Two teams headed in opposite directions square off in South Bend tomorrow as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the UConn Huskies. Notre Dame has started a surprising 3-1 in conference with wins over Louisville and Pitt, while the Huskies have already suffered a pair of road upsets at the hands of Seton Hall and Rutgers.
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center
Saturday at 11:00 a.m.
ESPN2 or live stream at ESPN.com
UConn: WTIC 1080-AM
Notre Dame: WSBT 960 AM
UConn -2, according to docsports.com. Obviously, with this small a spread, it's just a matter of who wins the game, and in South Bend, that will be the Irish.
UConn C Michael Bradley (ankle): questionable, according to chicagosports.sportsdirectinc.com
Notre Dame F Tim Abromaitis (knee): out for season, according to ESPN
What’s At Stake?
The Irish have an outside shot at an NCAA bid with a strong conference showing, and a third win over a ranked team would be a big step in that direction. No. 16 UConn, for its part, must right the ship to avoid seeing its own NCAA seed keep sinking after a disappointing start to Big East play.
What They’re Saying
UConn coach Jim Calhoun continues to avoid starting a three-guard lineup, despite the outstanding performance of freshman Ryan Boatright. Explaining why DeAndre Daniels will be getting the start against the Irish, Calhoun told the Connecticut Post, “We just aren’t as good a rebounding team with three guards in there…3-point defense is going to be less, shot blocking is going to be less. We give some to get some.”
Calhoun’s opposite number, Mike Brey, is well aware that his team could be a lot worse off at this point in the season. “To have three league wins on Jan. 10, I am ecstatic,” he told WSBT, adding, “If you would have told me…after the [Gonzaga] game we’d be 3-1 in the league? I’d have said, ‘Sign me up’ three times.”
UConn Player to Watch
Center Andre Drummond has come on strong after a slow start to his freshman year. He rocked West Virginia for 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in Monday night’s home win.
Notre Dame Player to Watch
Notre Dame PF Jack Cooley hasn’t been an overpowering scorer, but he’s leading the team with 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game. In the Irish’s guard-heavy lineup, though, he’ll be matched up against Drummond, to whom he gives up two inches and 30 pounds.
UConn PG Shabazz Napier vs. Notre Dame PG Jerian Grant. This battle of sophomores won’t be an easy one for Napier—Grant leads the Irish with 13.4 points, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals a game—but Kemba Walker’s successor isn’t one to back down from a challenge.
Napier has some impressive stats of his own, including team highs of 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals a night. However, his 6'0" height won't do him any favors against the 6'5" Grant.
The Irish are hot at home, and UConn’s frontcourt (aside from Drummond) has underperformed all year. Look for both trends to continue as Notre Dame’s long-limbed perimeter defense harasses Napier and Boatright into subpar games and yet another road loss.