-pound Harangody is one of the most dominant players in the nation and he is currently averaging an impressive double-double of 24.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg. Tim Abromaitis, a 49.2 percent three-point shooter, is another weapon for ND at 15.7 ppg, and Ben Hansbrough can also be effective with 12.5 ppg and 5.0 apg to his credit. In the team's last game, Harangody notched his fifth double-double of the campaign with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but it still wasn't enough in a shocking 87-85 loss to LMU. Abromaitis poured in 23 points to complement to the big man, but was whistled for a costly five-second violation in the final moments. Tory Jackson had a chance to force overtime, but his jumper in the last seconds was off the mark.

ND appeared to be a team destined for a big campaign after a fast start and a national ranking earlier in the season. However, the team's last loss was quite puzzling and could possibly be a sign of things to come. With that said, the Irish are still better than UCLA and they should prevail on their home floor today.

Well I am not sure if I can disagree with that prediction, but I do believe the Bruins might have a shot today. I think our guys will have a chance to pull the upset if they can replicate the defensive intensity and effort from earlier this week, which was indicative of the kind of heart and determination they showed against Kansas. More after the jump.

Ramon Shelburne from the Daily News earlier this week had a really great piece on how our team is finding room to breathe and gradually chip away amidst all the frustration of this early season:

"You have to be patient, especially with young kids who are learning everything for the first time," Howland said. "This is early in the season. Everybody acts like we're writing things off here. It's still very early."

That's not to say this group will turn into a Final Four team by the end of the season. It's not even to suggest that an NCAA Tournament bid is back on the table.

Just to say that UCLA has room to grow, and finally, some room to breathe after the weight of past expectations has been lifted off of them.

With his scrappy style, Nelson can be the second-coming of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson can lead the team in scoring.

Honeycutt has the potential to be one of the best slashers in the Pac-10.

But there's about 300 hours of film study, practice and hard knocks to go through before we can remove the word "can" from any of those sentences.

"We watch a lot of film," Lee said. "We watched all of that film of us against Mississippi State. Every little thing that we did wrong. Then we worked on it in practice (Monday)."

It's not glamorous. It's not what's been happening around UCLA since Howland took over. But it also does happen.

It also sounds like Jerime Anderson and his team-mates are getting the message:

Mounting losses have caused players to openly doubt themselves. At the same time, some underclassmen have struggled with Howland's style of basketball.

His offense requires patience and ball movement while his defense asks players to constantly adapt, pressuring the ball, double-teaming and looking to help.

"That's been a problem with a couple of the players and definitely myself," Anderson said. "I'm out there on the floor and I'm thinking a little bit more than I should. I should just play."

Well Anderson definitely showed some signs of improvement with perhaps his best game of the season against New Mexico State. Yes, it was against a cupcake team, but we didn't see that from Jerime against other cupcakes earlier in the season. I am hoping Jerime will use the confidence gained from that outing with another solid effort grounded in fundamentals and defense this afternoon at Joyce Center. Hope we can see JA and his team-mates take another step forward with just two more games left in this out of conference season.