by Joel Welser
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, First Round loss to Winthrop
Coach: Mike Brey (4-6 in 6 NCAA appearances)
Tory Jackson, Sophomore, Guard
Kyle McAlarney, Junior, Guard
Zach Hillesland, Junior Forward
Rob Kurz, Senior, Forward
Luke Harangody, Sophomore, Forward
Ryan Ayers, Junior, Guard
Jonathan Peoples, Sophomore, Guard
Luke Zeller, Junior, Forward
Why They Can Surprise:
A year ago Notre Dame’s two superstars were barely playing. Luke Harangody was a green freshman who saw most of his minutes off the bench and Kyle McAlarney was temporarily off the team. This year, they might just be the best inside-outside combination in the Big East.
Harangody averages 20.5 points and 10.4 rebounds. Any time the 6-8 sophomore does not get a double-double it is a surprise. He will use his large 251 pound frame to dominate the paint game in and game out. However, Harangody had one of his worst performances of the year against Georgetown and 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, so he can be off his game against much taller opponents, but he will not run into anybody else like Hibbert this year. McAlarney returned to the Irish and almost immediately picked up his game. The guard is a superb shooter from long range and averages over three triples per game. When his shot is falling, Notre Dame is tough to beat.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Despite the bevy of talented frontcourt players who generally stick to the easy shots, Notre Dame does not shoot that well from the field. Some of that is due to Coach Mike Brey running an uptempo style, but this is still a team that feeds the big men and should shoot better than 45 percent from the floor. It is not any individuals fault, as every significant player on the team shoots at least 40 percent, but nobody shoots over 50 percent either. Some of the other forwards like Luke Zeller and Rob Kurz will supplement their interior game with the occasional outside shot, so that brings down their field-goal percentage.
Who To Watch:
If McAlarney is not scoring, the Irish have trouble replacing his production. In all of Notre Dame’s losses, McAlarney has scored 12 or fewer points. Kurz tends to step up when McAlarney is having an off night shooting, but the team really needs a guard to do the same. There are a couple options in Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers. Jackson has some bad shooting numbers from beyond the arc, but the pesky defender has started to find his stroke late in the season. Ryan Ayers, a 6-8 wing, was relegated to the bench midway through the season in favor of rebounding threat Zach Hillesland. Since his move to the bench, Ayers has been shooting better, but has yet to become a viable third scoring option.
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