Irish Basketball Notebook

Notre Dame men's basketball head coach Mike Brey continues to be peppered with questions about the status of Kyle McAlarney. There's a good reason for this: there's been no final decision from the university. McAlarney, a sophomore point guard, was suspended indefinitely after being arrested for possession of marijuana hours after a win over Rider on December 28th.

Brey said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday that McAlarney is registered for classes and attending them while waiting word from the university on a possible hearing date. He thinks that by the end of this week or early next week, the team should know when that hearing will take place. As for now, McAlarney will continue to practice with the team and be in dress clothes on the bench during games. He will be traveling to Villanova with the team.

"Kyle continues to be part of our basketball program," Brey said. "As I've said when this suspension went into play, we need to be the support group as the process works itself out here on campus."

Without McAlarney, the 20th ranked Irish (15-2) have gone 4-1, including a 3-1 start to the Big East season. Freshmen Tory Jackson and Jonathan Peoples have filled in admirably at the point guard position. The two have combined for just under 10 points a game in league play while also dishing out 24 assists. As for McAlarney, Brey has no reason to think he'll be anywhere else but back playing for Notre Dame.

"Kyle McAlarney wants to be a Notre Dame man and a Notre Dame graduate," Brey said. "That's the one thing that hasn't wavered through this thing. He wants to be here and come back. He wants to come back and make up for an error in judgment. I have every reason he'll be back playing for us. When that'll be, we'll see."

*Captain Colin Falls played only 19 minutes in the 88-76 win over Seton Hall on Sunday. The senior guard had a bout with a stomach bug that made him less than 100 percent. An under-the-weather Falls shot just 1-for-7 in the contest. Brey expects him to be in better shape on Wednesday night at Villanova.

"He was better yesterday at practice," Brey said about Falls. "I would say closer to 100 percent today. I would hope by when he wakes up tomorrow morning it's through his system. It really knocked him back and the timing couldn't have been worse. In hindsight, we probably shouldn't have dressed him but he wanted to try it."

For the season, Falls is averaging 12 points per game and has a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ration.

*Luke Harangody earned his first start of the year against the Seton Hall. The 6-8, 250-pound freshman scored 12 points and pulled down five rebounds. Harangody has been the best freshman on the Notre Dame roster, averaging 12 PPG and five rebounds a contest for the season.

Sophomore Luke Zeller had been starting with Harangody being the first man off the bench to replace him. Each brings something a little different to the rotation. Zeller, playing 15 minutes a game, is 6-11 but does his damage from the perimeter. Harangody, averaging 18 minutes a contest, is a big, physical presence that can bang down low. Brey is sticking with the freshman for the Villanova game but expects Zeller to see ample time on the court.

"We're staying with the same lineup," Brey said. "We want to get him more comfortable. This is more of a game for (Luke) Zeller with their size. There is a (Will) Sheridan, a (Casiem) Drummond and the big bodies that come in. All four have to be ready."

*The Big East looks a little different than last season. In 2005-06, the conference was one of the best in the nation. In last year's NCAA Tournament, both Connecticut and Villanova earned number one seeds while a total of eight teams made the Big Dance.

Now, with a flood of talent currently playing in the National Basketball Association, the picture has been changed. The Big East is rated the seventh best conference in the country by the RPI. Notre Dame, picked 11th in the pre-season, is second the league to No. 6 Pittsburgh (4-0). As for Villanova and Connecticut, they're a combined 3-5 to start conference play.

"I said it on Media Day," Brey said. "When you lose 18 of the 22 guys on the All-Big East teams, it kind of tells you that a lot of good players left this league. We realistically felt that if you were picked 11th, that the door was open to make a move. It wasn't a pipe dream to talk about that. The landscape drastically changed from one year to another with so many good players leaving."

*The Irish catch a bad break on Wednesday. Instead of playing at the Wachovia Center, the cavernous home of the Philadelphia 76ers, Notre Dame will battle Villanova at the Pavilion, the home campus arena for the Wildcats. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night. It's much smaller than the Wachovia Center and gives Villanova (12-5, 1-3), a team in desperate need of a Big East victory, a better home court advantage.

"I would like to be downtown (at Wachovia)," Brey said. "We won one there. I think downtown, the Notre Dame family from the Philadelphia area can trickle in there a little easier. I've played in this building before and it's certainly a great home court for them. Their students are back now. It's a different atmosphere than when DePaul went in there and won. But this is good for us. For this group, I like the challenge of playing in the Pavilion." Top Stories