Folks,,, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team is back at it again after a dramatic home win 6 days ago.
After a rough stretch of losing an overtime heartbreaker to Virginia and a 34-point shellacking at the hands of Duke, the Irish found themselves down 15 points somewhat late in the second half at home against a bad North Carolina Tar Heels team this past Monday evening. Then, Prentiss Hubb, T.J. Gibbs, and finally Nate Laszewski happened.
Now, with any and all NCAA Tournament hopes for the Irish technically alive (but on life support, no doubt), Notre Dame hosts the Miami-Florida Hurricanes today in another must-win game against a middling conference opponent.
The Hurricanes have a little bit of talent, though, so let’s dive into the details to understand how this game might play out as the Irish look to get back to .500 in conference play.
- ND and Miami will be meeting for the 24th time, with the Hurricanes leading the all-time series 12 to 11 (per Alan Wasielewski, Associate Athletics Communications Director)
- Miami is currently #103 overall in the KenPom.com rankings, with the #50 offense and #186 defense; the Irish, meanwhile, are #61, rating 35th on offense and 114th on defense
- Miami has won 4 of the last 5 meetings in the series and 2 of the last 3 meetings at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame is 2-5 against Miami in ACC play and was 4-7 against the Hurricanes when both teams were members of the Big East (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Notre Dame leads the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.72) and fouls committed per game (12.5), is 2nd in the country in turnovers committed per game (9.8), and is 8th in the country (and 1st in the ACC) in assists per game (16.8) (per Alan Wasielewski)
- John Mooney is 2nd in the country in double-doubles with 21 (in 25 games), behind only William & Mary’s Nathan Knight, who has 22 in 29 contests; Mooney also is 2nd in the nation in rebounding, leading all major conference players with his 12.7 average (per Alan Wasielewski)
- John Mooney has joined Tim Duncan and Sheldon Williams as the only ACC players to post consecutive seasons with 20 or more double-doubles in the past 25 years (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Since 1997-98 John Mooney is the only ACC player with 12 or more double-doubles in league play in consecutive seasons (or over any two seasons). Mooney had 13 double-doubles in the ACC last year and has followed that up with 12 so far this season (per Alan Wasielewski)
Where: Purcell Pavilion — Notre Dame, Indiana
When: Sunday, February 23rd at 6:00 PM ET
How to Watch:
- TV — ACC Network: Wes Durham (play-by-play), Malcolm Huckaby (analyst)
- Radio — Notre Dame Radio Network: Jack Nolan (play-by-play), Zach Hillesland (analyst); available locally on WSBT AM/FM and worldwide on und.com
Miami Hurricanes (14-12, 6-10 ACC)
The Miami Hurricanes enter this game having a slightly worse season than ND, sitting at nearly .500 overall and sporting a 6-10 ACC record that has them currently sitting 11th in conference standings.
Miami actually picked up a pretty solid win early in the season in beating the Illinois Fighting Illini, who are now squarely a Tourney team. However, besides that early December victory, Jim Larrañaga’s squad has not had much to hang their hats on this season.
With that said, they ARE coming off a triple-overtime win over Virginia Tech, and the Hurricanes have a few guys who can cause (and have caused in the past) some trouble for ND.
That conversation has to start with junior point guard Chris Lykes, a 5’7” dynamo who Mike Brey REALLY wanted to get to ND back during the recruiting process. Lykes hails from the same high school as Prentiss Hubb (they played a couple years together there) and is currently averaging 15.5 points, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and is shooting 39% from long range on the season.
He’s shifty and quick and has gotten really clever with how he’s able to get shots up despite his size limitations — he will be a tough, and fun, assignment for his friend and former teammate Hubb.
Two other key scorers help Lykes carry the torch on offense — guards Dejan Vasilijevic and Kameron McGusty. Neither is unbelievably good from long range (35% and 34%, respectively), but both are dangerous enough to knock down shots from the outside, and both can get to the hoop with some solid height and length. The 6’3” senior Vasilijevic is averaging 13.5 points and 4.2 rebounds on the season, while 6’5” junior McGusty is putting up 13.4 and 4.1.
Down low, the key names to know for Miami include 7’0” junior center Rodney Miller Jr., 6’10” forward Sam Waardenburg, and 6’8” forward Keith Stone.
Miller Jr. shoots a blistering 59% from the field while scoring 7.7 points and snagging 5.8 rebounds per game, and also swats about one shot per contest. Waardenburg scores a bit less with 6.4 points per game, but also leads the team in rebounding with 6.1 boards per game and 1 block per game of his own. Keith Stone, whom I have to assume the Keystone Light guy was named after, is chipping in a smooth 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as well.
Other names to know include guard Isaiah Wong (7.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 43% 3P) and Harlond Beverly (7.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 apg), who both add solid depth on the perimeter and have the capability to go off on any given night, as made evident by Wong’s 27-point, 12-rebound performance against Virginia Tech the other night.
Hurricane to Watch
Chris Lykes, Guard, Junior
Lykes is the leader of this Hurricanes team, both in terms of scoring and in terms of just being the floor general that makes things go in their offense. He’s a pesky defender and extremely tough to play against, 5’7” or not. If he’s able to have a big game today, the Irish could struggle to control this game and could drop a frustrating one at home.
Prentiss Hubb, Guard, Sophomore
Hubb proved against North Carolina that once he turns it on and starts attacking the hoop, great things happen. Against a small defender like Lykes, it will be important for Hubb to not settle for jumpers and to keep attacking, either finding shots for himself at the rim over Lykes or finding teammates for open looks. If Hubb can start channeling that side of his game more often than not, he’s gonna be one helluva player in the ACC for the next couple years.
Miami has some really good players and has given the Irish plenty of trouble in recent seasons, but I think this ND team is feeling good and confident after the UNC win, and since they’re playing at home they’ll be able to ride the momentum of the Irish crowd once they get things going.
Notre Dame wins this one 73 to 66.