Notre Dame has won 20 straight games at the Joyce Center, including a perfect slate last season. Eighteen games in South Bend last year ended in 18 wins. Another strong home performance in 2007-08 should do the Irish well for any hopes of a repeat trip to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Mike Brey led his group to the Big Dance last season but Notre Dame was upset in the first-round by Winthrop to end the year 24-8.
From that team, the Irish must replace their two top scorers. Russell Carter and Colin Falls combined to average 32 points a game. Carter will be missed because of his athleticism and ability to create his shot, either on the perimeter or driving to the hoop. Falls was a dead eye from three-point range and got better as his senior season went on. Falls was also one of the leaders of the team and the leadership void must be filled.
One of those players that'll be counted on for that is Rob Kurz, who is going on his second season as a captain. The senior forward is the lone captain on the team but Kurz's steadiness and production should be a common denominator for Notre Dame. Last year, Kurz averaged 12 PPG and pulled down eight rebounds a contest. Joining Kurz down low is Luke Harangody, who slimmed down in the off-season. As a freshman, Harangody averaged 11 PPG and these two big men should provide a good one-two punch in the paint.
On the perimeter, it'll all be about the combination of Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney. Jackson took over the point guard position after McAlarney's dismissal from school for his arrest for marijuana possession. Jackson shined and improved each and every game, including a stellar effort in the Big East Tournament semifinal loss to Georgetown where he was trading baskets with the Hoyas' Jeff Green. McAlarney is the Irish's best three-point shooter and should be one of the team's better scorers.
As for the opponent on Monday, Long Island went 10-19 in 2006-07. The Blackbirds won just one non-conference contest away from home. In a 103-60 exhibition victory over Queens College last week, freshman Kyle Johnson scored 28 points off the bench while Eugene Kotorabai added 20 points. Long Island shot 9-of-16 from three-point range, including Kotorabai's 6-of-8 performance from behind the arc.