Two to TangoSomething went awry if the Irish steal two of these contests and still don't make the Big Dance. Notre Dame will likely rank as an underdog in each of the three matchups, regardless of its record entering the games.
Connecticut – March 3 (Senior Day):
- The Situation: The final home game for seniors Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson, and Jonathan Peoples. Notre Dame will have returned home after a trip to Georgetown while UConn hits South Bend on two days rest after a home battle against Louisville.
- Pitfalls: UConn is a better basketball program and team, with more talent and a Hall of Fame coach. So there's that…
- Truth: A winnable game (and my pick to click of the category) if the Irish are in the running for a bid as the locals tend to be at their rowdy best when the Huskies' jerseys enter the arena. There's an outside chance Harangody can break the school scoring record in his final home game (needs to average just under 25 points per game entering the contest).
at Louisville – February 17:
- The Situation: Speaking of teams you'd like to face earlier in the season…Louisville will enter the contest on just two days rest after a two-game trip to New York to face St. John's and Syracuse. The Irish likewise will play after two days off and the matchup represents the beginning of the toughest five-game stretch of the season for the South Bend Seven (@Louisville, Pitt, @Georgetown, UConn, @Marquette).
- Pitfalls: The Cardinals and their fans likely remember the sting of last year's 33-point annihilation of then-No. 7 Louisville at the Joyce Center. ND hasn't won in the state of Kentucky since 1980 (a 67-61 win over the then No. 1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats). The Irish have lost 13 straight in the Bluegrass State, not defeating Louisville on its home floor since 1958.
- Truth: Notre Dame is 2-10 vs. the Cardinals' program since 1987.
at Georgetown – February 27:
- The Situation: A home sandwich game for the Hoyas who face Louisville on the road four days prior and will travel to Morgantown on one day rest after facing the Irish. Notre Dame will have faced Pittsburgh in South Bend three days prior.
- Pitfalls: Georgetown is my pre-conference pick to rank as the Big East's most improved team by season's end; ND has lost six of its last eight vs. the Hoyas and has not won in D.C. since 2003. Sophomore C Greg Monroe is a future lottery pick.
- Truth: The Hoyas have defended Notre Dame's perimeter offense well over the last 4-5 years and have hammered the Irish in back-to-back trips to D.C. A tough matchup for the Irish but the Hibbert/Green/Wallace Hoyas were a much tougher group than this current offering.
Flying HighWins vs. any of these four 2010 powers (all currently in the Associated Press top 10) would be a cause for celebration and place the Irish back on the right side of the NCAA bubble.
at Connecticut – January 2:
- The Situation: Notre Dame's first true road game of the season (nice schedule) and the visitors will face UConn after two days of rest following Wednesday's home opener vs. Providence. The Huskies have identical time between Big East games 1-2 but have played against national heavyweights Duke and Kentucky in preparation for the conference slate.
- Pitfalls: Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker will challenge the Irish frontcourt and a trio of 6'9" skilled big men will give Harangody and Co. everything they can handle up front.
- Truth: The Irish have lost six consecutive vs. the Huskies in Connecticut (Mike Brey is 0-6 at UConn as the Notre Dame head coach) though the visitors have hung tough in each of the last three losses. Brey is 3-12 vs. UConn in his nine seasons at the helm.
West Virginia – January 9:
- The Situation: Notre Dame will return home after consecutive road contests while the Mountaineers will be on short (two-day) rest after a home game vs. Rutgers. West Virginia will have faced four consecutive quality opponents entering the contest, one of those matchups an out-of-conference game vs. current No. 4 Purdue.
- Pitfalls: Length, aggressive man-to-man defense…did we mention length? The Mountaineers shrink the court with long-armed athletes and a trio of potential conference all stars in the front court.
- Truth: The Irish will stay close in what should be the Purcell Pavilion's loudest crowd to date…but beating West Virginia is a tall task for the Irish as the Mountaineers have a distinct advantage on both sides of the court in a possession-for-possession conclusion.
Syracuse – January 18:
- The Situation: The game marks the third consecutive on the road for the talented Orange, with just one day of rest between a trip to Morgantown and this matchup vs. the Irish. Notre Dame enters the contest with one day off as well, traveling home for the Big Monday matchup on ESPN after a puddle-jumper trip to Cincinnati.
- Pitfalls: Syracuse is currently undefeated and boasts the conference's top newcomer in JuCo transfer Wesley Johnson and a veteran front line tandem of Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku. Freshman guard Brandon Triche has starred early.
- Truth: Syracuse snapped a three-game losing skid at the hands of the Irish last January in the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim is 5-2 vs. Mike Brey in South Bend. At first blush, the game appears more winnable than others in this category.
at Villanova – January 27:
- The Situation: The Wednesday night ESPN tussle follows three days of rest of the Irish after a home weekend game vs. DePaul. Villanova returns home after a two-game road trip at Rutgers and St. John's.
- Pitfalls: The guard quartet of Scottie Reynolds, Cory Fisher, Corey Stokes, and defensive stopper Reggie Redding. Villanova's pick-and-roll attack picked apart Notre Dame's horrid man-to-man defense at the Joyce Center last year.
- Truth: The Wildcats are still one of the nation's most talented teams, but graduated senior forward Dante Cunningham will be missed. ND has a chance if it hits its shots vs. the Wildcats.