NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (2-0)
vs. SAINT JOSEPH’S HAWKS (1-0)
Coaches vs. Cancer - Brooklyn, NY
Tip-off: Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -3.5, Total: 124
The only ranked team in the Coaches vs. Cancer bracket, No. 20 Notre Dame, takes on Saint Joseph’s in Brooklyn on Friday night.
St. Joe’s is in position to put itself back on the national map. The Hawks return essentially their entire roster from last year’s 20-win team. They had little trouble completely shutting down Yale, 61-35, in their season opener on Monday, though leading scorer PG Carl Jones will be serving the second game of a three-game suspension on Friday. The Hawks are 11-1 ATS (+9.9 Units) after a non-conference game over the last two seasons. The Irish, meanwhile, dispatched of two lesser opponents at home and will be getting their first major test of the season.
Can the Irish live up to their ranking? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Last season, the StatFox group had a combined 65% ATS (206-110-4) success rate in college basketball Best Bets. Since Tuesday, the experts are a collective 12-8-1 ATS (60%) on Best Bets. For the season, the group is a collective 25-20-1 ATS (56%) on Best Bets. StatFox Gary is winning 64% (7-4) of his Best Bets, going 5-1 ATS in the past three days. StatFox Brian is at 60% (6-4-1) and has not had a losing day in college Best Bets so far.
The Irish have leaned on muscle inside once again. PF Jack Cooley is averaging 17.5 PPG on 69% FG, 10.0 RPG and 3.0 BPG through two games. He’s already gotten to the line 26 times. C Garrick Sherman, a transfer from Michigan State, has added 12.5 PPG on 73% FG. But Notre Dame’s perimeter players haven’t had the same success. Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, both of whom averaged 10-plus points last season, have averaged just 8.0 PPG and 6.0 PPG, respectively, through the first two games. And while Pat Connaughton has averaged 9.0 PPG, he’s shooting just 39% FG and is 4-for-14 from three. The team shot 26% on threes over the first two games. The Irish shot 49% FG and 41% 3-pt FG at home last season, but just 38% FG and 27% on threes in road and neutral-court games.
St. Joe’s will rely on PF C.J. Aiken to neutralize Cooley inside. While Cooley is a bruiser, Aiken is a long, athletic shot-blocker, averaging 3.5 BPG in each of his past two seasons. He had three blocks in 21 minutes in the opener against Yale, as the Hawks held them to 25% FG. With Jones out for that game, SG Langston Galloway (last year’s second-leading scorer at 15.5 PPG) had 20 points on 6-of-9 FG, 6-of-9 FT and 2-for-4 from downtown.