SCOUTING THE FIGHTING IRISH
Notre Dame has a marquee weapon in Luke Harangody (6-8, 246 lbs.), back for his senior season. The forward has had much success against West Virginia, being held under 20 points just one time in four contests. Harangody averages 25 points and 10 rebounds and has already amassed 400 points this season. He is shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, and has made 30 percent of his 49 three-pointers and 79 percent of his free throws. There isn't a glaring weakness to his game, though he isn't quick and doesn't make the most fluid of moves. His interior block skills are exceptional, and WVU's length isn't likely to bother him much. This might be the most difficult match-up in the Big East, though Harangody – who plays an average of 34 minutes – isn't tall or extremely lengthy. WVU will need to use skill and finesse here, because it doesn't have a player who can match the All-Big East first-teamer's strength and grit. The long arms of Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones will be needed. Fellow forward Tyrone Nash (6-8, 232 lbs.) hits for 7.8 points and 5.7 boards per game, and is actually shooting a higher percentage than Harangody. The junior out of Queens has yet to take a three, and his isn't a true scorer's mentality. He rebounds well on both ends, though, and is the ultimate screen setter and interior defender. Nash isn't overly talented, but he works for the entire time he is on the floor.
Guards Ben Hansbrough (6-3, 206 lbs.) and Tory Jackson (5-11, 195 lbs.) are seniors and give the Irish among the most experienced duos in the nation. Hansbrough, the shooting guard, is a Mississippi State transfer who played 13 minutes against West Virginia in the 2007 NIT semifinals as a freshman. The brother of former UNC great Tyler, Hansbrough averages 12 points and three rebounds and is an excellent shooter. He has made 31 of 65 three-pointers (47.7 percent) as part of almost a 50 percent rate from the floor. He doesn't create his own shot well, but will spot up from anywhere on the floor. Hansbrough is also showcases good ball security and unselfishness, with 79 assists against 24 turnovers. Jackson, 8.4 points, three rebounds per game, is more of a drive-and-dish style of player. He shots 37.8 percent from the field and worse than that from three, and his eight points per game aren't a major concern. He will get the ball to Hansbrough and Harangody in advantageous positions, however, and head coach Mike Brey has rewarded that and a four-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio (83:21) by leaving Jackson on the floor for almost 35 minutes per game. Truck Bryant should be able to handle jackson's scoring, but he will need to limit his ability to get into the lane and pass, or his drive-and-dump to the low block when another defender is forced to stop penetration. Jackson starts the offense almost every possession, and with his talents, heaqd coach Bob Huggins could decide to go with the bigger line-up to force him outside and negate some interior passes or kick-outs. A zone defense in that set might open more looks for Hansbrough, though, and a man set might mean switching every screen again, which Purdue capitalized on for desired match-ups the last time WVU traveled to the state of Indiana. Watch how the Mountaineers choose to defend Jackson and what line-up they utilize because those will be clues to whether WVU plans to concentrate on limiting Hansbrough or Harangody by allowing Jackson to do only certain things.
|Sat. Jan. 9
8:00 p.m. EST
WVU 12-1, 3-0 Big East
ND 13-3, 2-1 Big East
|Sirius Channel: 159|
WVU - 1
ND - 66
West Virginia has struggled in the Joyce Center, losing nine straight. But that was often because Notre Dame had better talent or West Virginia lost focus. This Mountaineer team is better in most facets than its foe and it has the ability to exceed Notre Dame's length and challenge Harangody inside. WVU simply needs to play its game and continue to crash the offensive glass, get the ball to Butler, Jones and Ebanks and add a dash of scoring from Bryant and Casey Mitchell. West Virginia will likely need to hit a few threes to open some interior offensive chances. The most important aspect will be rebounding and turnovers. The Mountaineers cannot afford to give the ball away or be in too much of a deficit in overall turnovers because of the care Notre Dame has for the ball. The Irish, even with WVU's length and skill, are not likely to have many TOs and even less likely to become rattled because of venue and experience. This is a much tougher test than Rutgers or Seton Hall, and it seems Notre Dame matches up well here because of its bulk, length and experienced guard play. West Virginia has more talent, but it's also more raw. Rebound and take care of the ball and there's a solid shot. Don't, and it could again be tough to get out of the Hoosier State with a win.
ND: G Scott Martin (Knee) – Out for Season.
West Virginia has won 27 games in a row when scoring 70-plus points – but has lost 10 of 24 series games against Notre Dame when scoring 70 or more. The Mountaineers have not won at South Bend since 1996, dropping nine straight.
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Da'Sean Butler is tied with P.G. Greene at 10th on the all-time WVU scoring list. Both players have 1,655 career points.
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Head coach Bob Huggins has already amassed the ninth-most WVU wins of any coach in school history with 61. By the end of this season, it's feasible Huggins could rank in the top seven of the 21 Mountaineer coaches.
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Notre Dame is in the midst of playing three of four and five of eight games on the road after starting the season with 12 of its first 14 contests at home. The Irish have played just two true road games this year, losing to Connecticut and beating USF by a point.
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And finally, a good one from WVU SID Bryan Messerly that was included in John Antonik's Joyce Center: House of Horrors article: Since 2008, West Virginia has played 24 games against nationally ranked teams, sixth most in the country. Ohio State (30) has played the most ranked opponents.