The last time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Louisville Cardinals faced off in college basketball betting action, the two teams played to five overtimes. Now, they’re back playing again with a spot in the Big East Tournament Final on the line on Friday night in front of a great crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The Irish are playing in the semifinals of this event for the third straight season for Head Coach Mike Bray, which is most certainly no small feat. They got rid of the Marquette Golden Eagles without really much of a fight in their new-look nuclear radiation induced green jerseys, and now, they are going to hope to do the same to the Cards. This was the best offensive game that Notre Dame put up in quite some time, but it wasn’t the men you’d figure that were at the heart of the action. Sure, G Jerian Grant led the way with 17 points, but it was the bench and the role players, G Pat Connaughton and F Garrick Sherman that really did the bulk of the damage. To win this game, F Jack Cooley and G Eric Atkins are going to have to get going, something that has been difficult for all of the big time scorers for the Fighting Irish of late.
The Cardinals are the overwhelming favorites at this point to win the Big East, and if that turns out to be the case, they should be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday. The Villanova Wildcats were never really able to challenge the Cards on Thursday night, as the 74-55 final score was indicative of just how lopsided the game really was. It marked the eighth straight win and the fifth straight cover for Head Coach Rick Pitino’s team. We saw the good G Russ Smith on display against Nova, as he shot 7-of-12 from the floor and had 28 points. However, we have seen situations, such as in those overtimes against Notre Dame, when Smith just checked out completely and made bonehead play after bonehead play. C Gorgui Dieng only scored six points and had three boards against the Wildcats as well, and if he struggled going up against F Mouphtaou Yarou, we can only imagine what his struggles are going to be like against Cooley.
It’s easy to make the assumption that this is going to be a game of payback for the Cards, but we aren’t all that sure that they are as much of a better team as the oddsmakers are insinuating. Notre Dame seems to have hit its stride at the right time, and we know that there is obvious room for improvement. Look for Smith to take a step back and Cooley and Atkins to take a step up, as the Fighting Irish move on to the finale of this tournament and pull off the big time upset. Notre Dame 68 – Louisville 64
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.