Set Your Tivo: 01.10.11Posted by Brian Otskey on January 10th, 2011
***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
What a thrilling couple of days it was. The first hoops bonanza weekend of the year didn’t disappoint as many ranked teams fell to unranked foes, mostly on the road. Will that happen again tonight? Normally we like to preview at least two games each night in this spot but with Monday’s slate incredibly barren, only one game deserves your attention this evening, though you should know that first place is on the line in the Atlantic Sun with Jacksonville visiting Belmont — but you won’t find that game on television. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#16 Notre Dame @ Marquette – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)
The Fighting Irish enter this game winners in six of their last seven games, turning themselves into a legitimate Big East threat. Mike Brey has done a tremendous job with this group making himself an early contender for National Coach of the Year honors. Notre Dame is better defensively this year, a key reason why they’ve become one of the top dogs in the Big East. Defense is going to be an important part of tonight’s game. Marquette is coming off a Saturday loss to Pittsburgh in which the Golden Eagles allowed Pitt to shoot 60% while scoring 89 points. Another lackluster performance on that end will result in another loss for Marquette tonight. MU gives up 38.5% three point shooting, one of the worst numbers in all of D1. The Irish attempt plenty of threes, especially Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough, so defending it well must be a point of emphasis for Buzz Williams in the game plan. Hansbrough has lifted his game to new heights this year on both sides of the ball. Brey praised his defense after Saturday’s win over upstart St. John’s, plus the senior had 26 points on 8-15 shooting. ND will be without Carleton Scott (averaging 12/6) again making depth something Marquette should try to exploit. The Irish play seven men but Marquette doesn’t have a scoring threat deep on its bench. Speeding up the pace and attempting to rack up some Irish fouls would be ideal for the home squad but that’s going to be very difficult to accomplish. Notre Dame runs a deliberate offense, assisting on 70% of made field goals while taking a lot of time off the shot clock. The Golden Eagles need to create an edge in transition points, otherwise they’ll be stuck in a slow half court game all night. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as Marquette gets 60% of its points inside the arc on 54.5% shooting, but Notre Dame will have the edge when it comes to threes. Marquette doesn’t attempt many triples but it would be great for them if Darius Johnson-Odom shoots well tonight. The explosive guard can open up the floor with his deep shooting, resulting in better looks for Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder from mid-range or in close. Marquette has to look inside in this game, and take advantage of their talented swings/forwards. They’re not going to win a three point contest with the Irish. In addition to defending the three, Marquette must keep Notre Dame off the free throw line. The Irish attempt 26 free throws per game but the Golden Eagles do rank in the top ten in defensive free throw rate. ND gets over half of their points from the line or the three point arc, including one out of four from the stripe. You’d expect this game to be close as almost every Marquette game is. ND is the better team overall, but they’re on the road where anything can happen, especially against a solid team like MU. Marquette is 2-4 in games decided by five points or less this year and should it come down to free throws, Notre Dame has the edge there. This is a hard game to predict a winner and the only thing we’re pretty sure of is that it’ll be a tremendous atmosphere at the Bradley Center with the outcome still in doubt late into the second stanza.