The Chicago Invitational Challenge presents Northwestern with its second chance to knock off a ranked opponent when Notre Dame meets up with the Wildcats at the UIC Pavilion on Friday at 7:30 p.m. CT. The game is going to be aired on the Big Ten Network.
Game notes from Northwestern.
After the jump are some keys for the Wildcats to pull the upset.
Notre Dame is 5-0 after playing a schedule that any team can admire for it's pure sugary sweet cupcake taste. The Fighting Irish haven't played a team that is expected to play in the NCAA Tournament. Their best win is against Kennesaw State. The Owls actually gave Notre Dame their best game, an 18-point Notre Dame victory on Tuesday.
There is one guy you have to be concerned about when you play Notre Dame and that's Luke Harangody. The 'Gody is once again one of the top players in college basketball and a preseason All-America selection. He's justifying the hype thus far this season with averages of 27.2 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game. Someone is going to have to guard Harangody. That guy is actually going to be a combination of players, because Harangody is a terrible match-up for every Wildcat.
Notre Dame has used Harangody's dominance to create a very efficient offense. The Irish have the seventh highest effective field goal percentage in basketball. They make a lot of shots. Combine that with solid offensive rebounding - partly thanks to Harangody - and the Notre Dame offense is probably the best Northwestern has faced this season, including Butler. The rotations in the 1-3-1 are going to have to be very tight because Northwestern can't afford to leave a shooter open - and Notre Dame has plenty.
On defense the Fighting Irish don't get out and guard the perimeter. Like the game against Liberty, the three-point line should be open for easy shots. John Shurna, Drew Crawford, Alex Marcotullio and Michael Thompson have to take advantage and hit the open shots. Also, Notre Dame doesn't foul often and Northwestern has tons of problems drawing fouls, so expect the Wildcats to shoot fewer than 10 free throws all game, any more would be a great help.
This isn't going to be an easy game, but it's one that Northwestern could win. The Wildcats need to come out and play hard on a neutral court and try and restore the hope for their 2009-10 season. Friday's all about second chances, let's hope Northwestern can take advantage of its.