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ACC Season Starts With A Road Trip to Notre Dame

No holiday hangover, please!

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Notre Dame
Fighting Irish balls
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When: Wednesday January 3 - 9:00 PM ET

Where: South Bend, Indiana

TV: ACC Network

Opponent: Notre Dame Fighting Irish - NET 184 / Q3

Preseason Conference Prediction: 15th (of 15) in the ACC

Pomeroy Prediction: Wolfpack 70 - 65

NET Tracker: NC State (9-3) #68, 9th in ACC NET rankings

. . . . .
. . . . .
To Date Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Wins 1 0 0 8
Losses 3 0 0 0
NET as of 01/01/2024

Wolfpack Injury Report:

Mo Diarra has not played a full game since Boston College 12/2. Pack social media has shown him practicing with the team during the holiday break.

Opponent Overview:

It’s a new day in South Bend. Coach Micah “Shrews” Shrewsberry was hired to replace Mike Brey. This is his third season as a head coach, after two seasons in the B1G at Penn St where he collected more conference wins in his first two seasons than any other Penn State head coach and led them to their first NCAAT game win in 20 years. He comes from the Brad Stevens coaching tree, working for him 2007-2011 at Butler and again 2013-2019 for the Celtics. Notre Dame feels like they have found their long-term coach and signed him to a seven-year contract. The fan base is all on board, showing up even for the less attractive opponents. He is a great addition to the ACC coaching ranks.

Coach Shrewsberry (“… and your father smells of shrewsberrys!” – sorry, had to get that out of my system) inherits a bad news / good news situation. The bad news is that he lost all of the Notre Dame starters and their top 7 scorers. He returns only 4 seldom used players. More bad news, several of Brey’s recruits decommitted. The good news? He has a nice blank canvas to work on! More good news, he brought his Penn State top 25 recruiting class (including his son Braeden) and added Markus Burton – Indiana Mr. Basketball 2023 - to end up with the #23 ranked recruiting class.

Their Season So Far:

The Fighting Irish (NET #187, KP #173) are (6-7) on the season coming into January. Their best OOC win was a neutral court win over Oklahoma St (NET 134) in mid-November. They also took Georgetown (NET 204) to overtime in December before losing 72-68. Their best win overall was a stunner Saturday against Virginia.

ACC Record (1-1)

  1. @ Miami 49-62
  2. Virginia 76-54 (!)

UVA Game Notes: In an interesting coincidence, our next two opponents played one another Saturday. It did not turn out as expected. Kenpom said UVA had the #3 ranked defense and ND the #308 ranked offense. UVA was favored by 9 but lost by 22. (bad Q4 loss for KenPom!)

This was Coach Shrewsberry’s first ACC win, and it was a dominant one against a good Tony Bennett team. ND was up by 17 at the half. UVA (formerly NET #31, now #54) cut it to 10 at one point in the 2nd half, but then ND went on a 16-3 run and put it away, handing UVA their 3rd 20+ point loss of the season. (win, or lose big) The major factors in the game were shooting and rebounding. ND shot better at all three levels, FG / 3PT / FT, and out rebounded them by 13 – all defensive rebounds. ND uncharacteristically hit 11 3PT shots, shooting 70% in the first half and 47.8% for the game, .

Team Statistical Comparison

Team PPG FG% 3PT% 3PT pg Reb pg Ast pg TO pg ST pg BL pg
Team PPG FG% 3PT% 3PT pg Reb pg Ast pg TO pg ST pg BL pg
NCS 79.8 46.10% 35.0% 8.1 36.3 14.4 9.3 8.1 2.8
ND 63.6 40.20% 28.2% 7 36.2 10.4 13.4 6.2 2.7

Player Notes:

  • Freshman PG Markus Burton has started every game and leads the Irish in scoring, minutes, assists, turnovers, and steals. He had 15 points (2-3 3PT) and 8 assists against UVA.
  • Freshman F Carey Booth (amphitheater!) shot 6-9 / 2-5 3PT and had 17 points and 9 rebounds versus UVA. This was only his second start of the season.
  • Junior G J.R. Konieczny shot 6-8 / 4-5 3PT and had 17 points and 8 rebounds versus UVA. He leads the team in rebounding.

Fighting Irish Probable Starters

Player Class Pos Height Weight PPG 3PT% 3PTApg REB ASST BLK STL
Player Class Pos Height Weight PPG 3PT% 3PTApg REB ASST BLK STL
Burton FR G 5'11" 166 15.9 25% 4 3.4 3.92 0.3 2
Booth FR F 6'10" 203 7.2 34% 3.6 4.3 0.62 0.5 0
Njie SO F 6'10" 254 4.4 20% 0.4 4.4 0.54 0.7 0
Davis SO F 6'9" 208 8.2 10.50% 1.5 5.7 0.77 0.4 1
Konieczny JR G 6'7" 204 10.3 32% 3.8 5.9 0.85 0.3 1

Keys To the Game

  • Guard the 3PT line - ND has not been a good 3PT shooting team on the season, averaging 26.7% and hitting 6.8 per game – before the UVA game. The UVA game was out of character but shows they can hit them when the (pack line defense) opportunity arises. #0 Booth, #3 Burton, and #20 Konieczny were the players that lit up UVA, but #1 Roper is statistically their best 3PT shooter.
  • Rebound – ND has not been a dominant rebounding team, holding a 1.6 overall advantage on the season, prior to the ND game. But in this game, they focused on defensive rebounding and dominated giving UVA few second chance opportunities. 80% of their rebounds in the UVA game were by the five starters, led by Booth with 9.
  • Guard the ball – PG Burton does not play like a freshman. The 8 assists against UVA was his career high, but he has two games each with 4, 5, and 6 assists. He has scored in double digits in all but two games (both losses), and already has a career high of 29. Disrupting his game will be key to our success.
  • Matchup problem - Freshman F Booth is 6’10”, shoots 34% from 3PT, and is a solid rebounder.

For The Wolfpack to Win

The Irish will be confident and their crowd will be nuts after the UVA thrashing. If they start the UVA starters, it is a 2 guard, 3 forward (6’9”, 6’10”, 6’10”) lineup which is a matchup problem for everybody. When they sub, the first two guys off the bench are guards and they replace a forward, so then they become more traditional size wise. They have taken about 50 more 3PT shots than the Pack on the season. The Irish’s strengths against UVA are our weaknesses, getting good shots and rebounding.

Keep them from beating us from the 3PT line and rebound! They are very young, we have an edge in experience. Our best defenders are our guards, they are going to have to be in top form against Burton & Konieczny. The likely first guy off the bench (or possibly starting) guard Roper is their best 3PT shooter, so our 3rd guard will need to stay close to him. We’re going to need Diarra playing to match up with Booth when he’s on the floor, otherwise we might need to play Ross if he heats up from 3PT. Njie is about the same size as Middlebrooks, might be time to give the more defensive minded Ben the start? Time to show up!!