Week in Review: Mike Moser shines, Notre Dame appears

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Player of the Week: Mike Moser, UNLV

The UNLV transfer has been one of the nation’s most surprising stars this season, and this week he once again showed why he is such a dangerous and versatile threat. In two games this week, Moser averaged 22.5 ppg, 16.5 rpg and 2.5 spg while shooting 15-29 from the floor and 5-13 from three. I think its safe to say that UNLV wouldn’t currently be sitting in a tie for first place in the Mountain West Conference had Moser done any less; the Rebels were 2-0 this week with both wins coming in overtime. Moser played 72 of the available 90 minutes.

It may appear, on the surface, that being taken to overtime by two teams in the bottom of the league is a concern, but I’m not as worried as some may think. On the one hand, UNLV was on the road in both of those games, and if there is anything that we’ve learned over time, in this sport home-court advantage makes all the difference. And, its worth mentioning, the bottom of the MWC is not terrible. Boise State is young, but they are a talented bunch that is probably a year or two away from being relevant. Air Force is an experienced group with a guy worthy of being first-team all-league in Michael Lyons.

These certainly aren’t statement wins, but at this point in the season, a win on the road is a win on the road.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: JP Primm and Matt Dickey, UNC-Asheville: The Bulldogs have a one game lead in the Big South thanks to the play of their terrific back court, which is as good as any in the country regardless of conference affiliation. This past week, the Bulldogs knocked off High Point and Campbell thanks to the play of those two. Primm averaged 26.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.0 rpg and 3.0 apg while Dickey added 22.5 ppg, 3.0 apg and 4.0 spg.

G: Trevis Simpson, UNC-Greensboro: After firing their coach in the middle of the season, the Spartans have rallied and won six straight games, including two this past week in overtime. Simpson was the star of those two games, averaging 25.0 ppg for the week. Believe it or not, UNCG — after losing 14 of their first 16 games this season — is now sitting all alone in first place in the northern division of the SoCon.

F: Elston Turner, Texas A&M: Playing without Khris Middleton or Kourtney Roberson — and with Dash Harris banged up — Turner had 24 points, six boards and four assists as the Aggies hung with Kansas in Phog Allen. They followed that up with a 15 point win at Oklahoma State despite the fact that Harris sat the game out as well. Turner had 23 points and five assists in the win. Its a shame the Aggies have been unable to get healthy this season.

F: Perry Jones III, Baylor: After struggling against Kansas and Missouri, PJIII finally showed up last week. He had 21 points and 12 boards in a win against Oklahoma and followed that up with 22 points and 14 boards against Texas. For Baylor to have a chance to fulfill expectations this season, they are going to need their best player to play like it.

C: Mason Plumlee, Duke: Duke bounced back from their loss to Florida State with a 2-0 week, winning at Maryland before knocking off St. John’s. The middle Plumlee was the best player on the court for the Blue Devils, averaging 19.0 ppg, 14.5 rpg and handing out six assists. Perhaps the most relevant stat was that Plumlee went 10-14 from the free throw line during the week. He’s hit 20 of his last 27 from the stripe in the past two weeks, raising his FT% to 47.5%

Team of the Week: Notre Dame

Raise your hand if you thought that the win over Syracuse would be the highlight of the Notre Dame season. (Raises hand.) Well, that will probably be wrong, because if Notre Dame continues to trend in the direction that they are currently going, the Irish are going to be headed for the NCAA Tournament. Without Tim Abromaitis in the fold this season, Mike Brey has gone back to using his patented “Burn Offense”, which is precisely what it sounds like. The Irish kill a good 20-25 seconds off of the shot clock before they even consider running any offense. Throw in the fact that they play a packed in zone defensively, and its no wonder that Notre Dame is playing at a pace that makes Wisconsin look uptempo.

This past week, Notre Dame knocked off both Seton Hall and UConn on the road. Neither game had 100 total points scored in it, but points are less important than actually winning basketball games. The Irish are now 6-3 in Big East play, which ties them for third in the league with Georgetown and (get this) South Florida. The Irish have had a couple ugly losses this season, but with the way they are currently playing — Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Scott Martin and Jack Cooley form a pretty good core — this group has the horses to pull off a couple more surprising wins. If they do that, why can’t the Irish go dancing? Its not like the bubble is any good this year.

Teams deserving a shout out:

St. Mary’s: I think its safe to say that the Gaels are the favorite in the WCC. They are now 10-0 in league play and 20-2 on the season, but they had that gaudy record heading into this week. The doubts that folks had about SMC is their ability to win of the road. They had lost at Denver by 12 points and their wins over Gonzaga and BYU came in Moraga. Well, this week, St. Mary’s beat Loyola Marymount and BYU on the road, and they did it despite getting poor performances from both Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones.

Temple: The Owls may be sitting all alone in fourth place in the Atlantic 10, but I think that its safe to say that this group is the odds-on favorite heading into the home stretch. Why? Because the team with the most underrated back court in the country now has their starting center, Michael Eric, back in the mix. Eric’s return led to dominating wins over Charlotte and St. Joseph’s this week which followed up an impressive win over Maryland.

Washington: The Huskies look like they are starting to come into their own this season, which is a pleasant sight to see. For starters, CJ Wilcox is finally back in the lineup. He played 10 minutes at Arizona State on Thursday and followed it up with 15 points in a win at Arizona on Saturday. Tony Wroten is turning into the next star lead guard that Lorenzo Romar has developed, and Terrence Ross has still yet to fully embrace just how good he can be.

Cleveland State: The Vikings have taken full control of the Horizon League race, taking a one game lead on Valpo and a two game lead on Milwaukee and Youngstown State. How’d they do it? By beating Youngstown State by 20 on the road just six days after a 26 point win over Milwaukee.

Florida: The Gators have plenty of doubters across the country, and it looked like they were going to prove those doubters corrent on Thursday night when they got down by 16 points to Ole Miss in the first half. But Florida came all the way back, winning 64-60, before hosting Mississippi State on Saturday. Once again, the Gators left victorious, getting out of Starkville with a 69-57 victory. And they did it despite Patric Young continuing to struggle with an ankle injury. He had 27 points in the two games.

Five Thoughts:

The best freshmen you haven’t seen play: Well, actually maybe you saw him play on Saturday when St. John’s nearly pulled off an epic comeback against Duke. Moe Harkless went for 30 points and 13 boards in that game, but more impressive may have been the 23 points and 12 boards he had in a 16 point win over West Virginia. And while that likely caught the nation’s attention, its something that should have happened a long time ago. Harkless is averaging 16.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg. He’s an athletic combo-forward with three-point range that has been making plays on the defensive end of the floor. You know all this talk about how St. John’s is going to be good once the crop of freshmen that Steve Lavin brought in get a couple years worth of experience? Harkless may not make it that long in school

“Pittsburgh back”: Well, it may actually be more apt to hype the fact that Tray Woodall is back. The Panther point guard had missed the better part of two months, but his return has sent Pitt in the right direction. They won their first Big East game of the season on Wednesday when they knocked off Providence and followed that up with a 72-60 win over Georgetown on Saturday. Woodall had 19 assists in those two games. What makes his return so important? It moves Ashton Gibbs off the ball and it makes Lamar Patterson and Nasir Robinson that much more dangerous because they no longer have to be the creators in the Pittsburgh offensive attack.

The question that needs to be asked here is whether or not the Panthers still have a chance to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. That’s easy: yes. The bubble is that weak and the Panthers will have that many chances to right the ship. But they can’t avoid too many more losses in league play; I’m not sure a .500 league record will be enough to get them in.

So who is the best team in the MVC?: The smart money would be to pick Creighton. After Wichita State’s triple-overtime loss at Drake, the Bluejays have sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley. They also have the head-to-head win over the Shockers in Wichita. That’s damning evidence.

But when you look deeper, that may not exactly be true. Creighton wins games because they have a powerhouse offense — sixth, according to Kenpom — with a number of different weapons, including a potential National Player of the Year in Doug McDermott. But Creighton is not exactly a good team defensively. In fact, they are barely in the top half of the country in terms of defensive efficiency. Wichita State, on the other hand, has a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense. That’s why they are 12th in the country according to Kenpom and Creighton is 27th.

Standings and head-to-head matchups aside, could Wichita State be the better bet to make a run in the NCAA Tournament?

Towson gets a win: For the first time in a record 41 games, Towson won. They beat UNC-Wilmington, who are the Seahawks. The day of the game, Towson head coach Pat Skerry had a hawk fly into his window and die. Coincidence?

Keep an eye on Nevada: The Wolf Pack have taken a two game lead on the rest of the pack in the WAC after sweeping New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech on the road this week. They have now won 15 straight games and have enough talent on their roster to require a closer look. Deonte Burton has gone from a enigmatic talent to one of the best point guards out west. Malik Story and Olek Czyz are starting to play like kids that were initially enrolled at Oregon and Duke, respectively. Dario Hunt is a double-double threat and a defensive play maker.

No. 18 Gonzaga withstands scare from Kent St for 73-66 win

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SPOKANE, Wash. – Drew Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and No. 18 Gonzaga closed the game on an 11-0 run to rally past Kent State 73-66 on Monday night.

The nation’s longest home win streak was extended to 69 games but not without a major scare by the Golden Flashes. Kent State led 66-62 with 3:38 left after Miryne Thomas’ 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs tightened on the defensive end and got a handful of big plays offensively to hold off the Flashes.

Julian Strawther added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:19 left that started Gonzaga’s decisive run. Timme’s spinning basket in the lane with 2:29 left gave Gonzaga (6-3) the lead, and he added a key defensive play blocking Sincere Carry’s layup attempt at the other end.

Timme was fouled and split free throws with 1:55 left, but Malachi Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and his three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead. It was Smith’s first basket of the game.

“(Timme) was heroic. He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it . he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”

Nolan Hickman added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who held a 43-30 advantage on the boards. It was just the second home game inside the McCarthey Athletic Center for Gonzaga and first since Nov. 7 against North Florida.

Thomas led Kent State (6-3) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Malique Jacobs added 11 points and Carry, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to 10.

“I think in the second half we moved the ball well, we got some turnovers, got some easy shots and was able to give us a lead playing a great team and great program. . Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. Give them a lot of credit for that,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said.

Kent State nearly pulled off a surprising upset on the road for the second time in two weeks but couldn’t withstand Gonzaga’s late surge. Kent State led No. 1 Houston by one-point with less than a minute to go nine days ago in Houston but couldn’t make the plays in the closing seconds to finish off the upset in a 49-44 loss.

“Coach Few has told us all week that this is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16. . We knew what they were capable of and we weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Strawther said.

JERSEY RETIRED

Kelly Olynyk’s No. 13 jersey number was retired in front of a sellout crowd. Olynyk played for Gonzaga from 2009-13 and led the Bulldogs to its first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while earning first team AP All-American status as a senior.

“You’re almost speechless,” Olynyk said. “It’s just such an honor, especially with the names that you’re up beside. They’re unbelievable players.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost their third game of the season and their second against a ranked opponent. Kent State has three non-conference games left before beginning Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from a one-point loss to No. 12 Baylor last week with the win. All three of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT:

Kent State: At Cleveland State on Saturday.

Gonzaga: Host in-state rival Washington on Friday.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that are undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer tops women’s AP Top 25 appearances

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer stands atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll with the most appearances all time, breaking a tie with the late Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer’s Cardinal remained No. 2 behind top-ranked South Carolina, giving her 619 weeks with one of her teams in the AP Top 25: 592 weeks with Stanford and 27 with Ohio State when she was in charge of that program. Summitt’s 618 weeks in the poll all came with Tennessee.

The Hall of Fame coach downplayed the achievement.

“Fortunate to be here for 36 years. We have great players and have been successful,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t pay attention to (records). People bring it up and I’m like `OK, great.”‘

Louisville fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016, a span of 127 weeks. That was the fifth longest active streak. The Cardinals (5-4) started the season ranked seventh and have struggled to find consistency this year, dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Middle Tennessee.

They are the third preseason top 10 team to fall out of the poll, joining Texas (this week) and Tennessee (last week). Before this year, only 10 preseason top 10 teams had fallen out of the rankings at some point during the year since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95.

Even more rare has been a preseason top five school dropping out. Only five teams had done that prior to this year and none before January. Tennessee was the last to do it, starting the 2015-16 season at No. 4 before falling out of the rankings Feb. 22.

Now Texas and Tennessee are both out before the New Year.

“Two factors are at play here. One of them is more parity with more good teams,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star, ESPN analyst and Top 25 voter. “The other factor at play is the transfer portal. I think those three teams all have multiple players who start who weren’t in their program a year ago. It’s a reflection that you can’t just assemble teams and right away expect them to be good. I think all those teams will in the poll by the end of the season.”

Ohio State moved up to No. 3 after, the Buckeyes’ best ranking since Nov. 30, 2009, when they also were third. Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top five.

UConn fell three spots to sixth with Virginia Tech seventh, the best ranking ever for the school. North Carolina and N.C. State were tied in eighth and Iowa State is 10th.

RANKED RAZORBACKS

Arkansas (10-0) vaulted into the poll at No. 21. The Razorbacks have a difficult month ahead with games against No. 18 Creighton and a tournament in San Diego that has Oregon, South Florida and Ohio State.

“I do think we know a lot about our team,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said.

He was also happy his team made the poll as every sports team on campus that has played this year has been ranked, including football, men’s basketball, soccer and cross country.

“We didn’t want to be the team that stops that streak,” he said..

FALLING LOUISVILLE

The Cardinals had been ranked ever week since Jan. 11, 2016. That was the same season they started the year at No. 8 before falling out on Nov. 30, the earliest a top 10 team had fallen out of the poll until last week. Things got better for Louisville as the Cardinals finished that regular season 24-6 and went 15-1 in the ACC.

HISTORIC WEEK

With Louisville, Texas and Tennessee all out of the Top 25, it marks only the second time in the poll’s history that none of those three teams were ranked. The only other time was the first-ever poll in 1976.

COMING AND GOING

Oklahoma and Kansas State also returned to the Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 23 and No. 24. Marquette dropped out after losing to Seton Hall.

Northwestern beats No. 20 Michigan State in Big Ten opener

Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Boo Buie scored 20 points and Northwestern beat No. 20 Michigan State 70-63 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Chase Audige added 15 points and Ty Berry had 13 for Northwestern (6-2), which ended a two-game losing streak.

“Needless to say, this was a huge win for us,” coach Chris Collins said. “Coming off our performance in the ACC-Big Ten challenge, where we lost badly on our home floor (to Pittsburgh), I was really pleased with our resolve the past couple days.”

Mady Sossoko and A.J. Hoggard each had 12 points for Michigan State (5-4) and Joey Hauser added 10. The Spartans have lost two in a row, falling to Notre Dame earlier in the week.

Hoggard cut Northwestern’s lead to 64-63 with 46 seconds left. After a timeout, Buie scored on a layup with 23 seconds left.

“We got out-toughed,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Northwestern took the lead late in the first half on a layup by Buie and never relinquished it, leading by as many as nine points.

“We put (the loss to Pittsburgh) under the rug,” Buie said. “We turned the page, just like we do with any win or loss. The season is so long you can’t get caught up on one single game. Just like tonight. We’re super happy with the win, but after tonight it’s over. You can’t dwell on things.”

The Wildcats went 21 of 24 on free throws, while the Spartans were 9 of 12.

“I was concerned about a knockout punch early,” Collins said. ‘I knew they would be revved up after the Notre Dame loss. They hit us early and got a seven-point lead, and then we settled down.”

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11

Michigan State: At Penn State on Wednesday night.

Miles, No. 7 Notre Dame women beat No. 3 UConn; Fudd hurt

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Olivia Miles had 21 points and eight rebounds for No. 7 Notre Dame, and UConn star Azzi Fudd suffered a knee injury in a collision with a teammate, as the Fighting Irish handed the third-ranked Huskies their first loss of the season, 74-60 on Sunday.

“I think she’ll be all right,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards of Fudd, who went into the day averaging 24.0 points, but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes.

Fudd exited in the final minute of the first quarter after teammate Aaliyah Edwards fell on her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way as a precaution, according to Auriemma.

Maddy Westbeld had a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (7-1), which bounced back from a 74-72 loss to No. 20 Maryland three days earlier.

“I think Thursday’s loss really fueled us today,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “We learned a lot from that game. We have incredible scorers on our team, a lot of balance offensively, but it’s our defense that’s gonna win games, so that was our focus the last 48 hours. (The players) took the challenge and came out and played with heart and defensive intensity. I feel like if we can play that way, we can beat anyone in the country.”

Notre Dame shot 56% from the field while limiting the Huskies to 37%.

“We played very badly (Thursday), but we were still two points away,” Miles said, “so it’s kind of scary what we can do when we play really well.”

Led by Miles, the Irish roared to a 41-24 lead by intermission, outscoring the Huskies 30-11 over the final 11 minutes of the first half.

Miles scored 13 of Notre Dame’s 18 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field. Westbeld provided her scoring punch after averaging 5.2 points over her previous five outings.

Lou Lopez Senechal led UConn (6-1) with 21 points. Edwards added 14.

“We didn’t win the rebound battle and that hurt us,” said Auriemma, whose club was outboarded 39-26 and outscored in the paint. 46-16. “We just didn’t have enough scoring on the court and enough people playing at a real high level to get enough buckets when we needed them.”

The Huskies got as close at 49-44 at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter, but the Irish stretched their lead back to as high as 70-53 at the midway mark of the fourth period.

Notre Dame ended a seven-game head-to-head losing streak against UConn in regular-season play, prevailing for the first time since a triple-overtime decision in March 2013.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies faced a top-10 opponent for the fourth time this season, but this one was their first true road game. If Fudd’s injury doesn’t turn out to be serious, UConn ought to still have a chance to do what it’s done for decades: craft a resume that will make them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame: The Irish, coming back from that loss at the buzzer to Maryland, showed that Thursday’s outcome may just be a blip on their promising season. Notre Dame matched last season’s win over No. 3 North Carolina State for the highest-ranked team it has beaten in its third year under Ivey.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies host Princeton on Thursday before visiting Maryland next Sunday.

Notre Dame: The Irish have a couple apparent mismatches coming up as they visit Lafayette (2-7) on Thursday and host Merrimack (1-6) on Saturday.