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StLouHoo's Preview:

A Trip to South Bend

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Virginia looks to continue its dominance of the middle of the ACC as it hits the road for the third weekend in a row. The Irish have been struggling to make a mark in the ACC this year; will an upset over Virginia right their ship?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, January 26th, 1:00 pm ET
Location:Joyce Center, South Bend, IN
TV:CBS

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -11.5, O/U 123.5, equates to ~68-56 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks ND #98, predicts a 66-53 UVA win, 89% confidence
KenPom:Ranks ND #70, predicts a 67-55 UVA win, 86% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#10 TJ Gibbs, 6'3" 194, JR
35.2 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 4.1 apg, .355 3P%
SG#3 Prentiss Hubb, 6'3" 167, FR
31.0 mpg, 7.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, .253 3P%
SF#23 Dane Goodwin, 6'6" 203, FR
23.6 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, .414 FG%
PF#5 D.J. Harvey, 6'6" 225, SO
25.2 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, .405 FG%
C#33 John Mooney, 6'9" 242, JR
27.6 mpg, 14.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg, .534 FG%
Key Reserves
F#13 Nikola Djogo, 6'7" 217, JR
7.2 mpg, 1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg, .471 FG%
F/C#11 Juwan Durham, 6'11" 223, JR
15.0 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .625 FG%
F/C#14 Nate Laszewski, 6'10" 200, FR
18.7 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, .411 FG%

 

The ABC's of Notre Dame:

A) They're short-handed. The Irish came into the season already knowing they were starting a new era, with an excellent trio of Matt Farrell, Bonzie Colson, and Martinas Geben (46 combined PPG) having graduated. But that transition became complicated with the losses of a trio of veteran returners. First, reserve big man Elijah Burns elected to transfer out after the end of the first semester. Then big shooting wing Rex Pfleuger (8.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg) was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Most recently UConn transfer big man Durham has missed the last couple of games after injuring his early in ACC play. Notre Dame got so thin they had to burn the redshirt of freshman Chris Doherty just to have enough warm bodies for their NC State game.

B) They've got good stretch bigs. The latest breakout 5-man under Mike Brey is F/C Mike Mooney, a former 3-star who's stepped into Martinas Geben's vacated job and excelled through the first half of the season, averaging a double-double. Where he adds a dimension is his 42.5% shooting from 3-point range on respectable volume, meaning he can not only beat you both inside and out, but he can reshape a defense as needed to facilitate his guards. His last three stat lines? 16 points and 19 rebs at UNC, 19 and 16 vs NC State, and 22 and 14 at GT.

Backing him up (and increasingly playing alongside him as a 4-5 combo) is freshman (and former Bennett target) Nate Laszewski, with a respectable 7 & 4 stat line for a rookie. Laszewski similarly must be honored from the perimeter, as he's hitting over 35% on the year. Both have cooled off somewhat in ACC play (Mooney is down to only 33% from 3, Laszewski to 29%) though they've maintained their totals, and will provide a unique challenge to our big men. Durham, a traditional paint-oriented post and elite shot blocker, will likely miss the game with a bone bruise in his foot.

C) They're shooting poorly for a Brey team. Mike Brey teams, at least in their ACC era, have been pretty consistent stylistically. Spread the floor with good shooters, preferably with size, and prioritize offense over defense to win games. Prior to this year no Brey offense had been outside the Top 40 nationally in offensive efficiency, peaking with D-1's #2 overall offense in 2015. This year, they've tumbled to 69th offensively, with the worst shooting percentages of their ACC tenure. They shoot only 47% from 2 and just 33% from 3, both below average nationally. In ACC play those percentages drop to 44% and 31% respectively. They're being dragged down by phenom guards Harvey (48% from 2, 30% from 3) and Hubb (33% from 2, 25% from 3), while even star PG TJ Gibbs is cold from the lane (33% from 2).

 

Their Season To Date

Notre Dame is 11-8 on the season, 1-5 in the ACC. Their best wins are over Purdue (neutral in Indy) and Boston College (home). They have a bad loss to Radford in November, and in ACC play have lost to VT, Syracuse, UNC, NC State, and most recently at Georgia Tech.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Be prepared for the zone. Notre Dame will switch defenses during the game, sometimes based on the personnel package on the floor, sometimes based on the opponent. Virginia should be prepared for a rotation of defenses from Brey. Synergy sports rates ND's man defense below-average, 43rd percentile in all D-1, though their zone ranks above the 80th percentile. A lot of that was due to the presence of Durham anchoring the middle of the zone with his elite rim protection. Virginia shouldn't be afraid to attack the paint, whether facing a man or a zone defense, in his absence, with good ball movement exploiting the below-average defenders Mooney and Laszewski in the middle.

2) Rediscover the three point stroke. Virginia is going through a little mini-slump from deep the last two games after lighting up VT. Against Wake Forest, our 7-21 shooting line (33%) didn't matter, but the 3-17 (18%) against Duke clearly did. Notre Dame is surrendering 39% shooting from the 3-point arc in ACC play, 13th in the conference, and UVA should be prepared to exploit that once we've softened up the paint (see Key #1). Even with the mini-slump, Virginia still leads the ACC in collective 3P% (40%), so no excuse not to get back into a rhythm in this one.

3) Disrupt the point of attack. I'm starting to accept that this team isn't going to force turnovers like it did last year. In 2017-18 we led the ACC in defensive TO% and were 2nd in steal rate. This year we rank 12th in each. But just because we're not forcing TOs doesn't mean we aren't making life hell on opposing guards. A key stat to me is Virginia ranking 2nd in the ACC in defensive Assists:TO ratio, meaning we're not letting opponents run their sets. Junior point Temple "TJ" Gibbs is very good, not only scoring effectively but boasting a sparkling 4.8:1.2 A:TO ratio in ACC play. He plays 38 minutes a game so all three of Ty, Kyle, and Kihei will get a chance to slow him down; Virginia will need to disrupt him as they've done to Brandon Childress (4/12 shooting, 3 ast, 4 TOs), Justin Robinson (2/7, just 2 ast), and Marcquise Reed (3/14, 1 ast) in recent weeks. ND's other ball handlers should fall in line as well, as Prentiss Hubb is just a freshman and Harvey and Goodwin are more scoring wings than facilitators.

 

 

Predictions:

Notre Dame has some good players and the potential to make things interesting. Their backcourt features a trio of former UVA targets in Gibbs, Hubb, and Harvey, and it's clear to see why Tony Bennett was intrigued by each of them. And Mooney has been a revelation this year, my current frontrunner for ACC most improved player.

But Notre Dame is losing games for a reason. Brey's defenses have always lagged behind his offenses, and especially with Durham not protecting the paint, there's little reason to think UVA won't be able to exploit the gaps in ND's defenses both to get good looks at the basket and to grab some offensive rebounds. Their offense, similarly, is struggling to convert at a high enough rate to keep up with opponents; at the end of the day, no matter how well you move the ball and spread the floor, a team needs to be able to put the ball in the basket at a high clip, and good defenses like Syracuse and GT have held them to under a point per possession; heck, even BC and UNC's defenses did.

Virginia is just a better team playing better basketball right now. No reason to think that, even on the road, Virginia shouldn't leave Indiana with another double-digit ACC win.

Hoos Win 73-58