December 7, 2006

Preview: Alabama vs. Notre Dame

What: Notre Dame (6-1) vs. No. 4 Alabama (7-0)
Where: Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN
When: Thursday, Dec. 7
Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. (CST)/ESPN
Series record: 1-2
Last Meeting: The Irish beat the Tide 78-71.

The Coaches
Alabama -- Mark Gottfried (ninth season) has compiled a record of 167-96 at Alabama and an overall mark of 230-120.

Notre Dame -- Mike Brey (sixth season) has compiled a record of 124-71 at Notre Dame and an overall record of 223-123.

The Starting Lineups
Forward -- 35 Richard Hendrix (6-8, 265, So., 12.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
Forward -- 12 Alonzo Gee (6-6, 215, So. 14.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG)
Center -- 33 Jermareo Davidson (6-10, 230, Sr., 15.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG)
Guard -- 01 Mykal Riley (6-6, 170, So., 11.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
Guard -- 22 Ronald Steele (6-3, 185, Jr., 12.6 PPG, 5.4 APG)

Notre Dame
Forward -- 31 Rob Kurz (6-9, 235, Jr., 15.4 PPG, 8 RPG)
Center -- 40 Luke Zeller (6-11, 245, So., 6.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
Guard -- 15 Colin Falls (6-5, 204, Sr., 12.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
Guard -- 23 Kyle McAlarney (6-1, 200, So., 8.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG)
Guard -- 43 Russell Carter (6-4, 220, Sr., 15.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG)

Around the perimeter

With Steele back in the lineup, the Tide are hoping their perimeter game will take a step up from where it has been the past week. Riley remains a fairly consistent threat from the outside but a healthy Steele's penetration should create more open looks for the Tide around the arc.

Notre Dame: The Irish showed what a dangerous three-point shooting team they are when they sniped away a ranked Maryland team last week. With an average of 8 made 3-pointers per game, the Irish will be a major test for the Tide's transition defense that has been suspect at best so far.

Advantage: Notre Dame

In the paint

Alabama: The Tide has still yet to face a team that can stop the powerful tandem of Davidson and Hendrix and with a guard-heavy lineup, things don't bode well for the Irish either. The Tide's main two big men are a force to be reckoned with on the glass until someone can prove otherwise and Gee's speed and athleticism continue to make him an unpredictable force down low both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

Notre Dame: Kurz has come on as a pleasant surprise for the Irish with a good range and excellent rebounding skills. At 6-11, Zeller provides the Irish with their best chance of competing with Davidson in the paint but he'll have to step up his production on the offensive end to keep the Tide defense loose around the perimeter.

Advantage: Alabama

What to watch for: The Tide's bevy of freshman, who have seen significant minutes on the court thus far, will experience their first real taste of road basketball and the 11,000-seat Joyce Center is no walk in the park. So far, the Tide's biggest concern has been defending the perimeter and the Irish will take advantage of that weakness if the Tide can't shape up.

Prediction: Alabama 67, Notre Dame 64

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