NOTRE DAME VS. SETON HALL
Where: Purcell Pavillion (9,149), at Notre Dame
Rankings & Records: No. 21 Notre Dame (12-1, 0-0 Big East); Seton Hall (12-2, 1-0 Big East)
Time/TV: Saturday Jan. 5 at Noon. EST on Big East Network (BEN) regionally, plus ESPN3.
Jack Cooley and the Irish begin Big East action by hosting Seton Hall.
On Jan. 25, 2012, Notre Dame won 55-42 at Seton Hall, the second of what would be a program record nine straight Big East wins. The Fighting Irish were projected for a letdown on the road after upsetting No. 1 Syracuse at home four days earlier but responded well.
Notre Dame has won nine of the last 10 meetings against the Pirates, and is 10-1 at home against them, including six straight wins. Seton Hall’s lone victory at Notre Dame was 74-64 on Feb. 18, 2001.
Notre Dame Notes
Head coach Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish open Big East play after an unusual two-week layoff, with its most recent game a 89-67 rout of Niagara on Dec. 21. Among the 15 Big East teams, the Irish, Georgetown and South Florida are the only ones who have yet to open league play.
Notre Dame was picked to finish third, behind Louisville and Syracuse, in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, while Seton Hall came in at 14th, ahead of only Providence.
Highlighted by victories against Kentucky and Purdue — which upset No. 11 Illinois this week — Notre Dame finished the non-conference schedule with a 10-game winning streak while shooting an impressive 53.2 percent from the field during that span. It was capped by converting 18-of-24 (75 percent) in the second half against Niagara.
The hallmark of Brey’s teams has been excellent passing and offensive efficiency. The Irish rank second nationally in both assist-to-turnover ratio (1.76) and assists per game (19.5).
Defensively, Notre Dame’s opponents have shot only 37.7 percent from the field against the Irish. The team with the highest figure — 46.7 percent by Saint Joseph’s — was the one the Irish lost to in overtime.
Notre Dame also is second in the nation in fewest fouls per game (12.2).
Jack Cooley — The senior power forward ranks second nationally with nine double-doubles, including six in the last eight games. Coming off a season high in points (24) and rebounds (15) against Niagara, the 6-9, 246-pound Cooley leads the Irish in points (15.2) and rebounds (11.3) per game. His rebounding production leads the Big East and his 64.0 shooting percentage (73-114) from the field is second in the league — behind teammate and fellow low-post complement Garrick Sherman at 64.4 percent (47-73)
Jerian Grant — Although he’s had a roller-coast non-conference season, the junior 6-5 guard is second in scoring (12.2) and assists (5.3).
Eric Atkins — The junior point guard remains the steadying influence with his 4.04 assists-to-turnover ratio, seventh in the country and second in the Big East. His 7.2 assists per contest are third in the country, and it is complemented by a 10.8 scoring average while shooting a quality 39.5 percent from three-point range.
Pat Connaughton — The 6-5 sophomore wing enters league play on a tear, converting 15 of his last 22 (68.2 percent) from the floor while averaging 13.5 points over the past four contests.
Scott Martin — The sixth-year player and last year’s Team MVP remains a quiet fixture as the seventh-leading scorer (8.5) and second-leading rebounder (6.9). His 44.7 percent (21-47) shooting beyond the arc ranks fifth in the Big East.
Off The Bench
This could be the most productive inside-outside bench tandem in Brey’s 13 season with the program.
The 6-10, 246-pound Sherman (9.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game) and 6-7 freshman Cameron Beidscheid.(8.8 points) provide instant offense. Beidscheid has found his three-point shooting stroke in recent weeks, and his next step is to improve defensively because Big East basketball becomes like NBA playoff basketball — a whole new level.
Brey generally doesn’t go beyond seven players once conference play commences, so it will be interesting to see how much 6-10 freshman Zach Auguste (7.3 minutes per game in non-conference play) and senior Tom Knight (5.3 minutes per contest) see the court.
Seton Hall Overview
Under third-year head coach Ralph Willard, the Pirates are gunning for their eighth straight win. They opened league play Wednesday with a 73-72 win at DePaul. Leading scorer Fuquan Edwin scored off an in-bounds pass with 6.9 second left for the game-winner.
The 6-6 Edwin has been in a recent slump but still leads Seton Hall in scoring with a 17.7 average. He is complemented inside by the massive 6-9, 290-pound Eugene Teauge (12.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game), while sophomore guard Aaron Cosby (12.1 points per game) tallied a career high 24 points versus the Blue Demons.
The non-conference schedule included an overtime defeat to Washington and a 72-67 loss at LSU in November. On Dec. 8 the Pirates did notch a quality road win at Wake Forest, 71-67, rallying from a 13-deficit near the 12-minute mark of the second half.
The Pirates are a “spread” team that averages shooting 23 treys per game compared to Notre Dame’s 18. Seton Hall’s 38.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc is second in the Big East to Notre Dame's 38.7.
There are no free lunches in the Big East, and If this game were on the road for the Irish, an upset loss wouldn’t be a surprise.
But at Purcell Pavillion, Notre Dame is fabulously consistent. Since the start of the 2006-07 season, the Irish are 110-7 (94.02) at home. Kansas is the only program with a better winning percentage at home during that time with a 113-4 mark (96.58 percent).
Over that same time, Notre Dame’s 47-6 (88.68) record at home in Big East games is the best in the league, with Louisville No. 2 at 44-10 (81.48). It’s virtually impossible to pick against Notre Dame at home.
Somogyi’s Pick: Notre Dame 75, Seton Hall 66.