Both of these teams have had unfortunate seasons. Notre Dame has been plagued with injuries: Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell and DJ Harvey have all missed significant time for the Irish this year. Miami seemed to be on the right track, but have lost 3 in a row, including one to Boston College, a team Notre Dame has beat twice this month. This game will not matter much in the ACC standings as both teams are near the bottom, but it will still be exciting to watch.
Notre Dame has played suprisingly well as of late even without Bonzie Colson. When Matt Farrell came back to the team after an ankle injury sidelined him, it was most apparent on the offensive end of the ball. Farrell just recorded a career high for points in a game with 37 points in Notre Dame’s win over Boston College. Farrell topped his career high of 28 in the Irish’s more impressive win over a solid Florida State team. Sense a theme here? Matt Farrell is the cog that runs the machine that is the Notre Dame offense. They are not as efficient without him on the floor and are able to space out and move the ball better with him in the game. He’s not just a game manager, he’s a talented point guard that can score with relative ease and create opportunities for his teammates with stellar court vision. Farrell ranks third in assists in a very talented ACC. His teammate, TJ Gibbs has stepped up to the challenge with Bonzie Colson being out. Gibbs has seen an increase in his minutes this season and it’s because he has become more of a threat on offense, averaging 16 points a game this season. He has been a little inconsistent, which is why he didn’t see as much floor time last year, but his good performances far outweigh the bad. Martinas Geben is another name to be familiar with before this game. He has taken it upon himself to make up for the rebounds Notre Dame is missing with Colson. Not only has he improved on the boards, but he shoots at a high percentage, making him a good option for the Irish on offense.
Miami has been a streaky team as of late. They have lost three game in a row after winning three in a row. Granted, they have played UVA, but they also lost to an inferior Boston College team as well as Syracuse. While they haven’t played well lately, they will look to secure a win on the road against Notre Dame. No player on Miami averages more than 12 points per game and only three average over 10 a game. Not having a go-to scorer can be looked at as a bad thing, but Miami has seemed to make it work this season. They have relied heavily on their defense in the wins they have accumulated in the ACC as well as non-conference. The Hurricanes rank 39th in the country with 66.1 opponent points per game. This may not seem like it’s too great, but ranking in the top 50 in any category in college basketball is an accomplishment. Lonnie Walker and Dewan Huell have been the two best players for the Hurricanes the whole season. Both are very well rounded players and can contribute on offense as well as defense. Walker averages 1 steal a game and is a pest on defense. He often frustrates his opponents during the game and gets in their head early. Huell is second on the team in defensive rebounds behind Anthony Lawrence, and also ranks 1st on the team in points scored. Walker and Huell are integral parts to Miami in this game.
Keys to the Game
Notre Dame: Let Matt Farrell facilitate. The Irish play a lot better with Farrell in the lineup. He is able to find his teammates and get them open looks as well as shoot the three. He made 10 threes in his last game and will look to continue his hot shooting in this game. Miami will have their hands full if Farrell can get himself going and start to dish the rock to his teammates.
Miami: Share the basketball. Miami ranks 214th in the country in assists. This tells me that they take a lot of shots off the dribble and do not make the extra pass to get the best shot. Notre Dame plays a decent defense, but if Miami keeps the ball in the hands of one or two guys while on offense, the Irish should be able to limit the scoring of the Hurricanes. Dejan Vasilevic and Lonnie Walker will look to take control of the game early, but will need to involve their teammates for the Hurricanes to have success on offense against the Irish.
I think Notre Dame will get the win at home. Their home crowd coupled with the inconsistency of Miami’s offense will help them greatly. Matt Ferrell has been playing well lately, setting a new career high in points twice in the last 5 games. This is a point guard you should be watching, he knows how to play the game and has a high basketball IQ. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey says he has his team right where he wants them to be at this point in the season. If a coach is confident in his team, that reflects well in the locker room. Bonzie Colson has also been a huge part of motivation for Notre Dame. He sits on the bench during games and offers his input during timeout. Mike Brey trusts his players and that will bode well in this game against Miami as well as for the rest of the season.