Teams: Syracuse Orange (9-4, 0-0) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-4, 0-1 ACC)
Day & Time: Saturday, January 5 at noon
Location: Joyce Center, South Bend, Indiana
Line: TBD. ESPN’s BPI gives Syracuse a 52.9-percent chance of winning.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Notre Dame blog: One Foot Down
Rivalry: 29-20, Syracuse
Current Streak: 2, Irish
First Meeting: Syracuse fought the Fighting Irish and won, 50-14. Lew Castle scored 20 points for Syracuse on the road. Notre Dame, much like the rest of SU’s opponents in the 1913-14 season, was no match. It remains Syracuse’s lone unbeaten season in program history (the 0-0 World War II-suspended season excluded).
Last Meeting: It was another heartbreaking home loss to Notre Dame for the Orange.
Syracuse opened the contest at the Carrier Dome last January by jumping out to a 9-1 lead. And while it looked like the rout was on, especially with the Irish playing without the injured Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, that would prove to not be the case.
The Irish stayed within striking distance by crashing the boards, outrebounding SU 42-27, and through capitalizing off Syracuse miscues. The Orange committed 14 turnovers, which led to 15 Irish points. In fact, it was a steal by Martinas Geben that led to Rex Pflueger’s put-back, game-winning layup with just over two ticks left on the clock.
T.J. Gibbs scored a team-high 18 for Notre Dame, while Geben secured a career-high 14 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Tyus Battle, who committed the costly turnover with seconds to play, scored 21 for the Orange. Frank Howard added 10 and Oshae Brissett had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Although, Brissett struggled mightily against Notre Dame, shooting just 3 of 15 from the field, and not connecting on any of his two-point attempts.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (43rd year, 1,035-374); Notre Dame: Mike Brey (19th year, 412–205; 511–257 overall)
Coach Bio: Brey played at Northwestern State and George Washington, then headed back to his high school alma mater (DeMatha) to serve as an assistant for the next five years. He jumped from there to Duke (somehow?), then became head coach at Delaware in 1995. Three 20-win seasons — and two NCAA Tournament bids — in five years earned him a call from Notre Dame. Brey has been there ever since, with 11 trips to March Madness, three Sweet 16s and two Elite Eights. Notre Dame also won the ACC Tournament in 2015.
Last Year: The Fighting Irish of last season were an interesting team, especially so when compared to Syracuse. Notre Dame finished 8-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which placed it tied for tenth place with the Orange. From there, Brey’s team went on to take out the Pittsburgh Panthers and Virginia Tech Hokies in the conference tourney before losing to Duke in the quarters.
Syracuse, for its part, defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in its first ACC tourney game and then lost in the second round to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Yet, despite having the same conference record, having beaten the Orange on the road and having won 20 games, all with senior captains Colson and Farrell missing significant time due to injuries, it was the Orange earning the NCAA tourney berth.
Them’s the breaks.
Regulated to the National Invitational Tournament, the Irish beat Hampton in the opener and was then subsequently bounced in the second by Penn State, 73-63. Overall, Notre Dame ended 2018-18 with a record of 21-15. (SU, as we all know, showed its March Madness worth by running all the way to the Sweet 16 before coming up short against Duke.)
Last Game: A 22-9 second-half run allowed Virginia Tech to take out the Irish, 81-66, at home on New Year’s Day. During that critical stretch, Ty Outlaw sank three 3-pointers for the Hokies, who improved to 12-1 overall. For the last 20 minutes of the game, Virginia Tech made 20 of its 28 shots from the field, eight of nine attempts from distance.
In the loss, Notre Dame shot 34 3-pointers, connecting on just 13 of those attempts. D.J. Harvey scored16 points and Nate Laszewski 14 in the loss.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: T.J. Gibbs leads Notre Dame in points per game (14.5) and assists (3.8). The junior guard scored 18 in the Dome last January and contributed the key steal that led to the game-winner for the Irish.
So far this season, Gibbs has hit for double figures in scoring in 12 of Notre Dame’s 14 games. Against the Hokies, he made five of his 10 3-point attempts and finished with 19 points.
Jack Ferguson Memorial Random Three-Point Performance: Nate Laszewski might just fit the mold here. Laszewski, a freshman guard, has only shot 49 threes this season, but has gone 11 of 19 over the last three games, nailing four of his 8 3-point attempts in Blacksburg.
Of course, Gibbs is a good choice, as well as John Mooney who also hasn’t taken many threes (32 total) but is hitting them at a nearly 47-percent clip.
If Syracuse Wins: Hello, early conference road win. Syracuse didn’t earn an ACC road-trip victory last season until it defeated Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center in early February. (The Orange only won two road ACC tilts last year, a stat that was fodder for the Joe Lunardi’s of the world who argued against Syracuse’s earning an NCAA tourney bid.)
Yes, Notre Dame is playing without senior Rex Pflueger and carry a “Net ranking” of 76, but, as we know well around here, ACC victories, especially so on the road, are gold. If the Orange plans on crawling out of the hole it dug itself in November and December, it will need to win the winnable games. This contest on Saturday more than qualifies for that category.
If Syracuse Loses: It wouldn’t be a surprise given that the Syracuse already has four losses in its first 14 games. But to piggyback off the previous point, a loss at Notre Dame lowers the odds of getting to a respectable conference record. It’s not end-of-the-world stuff, but a defeat further stacks the cards against the Cuse.
Fun Fact No. 1: So, I know this is a basketball game we’re talking about here, but did you know that there is a whole faction of people who believe Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the inspiration for the movie “Rudy,” was offside prior to his sacking Georgia Tech’s quarterback?
On November 8, 1975, Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger made his only appearance in a Notre Dame football game, recording a sack against Georgia Tech pic.twitter.com/AW8ZsWsk9f— RetroNewsNow (@RetroNewsNow) November 8, 2017
I don’t really see it to be honest, but I’m here for the Notre Dame spice.
Fun Fact No. 2: It feels like Mike Brey has been at Notre Dame forever. And if you went back through recent history, you might have thought that the line of succession went: Digger Phelps to John MacLeod to Brey. But what you might not remember is that just before Brey was in charge in South Bend, Matt Doherty was the head man for Irish hoops back in the 1999-2000 season. Doherty was picked by the school after MacLeod resigned. And during his lone season at the helm before bolting for his alma mater, North Carolina, Doherty fittingly enough guided the Irish to the NIT.