(Photo of Malik Williams: Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Taking the court for the first time after a 19-day layoff because of COVID-19, the Louisville men's basketball program suffered their worst loss since before World War II, getting blown out 99-45 by North Carolina.
Next up for the Cardinals (11-5, 6-4 ACC), they will return home and host Notre Dame (9-11, 6-8 ACC) at the KFC Yum! Center. Tipoff is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 6:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Fighting Irish:
After losing four senior starters from last year, including First Team All-ACC selection John Mooney, not much was thought about Notre Dame, as they were chosen to place just 12th among the league's 15 teams in the preseason.
Through the early goings of the season, that ranking might have been generous for the Fighting Irish, as they started the season just 3-8 and winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference through their first five league games.
However, since mid-January, things have started to turn around a bit for Notre Dame. They head into their game against Louisville having won six of their last nine, and would be on a three-game winning streak had they not blown a 20-point lead to Syracuse in their last outing.
During their recent run, they have a pair of notable road wins. They were able to take down Duke at Cameron Indoor, and blowout a fully healthy Pitt at the Pedersen Events Center. For what it's worth, they also took down Kentucky at Rupp Arena in their fourth game of the year.
The Mike Brey Experience
Throughout his tenure as the head coach of Notre Dame, Mike Brey has been known as an offensive guru, and that is something that still rings true today.
The Fighting Irish, according to KenPom's metric's, have the 13th ranked offense in Division I and the third-best in the ACC behind only Florida State and Virginia. They might average just 72.6 points a game, but their field goal percentage of 46.9% is 50th in DI, and their effective field goal percentage of 55.1% is 26th.
Because of their offensive efficiency, all five starters for Notre Dame average double figures. The Irish are led primarily by Nate Laszewski & Prentiss Hubb, as the duo leads in scoring with 15.0 & 13.7 points per game respectively. Laszewski also chips in with 7.8 rebounds per game, as does Hubb with 6.2 assists.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Mike Brey coached-team with out three things: below average defense, above average ball security, and an abundance of fouls. The Irish have the 147th ranked defense according to KenPom, and surrender 72.0 points per game. They only turn the ball over 10.3 times per game - the ninth best mark in DI and second-best in the ACC behind Virginia. Finally, they commit the most fouls in D1 with 11.8 per game, and have the highest opponent FTA/FGA rate at 17.5.
Living on the Edge
For a team as efficient on the offensive as Notre Dame is, they are surprisingly inefficient around the paint despite having the 14th-tallest team in Division I (78.6 inches).
The Irish average just 33.2 rebounds per game, a mark that is 282nd out of 347 active D1 teams and 12th in the ACC, and their offensive rebounding rate is just 20.6%, which is 327th in D1.
Because of their deficiencies down low, most of Notre Dame's offense comes from beyond the arc on three-point shots. The Irish shoot 38.1% on three-point attempts, third in the ACC, and have made the most total threes in the conference with 184. In fact, 43.4% of their total field goal attempts are of the three-point variety, and 38.0% of their scoring comes on those shots.
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