Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shhh

This Thursday's quote of the week segment is observing a day of silence to mourn the 24.5% FG that knocked the Irish out of the tournament...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Brey / Bam Bam Interview

I already posted my thoughts on the upcoming ND WSU game, but for those of you that want an opinion straight from the experts, here's a copy of CBS's interview with Mike Brey and Luke Harangody that took place during halftime of the Duke WVU game today. If that isn't already enough to convince you to watch it, there's some great awkwardness near the end of the interview.


video


Go Irish! Beat Cougars!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Irish Down Patriots, Look Forward to WSU

Heading into Thursday's opening round of the NCAA tournament, the Nasties Crew had several concerns about the Men's team:

1. Notre Dame needs to play well on the road.
2. Harangody/KMac need help from a third player on offense.
3. The Irish need to take their opponent out early.

After hitting 6 of their first 8 three point attempts and starting the game on a 23-7 run, the Irish were definitely able to satisfy the 1st and 3rd keys to victory, and a strong performance by Ryan Ayers off the bench (12pts on 5-10 shooting) rounds out the trifecta. In addition to putting in a strong offensive performance, Notre Dame was able to showcase a little Big East defensive grit, holding the Patriots to 33% shooting and shutting down 2 of GM's 3 central players. And as long as I'm talking about good things from last game, it was great that Brey was able to give 3 freshman (Nash, Proffitt, and Abromaitis) some valuable tournament experience.
However, don't expect Saturday's game to go as smoothly; Notre Dame was able to take Vaughan (6'3") and Campbell (6'4") almost completely out of the game on Thursday night (combined 7 points on 2-19 shooting), but Thomas (6'7") was able to put up half of George Mason's points. Washington State plays two capable 6'10" forwards in Aron Baynes (10.5 ppg) and Robbie Cowgill (7.3 ppg), so the noticeable height advantage ND had against George Mason will be more neutralized. Notre Dame has done a decent job of collapsing the zone on big men (making it tough for them to score), but the size could be a factor in the rebounding game.
Also, while 62% of GM's scoring was accounted for by only three players, WSU spreads the ball around much more: 4 starters average double figures, and the team has a good combination of inside and outside scoring.
One element of the game that shouldn't change too much is the pace. George Mason scored an average of 69 ppg throughout the season, and Washington State averages a comparable 67 ppg. In a 68-50 victory Thursday night, ND proved that it can play a low scoring game, but it is definitely to their advantage if they can get out to an early lead and force WSU to play the uncomfortable role of catch-up.

Keep Dancing, Go Irish! Beat
Cougars!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tourney Time

Brey and the gang have been away from South Bend since Tuesday adjusting to the higher altitude in Denver; hopefully the preparation time will result in a win for the Irish, who will look to rid themselves of the bad taste in many of the player's mouths that resulted from losing in the first round of the tournament last year. It would appear that the Irish have a strong chance to redeem themselves; the South Bend Tribune posted an article that highlights the thoughts of some analysts who feel that ND can be a bracketbuster this year:

“I like Notre Dame going to the Sweet 16,” Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis said on the CBS selection show.

“They’re a team at a 5 seed that can be very difficult to knock off,” said CBS lead college basketball analyst BillyPacker."

“One of the most dangerous
teams in the tournament,” said CBS studio analyst Clark Kellogg.

However, Irish fans still have a few reasons to be worried heading into tonight's game.


1. Notre Dame has not played well away from home this season, even in neutral site games. Losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech in the Virgin Islands combined with a 5-4 away record in the Big East (5-5 counting the less than impressive outing in the Big East tournament this year) have shown that ND for some reason lacks the ability to bounce back from sloppy play if they start the game flat.

2. As teams begin to hassle Luke Harangody in the paint more, other players need to step up. Kyle McAlarney has been able to play this role very well over the season, but if ND can't get double figures from someone else on the roster, it creates the potential for a stagnant offensive outing.

3. Throughout the season, Notre Dame has occasionally struggled to assert itself on the defensive glass. Most recently, teams like USF and SJU have been able to stay in the game by grabbing timely offensive rebounds. Come tournament time, all that a team needs to do to win sometimes is to stay in the game, and allowing a lesser, smaller team like George Mason to hang around until the final two minutes is not something any Irish fan wants to see.

However, I like Notre Dame's chances against the Patriots tonight. One of the primary reasons for last year's loss to Winthrop was the inexperience of the team; Harangody especially seemed anxious, scoring only 4 points in a limited 17 minutes of action. Don't expect that from the team this year though. Bam-Bam is much more conditioned, and every starter has the added experience of playing in the tournament last year (and the one player that doesn't will be playing hungry from missing that chance).

Also, this isn't the same George Mason team that reached the Final Four two seasons ago. If the Irish can shut down the trio of Thomas, Campbell, and Vaughan (combine for 62% of GM's scoring and 55% of the team's rebounds), the Patriots lack the depth to compete with a team that can spread the ball like Notre Dame. George Mason also plays a much slower style (avg GM game has 132 points) of play than ND (avg combined score of 150), so if the Irish can get up early, there is a good chance that GM will have a hard time catching up.

I'll try not to jinx tonight's game
with another Mike Brey quote of the week, so I'll just stick with mentioning that Purdue (wearing white) was able to beat Baylor (who was wearing green and yellow) when I was writing this post.

Happy Dancing, Go Irish! Beat Patriots!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Happy 100

While it may be hard to believe, the internet has allowed Charlie's Nasties to stay online for 100 posts. The milestone got the Nasties crew thinking which is cooler: 100 posts, or 100 hula hoops?




There are, however, other world news events than CN reaching 100 career posts. I'm talking of course about the Big East tournament, where Notre Dame will face off against Marquette in an important rubber match at 9:30 tonight. Seton Hall took the Golden Eagles down to the wire last night; the Pirates got the score to 57-54 with five minutes left, but they failed to score the rest of the game and ended up loosing 67-54. Seton Hall made Marquette work for their points, fouling them anytime they had an easy shot. This ended up costing Seton Hall; 3 of the 9 players on their roster (all big men) ended up fouling out early into the second half. The strategy did keep the game close mainly because Marquette only hit 20 of their 35 FT attempts (57%). Irish fans can take some comfort after watching Marquette's poor performance at the charity stripe, but it should also be noted that they dominated Seton Hall on the glass, out rebounding them 52 to 29. ND will have to establish themselves in the paint if they want to be successful tonight.

Recently named Big East Coach of the Year, Mike Brey, had this to say about facing Marquette (article courtesy of the beloved Observer):

"I think we have great energy and great momentum," Brey said. "This group is really excited. We're going in with a lot of juice."

Juice? That was a good one! Go Irish! Beat
Eagles!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back from Break

After spending winter break in Big Sky Montana and a weekend in Windsor Canada, my mind, body, and wallet were ready for some old fashion rest in my home state. Seeing as I was running almost exclusively on Monster energy drinks the week preceding Spring Break, it was nice to get a chance to recharge my biological clock and catch up on some ZZZZs. When I finally woke up from the three day nap, I was welcomed by typical backwards Midwest spring weather; 60 degrees and sunshine was followed by a bizarre ice storm that did this to the birch tree in my front yard:When the ice melted, I packed my bags and headed south to the state capital to bunk up with my high school friend in Ohio State's SAE frat house. Finals were just around the corner for the Buckeye students, but I was nevertheless able to have some fun in Columbus. After rolling out of bed the next morning, the brothers and I woke up by taking a high power water balloon launcher to the fourth floor (I guess it was part of Greek week?). Sadly, the OSU visit was cut short by a freak snow storm; I had a ticket and a hot date to the Flyers final basketball game in Dayton Saturday and I wasn't about to get snowed in. So I braved the terrible conditions (15 cars spun off the road in a 60 mile stretch) on I-70 in my Civic and continued my journey west to the Birthplace of Aviation.

In a sold out game that only drew 50% attendance because of the weather, UD played host to St. Joe's in their final home game. The game was good, the stadium made the JACC (I hate to say it but its true) look like a high school gym, but the best part of the trip was getting to watch the St. Joe's Hawk. Now one of my favorite mascots, the Hawk enjoys a paid for education, but he is required to flap his wings the entire game. Timeouts, warmups, senior day celebrations, you name it, the Hawk was flapping its wings. However, the UD mascot Rudy Flyer refused to take a back seat as he later shamed the Hawk's one dimensional cheering in an epic dance off.
For those of you still reading, I thank you for taking such a creepy interest in my life away from Notre Dame sports. A post on the Big East tournament and the epic cliffhanging Tale of Two Freshman conclusion should be up sometime soon. Thanks for reading and Go Irish.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Irish Cruise Past St. Johns in Senior's Last Home Game

I have to admit that I didn't watch the ND St. Johns game last night; ESPNU was carrying the Boston College game in my area, and my internet cable provider doesn't support ESPN 360. The gamecast I was using didn't help much either; I was able to get the score, but the live stats were a little off. How off? Let's just say that red shirt freshman Carlton Scott was credited with 3 points... O well, at least I had the nice alternative of watching fellow 330 citizen LeBron James drop 50 points in a win over the Knicks at the Garden. I could stare at the box score for awhile and try to write a post that made it seem like I saw the game, but for the sake of our loyal readers, I'll spare them my commentary and just link the ESPN and SBT game recaps.

I realize that a majority of the people who visit this site are not as avidly involved with ND Basketball as they are with our loyal sons on the football field, so in an effort to prepare everyone for the upcoming Big East tourney, I would like to point to a pleasantly funny Observer article by student writer Bob Kessler that sums up the team for those not as familiar with this year's bball squad.

February has been a great month for this university, and I'm not talking about the proliferation of waffle fries in the SDH.

It's pretty amazing looking back: two years ago (when we last lost at the JACC, to Marquette) nobody would have expected that we would witness our football team lose more games than our basketball team over the next two years.

On Harangody: Some tried to call him Bam-Bam last year; Digger calls him "Gody," but the fans in the JACC just prefer to call him "LUUUUUUUUUUKE."

On the team's trio of point guards: Tory Jackson gets rebounds like it's his job, K-Mac drains threes from ridiculous range, and Peoples has the biggest calves this side of Robert Hughes.

On Zeller, Ayers, and Hillesland: each of these guys has his own unique skill-set, but they all share the ability to throw down at any given moment in a game.

While the Legion is referred to as the 6th Man for the Irish, everybody knows the real 6th man is Janice McAlarney (J-Mac, mother of K-Mac).

On the Legion Shirt: Students sit behind the basket wearing black this year, a nice color choice, with designs that remind us of something out of Hello Kitty. Really, there couldn't possibly be a less intimidating font choice for the shirts this year. At least they aren't as bad as "The Shirt," which is made to fit Charlie Weis and Scott Malpass; even those ones that are sized small.

On Brey: His tieless wardrobe and trademark fist pumps keep the team excited and keep the fans on their feet.

Many thanks to Bob Kessler for the 5 minute guide to ND basketball, but there is one more basketball player to pay homage to. Senior forward Rob Kurz played his final game in the JACC last night, going for 15 points and 4 rebounds. Kurz has provided ND with great leadership and a more than capable skill set over the last two undefeated home seasons, and it was a pleasure to be able to watch him play. Kurz also supplies us with this week's quotes.
"It's been an unbelievable experience," the senior said. "You work your whole life to play college basketball and now its coming to an end."
But don't worry, Kurz knows that he still has work to do:

"You can't pat yourself on the back right now," Kurz said. "Until we win a couple games in the (NCAA) Tournament, I'm not going to feel like we've accomplished what we set out to do."
"The most important part of the season is right now."
Excellently put. Go Irish! Beat Bulls!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Tale of Two Freshmen Part II

Midterms are finally over, which means I can spend my day parked on the couch watching college basketball and great Saturday afternoon TV movies like Spaceballs. However, some of our loyal readers never take a break from reading up on Irish gridiron notes, so I thought now would be a good time to write part 2 of my Clausen / Quinn analysis.

In an effort to go beyond the numbers, I tried to uncover some of the intangible stats in each of their first 10 games, and Quinn ended up edging out Clausen 5 games to 4 based purely on their performance. Of course, football is a team sport, so a few other factors need to be considered before we can determine who had the 'better' freshman year. With that in mind, let's check out each QB's supporting cast:

Who Were They Throwing To?

2003: Brady worked with a set of WRs/TE his freshman year that went on to become arguably one of the best receiving corps in ND history. Rheman McKnight was ranked the 5th best WR by rivals, amassing over 2,000 receiving yards and over 20 touchdowns in his career. Although he was not used to his full potential in 2003, Jeff Samardzija would end up breaking most of the significant receiving records at Notre Dame. A hard nosed rivals 4-star receiver, Maurice Stovall, proved to be one of ND's greatest offensive threats (2,195 yards 18 TDs) over his college career, which ended when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 NFL draft. Rounding out the WRs was the senior leadership of Omar Jenkins, who contributed 36 receptions for over 300 yards. Don't forget the work of 4 star tight end Anthony Fasano, who notched over 1,000 career receiving yards before being drafted by the Cowboys in 2006.
2007: After a breakout '06 season, Carlson, a former 3 star recruit, was Clausen's most experienced target. Carlson, who was more of a receiving tight end than Fasano, went over 1,000 yards during his career and will likely be drafted this year. Rivals 64th best WR of the '05 class, David Grimes, provided the most experience at the receiver position, however, his experience was more related to his age than his playing time; Grime only had 2 receptions heading into the 2007 campaign. Most of the production came from sophomore Robby Parris (3* 64th WR) and freshman Duval Kamara (4* 6th WR). Flashes of help also came from freshman Golden Tate (4* 7th ATH) and sophomore George West (3* 53rd ATH), who are both (hopefully) still working to refine their receiving skills.

So... 2007 seemed to be handicapped at WR by experience. Its oldest wideout was a junior with no previous playing time, and two of the other young receivers were recruited as athletes instead of true wideouts. Both QB's had a talented NFL tight end to throw to, but Quinn also had future NFL players (Stovall, McKnight, Holiday, and Shark if he wanted to) playing at receiver. While it is unknown how many of the 2007 WRs will play at the next level, the talent that Quinn had to throw to is indisputable, which is why I'm giving this advantageto 2003.

How did the Big Uglies Do?

2003: Jeff Faine (who just signed a monster contract with the Bucs) and Brennan Curtain were drafted into the NFL, and this team was faced with the difficult task of replacing four starters on the offensive line; the lone returning starter was senior guard Sean Milligan. HOWEVER, ND was able to replace the graduated linemen with 1 SENIOR and 3 JUNIORS. What's even more impressive, the two-deep consisted of all juniors and sophomores. The veteran group of linemen was able to pave the way to an impressive ground game in '03, and Quinn was only sacked 13 times in 9 starts.
2007: ND only graduated 3 OLs in '06, although the losses of Ryan Harris (who introduced us all to Chipotle in MTV's True Life) and Bob Morton were particularly big. Pre season Remmington candidate John Sullivan was expected to anchor a young line with the help of returning contributors Sam Young and Mike Turkovich. However, the inexperience (possibly coupled with Weis' preference for light contact practices) ended up creating the offensive line that finished last in the NCAA in sacks allowed. In Clausen's first 7 starts, he went down 27 times.

So... No brainer here; most people look to the offensive line (and running game) as the biggest advantage Quinn had in his first year over Clausen. Edge: 2003.

Who Were They Handing Off To?

2003: In his fourth year at Notre Dame, Julius Jones went crazy for 1,200 yards and 10 TDs while splitting time at running back. His production earned him a 2nd round draft selection by the Cowboys. His partner in crime, Ryan Grant ripped off 500+ yds and 3 TDs in his junior season.
2007: This Notre Dame squad lost out on Darrius Walker's last year of eligibility and were instead forced to rely on a stable of less experienced running backs that each brought something different to the table. Sophomore James Aldridge had the most carries (121) despite being injured for some of the season. He was followed by the speedy Armando Allen (86 carries) who seemed not to adjust to the speed of the college game until later in the year. The true late bloomer was Robert Hughes, who recorded back to back 100+ yard games to close out the season. Seniors Travis Thomas and Junior Jabbie were also put in the mix for goal line and passing situations, respectively.

So... It's hard just to rationalize playing just one of the many RBs in 2007, but I think that ND might have been hurt by the inconsistency at the position this year. All three of our wins last season featured one distinct feature back behind Jimmy (Aldridge against UCLA and Hughes for the last two). In pass protection, the running back must work with the linemen to pick up blitzes, and its hard to get comfortable blocking with each other when the RB is always changing. Also, while Thomas brought leadership to the position, he was no Julius Jones. Willingham was able to hand the ball off to his workhorse when the going got tough, and either him or Grant was usually a sure bet in short yardage situations. If that wasn't enough, the 175 rush ypg earned by '03 dwarfs the 75 rush ypg of '07, giving 2003 an indisputable advantage.

Misc

It's also worth mentioning that the '03 defense was notably better, allowing 24 ppg compared to the 29 ppg the '07 squad let up. Quinn also didn't have the same pressure to get the ball in the endzone as Clausen; he could fall back on the reliable kicking of Nick Setta if a drive stalled within 45 yards. I'm not sure how much the kicking game has to do with quarterbacking, but it has to help a little bit.

That's it for this post - part 3 will give the final conclusion in a few days.