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Notre Dame Basketball: Fort Wayne Preview

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Fort Wayne already has pulled off one colossal upset this season, can they do it again on Tuesday night?

The No.23 Notre Dame men’s basketball team will put their 8-0 record on the line Tuesday night when they play hosts to the Fort Wayne Mastodons. Fort Wayne comes in at 7-2 and winners of their last six. In fact, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey even called Fort Wayne the best team they will have faced all season.

The Irish is coming off the heels of a 54-point rout of North Carolina A&T on Sunday. The 54-point win was the largest in the history of the Purcell Pavilion/Joyce Center. Tuesday night’s matchup should be a good one as both teams have very good shots of being tournament teams come March. A victory here very well could end up being a nice mark on a tournament resume.

The Irish and Mastodons last met back in December of 2012, which resulted in a 12-point victory for the Irish.

When: Tuesday, December 6th, 2016, 9:00pm ET

Where: Purcell Pavilion at The Joyce Center

Where to Watch: ESPNU or WatchESPN

Fort Wayne Mastodons (7-2)

For the last couple of seasons now Fort Wayne has quietly been a solid program. They’ve been on the brink of the NCAA tournament multiple times, only to lose late in their conference tournament. This season isn’t any different as they were the preseason pick to win the Summit League. The ‘Dons put the state of Indiana, and the college basketball world, on notice earlier this season when they knocked in-state behemoth and No.3 Indiana at home.

Fort Wayne does have a veteran core of players, so going on the road to play a good team like Notre Dame shouldn’t phase them. With that being said, they have lost their only two road games this season: a nine point loss in the season opener at Arkansas and a 18-point blowout at Illinois State.

Three Weaknesses

  • Turnovers: The ‘Dons do have trouble handling the ball. They rank 195th in turnovers per game, averaging around 14 per contest. In their two losses this season they have been right around that mark at 14.5.
  • Opponents points per game: Fort Wayne is yielding 77.7 points per game, which is good for 243rd in the NCAA. This does not bode well for them as Notre Dame is averaging almost 90 points per game.
  • Three-point defense: They rank 238th in opponents three-point percentage as the opposition is shooting 36.5% from beyond the arc. Notre Dame is shooting 43% from beyond the arc this season.
NCAA Basketball: IUPU - Ft. Wayne at Utah Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

  • Three-point shooting: Notre Dame won’t be the only team capable of shooting the three on Tuesday night. Fort Wayne is shooting 40% from beyond the arc, which is good for 19th nationally.
  • Forcing Turnovers: While they do commit a lot of turnovers themselves, the ‘Dons do have a knack at forcing them right back. They’re creating close to 15 turnovers per game, which ranks them 98th in the country.
  • Fouling: One thing is that could play a huge role in this game is Fort Wayne is tendency not to foul. They rank 65th in fouls per game. Notre Dame is the best free throw shooting team in the country, so if the ‘Dons want to pull off another upset they will need to keep them off the line.

Mastodons to Watch

Mo Evans - 6’1”, Guard, Senior

NCAA Basketball: IUPU - Ft. Wayne at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Evans is the complete point guard. He can score, he can pass, and he can shoot at an exceptionally high level. It is not too often when you see a guy have a three-point percentage that is higher than his overall field goal percentage, but Evans does. He’s shooting 52% from the floor, and an absurd 56% from beyond the arc. He’s also averaging 18.1 points, 6.1 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. He can truly do it all. The point guard matchup between him and Matt Farrell will be a fun one to watch.

John Konchar - 6’5”, Guard, Sophomore

Konchar was once a target by the Notre Dame staff, but due to scholarship limits they couldn’t offer him. Konchar had a huge game in their upset of Indiana in November. He notched a double-double of 15 points and 11 boards against the Hoosiers. Notre Dame assistant coach Rob Balanis said that Konchar reminds him a little of former Irish star Pat Connaughton in that he can do a little bit of everything.

Bryson Scott - 6’1”, Guard, Senior

Scott was a top recruit out of high school, which landed him a scholarship at Purdue. After two years of infrequent playing time for the Boilermakers, Scott came back home to Fort Wayne. He sat out last season due to transfer rules, but this season he’s making an instant impact. He’s the second leading scorer on the team at 16.9 points per game, and for a small guy he’s s pretty good rebounder to boot (5.3 RPG). Scott has been on a tear of late. Three of his last four games have been 20+ point efforts.

Scott faced the Irish back in his sophomore season at Purdue in the Crossroads Classic. In that game he had 11 points on 4-10 shooting.

Pick to Click

Bonzie Colson - 6’5”, Forward, Junior

NCAA Basketball: No.Carolina A&T at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Colson has notched five straight double-doubles and is averaging one for the season with 17.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Unlike most teams Notre Dame will face this season, Fort Wayne is not all that big. Only one of their five starters is over 6’6”. Colson finds a way to get his numbers even against teams who are much bigger than him. In a more even size matchup on Tuesday expect more of the same from the junior captain.

Prediction

Notre Dame 85 - Fort Wayne 72

Many are calling for an upset tonight. Mainly because Fort Wayne took down Indiana and because some are expecting Notre Dame to be looking ahead to Saturday against No.1 Villanova. Fort Wayne did take down Indiana, but it took a poor shooting night from the Hoosiers in order for that to happen. I don’t see it going that way for the Irish on Tuesday, especially at home.

I see this one going a much like the Iowa game last week. Fort Wayne can keep it close for a half, but in the end Notre Dame has too much firepower. Looking at the numbers Fort Wayne compares favorably to Iowa. They both surrender a bevy of points, they both let opponents shoot the three at a high rate, and they both don’t take care of the ball. Guess what? All three categories are strengths of the Irish and I expect Notre Dame to capitalize on each one.

Aside from Colson, I like V.J. Beachem to have a big game. He’s a matchup nightmare for Fort Wayne. There really isn’t anyone on their roster that stacks up to Beachem. Look for him to hit a few shots early to get the ball rolling.

This won’t be an easy one, but I expect Notre Dame to pull away in the second half and improve to 9-0 before Saturday’s date with Villanova.