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Notre Dame Basketball: Louisville Preview

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The have their first test of the ACC slate on Wednesday as they play host to the Louisville Cardinals.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame - Louisville game has produced some of the best college basketball games in recent memory. How about in 2006 when Taquan Dean broke the hearts of Irish fans with a buzzer beater to force overtime? Or in 2013 when they Irish and Cardinals squared off in that legendary five overtime game which the Irish won? It seems like every time these two teams meet the game goes down to the last second or is decided in overtime. One thing is for sure, when these two teams get together it’s bound to be a good one and it shouldn’t be different on Wednesday night in South Bend.

Notre Dame is riding in high off a last second victory at Pittsburgh. The Fighting Irish are 12-2 (1-0) and a perfect 9-0 at home this season. If the Irish want to compete for an ACC crown it is games like these they must win.

Game Notes

  • Notre Dame has won the last five meeting with Louisville in Purcell Pavilion
  • Notre Dame and Louisville have played in nine overtime games, including four in a row from 2010-2012
  • This is Notre Dame and Louisville’s 10th matchup as ranked opponents. Notre Dame is 4-5 in those matchups
  • Notre Dame is up from 24th to 23rd in the latest AP rankings. Louisville is down from 6th to 9th
  • KenPom.com has Louisville rated the 9th best team, while Notre Dame is the 29th.
  • Bonzie Colson leads the ACC in double-doubles with eight and 20/10 games with four
  • Matt Farrell is 2nd in the ACC in scoring improvement at +10.8

When: Wednesday, January 3, 2017, 9:00pm ET

Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN

How to Watch: WatchND, WatchESPN, ACC Network

No. 9 Louisville Cardinals (12-2)

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals come in fresh off a win on New Year’s Eve as they picked apart the Indiana Hoosiers. The Cards dominated from start to finish. The Hoosiers really never were in striking distance. Rick Patino’s crew also has other impressive wins over Purdue and Kentucky. Louisville is 0-1 so far in the ACC, losing to Virginia last week.

The Cards are a very balanced team as their top scorer (Donovan Mitchell) only averages 12.8 points per game. They can also go fairly deep off the bench, sometimes playing 8-9 guys a game.

They are a team built on defense and rebounding. They aren’t going to run teams off the floor with their offense. If Louisville has a shot of winning they are going to have to limit Notre Dame’s potent offensive attack.

Louisville missed out on last’s year NCAA Tournament after self sanctioning themselves for a sex scandal. This year they were picked to finish fourth in the ACC, but they will have a real shot of winning the thing by season’s end.

Three Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: The Cardinals are among the nation’s worst in three-point shooting teams as they shoot just 33.1% from beyond the arc. They don’t have one player in the rotation that shoots over 35% from three. This could doom the Cards as Notre Dame is one of the highest scoring teams in the country.

Fouling: Louisville has problems staying out of foul trouble. At almost 20 personal fouls per game, the Cards rank 172nd. Because of this they are allowing teams to shoot 21 free throws per game. If they want a shot of winning in South Bend, they’ll need to keep the nation’s top foul shooting team off the line.

Free throw shooting: The Cardinals rank 178th nationally in free throw percentage. They are just shooting just 69% from the charity stripe. This isn’t the most sound offensive team, so they better bring it on the other end.

Three Strengths

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Three-point defense: The Cards may not shoot the three well themselves, but boy can they defend it. They rank third nationally in opponents three point percentage, as teams are shooting just 27% from distance against them. The Irish shoot well from beyond the arc, so something will have to give on Wednesday night.

Defensive Efficiency: Louisville ranks fifth in defensive efficiency. This is a tough team to score on. The Cardinals have held elite offensive teams like Purdue, Kentucky and Indiana to scores of 64,70, and 62 respectively.

Rebounding: They rank 10th in rebounding, hauling in around 42 boards per contest. If it’s any secret from these strengths and weaknesses, Louisville wins their games playing lockdown defense and rebounding the basketball.

Cardinals to Watch

Donovan Mitchell - 6’3”, Guard, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

After seeing just 19.1 minutes a game last year, Mitchell has seen an uptick in production all across this season with a more expanded role. This year he’s playing almost 30 minutes a night, as well as leading the Cards in scoring at 12.4 points per game. In his last time out against Indiana, Mitchell exploded for 25 points on 8-15 shooting. Mitchell is one for thievery as he is second in the ACC in steals per game.

Anas Mahmoud - 7,0”, Forward, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The junior from Cairo, Egypt isn’t going to fill up the stat sheet, but he plays a very important role for the Cards. He’s really their only interior presence and the matchup between him and Martinas Geben of Notre Dame will be one to watch. Mahmoud did a great job of bottling up IU big man Thomas Bryant, as he held him to just eight points and three boards. Mahmoud is second in the conference in blocks at 2.4 per contest.

Pick to Click

Matt Farrell - 6’1”, Guard, Junior

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

Shoot when your hot, shoot to get hot...right? I’m going to keep riding the hot hand with Farrell against the Cards. Last time out against Pitt, Farrell had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. He made some huge shots in the first half to keep the Irish in it, as well as setting up Vasturia for the game winner. I like his matchup with Quentin Snider of Louisville. I think he should be able to take advantage of it.

Prediction

Notre Dame 80 - Louisville 71

It’s the high flying offense vs. the impenetrable defense. Something will have to give and I think it will be Louisville’s defense. Notre Dame is among the nation’s best in several major offensive categories, including PPG, FG%, and 3-PT%, The Cardinals have yet to give up more than 70 points this season, but they have only played one true road game and that was at Grand Canyon. Their wins against Purdue, Kentucky and Indiana were either home or at a neutral site. The students won’t be back yet, so it won’t be as rowdy as it could be. Nevertheless, Notre Dame usually gives top ten teams fits at Purcell Pavilion. I see this one going back and fourth like most Notre Dame - Louisville games go, but with Notre Dame pulling away in late in the second half.

The Irish were able to get away with V.J. Beachem, and for the most part Vasturia, disappearing against Pitt, but they won’t have that luxury this time out. The two seniors will have to make shots if this prediction is to come to fruition.

The matchup between Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame and the combination of Deng Adel and Jaylen Johnson will be one to keep your eye on. All three guys can rebound the ball at a high level, but only Colson out of this group can score. It will be intriguing to see how Adel and Johnson go about defending Colson.

I really liked what I saw off the bench from freshman T.J. Gibbs and sophomore Rex Pflueger against Pitt. We’ll see if they can keep it up against the Cards.

To throw out just one other prediction, Matt Ryan will have a huge game off the bench for Notre Dame. The ACC’s third best three-point shooter will drain at least four threes.

All stats from ESPN, TeamRankings.com, TheACC.com, and UND.com