The Massachusetts Minutemen will get to see how they stack up against the big boys as they take on the ACC's own Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The game takes place on Saturday at noon and is part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena. You can watch the game on ESPN3. you can also listen via radio here:
Who are the Irish?
As you probably know the Irish are part of the ACC for basketball purposes. They are led by Mike Brey and are coming off a down year going 15-17 (6-12). That was due in large part by the loss of Jerian Grant to a academic suspension.
The Irish are heading into this game also with a record of 3-0. They have a margin of victory of 39.67 points over the Binghamton Bearcats, Navy Midshipmen, and Coppin State Eagles. As of the last USA Today poll they received five votes to the Minutemen's four.
Irish players to watch
Their leading scorer is 6-10 big man Zach Auguste. He is averaging 20 points per game on on astonishing 74.2 percent shooting from the floor. He only avergages 22.3 minutes but he is one of the most effienct players in the country right now.
Their best player though is Jerian Grant. Last year he had the chance to be an All-American and maybe a first round NBA seleciton before his suspension. At 15.3 points per game he is the second leading scorer and the teams leader. He's also the leading assist man at 7.7 a game. The team at this point is averaging 59.1 percent from the field so just assume that everyone has a pretty good shooting percentage.
Pat Connaughton is avergaging a double-double with 12.7 points and 10 rebounds per game. He's a 6-5 senior combo guard/forward.
The Irish also have a pretty good sixth man in V.J. Beachem. He's the fourth leading scorer 11.7 and provides them a spark off the bench as a 6-8 forward.
How they matchup
Cady Lalanne has played very nicely on both sides of the ball up to this point. His defense will be tested against Auguste and a good showing could vault him into national attention. Lalanne may not get the blocks he was getting against smaller teams but that doesn't mean he won't still affect shots. I still think he gets his fourth double-double.
The Irish like to push the ball and score points as they average over 90 on the year. UMass is letting up 72.3 and that includes a game that went into overtime.
Derrick Gordon will likely take the necessary job of trying to shutdown Jerian Grant. Gordon has played well defensively and this will be an exciting matchup to watch. The offense flows through Grant so Gordon's high energy will be imperative.
Maxie Esho will need to stay out of foul trouble and seeing how Connaughton is the leading rebounder Esho should be the one guarding him. Esho is a few inches taller and doesn't give up too much speed or agility given his athleticism.
UMass has been struggling from behind the arc and will need Trey Davis along with Jabarie Hinds to step up. Davis had a big three late in the Manhattan game but UMass is going to need quantity over quality to beat the high scoring Irish.
This is a tough one to gauge. UMass probably has had the tougher schedule but not by a whole lot. BC is one of the worst big conference schools in the country and Siena was missing their starting center. Notre Dame has also blown out all of their opponents where UMass has had serious problems from first half struggles to the scary overtime win at home against Manhattan.
I think UMass overcomes their first half woes and finally puts two halves together and wins a close one in a high scoring fashion of 85-82.