Since we had to toss out some hate on the Irish earlier today, it's only fair that we also talk with one of them, specifically CW from SB Nation's Notre Dame community One Foot Down, to show you that they care about things other than fake girlfriends and the identity of the new Pope. We also answered some questions for them over at OFD. They seem like a fun bunch, so feel free to head over there and banter with them.
Iowa State views offensive possessions like Rick Pitino views extramarital sex... the quicker the better (19th in the NCAA in possessions per game), while Notre Dame is more like Manti Te'o's 40 yard dash time (279th in the country). Which team has a better chance to make the other play at their pace?
CW: This comes up a lot when we play Louisville, and the conventional wisdom is that it's much easier to slow the game down than it is to speed it up. (Rick Pitino and Jay Bilas say this repeatedly, and I respect both of their opinions, so I'll go with that.) I think Iowa State, with their low numbers of steals/forced turnovers (just like us!), will have a tough time speeding up the Irish offense if it doesn't want to get sped up, mostly because we have the steady hand of junior Eric Atkins running the point. Notre Dame will take opportunities to push it in transition if the chances arise, but I can't imagine they'll try to get into a shootout here. If they do, I would say advantage to the Cyclones.
Lots of analysts have mentioned that Notre Dame has struggled defensively. What is the biggest weakness of your D and do you think Iowa State has the offensive makeup to exploit it?
CW: The D has been much better over the last month or so (improving approximately ninety spots in KenPom, starting with the game at Pitt), but the biggest problem they face is cutting off initial penetration. Atkins and Jerian Grant almost always play forty minutes if it's a close game (Atkins was averaging over forty minutes a game in Big East play due to the multiple overtimes against the Cardinals), so it's hard to get too upset with them when they're also carrying the offense. The interior defense has been a little crisper on their rotations, but our most athletic big man, Zach Auguste, is also a freshman, and I'm setting the over/under on "Number of Cyclone three-point shooters he crashes into for fouls" at one and a half. The trouble the Irish will face on Friday night is whether Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman are able to defend out around the arc. I'm interested to see if Brey might try a lineup of Cooley, Atkins, Grant, Pat Connaughton and Cam Biedscheid, playing Connaughton at the four in an attempt to match up a little better. This will be dependent on how well Biedscheid, a freshman who appears to have hit the wall, is playing.
The Irish have 5 players that are 6'9" or taller while the Cyclones only have Percy Gibson and Anthony Booker at 6'9" (and neither play extensively), though somehow the Cyclones are ranked above the Fighting Irish in all rebounding categories. What gives?
CW: The Irish finished in the top half of the Big East in rebounding and have generally held their own against some pretty tough front lines. Some of those numbers might be skewed from the miserable non-conference slate, when Notre Dame would give up extra possessions like they were going out of style before putting a run on to pull away from some overmatched opponent. Are the Iowa State numbers perhaps somewhat inflated due to the long rebounds coming off of three-point misses that are collected by your guards? Are the few forwards you deploy just that damn good? (Seems like Melvin Ejim is.) I thought you folks would be below average when I first started looking at the numbers, but that is definitely not the case. Considering your superior exterior abilities, the Irish better at least hold their own on the boards or it will be a long night.
How overblown is the Jack Cooley's girlfriend (if she actually exists) is an Iowa State fan story going to be? What should we set the over/under on number of mentions during the telecast at?
CW: I actually only just heard of this today and it's not on any of our major boards, which is surprising. Cooley's lady does exist (visual evidence here), and considering how much time producers have to hype this up between now and the late tipoff, I'd set that over-under rather high. I would guess the number of mentions is either going to be directly proportional to the margin with eight minutes left in the second half (have to talk about something if it's a blowout) or how many rebounds Cooley has (inspired effort to win his girlfriend!). We can only hope that the number of references is lower than when Brady Quinn's sister wore the split ND/OSU jersey at the Fiesta Bowl.
Are Mike Brey and Bo Ryan brothers? They could definitely pass for it. If so, is Mike as crazy/as big of a dick as Bo?
CW: Hmm, I've never heard that comparison before, but I guess I can kind of see it. Brey is a pretty cool customer , and he keeps his teams playing loose over the course of the season - see his demeanor during the multiple overtimes against Louisville - but then tighten up come March. If Brey appears comfortable on the sideline Friday night, that's probably a good sign for the Irish. If not? Probably means things are going well for the Cyclones.
Do you guys miss the Big East yet? Any interest in ditching the ACC and joining the Big 12? We're pretty fun people.
CW: I miss what the Big East was, but sadly that's dead now. I was fortunate enough to spend the whole tournament at Madison Square Garden last week, and things got a little dusty in there as they closed things down. If we'd known the Catholic Seven was going to break off, we perhaps would have stuck with them (although some of their non-basketball Olympic sports are not great) but the move to the ACC was necessary. Our athletic director is apparently best buds with Texas', so there was a period of time where I thought we might be headed your way. I'd like to give the ACC a go for a while (I really just want to go to a football game at Clemson and see if I can get out alive), but the Big 12 is second on my list if ND needs to find a conference. (The Big Ten is last.)
Slick move on knowing your audience, CW. Big Ten hate is the quickest way for us to dislike you just a bit less this week.