Next Up: Cincinnati

The writing is on the wall for the Notre Dame men's basketball team. The Irish have four contests left in the regular season, two at home and two on the road. At 19-6 overall and 7-5 in the Big East, a strong finish will wrap up a NCAA Tournament bid. To achieve this goal, they'll have to win in some environments where the going has been tough this season.

Notre Dame has one true road win on the year. They'll look for number two on Sunday when they travel to Cincinnati. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 PM and ESPNU will have the television broadcast. The Irish will look to continue the momentum of Thursday's hard-fought 81-78 victory over Providence in South Bend. Russell Carter scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half while Zach Hillesland chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds.

Notre Dame sits at 7-5 in conference play, which is good for fifth-place in the league. The top four seeds receive a bye in the Big East Tournament. The Irish are a game back of Louisville and Marquette for the fourth spot. Notre Dame has the tiebreaker over the Cardinals because of a win against them in the conference opener. The Irish play the Golden Eagles next Saturday at the Joyce Center. If they want the bye, it's in their hands.

The Irish are led in scoring by Carter. The senior guard is second in the Big East in this category at 17.7 PPG. He'll need to lead Notre Dame on the offensive end, just like he did in the second half against the Friars. Carter has struggled a bit shooting the ball on the road as of late. In the last three contests away from the Joyce Center, he's shot 14-of-41 from the field. The Irish lead the league is scoring at 81 PPG and a high-scoring affair should favor them on Sunday against Cincinnati.

Why is this true? Because the Bearcats have trouble scoring the basketball. They are third to last in the Big East in scoring offense and second to last in both field goal percentage and three-point shooting. It's been a season to forget for Cincinnati. The Bearcats are 10-15 overall and 1-10 in conference play, which is at the bottom of the Big East standings. Since a 96-83 win over West Virginia back on January 20th, they've lost seven in a row. Cincinnati has been competitive in some of the losses. They held the lead on the road at Syracuse and at Providence with under two minutes remaining but could not make the plays at the end to pull off the upset.

It's a young group. The Bearcats have only one senior playing 10 minutes or more a contest. They're led in scoring by freshman Deonta Vaughn. The 6-1 guard averages 13.9 PPG. Vaughn has hit double figures in nine of the past 10 games and his high this season was 33 in a loss to Wofford. Cincinnati is also not that tall. Their best big man is 6-6 John Williamson. The junior forward averages 12 PPG and pulls down seven rebounds a contest. Marcus Sikes stands at 6-8 and chips in 10 PPG but Notre Dame's Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody could take advantage down low.

Another area where the Irish might exploit the Bearcats is on the perimeter. Cincinnati is third from the bottom in defending the three-point shot. Conversely, Notre Dame has made the second most three-pointers in the Big East. The Irish have the advantage on paper and a team with visions of joining the Big Dance in March should be able to beat a team with a 1-10 conference mark. But nothing is for certain on the road for Notre Dame.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories