A Notre Dame victory will secure the #3 seed in the Big East Tournament next week and strengthen its standing in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Don't expect it to be easy. The Bulls have players who can keep the game interesting.
Senior center Kentrell Gransberry, who will almost certainly be on the All Big East first team, is USF's leader. The 6'9", 270lb. center is the conference's #6 scorer, 17.1 points per game, and #2 rebounder, 10.8 per game. Gransberry will complete his career surpassing Derrick Coleman of Syracuse as the #2 rebounder in Big East history behind #1 Michael Smith of Providence.
6'4" freshman guard Dominique Jones, the conference's #3 scorer, is averaging 18.1 points per game. Jones, a candidate for Big East Rookie of the Year, has scored 30 or more points three times this season, and he has scored 29 on two other occasions.
USF has struggled defensively, 11th in field goal percentage defense and 10th in three point percentage defense. Expect the Bulls to play like St. John's did on Wednesday – use the clock on offense, overplay the three point shooters, double team Luke Harangody, and hope to be close at the end of the game. Notre Dame countered St. John's by having Tory Jackson and Zach Hillesland drive to the basket, draw defenders, and dish to open shooters. Jackson had 8 assists, and Hillesland added 6. Look for more of the same vs. USF.
Luke Harangody vs. Kentrell Gransberry – These are two of the strongest, toughest post scorers in the Big East. The game may not televised, but ESPN would do well to keep this match-up in a viewing window during the mid-major conference tournament games Saturday evening.
Zach Hillesland/Ryan Ayers vs. Dominique Jones – USF plays three guards most of the time, so Hillesland and Ayers are likely to be assigned to the high scoring freshman. If their size advantage hinders Jones' scoring, USF will be hard pressed to replace the points elsewhere.
Stat of the Game
Notre Dame leads the nation in assists, 19.1 per game for the season. It leads the Big East with 18.2 in conference games. The Irish are 4th in the nation in assist/turnover ratio. When they take care of the ball, they win.
The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-6/13-4) vs. the University of South Florida Bulls (12-18/3-14)
Saturday, March 8th, 2008, 7:00PM EST
The Sun Dome, Tampa, FL
Television - ESPN360. Check with your Internet Service Provider to see if you have access.
Radio - WNDV "U93", 92.9 FM in South Bend; WLS, 890 AM in Chicago, ESPN Radio "XL950", 950 AM in Indianapolis, and other outlets throughout the USA. Sirius Channel 159.
Internet Radio Links - http://und.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/nd-m-baskbl-body.html and http://www.xl950.com/