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Welcome Back, Irish

Notre Dame Irish

Virginia looks to get a relative breather after back-to-back slugfests with Duke and Carolina, as an Irish squad the Hoos already beat by 27 makes a trip to Charlottesville. The Hoos are a little more worn this time around, and the Irish conversely healthier. Do the Hoos have anything to worry about from a well-coached Mike Brey program?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, February 16th, 2:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV: Raycom

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -18, O/U 125.5, equates ~72-54 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks ND #121, predicts a 70-51 UVA win, 97% confidence
KenPom:Ranks ND #88, predicts a 71-51 UVA win, 96% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#3 Prentiss Hubb, 6'3" 167, FR
32 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 27% 3P%
SG#10 TJ Gibbs, 6'3" 194, JR
35 mpg, 13.4 ppg, 3.7 apg, 32% 3P%
SF#5 D.J. Harvey, 6'6" 225, SO
25 mpg, 11.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 39% FG%
PF#13 Nikola Djogo, 6'7" 217, JR
12 mpg, 3.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 47% FG%
C#33 John Mooney, 6'9" 242, JR
28 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 10.8 ppg, 49% FG%
Key Reserves
G#23 Dane Goodwin, 6'6" 203, FR
24 mpg, 6.7 ppg, 1.0 apg, 38% 3P%
PF#14 Nate Laszewski, 6'10" 200, FR
18 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 39% FG%
C#11 Juwan Durham, 6'11" 223, JR
14 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 60% FG%

 

The ABC's of Notre Dame:

A) Juwan Durham is back. The redshirt sophomore transfer center missed our first matchup with an ankle injury that sidelined him for a large chunk of January. But when he's healthy, he's an imposing rim protector (2.8 blocks a game) that changes how teams attack the paint. Even ignoring some gaudy block totals he put up against non-conference scrubs, he tallied nice block totals in big games as well, including UCLA (4), Illinois (5), VT (4), and Syracuse (3) before his injury. In his three games back, he's been quiet, averaging just 10 minutes a game and a block in each. But he'll have 6 days of rest prior to the trip to UVA (ND last played on Sunday evening) meaning he may be getting close to a return to form.

B) They're still struggling from 3. We talked about this last time, how this Irish team is uncharacteristically cold from the 3-point line, where Brey-coached Irish teams usually light things up out of their 4-out lineup. They've only had three "good" shooting games in ACC play, which I deem anything better than 33%... they hit 38% in a loss to VT, 36% in a loss to UNC, and 50% in a win at BC two weeks ago. Other than that, since our last date (including that game), they've had 3P% performances of 28%, 33%, 14%, and 22%. But most interestingly is that they're still bombing away... the Irish take nearly 47% of their shots from behind the arc, a rate that leads the ACC. The poor shooting has dragged their overall offensive efficiency down to #11 in the conference.

C) Their defense is struggling all over the floor. Granted, some of these numbers are impacted by the absence of rim-protector Durham over half of the ACC slate, but that one missing player doesn't excuse their across-the-board under-performance. They're dead last in the ACC in 3P% defense, 11th in 2P% allowed, dead last in TOs forced, 11th in defensive rebounding. All they do well is not foul (league best in opponent FTAs), but one could argue that's really a negative because its indicative they're not trying very hard to contest shots or contain drivers. Overall the Irish have the #13 defense in the ACC so far, and Virginia's offense should be able to run its sets with relative comfort.

 

Their Season To Date

Notre Dame is 13-11 overall, and 3-8 in the ACC. Their best win is a non-conference win over Purdue, though have a bad non-conference loss to Radford. In ACC play, they own a sweep of BC and most recently a 10-point home win over Georgia Tech. Prior to that, thoughm they lost by 15 on the road at 10-13 (2-9) Miami.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Unpack the paint on offense. Notre Dame really wants to use Mooney and Durham to anchor the paint on defense, where they can rim protect and rebound. UVA needs to be creative and strategic in forcing them to come out. If the Irish are in a man defense, be willing to go to Huff or Diakite in the high post or the top of the key to make those Irish centers honor our bigs' face-up games, thereby opening up the interior for the dribble drive and offensive rebound. If Notre Dame goes zone, hit the high-low game hard with Key and Hunter at the elbow and Salt/Diakite/Huff on the block, forcing the centers to choose their poison and exploiting mid-range jumpers, dribble drives, and lobs.

2) Stop their offense at the point of attack. Notre Dame needs its backcourt of Hubb and Gibbs to play well if it wants to have any chance of winning. In the first matchup, the pair combined for 16 points on 7-19 shooting (1-9 from 3), 7 assists and 1 TO. They were never able to find their scoring touch consistently, though our guards didn't harass them to the point they couldn't facilitate. The Irish are very conservative with ball movement, so the turnover count is never going to be very high, but the defense should be able to improve on limiting their assist count this time around, further gumming up their offense, and needs to still keep their shooting cold. If they don't warm up, the Irish front court won't be able to keep up.

3) Get some second chance scoring. Notre Dame has given up double-digit offensive rebounds in 8 of the last 10 games. The Hoos grabbed 10 against them in January, and with the strong-rebounding quartet of Salt, Key, Diakite, and Huff, there's an opportunity to grab a bunch again (assuming we miss enough 1st attempts, that is). Notre Dame's lack of size at the 4, and their occasional use of zone defenses, means that Mooney and Durham can't block out everyone, and Virginia can use its size and athleticism in the front court (did you know we're currently the 6th-best offensive rebounding team in the ACC?) to punish the Irish inside with putbacks and second chance sets.

 

 

Predictions:

Sure, Notre Dame has won two of their last 3, but those two wins are over bottom-tier BC and GT, and they also just lost by double digits to similarly bottom-tier Miami. The Irish are quickly approaching "lost season" territory. But Brey is a good enough coach that he'll have them playing for pride even when the postseason is increasingly out of reach. A win over UVA would be a nice reward for a young roster that could be dangerous next year (everyone of consequence returns).

But with four days off after the UNC win to let Jerome and Mamadi continue to heal up, and being back in our home gym, there's no reason not to expect a win here. The Irish defense had no solution to the UVA offense a few weeks ago, and this should come down simply to the Hoos being mentally dialed in, avoiding the post-Duke/UNC letdown.

Hoos Win 74-58