Louisville Cardinals (11-5, 6-4) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-11, 6-8)
Game Time: 7:01 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 4.5
Officials: Bill Covington Jr., Mike Stephens, Keith Kimble
Series: Louisville leads, 25-15
Last Meeting: Louisville won 67-64 on Jan. 11, 2020 in South Bend
Possible Starting Lineups:
About Notre Dame:
After appearing in the NCAA tournament in every year but one from 2010-17, Mike Brey and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are now staring down a fourth straight March spent at home. The Irish played an extremely difficult (albeit brief) non-conference schedule that saw them take losses to Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State, and then got off to an 0-5 start in ACC play.
Since then, however, Notre Dame has looked more like its mid-2000s self. They’ve gone 6-3 in league play since that woeful beginning, a run which has included wins over Duke and Pitt, and narrow losses to Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
Stylistically, Notre Dame will look familiar to Louisville fans who have been watching Brey’s Irish since U of L joined the Big East in 2005. They don’t foul (No. 1 in the nation in fewest fouls per game), they don’t turn the ball over (No. 8 nationally in fewest turnovers per game and No. 10 in assist/turnover ratio), and they have shooters all over the floor (No. 24 nationally in three-point percentage).
Offense has never been Notre Dame’s issue this season. The Irish enter Tuesday night ranked 15th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, and are the only team in the ACC that has all five of its starters averaging double figures in scoring. They rank in the top 48 nationally in shooting from beyond the arc, inside the arc and at the free-throw line, and they never beat themselves with turnovers (although they have struggled recently with backcourt traps ... something Louisville doesn’t do) or unnecessary fouls.
Where Brey’s team has really struggled this season has been defensively and on the glass. Notre Dame currently sits at No. 149 in D-I in adjusted defensive efficiency. They force fewer turnovers than all but 10 teams in the country, they’re 283rd in three-point defense, 327th in offensive rebound rate, and 283rd in overall rebounds per game.
Basically, the Irish still have the competent guards and the light ‘em up from the outside wings, but there are no Bonzie Colsons or Luke Harangodys or Jack Cooleys to do all the dirty work inside that once made Notre Dame so complete.
As far as individuals on this team, the guy you have to circle is junior forward Nate Laszewski. The 6’10 Laszewski is the only player in the nation shooting over 60.0 percent from the field and above 50.0 from three-point range while averaging over 7.0 rebounds per game. His 75.3 effective field goal percentage is the best of any player in the country. He’s not going to go off for 35 on a given night because he has so many weapons around him, but if you let him pick and choose his spots, he’s going to finish with around 20 points without having to take more than nine or 10 shots.
Another veteran, junior point guard Prentiss Hubb, is the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.7 ppg and leader in assists at 6.2 ppg. The lefty controls the offense for Notre Dame and has the ball in his hands far more than any other player. He’s currently one of just two active major conference players to have over 400 career assists and 160 three-point field goals, joining Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon who is in his fifth year of competition. Hubb has had 10 assists in three of Notre Dame’s last five games. He’s a tremendous passer, but he also can be just a bit turnover prone against bigger and more athletic guards. Again, though, Louisville’s lack of ball pressure figures to make this mostly a non-issue.
The Irish’s primary inside presence is 6’11 senior Juwan Durham (10.2 ppg). Durham has a slight build (he looks a lot like Malik Williams), but uses his craftiness and athleticism around the rim to be one of the nation’s leaders in field goal percentage. He’s shooting 66.0 percent from the floor in ACC games, the best mark of any player in the conference.
Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz are all 6’5 (ish) guards who can really shoot it and kill you on any given night if you allow them to. All have their issues defensively, but Wertz (a Santa Clara transfer) probably gives the Irish the most on that end of the floor.
The path to success for Louisville tonight is simple to explain but far more difficult to execute: Their guards (even if one very important guard is out for U of L) have to consistently whip Notre Dame’s off the bounce and then make smart plays once they’ve gained that advantage, some guys are going to have to knock down open outside shots, the perimeter defense is going to have to be way better than it was Saturday night, and the Cardinal frontcourt needs to dominate the glass and create a ton of second chance opportunities.
You’ll never catch me using the term “must win” for a game that doesn’t literally fit the description, but having said that, it’s hard to see much going well for Louisville in the weeks to come if tonight goes poorly.
—Louisville has a 60-17 record in its conference home games over the last nine years (.773).
—Nine of the last 23 games in this series have been decided in overtime. Four of those nine games have included multiple overtimes.
—From 1994 through 2013 Notre Dame and Louisville met 13 times and seven of those contests went to overtime. Louisville won four of those seven contests, but the Irish claimed three of the last four, including the epic 104-101 five overtime victory in Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 8, 2013.
—Louisville currently owns a five-game winning streak in this series. The Cards haven’t lost to Notre Dame since a road setback on Jan. 4, 2017.
—Louisville ranks third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.417), fourth in scoring defense (66.4 ppg) and second in three-point field goal defense (.315).
—Notre Dame commits 11.9 fouls per game, the fewest of any team in Division-I.
—Notre Dame is the only team in the nation with two players shooting over 60.0 percent from the field with at least 125 field goal attempts this season – Nate Laszewski (64.8 percent) and Juwan Durham (60.3 percent).
—Louisville assistant coach Mike Pegues played for Notre Dame coach Mike Brey at Delaware (1996- 2000). Pegues scored 2,030 career points during his time with the Blue Hens.
—Notre Dame’s Juwan Durham is shooting 66.0 percent from the field in ACC games, the highest percentage of any player in the league.
—Louisville will provide a tribute to its 1986 NCAA Championship team at halftime of Tuesday’s game on the 35th anniversary year of their achievement with a halftime video including interviews with team members. The team will gather for a reunion after the pandemic has passed.
—Notre Dame is 4-7 in true road games this season.
—All five Notre Dames average double figures in scoring.
—Louisville is 8-1 at home this season with a lone loss to No. 11 Florida State. The Cards will be playing at the KFC Yum Center for the first time in 22 days.
—Carlik Jones is one of just two players in the ACC to rank among the top 10 in each of scoring (17.1 ppg, 3rd in the ACC), assists (4.5 apg, 3rd), steals (1.5, 7th), assists/turnovers ratio (1.94, 5th) and free throw percentage (.840, 4th).
—Chris Mack is 4-0 as a head coach against Notre Dame, including 3-0 as Louisville’s head coach. Mack’s Xavier team defeated Notre Dame in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament.
—Notre Dame ranks eighth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.3), 10th in assists/turnovers ratio (1.51), 24th in three-point field goal percentage (.381) and 25th in free throw percentage (.771).
—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
—Louisville is 26-1 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 8-1 this season. The lone loss came at Miami.
—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 72, Notre Dame 69