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Desperate/Dangerous Irish: Early Notes On Notre Dame

Last time some of us had a chance to check out Notre Dame they were waging a battle against the Long Horns in Maui and appeared to be one of the most talented and balanced squads in the country. That was months ago and the Irish have been on a freefall in recent weeks. A season that started with a lot of promise has somewhat fallen apart as Mike Brey's squad is coming into LA losing 6 games in a row falling to a record of 12-9, 3-7 in the Big East.

Rob over at RakesofMellow is understandbly glum:

We were hoping that some of the football team’s good fortune would rub off on the Irish basketball squad on Wednesday night, but it didn’t happen.  Instead, the team continued their second half woes and dropped their 6th straight to an average Cincinnati squad.  The team battled well in the first half, tying it up at half, but let the Bearcats take the lead for good in the second half, getting outscored 56-46.  Most of the troubles can be attributed to poor defense (Cincinnati shot 45% from the floor and 44% from the 3-point line) and poor play from our starting guards (a combined 6-22 for the night including 0-6 from beyond the arc).  Luke Harangody played well again with 28 points and 14 rebounds, but when he’s the only offensive threat, you can’t win these types of ball games.  Other teams have figured out how to stop our offense and it is not by stopping Luke.  It’s by stopping his teammates from catching on fire.

However, his comment re. Notre Dame's matchup against UCLA is a little amusing:

I think they could pull the upset in Los Angeles since UCLA is not known as a great offensive team.

I guess the perception is somewhat understandable because so far this season UCLA's losses in which the offense went cold have been amplified nationally. So when he is thinking of UCLA he might be thinking of our second half offensive droughts against Michigan, Arizona State and Washington. Anyway, he might change his opinion once he has had the chance to look through some of our numbers.

For our part the Bruins once again cannot take any opponent lightly. The Irish are in in a desperate situation, which IMHO makes them extremely dangerous. They are going to play with the mindset of nothing to lose:

"This trip comes at a good time," Brey said. "Being smacked like we've been smacked, we've got a one-game shot against a heck of a team." [...]

"Nobody's giving us much of a chance," Brey said. "Let's go let it rip."

Obviously the key focus is Luke Harangody but as Rob mentioned above the other teams have been having success against the Irish by bottling up Luke's team-mates. No doubt AA2, DG and rest of our front court will have their hands fulll with the Irish big man, but it will be up to our guards and wing to put severe on ball pressure on the ND backcourt and cut off the Irish attack up front. Here is the Irish rotation which has been tinkered a lot lately:

Usual starters -- F Zach Hillesland, F Luke Harangody, G Kyle McAlarney, G Tory Jackson, G Ryan Ayers. Key subs -- F Luke Zeller, G Jonathan Peoples, F Tyrone Nash. has more on the lineup shakeup referenced above:

--F Zach Hillesland returned to the starting lineup and finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Hillesland had come off the bench in the previous two games after starting the first 18 games this season. He has scored a combined 23 points in the last two games after scoring 19 in the previous six games.

--G Jonathan Peoples failed to score in 13 minutes as he returned to the bench after starting the previous two games.

--Coach Mike Brey shook up his starting lineup against Marquette and Pitt, starting F Luke Zeller and G Jonathan Peoples in place of F Zach Hillesland and G Ryan Ayers. Zeller responded big time, hitting three of five against Marquette for eight points and scoring 18 points against Pitt on 6-for-9 shooting, all from 3-point range. Peoples scored eight against Marquette but had only three in 12 minutes against Pitt. Neither Hillesland nor Ayers scored against Marquette but the two reached double figures against Pitt, Hillesland with 12 points and Ayers with 10.

Brey will probably shuffle around the lineup again tomorrow morning. Yes, speaking of which don't forget the game gets started at 10:00 am PST. I am going to assume Howland is going to ensure his players get plenty of rest tonight are ready to go. As mentioned above, we can't let this Irish team get off to a good start and get a sense of confidence. We will have to come out with the same sense of urgency and intensity we have shown in last three games and keep the pressure on from beginning to end.  More on the Irish later.