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Notre Dame Q & A

George Mason Basketball: Notre Dame Q & A

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notre Dame Q & A

With Thursday night getting closer the anticipation is growing each day. Last night the tournament officially began, sort of. At least we know that the extra media attention is not going to faze guys like Folarin, Will, and JV. If you are going crazy with anxiety like me, read these funny posts from Deadspin and the DC Sports Bog to calm yourself down. The team is in Denver along with our real Mascot, Doc Nix and the Green Machine. I really hope I see more of Doc Nix and his kryptonite cane than I do of Gunston's ugly mug. Also, when planning your viewing parties for the game be sure add a drinking game which involves taking a shot every time the commentators mention "the experience of George Mason". You will be wasted drunk at half-time.

Alright now let's get serious. The Richmond Times says speed is the key to a Mason victory and I could not agree more, remember the beginning of the Kansas State and Villanova games? What else will be keys to a victory Thursday night, check out my Q &A session with Rakes of Mallow blogger Christopher Wilson for further analysis. To see my responses to his questions about the Patriots read here.

1) What kind of coaching style does Mike Brey have for those of us who have not seen the Irish in action much? Defensive or Offensive minded?

Rakes of Mallow: A short anecdote ought to answer this question about as well as you could hope for:

Mike Brey goes around to a lot of the dorms before the season starts doing Q & A's with the residents about the team. When asked about his defensive strategy, and what sort of recruits he looks for in that area, his reply was rather simple. "I figure we'll let the other guy score 80, and we'll score 81."

To his credit, the defense has been better than in previous years this season, with Brey deploying a 2-2-1 press and a 3-2 zone that work due to some length on the wings, but the hallmark of this Irish team is their offense. They're good in transition, with a bunch of guys who can hit the three surrounding Luke Harangody, who takes care of the inside game basically on his own, although the penetration of Zach Hillesland and Tory Jackson complement the inside-outside game with some fresh angles.

2) Who are the other guys to watch besides Luke Harangody?

Rakes of Mallow: Kyle McAlarney is capable of heating up and scoring in a wide variety of ways. While more of a scoring point guard in high school that could get into the lane or pull up from deep, K-Mac's morphed into the resident long range specialist on this Irish team, although he still finds his way into the paint for a floater from time to time. He's popped off for thirty point games a few times this season, and if the Patriots wanted to keep one player under wraps on the perimeter, they should look at McAlarney first.

His backcourt mate, Tory Jackson, is a joy to watch, but he's wildly inconsistent. Irish fans thought he had cured his turnover woes earlier in the season, but they've popped up again, perhaps facilitated by Rick Pitino's cursed press a few Thursdays ago. He's probably the best athlete on the team, capable of burning past even the most capable perimeter defenders and skying for rebounds and blocks no sub-six foot player should be able to achieve.

3) What is the team's area of strength? Also, what are areas the Patriots might be able to exploit?

Rakes of Mallow: The Irish have a really balanced offense, with a bunch of guys who can shoot (McAlarney, Ayers, Kurz, Zeller, Jackson) surrounding the Big East Player of the Year in the middle. The scramble defense that Coach L throws out seems like it's the perfect counter to the gameplan of the Irish, but if they can work in some easy buckets in transition, they should be able to score on George Mason.

The biggest weakness the Irish have is their perimeter defense. Whether it's coming off dribble-drive penetration or a pick and roll, opposing guards get into the lane and force bad rotations, meaning someone is probably getting an open three. There's just a lack of athleticism on this team, and while there's enough offensive talent to make up for that in scoring the ball, it's more of a struggle in stopping the opposition. I imagine there will be a lot of open shots available for Patriot perimeter players, whether it comes from penetration or the defense collapsing on Will Thomas, who I'm glad to hear from multiple sources is a mini-Kevin McHale.

4) Our team's definitely seem to have short benches, who might be an x-factor for the Irish?

Rakes of Mallow: A lot of Irish fans reading this will cringe, but I think Luke Zeller could have himself a nice game against the Patriots. He was a very highly recruited seven footer who has never really found his place in the Irish rotation, choosing to hang out around the perimeter when he's shown flashes of a strong interior game on both ends of the floor. With the limited height of George Mason, I feel like Zeller could get some nice looks from the arc shooting over taller defenders and give Thomas trouble with his length on double teams.

5) ND performed very poorly in their early season tournament while Mason played very well. In addition, ND was ousted in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Furthermore, they suffered a 1st round loss in last year's NCAA tournament. Do think this might attributed to lack of experience and senior leadership, and might it be a factor in this year's tournament?

Rakes of Mallow: I'll address these one at a time. First, last season's early NCAA exit had a lot to do with the experience of Winthrop, who had the same starting five in their third straight tournament appearance, going against an Irish team that was relying on a freshman point guard and big man. The Irish were down big, managed to come back and take the lead but lost a close one late due to some uncharacteristic misses from the free throw line.

The early season tournament you mention was the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, where the Irish lost two games to Baylor and Georgia Tech by five points, giving up late leads in both of them. The quarterfinal loss to Marquette was depressing but not exactly unexpected, as Harangody got into early foul trouble, the Irish just seemed a little flat while the Golden Eagles shot the lights out in the second half.

George Mason is certainly capable of winning this game, but I would surely hope it's not due to a lack of leadership and experience on the part of the Irish, a team whose most prominent players have at least two full seasons of experience under their belt at this point.

6) Getting back to big Luke, how important is he in the team's success? Also what kind of defender is he, will he be guarding Will Thomas?

Rakes of Mallow: Harangody's interior success is a pretty big factor for the Irish. Not only does he provide nice balance to Brey's love of outside shooting, but he also pounds the opposition for a lot of fouls, which help get the Irish into the bonus early. Other than Jackson, most of the Irish players are great free throw shooters, so Harangody's ability to get himself, and eventually others, to the line is really helpful. He's added in a pretty nice outside shot, meaning that larger, slower defenders now have to chase him around the outside as well as protect the block (something UConn's Hasheem Thabeet failed to do in the second meeting between the Huskies and Irish). You'll probably be annoyed going up against Harangody, as he does seem to get at least one ridiculous call per game and will crash into anyone – teammates, opponents, media – throughout the course of a game.

Defensively, Harangody is solid, but Rob Kurz usually takes the role of guarding the opponent's best interior player. The Irish had no answer for David Padgett a few weeks ago, and while Thomas doesn't have his size, it seems he has the same polished post game. Look for Harangody, Kurz and perhaps even Zeller to spend some time on Thomas, although I imagine the Irish will go zone more often than not if the man defense isn't containing him.

7) On offense, do the Irish like to push the ball at all or are they a half court type of team?

Rakes of Mallow: The Irish are considerably better in transition, with Tory Jackson pushing the tempo and finding open shooters on the arc or quick post-ups for Harangody. The Irish half-court offense can look very stagnant if shots aren't falling or the big guy isn't passing out of double teams wisely, but if the shooters get into a rhythm, they can be pretty explosive. I will happily admit my bias towards fast-paced, transition offenses, but I think the Irish are much better when running than when trying to find clean looks after the defense is set.



Blogger Trent said...

The collaboration between the blogs has been great! I certainly appreciate all the information.

I'm a little bummed about the late start, but on the other hand, at least I'm not forced to invent another lame excuse to get out of the office during the work day.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Trent said...

I'm proud of what this team accomplished this year, but their effort against ND was embarrassing. I can't imagine what the players must feel. Just imagine if someone besides #34 decided to show up tonight. Even if they would played an average game...jeez.

11:34 PM  
Blogger sportsfan882 said...

Thanks Folarin. Have fun playing Pro Basketball overseas. NOTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

Larranaga did an extremely poor job of having this team prepared. The three point defense was pathetic and there was no rhythm to the offense whatsoever. Vaughan is a joke. He has airballed like 4-5 threes in the last two games.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Farmdog said...

Larranaga is not the one missing wide open layups and 10ft jump shots

ND just was hot from the outside - if we could of hit 30% of our shots it would have been closer and that ridiculous charge call - kept us from getting to 10pts

All year long our own team has been the best defense on Will by not giving him the ball - last night we should of fed him until he could not stand - he was having his way inside and had Kurz and Gody fouling out - he could of scored 40 easy!!

8:49 AM  
Blogger WeisGipper said...

George Mason is still a very good team, but what happend to the Irish last year in the NCAA Tournament and last week in New York at the Big East Tournament gave Notre Dame a lot of energy into last night's contest. Will Thomas is definitely a great player that should be a steal for some lucky NBA team. Folarin Campbell, excellent player, just had a hard time getting loose and finding his shot. Zach Hillesland is a great defender and forced Campbell into some bad shots.

Harangody got his usual double-double, and Notre Dame made their outside shots. Mason didn't have a good 3pt. defense and it showed, especially when the Irish have a bevy of shooters.

Good luck next season! I expect to see the Patriots make the tournament again.

9:20 AM  
Blogger mooky_l3d said...

This was the team that played ECU. Embarassing to watch. They were sloppy on both offense and defense. Maybe just maybe if they make it to the Big Dance next year we actually play and not have so much fun because watching that game was not fun. It did not look like the players were having fun. So where was the fun being had? Just a question. Disappointing game and ending to a season that was hard to watch because of the let downs.

2:58 PM  
Blogger WeisGipper said...

I do have to say that the Leprachaun didn't disappear last night!

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See here or here

5:08 PM  
Blogger neil said...

Can't wait for next year! Fleming is going to be very good next year in much bigger role I believe. He has strong work ethic that should pay off for us big time. All returners are solid and great class coming in. Gonzaga East is a reality. Next 2-3 years will tell. Go Mason!

9:33 PM  

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