Notre Dame Basketball Primer: #5 Irish To Clash with #3 Michigan State

The Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball team is coming off an impressive win in Maui. Notre Dame overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat the #6 Wichita State Shockers, and claim the 2017 Maui Invitational. The schedule does not get any easier, as Mike Brey will lead his team into East Lansing to take on the #3 Michigan State Spartans for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

What you Need to Know:

  • Game Time: November 30th, 7:00 p.m. on ESPN
  • Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
  • Matchup: Notre Dame leads the series 60-35 (Notre Dame won the last meeting in 2014 by 1 point in overtime)
  • Current Odds: N/A
  • NCAA Tournament Projections: Michigan State #1 seed; Notre Dame #2 seed

Michigan State Details:

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Head Coach: Tom Izzo (22nd season; 548- 221 at Michigan State)
  • 2017 Record: 5-1
  • 2016 Record: 20-15 (10-8 in Big Ten); eliminated in Round of 32

Notre Dame Details:

  • Conference: ACC
  • Head Coach: Mike Brey (17th season; 388-187 at Notre Dame)
  • 2017 Record: 6-0
  • 2016 Record: 26-10 (12-6 in ACC); eliminated in the Round of 32

Key Players to Watch:

Bonzie Colson is a preseason All-American. That means he is one of the best 5 players in the entire country, if he continues to play to his potential. He may become the first All-American at Notre Dame since Jerian Grant. Although he is undersized at 6’ 5”, that did not stop him from averaging a double-double last year, and this year through the first 6 games. Many analysts continue to wonder how he keeps this production up. It’s simple; Bonzie plays with heart, has a high basketball IQ, and he can knock down shots from any spot on the floor, a lot of the time fading away.

Matt Farrell is one of the best point guards in the country. In his first 6 games, Farrell is averaging 17.5 ppg and 4.3 apg. It’s a cliché, but Matt plays with some of the most passion and heart of any player in the country. His three-point shooting is lethal, and he is not afraid to shoot with a man in his face.

Miles Bridges headlines the #4 Spartans this season. Along with Bonzie Colson, he too is a preseason All-American. Bridges is averaging 19.7 ppg and 7 rpg for the Spartans on the season. Bridges is only a sophomore and coming in at 6’7” will present a tough challenge for the Irish.

Nick Ward falls just behind Bridges in points per game. Ward is averaging 16.3 ppg along with 5.3 rpg. The 6’8” Forward adds to the size that Michigan State presents. He is also shooting an alarming 76% from the field.

Michigan State Storylines:

Michigan State’s bad record in Challenge. The Spartans are surprisingly only 7-10 all time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. However, the Spartans are 6-2 at the Breslin Center during the series. This will be a pivotal game in the Challenge, as two of the best teams in each conference go toe to toe. Last year the ACC won the challenge easily, defeating the Big Ten 9-5.

The Spartans are 5-1 this season. Michigan State is coming off an impressive win over the reigning national champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels in the PK80 Tournament. This team has Final Four hopes, as many Tom Izzo coached teams have been to in the past. Michigan State’s only loss was by 7 points to an undefeated Duke team. The atmosphere in East Lansing will be hostile and the Spartans will be well prepared.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Final Four type game against Wichita State. In the championship game in Maui, Notre Dame only scored 21 points in the first half against the Shockers. But Mike Brey made the halftime adjustments and the Irish started to cut into the large halftime lead. The Irish eventually cut the lead to just one, as Mike Brey’s perfect out of bounds play opened up Martinas Geben for a dunk. But he was hacked and Geben was able to knock down two clutch free throws to seal the win.

Can the Irish repeat against Sparty?  Three years ago, the Irish beat the Spartans in South Bend in an overtime thriller. Back then the Irish were led by two great seniors in Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Mike Brey, led by two seniors once again, hopes to steal a win for the ACC on the road and propel his team to perhaps a top 3 ranking in the country.

My Prediction:

Michigan State has Final Four potential. It is early in the year and there has not been a large sample size for either team. When the Spartans are good, the Breslin Center is one of the hardest places to play in the entire country. Michigan State has a completely stacked roster this year. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what the Irish can do against the Big Ten’s best.

If the Irish get off to a slow start like they did against Wichita State, I don’t see them coming back. Notre Dame will have to hit at least 10 three-pointers to get this huge road upset. Mike Brey brings a veteran roster into East Lansing. I think it will be another Final Four type game, but I have the Spartans pulling away in the end.

My Prediction: Michigan State 80 Notre Dame 70

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  1. All I can say was that was a disappointing game. They came out after halftime they made it somewhat interesting, but they pretty much never had a chance. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I thought the Irish would keep it closer.

  2. Damian, thanks for the heads up of Notre Damevs. UConn. Women’s basketball has come a long way as they try to imitate their male counterparts. UConn features sharpshooter Katie Lou Samuelson who shared the gym with Rex Pfleuger back in their high school domination days. To bad we didn’t get Katie Lou to join the Irish.

    1. NP. I usually check the official site for upcoming games on TV to see if there’s something I want to see. After the disappointing end to the football regular season, it’ll be nice if the 2 basketball teams can get some wins.

  3. Speaking of the women’s BB team, they have their own big game coming up on Sunday with UConn. I haven’t been following the Lady Irish that closely this year, but their games against UConn are usually good games (plus I love it when they can take UConn down, just on principle). The game will be at 4 on ESPN.

    Go Irish!

  4. Southside, since you are the Chicagoland basketball expert, perhaps you can shed some light. I usually attended the Nike Extravaganza in Southern California, early February. This year no marquees, the stars all transferred out or getting home schooled. One year Whitney Young came in with highly touted J. Okafor. Well, in the feature game he was about non exisent in the first half. I think Rex Pfleuger was a junior at the time on the opposing team. Rex’s team pulled out to a substantial lead at halftime. Then Okafor woke up in the second. But, it was to little to late and The Great Okafor went down. However, the player that impressed me the most was Paul White who just plugged along the entire game. He is still on roster at U of O. Seems like hare and tortoise story. Very surprised 76’ers took Okafor. Well, they learned their costly lesson.

  5. Tough game for sure coming up. Hopefully the Irish gives MSU everything they can handle. Brey has done a great job these last few years making adjustments after halftime, and even in game sometimes.

    He’s also a genius at designing the perfect play coming out of a time out. Usually those last second time outs are a desperation move. But ND rarely plays desperate. Probably by virtue of actually having seniors on the team give them a certain maturity and professionalism on the court. They usually have a good play lined up and more times then not execute.

    I think the key for ND is to try to play it close to MSU. If they can keep MSU from pulling too far ahead they have a good shot at a win (unless ND somehow dominates and puts them away early, but I don’t see that happening).

    1. Damian , you know your basketball–especially pertaining to ND and the player roster and their skills. I’m huge on following college/high school basketball where I’m from. My favorite time of year for sports is March Madness NCAA tournament time. Nothing tops the frenzy of 64 to 32 to sweet 16 to elite 8 to final 4. This coach Mike Brey is close — so very close to taking Irish to Final 4 this season. He’s already got two elite 8’s — and next step is to pass Digger Phelph’s Final 4 of 1978 — and onto a National Title soon. You guys might disagree from out east — but basketball in Illinois–Chicago high schools to neighboring state Indiana have best high school players in the country. Lately though these top players are going to Duke , Kansas , Kentucky, North Carolina. So U of Illinois and Indiania U are struggling now. The days of Bobby Knight and the IU program of once being elite–are gone. As is Depaul once an inner city college of Chicago coached by legend Ray Meyer. Forgive my long look into the past –what’s ahead is Irish versus Michigan State –Thursday night on ESPN. Go Irish.

      1. I started following ND Basketball a few years after I started closely following football in 2002 (I only remember that because it was Willingham’s first year). It started as a few games here or there and it built from there. I recall the first few years I would get frustrated with ND’s early exits from the tournament. It always seemed they ran out of gas and they never got far in the Big East tournaments most years either. Then something changed. I don’t recall what year it was exactly but Mike Brey made his first significant change, the burn offense. It worked that year, we got pretty far in the Big East Tournament until we got to WVU which also specialized in the burn at the time.

        Since then Brey has made adjustments and used the fact that we actually have older players on the roster to his advantage. I always thought ND should try to find a way to use that experience they had that so few other teams have because a lot of them are one and done schools. ND’s playing better defense, rebounding better and of course they always had a potent offense. It took Brey a while but he really became a great head coach for ND. This is a great time to be a ND Basketball fan…the last few years I’ve actually gotten more satisfaction out of the BB team then the FB team.

        I’m keeping my fingers crossed for MSU. I’m hoping for a win, and I believe it’s within the realm of possibility for this team. At the very least I’d like to see them keep it within 10 pts. I’d be disappointed if they get blown out though. But this team reminds me of that ACC championship team–plus 1 better because they appear to be playing better defense too. We’ll see how far they get.

        I’ll watch ND at other sports on TV if they are on. Women’s BB seems to be trending down the last few years. Not much but they just don’t seem as good as they used to. Hockey does well and I love ice hockey, but they always seem a step away from a NC. The other sports are hit or miss for me. If I see they are playing for a NC in something or maybe a semifinal, I’ll try to watch if it’s on TV. It’s always interesting to see a sport you don’t normally see.

        Go Irish!

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