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November 8, 2013

Preview: Miami Ohio @ Notre Dame

Story With Sidebar

Head coach
John Cooper (2nd year at Miami) - From 2009-12, Cooper, 44, was the head coach at Tennessee State, where he went 20-13 in his final season. He served as an assistant coach at South Carolina, Oregon and Auburn. He succeeded long-time Miami head coach Charlie Coles following the 2011-12 season.


You should know
That Athlon Sports picked Miami to finish last (sixth) in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference…Notre Dame first played Miami in 1909. The series is even at 4-4 with the RedHawks winning four of the last five. The last time the two teams played was in Oxford with the Irish prevailing, 70-69. Prior to that, Notre Dame had lost four straight to Miami…The late Charlie Coles coached 16 seasons at Miami, compiling a 266-225 overall record. The RedHawks qualified for the NCAA tournament twice under Coles - in 1998-98 when 24-8 Miami advanced to the Sweet 16 of the East Regional, and in 2006-07 with an 18-15 mark. Coles was 3-1 against the Irish, including two victories at Notre Dame…Last season, Miami finished 335th nationally in rebounds per game, 277th in points per game, 212th in assists per game and 193rd in field-goal percentage.


Top losses
Allen Roberts (12.3 ppg.; transferred to Penn State), Jon Harris (8.5 ppg., 4.2 rpg.; transferred to Cleveland State), Drew McGhee (5.2 ppg., transferred to Kennesaw State).

Top players
F-Will Felder (6-7, 207, Sr.): Averaged 11.6 ppg., and 5.3 rpg. in 2012-13. Scored a season-high 20 points against Bowling Green and Ohio University. Made just 26.9 percent of three-point shots (14-of-52). Had nearly twice as many turnovers (54) as assists (29).
G-Reggie Johnson (6-1, 201, Soph.): Averaged 8.4 ppg., but converted just 37.6 percent from the field and 28.4 percent (27-of-95) from three-point range. Tossed in a season-high 21 points vs. James Madison.
G-Geovonie McKnight (6-3, 182, Soph.): Averaged 5.4 ppg., in 2012-13. Scored 12 points, 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, vs. Kent State.


Inside the Irish
Notre Dame posted a 25-10 record last season and finished fifth in its final season in the Big East with an 11-7 league mark. The Irish made their fourth straight appearance in the Big East Championship semi-finals before falling to eventual national champ Louisville. Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season, but fell to Iowa State, 76-58, in Dayton, Ohio…Senior Jerian Grant returns after leading the Irish with 13.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, although the Irish will miss first-team all-Big East Jack Cooley (13.1 ppg., 10.1 rpg.). Eric Atkins is Notre Dame's other returning double-digit scorer at 11.2 with 5.5 apg…Mike Brey has led the Irish to nine NCAA tournament appearances in 13 seasons, although he has advanced as far as the Sweet 16 just once, and that was in his third season. He has won just six NCAA tournament games out of 15.


Brey on Miami (Ohio)
"Kind of rebuilding. They're going to scramble you. A little bit of a North Carolina, Dean Smith, by way of Eddie Fogler disciple. (Head coach John Cooper) has done a heckuva job. He was a really good coach at Tennessee State.

"Trapping, running, jumping…this a true test of us taking care of the ball because they're going to really try to make it chaotic and not let us play at our pace. They're going to speed us up, trap us, so our decision-making with the basketball is really going to be challenged.

"They have some speed you have to keep in front of. They have some big guys that can step out and hit some jump shots. But our biggest concern is can we take care of the ball against that run-and-jump, half-court running, trapping stuff."


Prister's take
Even Mike Brey isn't quite sure what to expect or what will transpire in terms of personnel and rotations heading into the 2013-14 season. The mainstays - Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton - will lead the way, and big men Garrick Sherman, Tom Knight and Zach Auguste will try to build upon the inroads they made in their games last season. Add Austin Burgett and freshmen Demetrius Jackson, V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia into the mix and the present as well as the future will be well represented Friday night when the Irish open the 14th season of the Mike Brey era.

This is not the Miami (Ohio) program directed by the late RedHawks head coach Charlie Coles, who won 358 games during his 21-year head coaching career at Central Michigan and Miami. In fact, the Red Hawks slipped in Coles' final season at the helm (9-21 in 2011-12), and continue to dig out under John Cooper, who went just 9-22 (and 3-13 in the MAC) in his first season in Oxford.

This is a battle of two teams learning how to rebound. Miami was out-rebounded, 50-48, by Division II Northwood in its pre-season exhibition game and claimed just a five-point victory, although they were up by 18 with 3:33 remaining.

Brey has repeatedly questioned his team's ability to rebound now that Jack Cooley isn't vacuuming up every available carom on both ends of the court. It's up to Sherman, Knight, Auguste, Connaughton and Burgett to handle the majority of those duties. Meanwhile, the Irish unveil an exciting backcourt with old and young alike driving the Irish in 2013-14, although it may take some time for the Irish to establish a rhythm and a pecking order.

There will be several pre-Atlantic Coast Conference tests along the way, including Indiana State, Santa Clara, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio State. This, however, shouldn't be one of them.


Pointspread: Notre Dame by 20
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 77, Miami Ohio 55
Prister's record: 0-0 straight up; 0-0 vs. points

 



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