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BIG EAST: 2006-07

College Preview Big East Message Board

By Eric Silver

September 1st, 2006

 

Big East Basketball Preview: Notre Dame 

 

The Irish lost quite a bit from last year's team.  Chris Quinn was an iron man for ND.  He averaged 17.7 ppg on 45% shooting overall, including 42% on treys, and 6.4 apg with an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4/1.0.  He is going to be very difficult to replace.

 

They also lost their leading rebounder in Torin Francis (9.4 rpg) who also averaged 11.6 ppg on 50% shooting.  As much as many Notre Dame fans viewed Francis as an underachiever, 9.4 rpg qualified him as one of the elite rebounders in the conference.

 

Coach Mike Brey also lost a solid frontcourt reserve in Rick Cornett, who averaged 5.4 ppg and 3.6 rpg in a little over 13 mpg.  Plus, he was an aggressive, effective defender.

 

Overall, the Irish lost about 35 ppg and nearly 17 rpg from last year's team. Still, there's quite a bit of talent left over.

 

CHN has learned that guard Colin Falls, one of the best outside shooters in the conference, is listed on the team’s roster and will play this year.  Falls shot 39.7% on trey attempts for the season, though that's about all he did offensively.  He took nearly four times as many three-point shots (257) as he did shots inside the arc (66), and he made only 27 two-point baskets in 30 games. He also averaged a paltry 1.7 apg in 35.2 mpg.  Falls got a lot of his shots last year because of Quinn's abilities to shoot and pass. Opposing teams had to focus on containing Quinn, and because he was such a good passer, Falls was often the beneficiary of open looks. Since Falls has difficulty creating his own shot, the question is whether anyone else on this year’s team can help him get open looks.

 

Sophomore Kyle McAlarney may be able to do just that. He had a respectable freshman season, averaging 6.6 ppg in 22.4 mpg, but, more importantly, he showed improvement as the season progressed. Two stats that stand out are his 43% shooting from behind the arc and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5/1.0. He won't make Irish fans forget Quinn, but before he graduates, he'll have a very nice career. If Brey opts to go with three guards, which is likely, McAlarney will share the point guard duties with freshman Tory Jackson and play alongside Jackson and Falls, at other times.

 

The best player on this year's team is Russell Carter.  He averaged 11.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg last season, but his stats don't tell the whole story.  He's quick, athletic, and strong.  He can put the ball on the floor and drive, he can post up, and he can hit the outside shot (41% on treys last season).

 

Brey went with a four-guard lineup with Carter defending the 4 for a good portion of the conference season last year, and he will likely do it again. With Jackson at point and Falls and McAlarney on the wings, teams will have to respect the perimeter shooting of the latter two.  Carter creates match-up problems for other 4s in the conference.  If they don't come out to guard him, he can drain the outside shot, and if they do, he can beat them off the dribble.  Carter improved as much as any other BE player during the season last year.  If he continues to improve, he could compete for all-conference honors.

 

Jackson will give the Irish backcourt something it desperately needs - quickness.  He wasn't an RSCI Top 100 recruit, though two analysts included him in their Top 100, while three others had him between 101 and 125.  He has the ability to beat his defender off the dribble and drive to the hole.  If he can do that against Big East point guards, he will be able to set up Falls, McAlarney, and Carter for open jump shots.  He also likes to push the ball up the floor.  With Carter running the floor at the 3 or the 4, and McAlarney, who can play at either a fast or slow pace running on the wing, Jackson can be effective in a transition game, especially if Falls spots up behind the arc either on the initial break or as a trailer.

 

Brey and his staff face numerous questions up front.  Junior Rob Kurz, averaged 6.4 ppg and 5.1 rpg in 21.2 mpg.  He's strong, and he can board in traffic .  Extrapolating his rebounding stats to 30 mpg, he'd average 7.6 rpg, which is definitely respectable.  However, he has yet to prove he is a reliable low-post scorer.

 

Sophomore Luke Zeller is also back, but he's not an interior player.  The former high school Player of the Year in Indiana, Zeller likes to play on the perimeter despite being 6'11".  By the end of last year, he hardly saw the court.  In fact, in his last nine games he averaged only 4.1 mpg.

 

Then there's 6'7" Ryan Ayers, who played in only four games in February.  Furthermore, for the five games before the Michigan NIT game, he averaged fewer than two mpg, then, surprisingly, played 34 minutes against the Wolverines.  Given that last-game turn-around, it's hard to predict what his role will be this year.

 

As important as Tory Jackson’s development at point guard will be for the Irish, a more critical key could be the play of fellow freshman, Luke Harangody, a 6'8" center/power forward.  He's strong, and he can rebound, especially on the defensive end, but he's not very quick, and he's not much of a jumper.  Still, he ranked #66 on RSCI and appeared on basically every Top 100 list.  Given the lack of depth up front, he has a decent chance to earn quality minutes, and he could push for a starting position.

 

Last year, the Irish led the country in close, heartbreaking, last-second losses.  While those have a way of evening out over time, it will take a lot of fortuitous circumstances for Notre Dame to be in contention for an invitation to the Big Dance in 2006-2007.  Another NIT season is more likely, but that may not be enough to keep Irish fans from calling for Brey’s ouster.

 

- Predicted Finish: 12 of 16

? Georgetown

? Lousville

? Pittsburgh

? Syracuse #5 Marquette #6 Villanova #7 Connecticut #8 St. John's

#9 DePaul

#10 Providence #11 Rutgers #12 Notre Dame #13 Cincinnati #14 Seton Hall #15 WVU #16 S. Florida

 

 

 

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