Black and Green was very helpful in setting up this preview of Notre Dame before the game between the Fighting Irish and Blue Demons on Saturday. DePaul will be looking for a two-game winning streak. What will they need to be aware of?
Note: If you're looking for a similar post about the Illinois-Northwestern game it'll be up later today.
1) CCB: I've heard Luke Harangody (left) is pretty good. How good is he? What will his legacy be at Notre Dame?
BaG: Gody will finish his career as either the career leader or second place guy in both scoring and rebounding at Notre Dame and in the Big East as a whole. His status at Notre Dame will probably only be topped by Austin Carr as one of the greatest players to ever put on an Irish jersey. That said, he certainly has flaws. While his first two-and-a-half years at ND were highlighted by a blue-collar work ethic and an ability to rack up large totals of rebounds and points in the paint, he steadily gained a reliable midrange jumper that allowed him to succeed against much taller centers such as Hasheem Thabeet. He can certainly take that to an extreme, however, and has hurt the team in spurts by falling in love with the three-pointer and staying out of the lane. Sometimes he can play more to the NBA scouts and try to develop a reputation as a wing instead of the center we need. When he gets touches outside of the arc and stays away from the paint, Irish ball rotation suffers and our offensive rebounding ability is nil. Don't get me wrong, though. He is far-and-away the best player on the team and will be missed. I just wish we had a good post player or two to complement his skills and make this a Tournament team.
2) CCB: Lots of offense, no defense. I think I've seen this before. Why can't the Irish stop anyone?
BaG: Bingo. Mike Brey (right) is one of the best offensive coaches on the planet. He takes a bunch of under-recruited and unathletic guys and puts them together as a fantastic scoring machine year-in and year-out. Of course, all that attention on offensive game plan has a negative impact on the team's ability to stop anyone. It's been said that the extent of his focus on defense in practice is effectively nil. This year, the Irish are 5th in offensive efficiency and 230th on D. To win on any given night, the Irish have to go out and outshoot the other team.
3) CCB: Notre Dame is on a two-game losing streak heading into Saturday's game. What has gone wrong in those games?
BaG: There was no shame in losing to Syracuse, a very talented team in a game that was a bit closer than the final score indicated. Against Cincy, the Irish were dominated on the offensive glass. The Bearcats finished with 14 more offensive rebounds, which made all the difference in the game. That's a common problem for Mike Brey-coached teams, as we can sometimes fail to box out and have trouble with athletic wings who crash the boards. However, ND going 9-19 from the foul line was also a big issue. That was a bit of a freak event, however, with guys like 86% shooter Tim Abromaitis missing three on the night.
4) CCB: Is there someone besides Harangody that will step up for the Irish against DePaul? Who is someone on Notre Dame that maybe doesn't get enough recognition?
BaG: Abromaitis has made a big impact this year, after redshirting last season. He has a great shot from the perimeter (49% from three-point land) and can drive to the basket. I expected him to play an important role, but certainly did not see him getting 16 points a game. He has also done well with 18 rebounds in his last three games, a very important figure with the Irish struggling to find a power forward who can be a reliable rebounder.
5) CCB: Where do you think the season ends for Notre Dame? Is this an NCAA Tournament team?
BaG: It was Tournament or bust at the beginning of the year for the Irish, but a loss to Loyola Marymount in December and continued issues on defense have really frustrated the fan base. We can get there by winning five of our next seven games (we will be favored in most of these) and picking up a tough W or two down the stretch. 10-8 in the conference might not be good enough with such a weak nonconference resume, but that's really the best I can see the Irish accomplishing. Look for us to end up on the wrong end of the bubble and Luke Harangody's career ending with two consecutive NIT seasons.
Thanks for your help and good luck to the Blue Demons on Saturday and the rest of the year!
Thanks to Black and Green for doing this Q&A. You can find my answers to his questions about DePaul over here.