No. 5 Louisville Cardinals (18-4) -2.5 and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-10) +2.5
Edmund P Joyce Center, South Bend, Indiana, 7:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
The No. 5 Louisville Cardinals have really been playing well since Big East Conference play started and have also been climbing in the national polls as other top teams have stumbled over the past few weeks. The Cardinals and top ranked Connecticut are among the only two schools in the conference with one loss. Louisville has won 10 of their last 11 games and will attempt to keep the momentum alive when they travel to one of the tougher atmospheres in America to battle the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame started the year very well ranked inside the top 15, but they have lost all confidence with 7 straight losses while plummeting to a 12-10 season record. The Fighting Irish are now in severe jeopardy of not making the NCAA Tournament if they can not turn things around in a big way and they will have a great opportunity at home where they have played extremely well over the years.
Notre Dame has been one of the best scoring teams all season ranking in the top 25 in scoring offense with 78.7 points per game, but the problem is they have not been able to stop any other offenses giving up 73 points per game which is among the worst in college basketball. Not to mention the Fighting Irish are among one of the worse teams in basketball at allowing rebounds giving up 35 rebounds per game and you can see where the troubles come into play. This is the same team that started the season 10-2 and sport one of college basketballs top players in Luke Harangody. However, they have really lost their way over the last few weeks and they will make a desperate attempt to get the swagger back when Louisville comes rolling into town.
The Cardinals are considered the best scoring defense in the Big East holding opponents to only 60 points per game; a total that also ranks in the top 25 in America. Louisville has really excelled as the season has progressed and they will try to take advantage of a Notre Dame team that has been going in the opposite direction. The Cardinals have also picked up their play against the glass in the latter part of the season primarily in conference play averaging a strong 39 boards per game against the glass. The Cardinals inside game will need to control Harangody in the paint as priority one to continue their impressive streak this Thursday night.
The Fighting Irish are led by the play of national standout forward Luke Harangody. Harangody ranks in the top 6 individually in both scoring and rebounding and really put the team on his back from much of the season. However, the star player comes off one of the lowest scoring totals of his career when he was held to only 5 points in their 89-63 loss against UCLA after 10 straight 25 plus point performances. Harangody will have to have a big night to bring down the Cardinals along with senior guard Kyle McAlarney. McAlarney gives a strong supporting effort posting 15 points per game and these two standouts must have solid performances on Thursday night.
Louisville only sports 3 players with double figures with Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, and Samardo Samuels are all averaging right at 13 points. However, the scoring is not what the Cardinals do extremely well. They slow the game down and keep teams from scoring and they will attempt to do the same against the Fighting Irish who tend to post a large amount of points every outing. These two different styles will collide in an interesting battle. Junior guard Jerry Smith who has only averaged 7.5 points per game this season supported the Cardinals big 3 very well in their last outing posting a season high 21 points and Louisville could use another performance of equal importance.
Notre Dame is 3-1 ATS in the last 4 games against the Cardinals while Louisville is 3-1 SU in the last 4 games against the Fighting Irish. Louisville is also been rather strong on the road recently going 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games. Again, Notre Dame has lost 7 straight games as well.
Jays Pick: Both teams continue in the same directions. Take Louisville -2.5.