Continuing the series of Q&A posts that we started not so long ago, I reached out to Dan Muphy of Leprechaun Legion to help me out with a few questions on Notre Dame hoops. Dan gave me some great answers, which you can find below.
You can read my answers to his questions at the end of his post, "Getting to Know Villanova."
Without further introduction, the questions:
1) Have you heard of the Ewing Theory (where a team plays better after losing their best player) and do you think that explains Notre Dame's success this season without Luke Harangody?
I'm certainly a firm believer in the Ewing Theory. Harangody was a great player, but almost too good. The four other guys on the court (with perhaps the exception of former PG Tory Jackson) counted on Luke to make the big play and when he couldn't get it done, no one else was going to. At the end last year, Harangody missed about a half dozen games due to injury and Notre Dame busted out of a slump with a 6-game tear that pretty much put them in the tournament. Without the Harangody crutch to lean on, the whole team started playing better.
That being said, last year's team minus Harangody would not be able to compete with this year's team. The Irish start five seniors and that experience is probably the biggest factor for their turnaround. Hansbrough has really matured and took over the leadership role. They also picked up two key pieces in Scott Martin who missed last season due to injury and freshman PG Eric Atkins who are both major pieces to the puzzle.
2) Notre Dame always seems to have a potent offense, and this year seems no different with four starters averaging 10 or more points and a great season from Ben Hansbrough. Nova has had difficulty on offense recently. How do the Domers do it?
Like any good Irishmen, they rip a lot of shots. Mike Brey has always loved to recruit outside shooters and he normally gets some pretty decent ones. Prior to the end of last season, they also didn't play much defense. Those extra possessions and energy focused on the offensive side probably helped the stats pile up.
3) Given the departure of 'Gody, what were your expectations coming into this season, and how have they changed? How far do you see the Irish going in March?
If there is one ting I've learned as a Notre Dame fan in the past five years, it is whatever you expect this team to do, they will do the opposite. I remember talking to [Mike] Brey at Big East Media Day and he said the team's goal was to get into the tourney, which mean finishing in the top half of the Big East. Even the head coach didn't see this coming.
Due to that expect-the-unexpected rules of Irish basketball, I am always nervous to get my hopes up. But it seems like this team finally has figured out how to win games. I think they are a legitimate Sweet 16 team and they might have a shot to go a round or two further if their shooters get hot at the right time.
4) If you could trade any Notre Dame starter for a Villanova starter, which players would you pick and why?
Good question. If I had to pick I think I would go with Moupthaou Yarou for Ty Nash. Mostly because who wouldn't want to cheer for someone named Moupthaou, but Notre Dame is also a little small in the center department. They have a solid backcourt that you wouldn't want to break up, but a big body like Yarou to gobble up an extra 7 or 8 rebounds a game would be a boost for the Irish.
5) Football is pretty important at Notre Dame, how excited do the Irish get about their top-10 basketball team?
There is a sect of diehard basketball fans on campus that likely haven't had clean undies for weeks, but short of winning a couple national championships the basketball team won't ever be able to garner the same kind of excitement among the general population of fans as the football team does.
Thanks again to Dan for answering these questions. Be sure to check out Leprechaun Legion for more coverage of tonight's game.
Be sure to check out my game preview, and get your entries in for Closest to the Pin.