Not many teams around the country have been as pleasant a surprise as Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have gotten off to a great start this season led by seniors Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis.
The Irish have already gone to Orlando and won the Old Spice Classic taking out Georgia and Wisconsin on its way to the title. In addition to that, it has also dispatched of Georgetown, Connecticut and Pittsburgh in Big East play.
The reason why Notre Dame has been so successful however is because of shift in philosophy. Towards the end of last season coach Mike Brey, prompted by an injury to star forward Luke Harangody, changed his team’s style of play from fast-paced to a more methodical or “burn” offense. It’s an offense that the talent he has thrives on.
Hansbrough is surprisingly effective off the dribble along with being a great shooter while Abromaitis is a matchup nightmare with his size and ability to step outside and knock down jumpers. Throw in the supporting cast of Tyrone Nash, Carleton Scott and Scott Martin and the Irish may realistically be a Final Four contender.
Stock Up: North Carolina. A few weeks ago coach Roy Williams went off on Tarheel fans. Well his team has been going off on Tarheel opponents. After a slow start, the Tarheels have managed to set themselves apart from every ACC team not named Duke. A blowout loss to Georgia Tech almost started a coup in Chapel Hill, but now it looks like this team can challenge for the ACC title.
Stock Down: Wichita St’s quality wins. Where are they? They’re nowhere to be found. Wichita St has played four games against opponents in the RPI top-100 and it’s 0-4 against them all. The Shockers are still living off of preseason expectations, but if they expect that to translate into a postseason berth, they’ll have to sweep Northern Iowa and Missouri St on the road.
Stock Up: Harvard. The Crimson is poised for its first ever NCAA tournament berth with a 4-0 start to Ivy League play. The Crimson may also be poised for an at-large berth as well. Harvard has already taken out Colorado and Boston College this season with its three losses coming to George Mason, Michigan and Connecticut. Traditionally Ivy League teams have been very competitive in March and it looks like this year will be no different.
Stock Down: Kansas St. If you declare that you’re not going to play in the NIT, then you better play like you don’t want to play in the NIT. Jacob Pullen has failed in that regard and the preseason top-5 ranked Wildcats are one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball. There’s no leadership on the floor and now players are defecting from the program. Manhattan is morphing back into the laughing stock of the Big XII.
This Week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: New Mexico, George Mason, Georgia, Richmond
Last Four Out: Colorado St, Wichita St, Virginia Tech, Penn St
Good for Games through 1/30
1.Ohio St16.McNeese St/Bethune-Cookman Cleveland
5.Syracuse12.Georgia/George Mason Tampa
6.Florida11.UCLA Washington, DC
7.West Virginia10.Michigan St Charlotte
1.Pittsburgh16.Long Beach St Cleveland
5.North Carolina12.Richmond/New Mexico Tucson
6.Washington11.St. John’s Denver
2.San Diego St15.Northern Colorado
1.Texas16.Long Island Tulsa
5.Minnesota12.Washington St Chicago
6.Xavier11.Northern Iowa Charlotte
7.Utah St10.Boston College Washington, DC
1.Kansas16.Austin Peay/Texas Southern Tulsa
6.Tennessee11.Virginia Commonwealth Denver
7.Arizona10.St. Mary’s Chicago