Youth vs. experience in Wildcats-Irish
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has his own one-and-done plan when it comes to No. 8 Kentucky.
He wants to limit the number of offensive rebounds the Wildcats get, but it was an apt choice of words considering the opponent. The game Thursday night pits two programs that have starkly different philosophies.
Notre Dame (6-1) has five starters back from last year’s team, two seniors including sixth-year player Scott Martin, two juniors and a sophomore. Kentucky, known for coach John Calipari’s acceptance of one-and-done players, is expected to start three freshmen, a sophomore and a transfer. The Wildcats lost six players from last year’s national championship team, which saw four players drafted in the first round and two more in the second round.
That’s almost as many players as Notre Dame has had drafted the past two decades combined. Thirty NBA scouts are expected at the game, and most are expected to be watching Kentucky.
”They’ve been one-and-done the past couple of years and guys in this program most of the time go all the way through,” said Irish guard Jerian Grant, son of former NBA player Harvey Grant.
Brey hopes experience will be an advantage, saying it’s what the Irish have depended on since he arrived at Notre Dame in 2000.
”It’s been a big thing that’s helped us over the years is we’ve stayed old,” Brey said. ”We’ve not had to rely on playing a lot of young guys.”
Brey said it’s not that he wouldn’t take a one-and-done player, saying he’s recruited some, but said Notre Dame is more likely to keep players four or five years.
”When you’re redshirting guys and taking transfers, you’re able to stay old. I’ve always said I don’t want to be in a position where I’m going to the Carrier Dome starting three freshmen,” he said. ”Thankfully I’ve not been in that position yet. That’s why I think we’ve been consistent year to year.”
Kentucky junior forward Jon Hood said the Wildcats know great players aren’t going to stay in college.
”If any team had players that were able to go one-and-done, two-and-done, whatever, and be a first-round pick, then they would. Don’t let them lie to you, that would cross their minds,” he said. ”What works for them works for them, and what works for us works for us.”
Notre Dame is 40-1 in its last 41 home games and 105-7 at home overall since the start of the 2006-07 season. The streak includes wins over then-No. 4 Alabama in 2006, No. 5 Louisville in 2009 and against top-ranked Syracuse last season.
The Irish have been playing under the radar most of the season, with their own fans focused on the top-ranked Irish football team. But with the football team on a six-week break waiting for the BCS title game, the basketball players are hoping an enthusiastic crowd will show up for the Kentucky game.
”For a lot of people it’s our season-opener,” Brey said.
For Kentucky, the game means the return of sophomore transfer point guard Ryan Harrow, who missed the past four games — two for an undisclosed illness and the past two to handle a family matter in Georgia. Calipari said he doesn’t know if Harrow is up to game speed.
”He has done good in practice, but to say that he is ready for that, I don’t know. We will see. I may throw him in that Notre Dame game just to see where he is,” he said.
Harrow said he is ready.
Kentucky is 11-1 in the past 12 games against Notre Dame dating to 1990