Where: Purcell Pavilion (South Bend, Indiana)
Time: 9:00 PM ET
Line: Louisville -2
Louisville vs. Notre Dame has always been a thrilling show dating back to the time when both programs battled in the Big East. As most know, Louisville, as well as Notre Dame, have transitioned their colleges to the ACC and continue to play in this established matchup. Currently this matchup carries a heavy weight in the hearts of Louisville, in the sense that, Notre Dame has won the last 5 games against the Cardinals. The Cardinals, and their recently high flying offense, look to snap this dreaded streak.
This game displays two very well coached teams with many versatile players. These two teams have been very even in the past and don’t seem to differ much when it comes to style of play. They are so similar, that from 1956-2013 both programs have gone into overtime a total of 9 times- with the incredible 5 overtime game almost 4 years ago. This game should be another classic clash between two historic squads.
The strength for this Louisville team is to rapidly capitalize when momentum, during a game, shifts in their favor. This team, as of late, has struggled finding a rhythm and getting 100% of their star players to produce. Last game was a tremendous display of, the quality of player, that Donovan Mitchell has been hyped up to be. Donovan Mitchell (sophomore) was expected to be the teams most breathtaking player coming into the season.
Donovan Mitchell did not perform up to standard for the majority of non-conference play and found himself on the bench for the start of the Indiana game. During the Indiana game Donovan was fueled by his underperformance and played 33 minutes with a team high of 25 points.
After early struggles Deng Adel has been able to make a name for himself on this Louisville team. Adel was able to get 17 in the win over Indiana and 4 on the boards. He shot 3-8 from beyond the arc and was the playmaker who ignited the run for the cards going into half.
This Louisville team is excellent when momentum is with them and they have acquired the players that stay in the competitive mindset through the duration of the game.
The weaknesses for this Louisville team are, sad to say, their big men. This Cardinals team has a plethora of big men, with Mangok Mathiang, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud, Jaylen Johnson, and Matz Stockman. These big men are elite caliber players but are not being effective in the paint.
Spalding, Mathiang, Mahmoud, and Johnson are all possible starters on this Louisville team, but none of the 4 are aggressive enough to hang with elite forwards in the league. The big men that Louisville have on their roster are useful in their height with blocks, but not when it comes to holding onto the basketball and going strong to the rim. A quick comparison can be when Bam Adebayo, from Kentucky, went up against Anas Mahmoud. Mahmoud has the length and the experience but Bam was stronger and more physical at the 5 spot.
This Louisville team must establish stronger and more physical big men in order to hang with teams that are big down low, like Notre Dame.
Notre Dame’s Strength
This Notre Dame team, under coach Mike Brey, has developed into a very well balanced team. This lineup has talented forwards, like junior Bonzie Colson, who averages 16.6 PPG with 10.5 RBG. Colson is also 19th in the country at grabbing rebounds and sits at only 6’5″. Not only does Colson create a threat down low, but Notre Dame also knows how to get the ball to fall from deep.
Notre Dame is 31st in the nation at 3 pt. shots and averages 39.6%. This team with players like, Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia, can be lethal from the 3 point range. In their last game against Pittsburgh they combined for 7-15 from three with 9 total from the team.
The fighting Irish expect big minutes out of their starting players leaving a majority of the starters on the floor for the entire stretch. Colson grabbed all 40 minutes in their last game, with Vasturia in second place with 36 minutes. The Irish have faith in their veteran players to control and run the floor under Coach Brey’s offense.
Notre Dame’s Weakness
With all these high flying numbers Notre Dame looks like a very difficult team to beat. They have the paint and the perimeter locked down, which leaves little room for error in their offense. However, what this Notre Dame team lacks is depth. Against a fast pace Louisville team, with intense defense, this could turn out to be a problem.
On Notre Dame’s 14 player roster, 9 played, with 6 players playing 25 minutes or more against Pitt. Saying that this stat is almost 50% of the team, The Irish are lacking production from their other half. Notre Dame has a lot of faith in their senior players and, if/when they get into foul trouble, these players will have to be pulled and a more inexperienced line up will have to take shape.
Notre Dame must be careful when handling Louisville’s defense and offense, to not get too aggressive, in order to keep their experienced line-up productive and on the floor.
This game will hopefully excite any college basketball viewer because of the competitive styles of play that both programs strive to produce. In my opinion I believe that Louisville will keep their momentum going and grab a huge win in South Bend. This game will be a close one and hopefully leave the viewer intrigued throughout.