Your Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team kicks off their 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational title defense this evening, as the Irish will face off against the Saint Mary’s (CA) Gaels late tonight in Las Vegas (the tournament was moved there due to COVID restrictions in Hawaii).
The Irish are 2-0 this season, having defeated Cal State Northridge and High Point so far. They’ll hope to turn their game up a notch against stiffer competition starting this evening, in hopes of recreating the magic of their 2017 run to the Maui Jim Maui Invitational championship, where they staged an impressive second-half comeback to defeat Wichita State and earn this invitation back 4 years later.
That’s also when we were all introduced to the beautiful sight that is/was Maui Brey, bare-chested and triumphant...
The Gaels, meanwhile, also enter this tournament undefeated after starting 4-0 against a beginning slate of Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern, Southern Utah, and Bellarmine. They scored at least 70 in three of the four games and won by an average margin of 14.
Coached by the school’s all-time wins leader Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s has been a very successful WCC team for the past decade-plus, having been to 7 NCAA Tournaments in the last 16 seasons — including four appearances in the 2nd round and one Sweet 16 run in 2010 — despite playing in the same conference as the tourney-mainstay Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Saint Mary’s steps into the Maui Jim Maui Invitational this year boasting a very balanced team, with 5 guys averaging double digits in points. The team is led by 6’7” forward Dan Fotu, a senior from Auckland, New Zealand who averages 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 58% from the floor and 33% from long range.
Per usual with Saint Mary’s in the now 21 seasons under Bennett’s command (458-192 record in that time), the Gaels have a very international roster with various players hailing from outside the U.S. for this 2021-2022 season.
Along with Fotu, their main rotation of players includes:
- 6’10” senior forward Matthias Tass from Tallinn, Estonia, who averages 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting a blistering 74% from the field
- 6’7” junior guard Alex Ducas from Geraldton, Western Australia, who averages 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1 steal per game while shooting 34% from long range
- 6’8” junior forward Kyle Bowen from Perth, Western Australia, who averages 6.3 points, a team-leading 7.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and nearly 1 block per game while shooting 40% from the field and 33% from deep
- 6’4” freshman guard Augustus Marciulionis from Vilnius, Lithuania, who averages 4.5 points, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 43% from long range
- Three other reserves hailing from Turkey, New Zealand, and Estonia
To go along with the above, the Gaels also have 6’2” senior guard Logan Johnson (11.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.8 apg), 6’2” senior point guard Tommy Kuhse (10.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4 apg, 1.8 spg), and 6’6” sophomore guard Jabe Mullins (4.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 31% from 3P) as guys playing major minutes.
Overall, this looks to be another deep, solid Saint Mary’s team that will NOT be an easy out for the Irish, who certainly haven’t faced an opponent of their caliber yet this season. It will be a great early test for ND, and a really good stepping stone to playing someone like Oregon in the next round (if the Irish are able to win this one).
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Irish are 1-point underdogs against the Gaels tonight with an over/under of 132, so it’s not expected to be too high-scoring of a game, but it IS expected to be pretty close.
Hopefully, the Irish are ready to step their game up a notch after some ho-hum performances to begin the season (especially in terms of shooting the ball) — it’s time to play big boy basketball, boys.
WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW TO WATCH
When: Monday, November 22, 11:30 PM EST
Where: Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
How to Watch: ESPN 2
The game thread is open below. I know many of us are on Twitter for most of the game, but I encourage you to vent and do other things that require more than 280 characters here.
Let’s go full Maui Mode, baybeeeeeee.