Thursday, February 15, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Providence @ Notre Dame

February 15, 2007

Notre Dame and Providence are both still in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, Notre Dame has more of a chance than the Friars, but a road win in South Bend could really give the Friars some new life as they head down the stretch. PC gave Pitt a lot of trouble on Saturday, so they will look to build on that tonight.

The Irish are have hit a bit of a speed bump on the road of late, losing their last two games, at South Florida and at DePaul. On the season, the Irish have struggled away from South Bend, going 1-5 on the road in Big East play. At 6-5 in the conference, Notre Dame can not afford to slip up down the stretch, otherwise they will find themselves in a tough situation waiting to find out their fate on Selection Sunday.

Here are links to the pregame previews and stories from around the internet:

Irish Get Back to Basics (South Bend Tribune)
Skid Sends Irish Back to Basics (Journal Gazette)
Irish Still Have Work to do (Post-Tribune)
PC, Irish Still Have Much Work to Do (Providence Journal)

On Saturday, Providence College took Pittsburgh down to the wire, leading by as much as six points in the second half before bowing to the league-leading Panthers, 74-68 in Pittsburgh. The Friars are currently 5-5 in the Big East, but just 1-4 on the road in conference play and 1-6 on the year away from home. They desperately need to find some success away from home to get the attention of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and time is running out.

The Friars are an athletic team, led by point guard Sharaud Curry and center Herbert Hill. This pair should be able to have success against the Irish with their quickness and athleticism. Forward Geoff McDermott will play a key role as the Friars would like to see him get back to putting up near triple-double numbers to help the Friars win. McDermott will also be called on to keep Notre Dame's second leading scorer and top rebounder, Rob Kurz, in checks. This is an intersting match-up and one the Friars will have to gain an advantage with in order to pull out the road win.

Notre Dame has been winning with unselfish play, timely shooting and having different players step up and be successful when called on. It could be Colin Falls hitting seven 3-pt shots or Rob Kurz posting a quality double-double or Luke 'Bam Bam' Harangody scoring with a variety of deceptive post moves. They have also found that freshman Tory Jackson is not easily awed in the Big East environment at the PG position and Zach Hillesland can come off the bench and give the Irish a spark. However the key to the Irish could be Russell Carter. The senior always seems to be going in overdrive which can lead to some forced shots, but when he is on, the Irish become a VERY dangerous team. However, when he is off, Carter has a tendency to let it impact his entire game, from his defense, ball-handling and decision making. The Friars play a style that will allow some freedom for the Irish offense and they could get into quite a groove offensively.

Providence will have to hit the boards tonight. They need to establish Hill in the post and run more of their offense through McDermott, let him create opportunities by going inside and out. Sometimes their offense can tend to stand around and let Curry go to work, but they have excellent pieces for him to work with as well. I think whichever team can bring a commitment to defense tonight will be the winner, both teams can, and will score, but who will get the key stops?

In this one, I look for the home team to have the added defensive intensity, especially coming off two consecutuve road losses. Having a week to reflect and get back on track, look for a nice Irish performance tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Notre Dame 81 Providence 71


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