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October 12, 2008
Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney led the Big East in 3-pointers and was second in 3-point percentage.
McAlarney's game is the perfect complement to Jackson. He's a catch-and-shoot guy who can dial it up from anywhere past midcourt and be a serious threat. He led the Big East in 3-pointers made and was second in the conference in 3-point percentage (a sizzling 44.1 percent). Some players will be affected by the 3-point line moving back a foot, but McAlarney will not be one of them. He ranks among the top 10 returning scorers in the Big East. If teams decide they have to double Luke Harangody in the post, it's conceivable McAlarney could trade places with the burly forward and lead the Big East in scoring. He was on fire from the perimeter during Notre Dame's six-game summer exhibition tour of Ireland.
Senior Ryan Ayers will be the third starter in the backcourt for the Irish. He's another excellent perimeter shooter (55 3-pointers, 45.1 percent from 3-point range) who helps Notre Dame keep the floor spread. He played in all 33 games last season and made 17 starts. He makes good decisions with the ball (1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, second on the team to Jackson), and he's an above-average defender.
Jonathan Peoples lends depth and probably will play 10-15 minutes per game.
No one saw it coming. From his freshman to sophomore seasons, Harangody - a 6-8 power forward - evolved into a mythical beast called "Gody" (pronounced GO-dee) who dominated the Big East. He led the conference in scoring and finished second in rebounding. In conference-only games, he led the league in both categories. His numbers in conference play (23.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg) were even better than his season numbers. No one else was within five points of his scoring average in Big East play. He posted 17 double-doubles and scored in double figures in 32 of Notre Dame's 33 games. In 14 games against NCAA tournament teams Harangody averaged 21.8 points and 12.3 rebounds, including 32 points and 16 rebounds against Connecticut and 40 points and 12 rebounds against Louisville.
So what does he do for an encore? He works on his perimeter shooting and his conditioning, determined to be even better this season. Harangody looks stronger and leaner, a scary thought for the opposition.
Zach Hillesland will join Harangody in the frontcourt. He saw action in all 33 games last season and made 16 starts. He shot 50 percent and was the Irish's third-leading rebounder. He's a solid role player who takes good shots, takes care of the ball and understands the first options offensively are Harangody and McAlarney.
Depth in the frontcourt is provided by 6-11 senior Luke Zeller, an adept perimeter shooter who can draw opposing big men away from the basket, and redshirt Carleton Scott. Scott is a long, athletic wing who runs well and can finish at the rim. If Zeller can prove to the coaches that he can help on the boards, he could see significant minutes and maybe even crack the starting lineup.
The Irish first will look to run and score in transition, which they did well enough last season to lead the Big East (79 ppg). When forced to set up in the half court they're a motion team that will play inside out. They'll dump it in to Harangody and work off him; otherwise Jackson will drive and kick to the bevy of 3-point shooters. Notre Dame is one team that will not be bothered in the least by the 3-point line moving back a foot.
The Irish mix man-to-man and a 2-3 zone. They play good position defense. Don't look for them to trap or extend beyond half court. Their best defensive weapon is Jackson pressuring the ball.
Shoes to Fill
F Rob Kurz. Kurz (12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) took a lot of pressure off Harangody. He was a solid rebounder and another big man who could take opposing bigs out on the perimeter (39 3-pointers).
Must Step Up
Zeller. The Irish need someone to play Harangody's sidekick up front. The coaches like Zeller's offensive game, but they need him to be more of a presence on the boards and defensively.
Scott. He didn't play last season but looked good on the exhibition tour of Ireland. He can get out in transition and fill the lane.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.