RTC Aftermath: #2 UConn 72, Notre Dame 65

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2009

I’m assuming that most of you got a chance to see this game unlike the last RTC Live when Providence knocked off #1 Pittsburgh. As a result this RTC Aftermath will not be quite as extensive as our first edition, but what we lack in length we will make up for in quality.

This was my first trip to Storrs, Connecticut and I have to say that I was surprised at how small the town is. I’m not sure if I missed the town center coming off of I-84, but it’s easily the smallest town for any state school that I have visited. The campus itself is pretty nice even if it lacks the uniqueness of some other campuses I have visited on this year’s RTC Live tour. Gampel Pavilion is a relatively nondescript building much like the other places we have visited this year with the except of UNC with the Dean Smith Center. Interestingly, the Huskies split their home games between Gampel and the XL Center in Hartford. While the XL Center seats more fans (16,294 compared to 10,167 in Gampel), the students seemed almost unanimous in agreement that they prefer the atmosphere when the games are held at Gampel. The one complaint they did have about Gampel was the lack of student seating. From what we were told (and my eyes seemed to confirm it), students are confined to a small section behind one basket and in the upper level behind another basket. Most of the students would have preferred to have been situated along the sidelines to make the atmosphere more imposing for visiting teams similar to Cameron Indoor at Duke as much as the students hated to say it. I’m not sure how the boosters seated along the sidelines would react to the proposition, but it is an interesting idea.

Pre-game
Pre-game
My view from underneath the basket
My view from underneath the basket
Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz
Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz

Pre-Game: For the second game in a row, we were there for a team’s Senior Night. Or was it Senior Day this time since the opening tip was at 2 PM? While the Huskies did not have as many seniors as Providence did, the scene was no less emotional as the fans were particularly excited for two players: A.J. Price, who has battled personal problems (he was the other guy in the Marcus Williams computer theft case) as well as medical problems (radiosurgery for an arteriovenous malformation and ACL surgery), and Jeff Adrien, the team’s physical inside presence and fan favorite for his interaction with the student section before and after games. As an added bonus, Jim Calhoun was honored for winning his 800th game (on Wednesday at Marquette). The student section was given cardboard Calhoun faces (think PTI’s Role Play) and they unveiled a banner celebrating the fact his 800th win although there were some technical difficulties when they tried to unveil the banner.

Adrien and Calhoun
Adrien and Calhoun

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RTC Live: Notre Dame at #2 UConn – Saturday 2 PM ET

Posted by nvr1983 on February 26th, 2009

rtc_live

We’re following up Tuesday Night’s RTC Live where Providence knocked off #1 Pittsburgh leading  to the first RTC Aftermath with a trip to Storrs, Connecticut, where Notre Dame will attempt to knock off UConn. While the game is significant for the Huskies (a win would mean they would go back to #1), it is enormous for the Fighting Irish. Mike Brey‘s squad remains on the bubble despite winning 4 of their last 5 games (including a 33-point annihilation of a very good Louisville team that played very poorly) after going a month without a win (7 consecutive losses), but a win over Jim Calhoun‘s Huskies would be huge for their NCAA tournament resume and would put them in position to finish 10-8 in the Big East with their remaining games against Villanova and St. John’s in South Bend.

The last time these teams met was on January 24th when UConn came into the Joyce Center and beat the Fighting Irish, 69-61, to end Notre Dame’s home winning streak at 45, which was the longest in the nation at that time. In that game, UConn held Notre Dame to 33% FG and used a 13-1 run in the 2nd half (along with a huge edge at the line–30 attempts compared to 4 for the Irish) to put the game away. Jerome Dyson, who won’t be playing on Saturday as he is out for the year with a meniscal tear, led the Huskies in scoring with 15 points to go with 9 rebounds. Jeff Adrien also had a big game with 12 points and 19 rebounds. Luke Harangody led the Irish with 24 points and 15 rebounds despite playing against Hasheem Thabeet, the likely national defensive player of the year. Notre Dame’s other big scoring threat, Kyle McAlarney, started off hot hitting his first three shots from beyond the arc before going pulling a John Starks-in-Game 7 performance by missing his last 12 shots from the field. Senior guard Ryan Ayers also struggled with his shooting going 1-for-10 from the field in the game.Since that game, which was featured on ESPN GameDay, the teams have gone in opposite directions. The Huskies went on a roll with the exception of their hiccup last Monday against Pittsburgh while the Irish, who were ranked 19th in the nation at the time, lost their next 5 games as part of their month-long 7-game losing streak.

The big match-up in this game will be in the middle where Harangody will be battling Thabeet, who called out Harangody on an ESPN cover in the pre-season (Thabeet later apologized). These two will likely end up on the first team All-Big East squad and on an All-American team. While Harangody dominated Thabeet statistically in the first match-up, Thabeet’s defense disrupted Notre Dame’s attack enough to help the Huskies escape with the win. [Please don't leave a Chamberlain-Russell comparison in the comment section. This also applies for Michael Lewis-style Shane Battier arguments.] One of the interesting aspects of this match-up outside of the obvious offense/defense contrast is whether Harangody’s outside game can draw Thabeet away from the basket opening up space for Notre Dame to clean up underneath. Unfortunately for the Irish, they don’t have another interior presence on the offensive end. Thus, barring an explosion from Harangody, which he is capable of, the interior match-up will probably end up being a draw with Stanley Robinson and Adrien making up for any statistical advantage that Harangody has over Thabeet because I’m not expecting much out of Zach Hillesland (5.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG) against the Huskies frontline.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.26.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 26th, 2009

Set Your TivosA really weak set of games tonight and only one really worth watching. To be honest, this is a surprisingly weak week of games. I would say there are only a handful of games that I would consider worth watching this week, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Game of the Night (The only one worth watching)
#10 Marquette at #19 Notre Dame at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This game might answer some of the questions I posed this weekend about the Big East. I think the conference is not as good as everyone says they are. I think there are only 3 great teams (Pittsburgh, UConn, and the reborn Louisville Cardinals) and a whole bunch of borderline teams. I am actually starting to think the ACC would match-up pretty well against the Big East if you account for the Big East having approximately 1/4th of D-1 in the conference.

While Marquette has an impressive record (17-2), they have not faced a good team all year (Villanova is questionable and that game was at home). A win at Notre Dame would certainly erase some of the doubts that many in the media have. Do I count as the media? Even though Notre Dame’s aura of invincibility in South Bend went up in smoke on Saturday against UConn, winning there will still be quite challenging. Buzz Williams, who has done a good job replacing Tom Crean, will need big games out of Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, Lazar Hayward, and Dominic James if he wants to steal one in South Bend and have his Golden Eagles stake a legitimate claim as a Big East title contender.

That said, how likely is it that the Irish, who had a three-year, 45-game home winning streak snapped on Saturday night by UConn, would lose two in a row at home?  Not very.  Mike Brey’s team went stone cold in that game, shooting a miserable 33%, highlighted by Kyle McAlarney’s 12 bricks in a row (after starting 3-3) and a combined 2-15 from Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers.   Luke Harangody was the only scorer that showed for ND in that game (particularly in the second half when UConn’s defense was spectacular), so I expect that we’ll see a much-better Irish team tonight.  They sorta have to win this game – they’ve already lost their last three and a trip to Pittsburgh looms next.  A five-loss losing streak could crush this team’s confidence. 

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