Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Connecticut Huskies Preview and Pick

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-4) +5, 149 O/U at Connecticut Huskies (18-5) -5, 149 O/U, Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 7 PM Eastern, Wednesday
by Badger of

Two of college basketballs hottest teams, not only in the Big East Conference but in the entire country, meet for a huge top-25 showdown when the 20th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to play the 17th-ranked Connecticut Huskies at Gampel Pavilion Wednesday.

The two teams have already met once this season (back on January 5th), in one of the most unusual games in college basketball this season. The Huskies started out ice cold but were able to erase a 21- point deficit late in the second half, only to watch Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney save the Irish from embarrassment and lead Notre Dame to a 73-67 victory.

Since that game, Notre Dame has won six out of their last eight Big East games and five games in a row. Their latest victory was especially gratifying for the Irish, as their 86-83 win over Marquette on Saturday revenged one of their most lopsided losses early of the season, a 92-66 thrashing back on January 12th.

The Huskies loss at South Bend on January 5th was one of three losses during a four game stretch in early January that ended with the suspension of two players for an alcohol incident on campus. Star guard Jerome Dyson is still suspended, but the Huskies have rallied together and since won seven straight games including huge wins over Louisville and Pittsburgh, and non-conference wins over Indiana and Georgia Tech (on Saturday, 80-68).

Basketball Bookies have opened the Big East clash with Connecticut as a 5-point favorite, with an over/under total of 149.

Notre Dames recent run in the win column has been keyed by player-of- the-year candidate Luke Harangody. Harangody, who is averaging 25 points and 12.4 rebounds a game during the win streak, ironically had his worst game of the season versus the Huskies last time (just 5- of-23 from the floor). So dont be surprised to see him try and redeem himself in this game tonight.

Connecticuts Hasheem Thabeet was the main reason for Harangodys bad game in their last meeting, as Thabeet finished with 10 blocks in the contest. Its actually been Thabeets offensive production of late that has been fueling the Huskies run up the standings. He scored a career-high 24 points and added 15 rebounds and six blocks in the Huskies recent win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, and is averaging 13.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game during the Huskies seven game run.

Thabeets offensive production has helped to take some of the pressure off of Jeff Adrien of late, although Adrien still leads the team with 15.0 ppg and 9.6 rpg averages. Adrien had 23 points and 11 rebounds versus Georgia Tech to notch his 12th double-double of the season.

Defensively something has to break in this game. Connecticut (with Thabeet) allows just 62.4 points per game and has been able to turn up the pressure in their last five games. Meanwhile, Notre Dame leads the Big East in scoring with an average of 80.8 points per game.

Notre Dame has yet to really challenge the Huskies in Connecticut, as they are 1-7 SU all-time against their Big East foe when playing on the road.

Neither team has been good for bettors, as Connecticut is and dead- even 9-9-1 ATS so far this season, while Notre Dame is 9-10 ATS. However, the Irish have covered in three of the last four head-to- head meetings and sports a strong 10-4 ATS record on Wednesday night games. But that flies in the face or the recent play, as the Irish have covered in just two of their last six games overall (5-5 ATS in Big East play).

The Huskies are the opposite of the Irish, in that they have not only been winning of late but covering the number as well. UConn has covered the spread in three straight games, four out of five (the fifth being a push), and is 7-2-1 ATS in Big East play.

Badgers Pick: This is a tough game for me because these teams are opposites really. The Irish are all offense, while the Huskies are tough defense. Both are playing well, so momentum is a push. When in doubt, go with defense and the home court advantage. Take Connecticut minus the points.