ACC Basketball

Irish and Cardinals Battle for Third

Photo by: The Associated Press

HOW WE GOT HERE
Notre Dame is currently sitting in third place in a top-heavy ACC, but lately they’ve looked kinda average. They are just 4-3 in their last seven and two of those defeats have come to teams (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) not tournament worthy.

With the dismissal of Chris Jones, we kind of expected Louisville to fall a bit. They had lost three of four, including the one game they played when Jones was suspended against Syracuse. However, two games in and the Cardinals have found a way to take care of business on the road against Georgia Tech and Florida State and are riding a three-game winning streak.

DEEP THOUGHTS

  • The Cardinals have done two things they had to do to overcome the loss of their senior point guard; play better defense and find other scoring options. Quentin Snider is limited and asking him to step into a starting role and produce points is too much to ask. However, Wayne Blackshear has been a starter all season and has shown the ability to hit threes, yet throughout the season he typically let the big three of Jones, Terry Rozier and Montrzel Harrell, shoulder the scoring load. Against Florida State though, Blackshear was more aggressive, especially in the paint. He has double digit points in four of his last five, including 18 in the win over the Seminoles.¬†Against the Irish, the senior should be able to take advantage of mismatches with penetration into the paint as Notre Dame lacks true athleticism at the wing spots.
  • Sophomore Terry Rozier was the go-to guy before Chris Jones’ dismissal and it’s even more crucial now that his backcourt mate is gone that when the game is on the line, he takes control. Against Miami (when Jones was still playing), with he and the rest of the team struggling all game long, it was Rozier in the second half who put the team on his shoulders and put the ball in the basket. Yet, take away those 20 minutes against the Hurricanes and he’s really been struggling, often working solo, trying to take on his man one-on-one, putting up bad threes and getting in trouble among the trees in the paint. Rozier is just 34-for-109 (31%) from the floor in his last seven games and just 27% from three in his last nine.
  • Notre Dame’s offense is no mystery. They put the ball into Jerian Grant’s hands and surround him with smart, efficient players. The Irish will stick with the high pick-and-roll as Grant will roll off the screen and into the paint either to score or kick it out to the number of folks who can nail threes. However, the key to beating the Cardinals is to get Zach Auguste going again. His play has been erratic at best lately and he was starting to loss minutes to Bonzie Colston. The competition for playing time seems to have help though, as Auguste is 11-18 from the floor in his previous two.
  • Statistically, Louisville is pretty good defensively, yet stats don’t always tell the whole truth. The reality is, the Cardinals are good on defense when they are getting steals through pressure (28 in their last three wins). When they can’t force turnovers though, they lose. In their last three loses, the Cardinals have six total steals against Syracuse, NC State and Virginia. Against the Irish, they’re going to struggle again as Notre Dame is second in the nation in turnover % (Ken Pom).
  • Rebounding could be the difference maker. The Cardinals are 44th in the nation in offensive rebounding %, while Notre Dame and their one forward lineup is 253rd in the nation. Montezl Harrell should own the glass and I wouldn’t be surprised if Louisville doubles up the Irish in second chance points.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Louisville, 69-67

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