Chris from Rakes of Mallow and I hate each other. HATE. So in order to have as little communication as possible, we elected to shelve the usual Q&A and simply send each other five things to know about our respective teams.
Here's his awful contribution...please mock it:
1) You're probably going to see the burn offense: While Notre Dame was playing at a relatively slow place all season, Mike Brey unsheathed the burn offense against Pitt in a cover-your-eyes-ugly 48 possession game. Jamie Dixon's squad is great to run this offense against (it's now worked three straight games against them) because they never really start pressing. Against Louisville, who actually pushes the tempo, Brey might loosen the reins. Much like the Cardinals, the Irish are easily capable of playing a lineup with four proficient three-point shooters and four or five ball-handlers. I think the advantage would be to play it slow and try to work in post-ups for Ben Hansbrough and whoever is guarded by your other guard, as there should be a size advantage. If the game starts getting played at a hectic pace, that's almost certainly in the Cardinal favor.
2) You'll meet Scott Martin and Eric Atkins: Due to Notre Dame having such a short rotation and playing a lot of old guys, you'll have met all but two the likely contributors. First is Scott Martin, a transfer from Purdue who hadn't played basketball in two years because after sitting out a year due to transfer, he promptly blew out his knee. (He played his high school ball with Robbie Hummel, so I assume there was something in the water.) Brey called him the best offensive player he'd ever coached, which is ridiculous, but Martin has slowly been knocking the rust off. He's been hitting his threes at a better clip and has a nice pull-up game within ten feet. Despite being pretty white even by Notre Dame standards, he's not particularly adept at the free throw line, hitting only 67%.
The other new contributor is freshman Eric Atkins, who has done a really nice job as back-up point guard. He often plays with Hansbrough, letting the senior slide over to the two. Atkins has been very steady, compiling an almost 3:1 assist to turnover ratio while shooting 38% from three.
3) The bench is not very deep, especially up front: If Louisville had a goal for the game early on, it would be to get Ty Nash in trouble. He's great at getting to the free throw line and passing out of the post, so he lets the offense flow inside-out as opposed to surviving solely on drive and kick. He will do stupid stuff on defense and get in foul trouble, which means his replacement is Jack Cooley, the Harangody doppelganger that got his first significant time against you gentlemen last year. Cooley is just a load down low and very different player from Nash. Having a lot of tall swingmen helps out because they can slide down to the four, but as far as true, burly big men go, we don't have many. If Pitino can get this game going up and down and start drawing fouls on the Irish at a high clip, home court advantage is going to be negated rather quickly.
4) Ben Hansbrough has been great, but he might not even be Team MVP: This is not meant as a slight to Ben Hansbrough, who has been absolutely fantastic this season in stating his case for Big East Player of the Year, averaging 17 points, 4 assists and 4 boards while shooting 41% from three. But then there is Carleton Scott, the best athlete on the team and the guy who happened to be injured for the second half of Syracuse and the road games at Marquette and St. Johns, the five worst halves of basketball the Irish played. Scott is a 6'7" forward who can really do a little bit of everything. He's had games this season where he went five-for-six from three and games where he had three or four blocks. I'm developed a weird fascination with his arms, which just seem so much stronger and better than normal people arms. He's a really fun player to watch, and one of the few guys on the Irish squad who can out-athlete the opposition. With Tim Abromaitis going through some prolonged slumps, it's great to have two talents like Scott and Hansbrough guiding the team.
5) I am waiting for this fun ride to end: This has been a really, really fun Notre Dame season so far. They won the Old Spice Classic with a late rally against Wisconsin. They torched Gonzaga at home (when we thought Gonzaga was good). They knocked off Georgetown, survived UConn without Scott and then won their first road game of the season in style, taking out Pitt in Oakland. This is a pretty experienced team that's good at getting to the line, not letting the other team get to the line and passing the ball (one of the best assists to field goals made ratios in the country). But this is a team that hasn't been to the Sweet Sixteen since 2003, and won a grand total of one tournament game following that loss. On top of that, they have never been to a Big East tournament title game. These are goals that seem attainable, but I'm just waiting for the collapse to happen, and that could start as early as tonight against the Cards.