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Syracuse Basketball: To Beat the Irish, You've Got to Become the Irish

Jim Boeheim says that in order to beat Notre Dame consistently, Syracuse has "got to get those Irish guys." True?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

During his radio program last week, Jim Boeheim had an otherwise throwaway answer to the question, "why does Trevor Cooney play so well against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?"

"I think it's Irish guys because Gerry killed you for four years," Boeheim said. "Gerry didn't lose at Notre Dame. I think he won all four times out there. Trevor killed Notre Dame the whole game last year and then this year, right at the end. It must be those Irish guys. You've got to get those Irish guys."

Naturally, that begs the question. Do Syracuse's Irish players play better when they're taking on the Irish? Do we have to make sure we have an Irish guy on the roster at all times for just such an occasion? We did some extremely analytical analysis to find out.

Here's some season stats for both Gerry McNamara and Trevor Cooney compared to when they went head-to-head with Notre Dame. Each instance of that player vs. ND is under the season it happened.

Player Points 3pt % Reb Ast FG %
Gerry McNamara 02-03 13.3 .357 2.3 4.4 .401
Gerry McNamara vs. ND 18.5 .566 3.0 4.5 .514
Gerry McNamara 03-04 17.2 .389 2.6 3.8 .385
Gerry McNamara vs. ND 18.5 .287 2.5 5.5 .400
Gerry McNamara 04-05 15.8 .340 2.3 4.9 .370
Gerry McNamara vs. ND 22 .316 1.5 4 .388
Gerry McNamara 05-06 16.0 .334 2.7 5.9 .353
Gerry McNamara vs. ND 25 .438 1 4 .348
Trevor Cooney 12-13 3.4 .267 0.8 0.6 .322
Trevor Cooney vs. ND 6 .400 0 0 .333
Trevor Cooney 13-14 12.1 .375 2.1 1.1 .404
Trevor Cooney vs. ND 33 .750 2 2 .733
Trevor Cooney 14-15 13.5 .315 2.9 2.2 .359
Trevor Cooney vs. ND 11 .167 3 2 .455

In the case of McNamara, there's something there. Gerry inherently scored more points than on average when he took on the Irish, even having better shooting nights than average in most contests as well.

As for Cooney, it's really all about that one game last season when he had The Most Trevor Cooney Game Ever. This year he made some clutch shots late but it wasn't a complete performance and he actually scored less and shot worse from three than he usually does.

Next year will be the true test of Boeheim's theorem. If Cooney can put together another standout performance when the Orange and Irish meet, we might have to give credence. In the meantime, I don't know if anyone's looked into Tyler Lydon's ancestry, but we might have our bases covered just in case.