Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Pick

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-5), -8 @ Louisville Cardinals (22-6), +8, Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky, Thursday, 7 p.m. Eastern
By Oracle of

The 17th ranked Louisville Cardinals will have a chance to see what it’s like playing against the 18th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish with their impenetrable shields lowered. This is because Louisville will be hosting Notre Dame instead of playing at the Joyce Center where the Irish have won 36-straight games.

The Fighting Irish are just 3-4 on the road this season, compared to a perfect 17-0 at home. This bodes well for Louisville, who is 13-2 at home and is tied atop the Big East standings with Georgetown. Notre Dame, at 11-3 in the Big East, is just a half game behind.

With these two teams literally being almost dead even as far as standings and rankings go, bettors may be curious about the spread, which opened up with Louisville +8 at some Vegas Sportsbooks. Also, at the time of this preview, no there was no spread on this contest.

Louisville is 6-7 ATS at home and the Irish are 2-5 ATS on the road, so something has to give in this one.

Louisville relies heavily on their defense to beat teams. Their full court pressure and non-stop hustle a Rick Pitino mainstay in Louisville has held teams to a miniscule 37.5% field goal shooting, and a 60.5 points per game average (13th in the nation). Jerry Smith leads the defense with 43 steals. As a team, Louisville totals nearly 8 steals per game.

The Cardinals also rebound the ball well, holding the nations 12th best defensive rebounding mark at 25.2 per game.

David Padgett, who has been hampered by injuries throughout his college career, has been a big part of Louisville’s turnaround from early season struggles. Padgett was big against Pittsburgh on Saturday in Louisville’s 75-73 win over, as he hit a couple of late free throws to seal the game and scored 21 points.

After a quiet season that has landed Edgar Sosa on the bench, he came up big by tying a season high with 18 points, including 3-of-4 from three-point land, in Saturday’s win.

Notre Dame has surprised many this year, and Luke Harangody is quickly becoming a household name outside of South Bend. A candidate for Big East Player of the Year, Harangody is averaging a double-double (20.2 points, 10.5 rebounds). An emotional player on the court, Harangody has been held to single digits just once all year and has recorded 16 double-doubles, including his most recent 14 point, 14 rebound performance in Notre Dame’s win against Syracuse on Sunday.

Many teams have had to double down on Harangody, which means that sharp-shooter Kyle McAlarney gets his fair share of good looks. This was evident in Notre Dame’s win against Syracuse, as McArleney torched the Orange for 30 points, including a 9-of-11 stat line from three-point land. McAlarney heads a Notre Dame offense that is 7th in the nation from beyond the arc at 40.9%.

These two teams haven’t squared off this season, so there aren’t any current head-to-head stats or trends that will help bettors. During Louisville’s current seven game winning streak, they have covered all seven spreads. They are also 5-1 ATS in their past six home games and a wicked 22-5-2 ATS in their past 29 Big East Games. Overall on the year, Louisville does well ATS at 15-10-1.

More than likely, points won’t be too scarce, although it won’t be a shootout either. The over is 14-3 for the Irish in their past 17 games. The over keeps loving Notre Dame, having a 12-2 record after an SU win and a 5-0 mark after covering the spread. Looking at these numbers, it might be apparent that the over is a lock. But on the flip side, in Louisville’s last 10 home games, the under has come in 9 times.

It’ll be interesting to see how the potent Irish offense faces up against the Louisville defense. Louisville will be sure to double down in their zone defense when Harangody gets the ball. McAlarney will be a big factor in this ball game. Either way, this is a tough test for the Cardinals defense.

Oracle’s Pick: Any way bettors look at it; it’ll be an intriguing game. Although they’re on the road, giving an offense like Notre Dame 8 points is asking for it. Take Notre Dame and the point.