Which matchups are you most looking forward to this year? Give me the one or two conference and non-conference games you've got circled on your calendar.
4pointshooter: All the B1G Match ups are.. well quite literally big games leading into the conference part of our schedule. And I trust you guys will covering each game's (Iowa, Indiana, Ohio State) significance (recruiting, program gauging etc.) so I'll go with a sentimental choice: Mike Brey is going to be coaching against Delaware, the only other school he was the head coach of, on December 7, 2013. I spoke to a couple of older UD alums recently who still remember the current Irish head coach fondly and I'm sure this game means a lot for Brey as well. With regards to conference play, I'm curious to see if ND can pull off an upset in the Carrier Dome on a Monday night - It'll be tough considering it's two nights after a home game against BC, so travel and short rest factors in, but we've had some success against the Orange (albeit at home) in recent years wouldn't you say?
alstein: The Crossroads Classic game against Indiana is a big one for the program overall. The Hoosiers are frequently a major opponent in recruiting, especially for in-state targets, so establishing some bragging rights in the state by beating an Indiana team that is expected to be down this season (not to mention Butler losing its coach and Purdue stuck in a rut for the last couple seasons) can do wonders for recruiting and overall perception locally. One sleeper game I will mention is against North Dakota State, which is the last game before the back-to-back against Indiana and Ohio State. North Dakota State is a favorite to win the Summit League and likely top 100 team. For the conference slate, I really think Notre Dame and Virginia is going to be a great rivalry in the coming years in recruiting and in conference, positioning themselves regularly on the fringe or hopefully right in the middle of the elite programs in the ACC. I'm very excited to see how they compete against one another this season, as I think they are similarly talented teams that could both surprise people in the ACC and nationally.
CW: I think the Iowa game is a big one. Obviously the Indianapolis game against Indiana and Ohio State in the Garden are huge, but Iowa is A) Notre Dame's first foray into the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and #goacc B) The first real opponent of the season after the usual mixture of non-con fodder, and a campus road environment to boot and C) Rated as a program on the rise by Jeff Eisenberg over at Yahoo. I LIKE CRUSHING DREAMS. For the in-conference game, how do you not go with Duke? You get a likely top-five Blue Devils team at home, you better make some cool stuff happen, even if the students are on break. I'm also looking forward to Pittsburgh's visit to South Bend in March, as I would love to see Mike Brey continuing to perplex Jamie Dixon year-in and year-out.
JoeSchu: It is really tempting to pick the Mike Brey's first foray into the ACC/Big10 challenge and circle that Iowa game, but the one that really has my attention is the 12/21 trip to NYC to face an Ohio State University. tWWL has them in the top 3 in the Big10, and I want to see how our backcourt matches up with Aaron Craft as he plays out his 9th year of eligibility. After trips to Iowa and a date with IU in Indy, Demetrius Jackson will be tested. This game could be the coming out party and the one we use to launch into a successful ACC campaign. As tempting as the opener vs. Duke is to call out as the premiere conference game, I'm going to favor 2 dates late in the regular season. The late February trip to Virgnia will be critically important, but what I'm really hoping to see is ND fighting for a top 4 seed in Greensboro when they come down to Chapel Hill to face the Tarheels on 3/3. Huge game, in the Dean Smith Center, and I'm hoping to be there!
How do you feel about the new interpretation of the rules by NCAA officials?
4pointshooter: Love it. Mike Brey has been saying for years that he believes that his team is the best passing team in the country (they really might be) and definitely among the smartest bunch to play together (well, the Ivy League might have something to say about that now that Abro isn't on the team anymore). The flow that the new rules provide definitely works to ND's advantage especially now that the gang has gotten more athletic than ever before. The only thing that the team has to do now to take advantage of this rule change is consistently hit the open looks that will come from the cuts and ball movement inherent in this offense! Looking at you Pat, Jerian, Austin and Steve!
alstein: I'm glad that Jack Cooley graduated because I'm not sure how his bruising style of play would have gone over with the new rules. It should make for a better product, but there is going to be a ton of ugliness this season as players get acclimated, coaches try to test how far they can push it, and refs begin to figure out how much they can be pushed. I think it will be more inconsistent from game to game than ever before, but it is still a welcome change overall that will make for a better, more basketball-y product in the long term. As far as ND goes, they need to shoot their free throws better, otherwise I might not make it through this season. Grantkinson (sorry, best I could do) also need to be more drive-oriented, which ND guards haven't been enough of in the past, because they are all very capable and can all get easy points by getting to the free throw line. Notre Dame wants to be the super efficient team, and nothing is more efficient than getting free points at the stripe. Those guys especially need to make this change an advantage.
CW: Love love love. Like all change, there will be a rough period as people get used to it, but the college game was dying aesthetically and needed to be opened up. Now let's reduce the shot clock to 30ish seconds and really get things rolling. WARNING: There will be multiple games this year where Atkins, Grant and Jackson all pick up multiple fouls before the 12-minute mark of the first half. We are just going to have to deal with this as the officials, players and coaches come to an agreement on how it's going to work.
JoeSchu: The fact Bob Huggins is already complaining about it is a good sign to me. It seems to indicate that the very style of play and coaches that teach it are the target. The game is meant to be free flowing and based on movement. The bruising style of hand checking the ball while bumping and re-routing every cutter has hurt the game. Someone finally said, "enough" and decided to put some of the skill and speed back in to basketball, and I'm thrilled. Irish fans should also be thrilled. Smart, quick players with high skills and great passing instincts are going to be rewarded in this change. You're going to see much freer cutting and movement, and that bodes well for a team that passes and cuts like Notre Dame. We knew leaving the BigEast for the ACC would help clean some of this up, but it is great to know it is going to be a national standard. I just hope certain leagues don't revert back and we see March become another set of 50-48 slug-fests.
What do you think, dear OFD readers? Which games on the Irish schedule will you be circling? How do you feel about the increase in whistles designed to decrease physical play?
Tomorrow, we'll tackle the Irish rotation and which players should be poised for a breakout season.