Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Postgame Shootaround: Notre Dame vs. Pitt

Ben Hansbrough continues his meteoric rise in Notre Dame history with his 19 point, seven-assist performance in 56-51 Fighting Irish win at Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy of New York Post)

New York Yankees radio play-by-play announcer John Sterling informs his audience on numerous occasions that "you can't predict baseball." That may be true, but it's not the only sport with an unpredictable nature. While baseball may have the element of unexpected outcomes, (like every sport) no game is as up in the air as college basketball; and no conference is as less of a guaranteed lock as the strongest and best league in the country, the Big East. If wins by Villanova and Providence against Syracuse and Louisville respectively weren't enough to reinforce that belief, Notre Dame did the skeptics another favor with a road win in Pittsburgh that was equal parts improbable and impressive. The Daly Dose takes you one step closer with some insights and lasting impressions from last night's encounter between the Fighting Irish and the second-ranked Panthers.

  • A double shot of Big Ben.
Pittsburgh fans are used to seeing a man named Ben succeed in their town thanks to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's two Super Bowl wins since being drafted in 2004. However, less than 24 hours after Roethlisberger brought yet another AFC championship to the Steel City, another Ben worked similar magic. The only difference is that this Ben wore a road jersey. Ben Hansbrough (yes, Tyler's little brother) paced Notre Dame with 19 points, 13 of which came in the final nine-plus minutes as the Fighting Irish upset Pitt 56-51. In fact, Hansbrough outscored the Panthers down the stretch 13-12.
  • Irish eyes are smiling.
They're also wide open after Mike Brey's team finally picked up its first Big East road win of the year after coming away from Marquette, Syracuse and St. John's on the opposite end of the boxscore. With their home wins against Georgetown, UConn, St. John's, Marquette and Cincinnati, the Irish are now 6-3 in conference play with four more games at the Joyce Center awaiting them. Should Notre Dame run the table at home, (a rather easy feat considering their homecourt dominance in recent years) a first-round bye in the Big East tournament will come in a gold and blue envelope as the Irish invade Madison Square Garden in March.
  • A shocking loss, but a quality loss.
If there is such a thing. Pittsburgh loses at the Petersen Center about as often as Hulk Hogan lost wrestling matches back in the 1980s, so the Notre Dame celebration Monday night really did come off somewhat surreal. In fact, it's just the 12th time a visiting team has come onto the Pitt campus and walked away victorious. Even though the loss came mere hours after Pitt was moved up to second in the polls following Kansas' equally shocking home loss against Texas, the Panthers were solidified as one of the best teams in the country; (let alone the Big East) and will once again be expected to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Whether or not Jamie Dixon and company can finally close the deal is another story for a later time.
  • The theory of evolution.
Darwin proposed natural selection. Mike Brey proposes depth. Back in January 2009 when Notre Dame came to Madison Square Garden to face St. John's in a game I called on WSJU Radio, Tim Abromaitis, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash were trapped behind Ryan Ayers, Zach Hillesland and some guy named Luke Harangody; not to mention backup center Luke Zeller. Two years later, the new frontcourt triumvirate is making differences in South Bend that are far greater and unique than the aforementioned troika that led the Irish along with guards Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney. Nash and Abromaitis had off nights, but Scott made the difference when Hansbrough did not; connecting for 16 points (all five of his field goals came from beyond the arc, making Irish fans forget the long-range proficiency of former swingman Ayers) and nine rebounds in a performance that rivaled Hansbrough's 19 and seven assists for most well-rounded contribution of the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment