A great deal has transpired since the Mountaineers and Irish met in the first game of the Big East season. Both teams have lost key players, and both battled for bubble spots to the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame's chances are still alive, so they figure to give the Mountaineers their best effort in the Garden on Wednesday evening.
Chris Thomas remains Notre Dame's leading scorer, but the Mountaineers can't afford to ignore any of the starters that the Irish put on the floor. Most of Notre Dame's roster shoots the ball well, and players that don't have stellar shooting averages (like Thomas) are scorers who manage to put up points in spite of their sub-par percentages.
The Irish have changed their style a bit since the loss of Torin Francis, and are spreading the floor a bit more to start their offense. That has allowed them to utilize their big men away from the basket more than they did with Francis in the lineup, and overall it may have helped the Notre Dame offense flow a bit more freely.
This is almost strictly a West Virginia defense vs. Notre Dame offense matchup. Whether it's Durisseau-Collins or Herber, WVU must account for Quinn's location at all times.
|Wed 3/10 7:00 p.m.|
WVU 15-12, 7-9
ND 16-11, 9-7
WVU - 93
ND - 47
WHile WVU's chances won't be good if they allow Thomas to get into the lane, or Jordan Cornette and Torrian Jones to get the ball in the lane, their chances figure to be even less if Quinn is left to shoot with impunity from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers must not allow Quinn open looks at the basket if they hope to record their first Big East tournament win since 1997.
Whether it's Joe Herber checking Quinn in a man to man, or Durisseau-Collins flying out to cover him from the baseline of the 1-3-1, WVU's perimeter defenders will be charged with keeping his open shots to a minimum. And while that might lead to more shot opportunities for Thomas and company, it figures to be the lesser of two evils.
ND: Torin Francis (Back) Out
West Virginia's win over Miami has the potential to exorcise a few doubts from the minds of the Mountaineers, but stepping onto the floor of the Garden is another mental hurdle that WVU will have to overcome. West Virginia hasn't played well on the stage-like atmosphere at the corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street, a factor that could weight on the minds of the team.
WVU simply must get off to a good early start if they are to stay in this game. With the crowd expected to be solidly pro-Notre Dame, the contest will seem more like a road game for those dressed in the more appealing shades of gold and blue. West Virginia obviously doesn't play well from behind, and an erlay double digit deficit will likely result in another early exit from the Big Apple.
Notre Dame may have a bit of an edge, in that they played in the Garden less than a week ago, defeating St. John's by the score of 89-62.
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This is the first evening game the Mountaineers have ever played in the Big East tournament.
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The Irish have shot 113 more free throws than their opponents this year.
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WVU has never beaten Mike Brey at Notre Dame, and haven't beaten the Irish since 1996.