It is not everyday that Purdue and Notre Dame meet in men's basketball. Our women's programs decided a National title during my time as a Purdue student, but the men's teams have mostly avoided each other for 46 years. That makes tomorrow's game here in Indianapolis worthy of a Q&A with SB Nation's resident Notre Dame community, One Foot Down.
Alstein is OFD's resident basketball effort and he stood up to my gauntlet of questions about Fighting Irish basketball:
T-Mill: With such a long dormant rivalry that was played 40 times before, what are Notre Dame's thoughts on this game?
Alstein: I'm not sure that you would be able to get much out of them other than the usual "just another game, let's focus on winning" kind of answers that you would usually get for games like this. I think it might have a little more juice if Purdue hadn't struggled thus far or if these teams played more often, but this is one of only three or four major non-conference games for the Irish, so I'm sure they are pretty psyched for it. Scott Martin doesn't have any former teammates left at Purdue, but I'll bet he will be hearing from the Purdue fans in attendance. One thing's for sure, Mike Brey is concerned about DJ Byrd on the defensive end, so I think Notre Dame might be tinkering early to find their best matchup on him.
T-Mill: Boiler fans know too well of Scott Martin, but what else to the Irish have?
Alstein: Jack Cooley is the name everybody goes to first. He is ultra-efficient and a double-double machine, so you can set your watch to a 14-12 kind of game from him. Eric Atkins is, for my money, the most important piece to the puzzle for the Irish. He has the ball for the majority of the shot clock every possession, and he makes most everything happen. I can't give you a statistical argument for why he is so good (although 7 assists a game is a good start), but he is this team's leader. Jerian Grant and freshman sensation Cam Biedscheid provide scoring punch and a difficult matchup on both ends due to their length. Grant was really disappointing against St. Joe's (4-17 from the field) but has been good although quieter than expected overall. Biedscheid has looked better and produced more as the season has progressed, and the sky is the limit with him. I'd like to see him hit the boards a little more, but his scoring ability will be key for the Irish off the bench. Other than that, you can expect to see Pat Connaughton, Garrick Sherman and/or Tom Knight, but they don't need to be the consistent scorers that the other guys need to be.
T-Mill: This is a matchup of size vs. size with so many bigs. How do you see the experience factor for Notre Dame playing out?
Alstein: Notre Dame is really good at controlling tempo and getting the best shot possible for any given possession. They are fairly stingy so far in not turning ball over, maximize the shot clock and seem to have a good sense of when a shot is the best use of our possession and when it's not. The offense isn't overly complex, so it's not like they are doing things that opponents haven't seen or can't process, but they are most likely better at making the most of their possessions. It's has a lot to do with experience but also with the man who runs it all, Eric Atkins. He excels at all things point guard and can lead the scoring charge when necessary. How Atkins goes, so go the Irish.
T-Mill: Do you, like many other people, think this should be a regular non-conference game for both schools?
Alstein: Notre Dame has too much crap on their non-conference schedule, so I'd like to see a regular game against someone good. Purdue certainly would make sense, but if this Crossroads Classic thing is here to stay, it will most likely be an every-other-year alternating meeting with Purdue and Indiana, so I think this in-state rivalry business could be coming back.
T-Mill: What are your thoughts on the Crossroads Classic in general?
Alstein: I wish the Crossroads Classic was a tournament consisting of a semi-final and a final. What's one more game to determine the "best" team in Indiana? It would also virtually guarantee everyone gets at least one good pre-conference season game in case any team is down. It probably would be if it weren't for IU and Purdue being in the same conference, so I'm sure that's an insurmountable hurdle, but I think it would up the ante of the event if it were a mini-tournament. Outside of that, I think it's a tough sell for most people to drive the 3 hours from South Bend down to Indianapolis for 2 or 4 hours of basketball (remember, we are forced to love football more than basketball), but I would imagine it's more of a must-attend for the other three schools' fans. It's a good event, could be bigger, and probably more exciting for the more basketball-centric schools involved.