No. 1, undefeated Indiana takes on 7-2 giant-killer Butler at 2:00 (ET), a game televised nationally on CBS. The 8-1 Irish and 4-5 Boilermakers will follow at approximately 4:30 on ESPN2 with the former installed as six-point favorites over the transitioning Boilers.
Purdue's five losses have come vs. quality foes (Bucknell, Villanova, Oregon State, Xavier, and Eastern Michigan -- the MAC West leader), but these are not the Boilers of recent past.
A two-year talent drain has weakened eight-year coach Matt Painter's crew, with long-time stars Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson no longer in the fold. Junior guard and Indianapolis native Terone Johnson leads the Boilers in scoring at 13 points per game while averaging five rebounds, good for second on the roster. 7'0" 280-pound freshman center A.J. Hammons has produced nine points and six boards per game over the first nine outings of his college career. He'll face a major test today against All Big East senior Jack Cooley, one of the nation's best rebounders.
Recent staples of the Irish program have been on display for Mike Brey's crew to date as Notre Dame has held its foes to just 37.5 percent shooting from the floor and 31.8 percent from long range. The defensive effort includes holding then-No. 8 Kentucky 35 points below its season average.
Notre Dame again moves and protects the basketball, ranking third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.73) and fourth overall in total assists per game (18.7). The Irish rank 14th nationally in field goal percentage, connecting at a 49 percent clip.
The result to date is a No. 22 national ranking with one blemish in nine outings, a 79-70 overtime loss to St. Joseph's in Brooklyn, a game the Irish lead 66-58 with under four minutes remaining.
Today's contest will be the 41st meeting between the Irish and Boilermakers with both programs winning 20 in the series. Irish head coach Mike Brey is 5-10 vs. the Big 10 during his Notre Dame tenure including a 71-59 victory over Purdue in the 2004 post-season NIT.
Personnel NotesA look at Notre Dame's main contributors to date with a trio of games on tap next week prior to Christmas Break:
C Jack Cooley: The standout senior has produced four straight double-doubles and seven in nine games to date this season…A member of the pre-season 50-player Wooden Award Watch List (national player of the year), Cooley ranks eighth nationally at 11.3 rebounds per game while pacing the Irish with 14.2 per contest.
G Eric Atkins: Junior captain ranks eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (an obscene 5.25), while dishing out seven assists per contest including a 33-1 differential over the last four outings…Atkins was the game's MVP in Notre Dame's throttling of Kentucky at the Purcell Pavilion in late November, scoring 16 on 7-11 from the floor.
F Scott Martin: 6th-year senior and 2009 Purdue transfer has hit on 9 of his last 17 offerings from long range while ranking second on the squad in rebounds this season with a career-best 7.5 per contest…Martin was chosen by his head coach as the team's most valuable player in 2011-12 despite not leading the team in a major statistical category (though he might have led the nation in charges drawn from the opposition).
G Jerian Grant: Second on the squad in scoring (12.9 ppg) and assists (5.1) while pacing the Irish in steals (1.2) and hitting at a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc.
G/F Pat Connaughton: The sophomore has struggled to regain his freshman form, hitting at just a 37 percent clip from the floor including 31 percent from long range…Connaughton has produced seven points and 4.2 rebounds per game, the latter ranking fourth on the squad behind its three main interior players.
C/F Garrick Sherman: The 2010 Michigan State transfer has come off the bench to produce 10.1 points (4th) and 4.6 rebounds (3rd) per contest while pacing the team with shooting percentages of 61.1 (FG) and 77.3 (FT). Sherman sat out the team's recent victory vs. Brown with a bruised knee.
In Sherman's stead stepped senior center Tom Knight. Playing his first extended minutes of the season, Knight score four points with seven rebounds in 16 minutes. More important, it was an active 16 minutes, causing head coach Mike Brey to consider his spot in the future rotation.
"It makes me think a little differently as we move forward," Brey said. "He's very much on my mind. I'm just really thrilled with what he's given."
G/F Cameron Biedscheid: The true freshman scored a career-high 17 points in 17 minutes off the bench in a blowout win over Brown last week. Biedscheid is 11 of his last 18 from beyond the arc including a pair of crucial long-range offerings in a 14-point win over Kentucky in his previous outing…He's hit for 49 points in his last four games after scoring just 32 total over the initial five games of his college career.