Notre Dame basketball looks to start the new year off right with their first top 25 win of the season against Louisville.
Villanova may have been the biggest game of Notre Dame’s 2016 season. But it’s a new year, and to start off 1-0 in 2017 with a win over Louisville will go a long way in the Irish’s season.
Notre Dame has caught what I like the call the ACC Bug. This year, no matter who you are, you aren’t safe. Most ACC teams have played only one conference game, and already there is no more undefeated teams in the conference.
With Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville already suffering in conference losses, the ACC is Notre Dames for the taking. A win against the Cardinals and they’re on their way to a big year.
Louisville is one of the toughest teams Notre Dame will play all season. Not because of their stats, or because they have a bunch of freakish big men like Pitt or Purdue. What makes the Cardinals such a threat for the Irish is their depth.
On an average night, Louisville has nine players that play over ten minutes. Of those nine, all but one average more than five points. Compared to Notre Dame, who seems to have little bench play this season, the Irish play eight players over ten minutes on average, and seven of them average more than five points.
The difference is that of Louisville’s nine, not one average 30 minutes per game. And, for a team that averages 76 points per night, Louisville only has three players averaged more than 10 points per game. Their leading scorer, Donovan Mitchell, averages 12.4 points per contest.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has four players who average more than 30 minutes a game. These four players are also the only players on the team who average over 10 PPG, with Bonzie Colson leading the way with 16.6.
This, like many of Notre Dame’s games, will consist of how well the Irish starting five play. When Colson, Matt Farrell, and V.J. Beachem can stay consistent for an entire game, the Irish usually walk away with a win.
Louisville is a challenge. This could be the first real eye-opener for Notre Dame if the Cardinal bench begins to be the reason Louisville can pull away. Don’t expect this game to be a blowout on either end, but if Louisville does build a large deficit it’s because they’ve worn Notre Dame out.
For the first time in a big game, the Irish can rely on Colson to produce instead of having to slow down the post. Louisville does have some quality forwards in Jaylen Johnson and Mangok Mathlang, but neither of them compares to the talent that Colson has.
If Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia can keep the game slow, and keep their energy alive in the second half, the Irish can rely on Colson to score instead of wasting their legs playing a fast-paced game. When it comes down to it, the pace-of-game will be the deciding factor in this one.
Prediction: Notre Dame stays undefeated in the ACC by beating Louisville
It’s going to be one of the most entertaining games of the season, but most Notre Dame games are this year. The Irish need to learn that they can’t go 110 miles per hour in the first half and expect to win in the second.
They started to run a slower style of game in their win over Pitt. They should have it figured out by now, and will use it against Louisville.
When big plays need to be made, Notre Dame has the guys to pull it off, and that’ll be the deciding factor in this one. While Bonzie Colson is tearing up the post, Farrell and Beachem will be waiting for their chance to shine late in the game.
Louisville has the depth to outlast anyone. But if Notre Dame can keep the game in their hands and maintain a slow pace-of-play, they’ll out match the Cardinals with their stars late in the game.