Dennis Wolff and the Terriers' coaching staff spent their early-week practices trying to impress upon their players the importance of making hustle plays, which paid off in BU's ugly but effective 55-43 win against Yale on Wednesday. Today, however, brings a task of an altogether different sort.
Like last year's meeting with Pittsburgh, tonight's game versus the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is a test that does not require victory in order to pass. While the Terriers can win this game, to do so will require a flawless performance from the entire team. Tonight is not just a battle between two teams, it is a measuring stick for the Terriers. How will BU fare against the big boys?
Because big, you see, is exactly what the Fighting Irish are. For Mike Brey's team, everything starts with Luke Harangody. Last year's Big East Player of the Year weighs in at 255 pounds and uses all of them effectively. As a sophomore Harangody became just the second player to lead the Big East in both points and rebounds, averaging 22.3 and 11.3 in conference play, respectively. Harangody's interior presence is complemented by a pair of deadly scorers on the perimeter in seniors Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers.
Dennis Wolff and Mike Brey know each other well from Brey's days with the Delaware Blue Hens, so it's difficult to imagine either coach surprising the other from a tactical standpoint. Given Notre Dame's talent level, the Terriers will have to execute extremely well in order to have a chance to win. Specifically, BU will have to find a way to keep Harangody from winning the game by himself. The Terrier frontcourt, even on its best day, is going to be overmatched against a preseason All-American, but if Harangody is held to his usual numbers instead of 30 points and 20 rebounds, consider it a victory for BU.
BU's best chance to stay in this game and give the Fighting Irish a run for their money (or pot of gold, in this instance) requires a strong performance from the perimeter. The Terriers have shooters, and plenty of them. If BU can get some open looks and knock them down -- easier said than done, given the unfamiliar hostile environment and pressure of playing a power-conference opponent -- this game can be kept close, and in a close game anything can happen. It's a lot to ask of Corey Lowe & Co., but if Dennis Wolff wasn't looking to give his team a test, this game would never have been scheduled.
Projected starting lineups:
Terriers are next, Big East looms
Free throws could cost Notre Dame
Irish begin three-game homestand Saturday night against Boston University