Virginia Tech will host #20 Notre Dame for a big showdown in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The Irish are coming off a huge win at Miami on Thursday night. They bring a 15-2 overall record to Cassell Coliseum, with a perfect 4-0 mark in conference play.
Notre Dame’s two losses came to a pair of very good squads away from home. They were beaten by #3 Villanova 74-66, and later lost to #17 Purdue 86-81. Other than that, the Irish have been perfect.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has plenty of talent to work with. However, it’s their experience that gets them over the hump. His starting lineup features all seniors and juniors.
G Matt Farrell (6-1, 178, Jr.): 14.1 ppg, 93 assists
G Steve Vasturia (6-6, 212, Sr.): 14.7 ppg, 55 assists, 23 steals
F Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, Jr.): 15.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 23 blocks, 21 steals
F VJ Beacham (6-8, 201, Sr.): 14.5 ppg
C Martinas Geben (6-10, 255, Jr.): 4.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Matt Farrell is a great distributor of the basketball, Steve Vasturia has been with the team for what seems like ages, Bonzie Colson is the best rebounder in the country for his size, and VJ Beacham is an experienced stretch power forward.
Brey used four players off the bench in last night’s victory at Miami. There is only one freshman in the group….
Austin Torres (6-7, 241, Sr.)
Rex Pfueger (6-6, 202, So.)
Matt Ryan (6-7, 228, So.)
TJ Gibbs (6-3, 200, Fr.)
Out of 200 minutes played in Miami last night, 159 of them were played by seniors and juniors. 187 of them were played by sophomores and up. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more experienced team than the Fighting Irish. When you combine that experience with Mike Brey’s coaching abilities, then you get a team that is sitting atop the ACC standings. That’s the type of team that is more than capable of making a deep run in March as well.
The Irish have won their four ACC games by a total of just 18 points, so they know how to play in close contests.
This is the second game of a tough three-game road trip for the Irish. They beat Miami on Thursday night, and after facing the Hokies on Saturday, they’ll head to Tallahassee to take on #9 Florida State on Wednesday.
Also of note: Mike Brey is just 22 wins away from tying Digger Phelps for most wins in Notre Dame school history at 393.
Travel Could Be An Issue For Notre Dame
The Irish are an excellent team. They are deeper and more experienced than Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies do have one big advantage heading into this one: Notre Dame’s travel schedule.
Mike Brey took his team to Miami from South Bend on Wednesday, and played the Hurricanes on Thursday night at 7pm. The Irish either took a very late flight from Miami to Roanoke on Thursday night, or they got up early on Friday and made the trip, which of course was followed by a bus trip to Blacksburg. That doesn’t give Notre Dame very much time to mentally or physically prepare for Saturday’s 2pm tip.
Their experience level will make it a little easier. An experienced team is more likely to be able to make that quick turnaround than a young team. However, it’s not easy for anybody. The Hokies have been resting and preparing for the Irish since Wednesday. Notre Dame will have one day, or even less than a day to prepare for a good Tech team on the road. The ACC schedule makers did the Hokies a favor here.
Saturday’s crowd will also be a sellout, or a near-sellout at the very least. As of the time of this writing, there are only around 150 tickets for sale to the public on HokieTickets.com. The Fighting Irish will be facing a very hostile and loud crowd in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday.