Notre Dame Fighting Irish Mike Brey reacts to call as they play Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Big East NCAA men's basketball tournament game in New York

Notre Dame rounding into form with Big East semis looming


Notre Dame has never made it past the Big East tournament’s semifinals, but as they erased an early 17-4 deficit to knock off Marquette 73-65 on Thursday night, the Irish look like they may be able to make some noise in the tournament after all.

The biggest reason why? They are starting to get contributions from up-and-down their lineup.

Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley have struggled through two games in New York. Jerian Grant has played better, but even his 17 points, six boards, six assists, three steals and two blocks on Thursday was tainted with a 4-15 shooting performance.

That’s Mike Brey’s Big Three struggling, and yet here the Irish are, with a grudge match set with Louisville for the right to play for the Big East title.

Much of the credit has to fall on the shoulders of Patrick Connaughton, whose averaging 19.5 points while shooting 12-18 from three and seemingly making every big shot through two games. He’s been aided by big performances from Tom Knight (19 points, nine boards vs. Rutgers) and Garrick Sherman (16 points vs. Marquette).

Put it all together, and the Irish are weaseling their way back to looking like one of the Big East’s best.

That’s praise that doesn’t come easy for a team that has built a reputation for being great in the regular season and awful in March. Whether or not that changes this year is still to be determined, but if the past two days are any indication, the Irish aren’t going to need Herculean performances out of their three stars every night this month.

There is balance on the roster, and that’s big. Why? Because Atkins and Grant played 40 minutes tonight after combining for 72 minutes on Wednesday. And to rest their legs tomorrow, they’ll get to matchup with Louisville’s back court.

Taking some of the responsibility off of those two will take some of the load that they have to bear.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman¬†that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.