NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
The defending champions are without star Kemba Walker this year, but Connecticut still has plenty of talent on the floor at all times. Notre Dame has had an up and down year thus far. The Fighting Irish took a big blow when star Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending knee injury. The Fighting Irish have lost some games they were expected to win, but they have also pulled a couple nice upsets this year. The Huskies will be the favorites here, but it is never easy to win on Notre Dame’s home floor.
Jeremy Lamb was only a freshman last year, but he starred in the Huskies national title run. With Walker gone, Lamb is now the main man on campus. It has been a bit of an adjustment for him to be the focal point of the defense, but Lamb has about as much ability as anyone in all of basketball. Lamb may be a guard, but he has the long arms and rebounding ability of a forward. Lamb is shooting 51.4% from the floor thanks to some terrific shot selection. Shabazz Napier was another youngster that contributed some last year, but he is taking on an increased role this season. Napier averages 1.8 steals per game, and he is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the nation. Andre Drummond and Ryan Boatright have stepped in and made a major impact in their freshman season. Drummond leads the team in rebounding, while Boatright is the team’s best shooter from beyond the arc.
Without Abromaitis in the lineup, Notre Dame has to have solid contributions from several other players who were normally less aggressive on the offensive end. Jerian Grant has stepped up and been the team’s leading scorer since Abromaitis went down early in the season. Jack Cooley is doing a great job in the post as well. Cooley averages 10.7 points and 8.4 boards per game. He is shooting better than 59% from the floor. Eric Atkins has shown the ability to knock down the three-pointer, which helps stretch the defense. The Fighting Irish average 70.5 points per game. Notre Dame isn’t a team that likes to run and push the tempo like they previously did. This team is improved on the defensive end, and that keeps them in most games.
Notre Dame will have a pretty nice home court advantage in this one, but UConn is the far more athletic team. I think the Huskies guards will do a lot of damage in this one.
College Basketball Prediction: UConn 72 Notre Dame 65
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