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Sleeping With The Enemy: The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame

Georgetown's Big East schedule opens with a doozy tomorrow night as the 9th ranked Hoyas travel to South Bend to take on the 15th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and as usual we here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON are bringing you everything you need to know about Georgetown's next victim.  Special thanks to Christopher Wilson of Rakes of Mallow, the illest Notre Dame blog on the planet for the providing answers to our always intriguing questions.  Mr. Wilson, this Guinness is for you.

Leprechauns give me nightmares.  (via Creative Commons license)

If Mike Brey had only one article of clothing to wear to a game, what would it be?

A giant mock turtleneck that went down to his knees, sort of like the most disturbing muumuu you can imagine.

 More fun with fun people after The Jump:

By the end of last year, it was pretty clear to us that Notre Dame was better without Luke Harangody playing. Do you agree? Some Hoya fans are starting to believe this year's team is better without Greg Monroe, which is a similar situation. Why do you think that happens?

There were a few reasons the Irish played so well when Gody went down last year, some of which may also apply to your situation with Greg Monroe. If Harangody was having a bad night or even just a bad stretch during a game, the offense tended to bog down because things were still running through him. Without the big guy in there, sometimes shots were tougher to come by, but the ball movement improved overall and some talented guys like Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott got more touches. The Irish defense also played considerably better with Harangody out, partially because he wasn't a great post defender but mostly because the team started playing incredibly hard on that end of the floor, a trait that Brey and his squad has carried over into this season.

Sometimes when the best option on offense is always to run the ball through one alpha dog player, the rest of the players find themselves standing around a little too much. Freed from the responsibility of feeding the post, the rest of the lineup starts getting more creative in finding ways to score. Sometimes this is effective and sometimes it isn't, but in the case of Notre Dame without Harangody or Georgetown without Monroe, it seems like more touches for the talented perimeter players are a huge advantage.

Who are Notre Dame's best scorers? Rebounders?

Best scorer is Abromaitis, who can really get the job done any way you'd like. He's great from both lines, can finish inside and has the ability to go off the glass or hit a little pull-up in the lane if he's stuck in the middle. Best rebounder - and best athlete - on the team is Carleton Scott, who has some pretty impressive hops, great hands and a nice sense of where the ball is going off the rim on missed shots.

Do you have a hard time cheering for Ben Hansbrough knowing he came from the same parents as his brother Tyler?

Maybe it's the fact he's a guard and his game doesn't really resemble Tyler's, but that thought doesn't enter my mind too often during games. I'm just very happy Notre Dame was able to provide a safe harbor for Ben with the continued train wreck that is the Mississippi State basketball program getting more entertaining by the minute.

I'm in South Bend for one night, where do I go to meet ladies and get drunk?

Got to hit up Finnegan's, which is actually called the Blarney Stone, although no one I know has ever called it that. It's a dump that's always overcrowded and a thousand degrees, but it is also one of my favorite places on Earth. There have cheap alcohol, great music and a dance floor where you can make a fool of yourself and fist pump to "Born in the U.S.A" to your heart's content. There's also a slightly elevated area from where you can watch the carnage unfold below, not unlike Al Swearengen presiding over The Gem in Deadwood.

Grade Brian Kelly's first year at Notre Dame. Do you think he should take blame for the unfortunate Declan Sullivan situation? Is that too heavy a question to ask from a blog that spends most of its time documenting its lunch?

I'd say a B+. The Irish were three plays away from 10-2 and their only win really in doubt late was the USC game (which was very, very much in doubt), and you have to give extra credit for having more wins in November this year than in the prior two seasons combined. I was very happy with the hire when it happened and don't see any clear warning signs of things derailing yet.

In regards to the Declan Sullivan tragedy, we didn't discuss that too much on the site because as you said, it's sort of heavy for a sports blog. I know this is a copout answer, but it's a subject you want to approach with great nuance or skip entirely. This is a recommended read on the subject.

Notre Dame is one of the schools getting noticed from the Big East early in the year that didn't have high expectations before the season. Do you think they are actually good? Where do they finish in the Big East when all is said and done?

We thought this team had some potential coming into the season, but even we've been pleasantly surprised with how everything has gone so far. There's no reason to think this team will suddenly start tanking, as they won the Old Spice Classic without shooting particularly well, and freshman Eric Atkins should only improve as the season goes along unless Brey overplays him. This is basically the same team that finished last season's conference play on such a tear, only Tory Jackson's minutes are now going to transfer Scott Martin and Atkins. So far, so good. 10-8 in the Big East sounds about right, but we'll have a much better idea after the opening gauntlet (Georgetown, @Cuse, UConn). If the Irish somehow take 2 out of 3, I'll start getting very excited, but that seems highly unlikely.

Who does Notre Dame consider its biggest rival in basketball?

I asked a few people this question, and the name that came up a lot was Marquette. Two Midwest Catholic schools with strong traditions, not too far apart and with a lot of people from the Chicagoland area knowing plenty that go to both schools. One friend who is a big hoops fan lived in Milwaukee for a while and this game was a very big deal, although nothing on the level of Georgetown/Cuse. And while not really a rivalry because of the sporadic nature of the games, I always enjoy it when we play UCLA, as you get to see highlights of the streak ending and there's some good tradition there as well. This is one instance where being independent for so long hurts the Irish.

Do you think Tim Abromaitis has seen Proactiv commercials?

Abro is too busy perfecting his jump shot to watch TV. (Casual note)

We enjoy making fun of Mike Brey over at Casual Hoya. His dress, his lack of tournament success, and his hoarding of Big East Coach of the Year awards for no apparent reason all make for decent fodder. How do you think Brey has done with the program?

Pretty well. Notre Dame is not a historically great program (one Final Four) and sports some very crappy facilities for hoops (although they did a great job with the recent Joyce Center remodeling), so there's a question of what the ceiling for the program is in its current state. I think if things didn't turn around last year and Brey missed the tournament with two four-year starters and a very capable supporting cast that might have been the end for him, but the end of last season, some solid recruiting and the strong start to this year has really been a strong statement that he can be the one to possibly take the program to another level. Would I like more tournament success? Absolutely, but unless the university really wants to make a statement that they're trying to win big in basketball, Brey having one of the best runs in the program's history outside of Digger is fine with me.

We assume you believe Notre Dame is the best Catholic university in the country, narrowly edging Georgetown. We disagree. Explain to us why it is, but do not mention the movie Rudy.

I won't speak ill of your fine university and don't know what criteria you'd like to use to decide which is a better Catholic university, but I think Notre Dame's football history helps to give it a more prominent position among Catholics in this country. Leading up to the Army/Notre Dame game in Yankee Stadium, it was great to read all the stories about the history of the Irish and New York, especially the pride of the subway alumni who had never stepped foot on campus but loved Notre Dame because they were the Catholics dominating week in and week out. Catholic families went to church on Sundays, but on autumn Saturdays, they got an additional sermon coming straight from South Bend in the form of Notre Dame football. You can't watch an Irish broadcast without a shot of Touchdown Jesus, the players walking from mass or seeing Mary on top of the golden dome, so maybe the Hoyas need some more religious imagery tied into their hoops program? Or start sharing a name with one of the most famous cathedrals in the world.

Any shot Notre Dame moves to the Big East in football as the conferences consolidate? How long can a middling college football team hold out on being independent?

I would certainly prefer Notre Dame join the Big East over the Big Ten, but if the conference didn't put its foot down and demand them to join in the latest round of talks, it seems unlikely it will happen in the near future. The latest round of shifting, with BYU going independent and Texas flirting with the idea, makes Notre Dame's position stronger than it was at the start of the year, something I wrote about here. As far as the middling comment goes, the only thing Notre Dame is really middling in the post-Holtz era is results, which can easily be turned around with a better coach. They still can get top talent from across the country to come to South Bend (which is really a minor miracle when you consider Manti Te'o and Jimmy Clausen, two top-ranked players from Hawaii and California, chose to move to northern Indiana), still graduate those players, still pop TV ratings and still sell out nearly every game they play (the Sun Bowl sellout was the fastest in the bowls seventy-plus year history). The only thing that matters in college football is money, and as long as Notre Dame continues to generate revenue, they can remain independent. The NBC contract is also signed through 2015, so there are at least a few years to make any moves if that's the road they choose to go down.

Catholics vs. The Convicts Part II. Who you got?

These games are such crapshoots with the huge layoff, but Notre Dame was playing very well at the end of the season and Miami fired its coach, so that's a plus for the Irish. It all boils down to whether a talented Hurricanes team even wants to be there. I think Notre Dame wins a close one and no one gets kidnapped by a drug cartel, which would make it a very successful weekend.

How do you see this game playing out? Final score prediction?

I think Notre Dame could have some success on the inside with Carleton Scott and Ty Nash, but I'm wary of how they're going to match up on the perimeter defensively. The Irish are going to have to dominate on the boards and in the paint if they want to win, as I foresee a lot of open Hoya threes and me shaking my head sadly. The Irish home court advantage will be diminished due to winter break and few students being around, so I think Georgetown takes this one to start conference play.