BOZICH | Perfect (quiet) time for Louisville to visit Notre Dame - WDRB 41 Louisville News

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BOZICH | Perfect (quiet) time for Louisville to visit Notre Dame?

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Dwight Clay's game-winner against UCLA in 1974 remains the greatest homecourt win in Notre Dame history. (New York Times photo.) Dwight Clay's game-winner against UCLA in 1974 remains the greatest homecourt win in Notre Dame history. (New York Times photo.)

SOMEWHERE ON US 31 (WDRB) -- John Lewis and I are knifing through the relentlessly gray landscape north of Indianapolis, more than halfway on our drive from Louisville to South Bend, where Louisville will play Notre Dame at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

I drove the opening half of the journey. John (a better driver) is the pilot for the final 123 miles.

I'm not good at just sitting there. In fact, I'm terrible. I've got to occupy my mind. Better to shake up Five Things To Know about Louisville vs. Notre Dame.

Lucky you.

1. Plenty of Good Seats Available.

The atmosphere at Notre Dame usually ranks with the best in college basketball. I love covering games at Purcell Pavilion. It's intimate, loud and packed with tradition.

As a college basketball fan who grew up in Northwest Indiana, I once drove to South Bend to watch ND guard Austin Carr score 54 points (on 39 field-goal attempts) when the place was called the Athletic and Convocation Center.

I always walk onto the court and try to recreate the shot Dwight Clay made when Notre Dame beat UCLA, 71-70, and stopped the Bruins' 88-game winning streak 43 years ago. (I still can't believe Bill Walton missed that bank shot.)

What's my point?

I wonder what the atmosphere will be Wednesday. Will Notre Dame students be in town? Not many. Classes do not resume at Notre Dame until Jan. 17.

Uh-oh.

When I visited the official Notre Dame athletic web site, a banner ad pushing tickets for the game was stretched across the bottom of the page.

I clicked on it. How many seats did I want?

I typed in six -- best available ($75 each).

Not only are they available, they're available in the same row only 13 rows off the court.

If you're going to play at Notre Dame, that's a sign this is a wonderful night to make the trip.

2. Rivalry Goodies

All this fun between the Irish and the Cardinals kicked up in 2006 when U of L joined Notre Dame in the Big East.

Over the last 11 years the programs have played 15 times. The Cards have won eight, the Irish seven. They have battled through 13 overtimes. Seven games have been decided by six points or less.

Fun, fun, fun.

3. Scouting the Irish

Mike Brey's team has won 12 of 14 games. Both losses came on neutral courts to ranked teams (Villanova, Purdue). Notre Dame blew double-figure leads against the Wildcats and Boilermakers.

What do the Irish do well?

Officiating will matter in this game. The Irish rank first in the nation at the foul line, making better than 84 percent of their attempts. A closely called game will not benefit Louisville.

They're also first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in three-point field goal attempts, assist/turnover ratio and assists.

They're not great around the rim. But Louisville won't play many teams with better ball-handlers and shooters.

4. Scouting The Irish Deeper Dive

I confessed several weeks ago that I had purchased a subscription to SynergySports, an advanced analytics site. Chances are that I overwhelmed you with those numbers before the U of L-UK game, so I'll only sprinkle a few Synergy numbers here:

*Brey's team is not deep so I expect Rick Pitino's game plan to focus on bringing fatigue to the game. According to Synergy, only four players account for more than 72 percent of Notre Dame's offense.

Those four are Bonzie Colson, V.J. Beachem, Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell. Colson and Vasturia are rated excellent offensive players, and the other two are described as very good.

*The Irish are ranked in the top 5 percent of all teams as spot-up shooters but the bottom 23 percent as offensive rebounders. Don't leave shooters, especially Vasturia, Farrell, Rex Pflueger and Matt Ryan. They're all shooting 40 percent or better from distance.

5. Predictions, Please?

I'm not sure why -- or if I even believe it -- but at VegasInsiders.com the Irish opened as 5-point favorites. Only 35 minutes later, the Cards were favored by a point.

The number has continued to move up and down. Louisville has been favored by as much as 2 1/2, the Irish by a point. At 3 p.m., the game was listed as pick 'em.

Ken Pomeroy's computer formula likes the Cards, 72-70. Jeff Sagarin's numbers also favor Louisville by 1.9.

I say Louisville 71, Notre Dame 66. 

What about you, John Lewis?

Louisville 74, Notre Dame 71.

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