Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey has used eight different starting lineups. Jerian Grant and Scott Martin are the only players on the roster to have started 12 games this season. The dangerous thing about the Irish is that they are solid at point guard with Eric Atkins, and solid at center with Jack Cooley. What they do at the 2, 3 and 4 spots is anyone's guess. Then again, the same can be said for Pitt.
1 - Eric Atkins vs. Travon Woodall or Ashton Gibbs
Atkins is a true, scoring point guard. He's not afraid to distribute the ball. Already twice this season, he's finished with nine assists in a game. Everything Notre Dame does goes through him, and he doesn't hesitate to drive to the basket. He's reached double-figures in 8 of his 11 of his starts this season. He missed two starts earlier in the season due to an illness.
Pitt is up in the air. Getting Woodall back would be in their best interest here. Since Atkins is a distributor—like Woodall—Pitt stands a better chance on defending Atkins. Gibbs' defense was not great in a loss to Wagner on Friday.
2 – Jerian Grant or Alex Dragicevich vs. Cameron Wright or Lamar Patterson or Ashton Gibbs
Dragicevich is that typical Mike Brey guard—a taller guard who can get hot from three-point range at any given moment. Already this season, Dragicevich has had three three-pointers in a game on three separate occasions. Dragicevich is coming off a career-high five rebounds against Sacred Heart last Monday.
Grant, if he's at the two, does some different things. He's appeared in all 13 games this season, with 12 starts. Of those 12 starts, he's hit double-figures in 10 of those games. He's not the three-point threat that Dragicevich is. He did convert 3-of-4 three-pointers in his last game, so he's able to do it. He can distribute the ball when needed, but that's the primary responsibility of Atkins. Grant is something between Atkins and Dragicevich in terms of those abilities, but may be the best athlete of the three.
Brey has had some success against Dixon in years past, with perimeter shooting being one of the keys. If Dragicevich moves up to play the two, Cameron Wright could get the call. Wright has started the last six games, averaging 18.2 minutes during that stretch. Wright has kept himself in the lineup for his defensive play. He's averaged 3.7 points a game in his six starts, but is Pitt's best possibility on defense. He could also draw Grant because of his athleticism. Patterson or Moore are also capable of defending Grant, which may leave Wright starting at the two.
3 - Joey Brooks or Alex Dragicevich vs. Cameron Wright or Lamar Patterson or J.J. Moore
Brooks has started, but has not started in the last three games. However, during that three-game stretch, he's scored in double-figures twice. It's a question of if Brey feels comfortable letting Brooks back in the starting lineup. Dragicevich or even Grant can match up here, depending on who Pitt rolls out.
4 – Scott Martin vs. Nasir Robinson
The 6-8, 222-pound Martin is a transfer from Purdue. He could also play the three, but will likely play the four against Nasir Robinson in hopes of gaining a size advantage. Even if Brey goes that direction, he can expect Martin to get four or five rebounds. Typicallly, that's what Notre Dame has done inside this season—let Jack Cooley get all the rebounds, and count on the rest of the lineup to add three or four more apiece.
5 – Jack Cooley vs. Dante Taylor
Dante Taylor gets to start off Big East season with his toughest test of the 2011-12 season so far. Cooley is as tough physically, and dominant on the boards as anyone Pitt will see this season. He's tougher than anyone Pitt has seen to this point. The 6-9, 245-pound Cooley is averaging 7.7 points a game.
Since nine different players have started games this year for the Irish, you can say they've got an experienced bench. Mike Broghammer is the one bench player who has not started a game this season. He gets eight minutes a game in 13 games played this year.
Based on the number of things Brey can and will do with the 2, 3 and 4 spots, Notre Dame may have the edge in bench points. Pitt should also see Tom Knight (4.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg), Pat Connaughton (7.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
Pitt is just as guilty in this game. If Woodall is still not able to go, Pitt could have J.J. Moore coming off the bench. Then again, Moore could start at the three if Patterson goes to the two. In that case, Cameron Wright could start at the two or three. In that sense, Moore and Wright have been two of Pitt's best bench players this year. Talib Zanna has also been adding valuable minutes over the last three games.
One thing that we'll be looking for, is to see if Jamie Dixon goes to his bench as often as he did in the non-conference schedule. With Pitt now entering Big East play, Dixon could trim those numbers to seven or eight players. With everything else, though, getting Woodall back would help in this area too.