Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh

January 4, 2006

Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh tonight in the Big East opener for both teams. This is a difficult match-up for each time as the style used by the other is almost the polar opposite of their own. Pittsburgh is still a physical, defense-first and tough rebounding team while Notre Dame prefers a more free-flowing game where their skilled perimeter shooters find space to drill open jumpers. Pittsburgh loves to be physical on the cuts and make the opponent have to go out of their way to receive the ball.

Pomeroy's computer has Pittsburgh by 12 on their home floor tonight and the Panthers have won the last four in the series. Notre Dame has been to the NIT in each of the last two years, probably coming up one big win short in each season of the NCAA's. Losing to Pittsburgh four times over that span might have been the final nail in the coffin in their NCAA resume each year. Pittsburgh enters the game with an RPI rating of 10 and are 2-0 against the RPI top 50 and 11-0 overall. Notre Dame, despite a 9-2 record, has an RPI of 78 and are 0-1 against the top 50 and 1-2, overall, against the top 100.


In Notre Dame's two losses, Colin Falls shot 1-12 from the floor (and 1-11 from 3-pt range) against NC St (neutral floor) and Michigan (home). In the 9 wins for the Irish, Falls averages 14 PPG. Falls hits nearly 37% of his 3-pt shots and 32 of his 41 made baskets this season have come from beyond the arc. Pittsburgh has been known to give up 3-pters in bunches, so, a little extra defensive attention will probably be played to Falls. When he is taken out of th egame by the defensive behind the arc, the 6'5 wing can be a liability on the floor because he does not rebound (1.7/game) and is not a gifted athlete defensively. But, he is a threat on the floor at all times and is a crafty player that can find ways to get open for his jumper.

Senior Chris Quinn, who has had some good games against Pittsburgh, leads the Irish with 14.2 PPG and 6 assists. Fellow senior Torin Francis adds 13.6 PPG and a team high 9.5 rebounds. Russel Carter (9.5 PPG) and frosh Luke Zeller (5 PPG) round out the probable starting line-up for the Irish, which will also use frosh Kyle McAlarney (7.8 PPG 49% from 3-pt range) in the guard rotation and senior Rick Cornett and sophomore Rob Kurz will rotate with Francis and Zeller in the front court.

Pittsburgh is led by 5th year senior Carl Krauser who leads Pitt with 16.6 PPG and 4. assists playing primarily from the 2-guard position. Krauser never seems to be rattled and playing off the ball has made better use of his offensive mentality. Sophomore Ronald Ramon and freshmen Levance Fields run the show for the Panthers and they have a combined 3.25 to 1 assist/turnover ratio. Big man Aaron Gray anchors the middle for Pitt and averages 11 PPG and 10 rebounds, although he has struggled in their last 2 games (wins at South Carolina and home against Wisconsin), but freshmen Sam Young has picked it up off the bench, scoring 16 in each game and averages 8.8 on the season. Levon Kendall is the starter at PF and rotates with Young and Kendall, a 4th-year junior, averages 7 PPG and 6 rebounds. John DeGroat is the starter at the SF slot and splits time with Keith Benjamin and Antonio Graves is likely to see action there as well against a 3-guard team like Notre Dame.

For me, I see a very tight game tonight. Pittsburgh will try to be very physical and wear down the Irish, who will knock down 3's and stay in the game. Pittsburgh's rebounding as a team will be their strength and Krauser's experience in the clutch will be enough tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 69
Notre Dame 65

Here are the game previews from around the net:

Fort Wayne Journal
South Bend Tribune
Beaver County Times
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Ttib-Review
Trib-review Pittsburgh Notebook

Feel free to leave YOUR game prediction in the comments!


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