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Men’s Basketball: Men to roll with No. 4 Alabama at the Joyce

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, December 6, 2006

After upsetting Maryland in Washington, D.C. Sunday, Notre Dame has to turn around and play one of its most important games of the season.

No. 4 Alabama comes to the Joyce Center Thursday in a game that will be crucial for the Irish come March.

“That definitely makes us probably the hottest team in the country if we beat Alabama, and I think if we do win, that definitely will bump us into the top 25,” point guard Kyle McAlarney said.

A win over the Crimson Tide would give Notre Dame (6-1) a major quality victory, which will help the Irish if they are on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

“Our resume looks so great if we beat Maryland and Alabama,” McAlarney said. “They’re a great team, one of the best in the nation, so it’s going to be a tough test for us. But they’re coming to our house, so they should be the underdogs, and we expect to win.”

A win, which would be Notre Dame’s sixth in a row, would also catapult the Irish into a stretch of five Christmas break games against mid-major teams while they warm up for their Big East opener Jan. 3 against Louisville.

“If we win this basketball game, we put ourselves in a really good situation to finish out our non-conference schedule and head into the Big East,” Irish forward Rob Kurz said. “It gives us a few marquee wins for sure.”

The Crimson Tide (7-0) has defeated its opponents by an average of 17 points. The trip to the Joyce Center will be Alabama’s first true road game, however.

The Tide beat Middle Tennessee, Xavier and Iowa in the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands, during its only trip away from Tuscaloosa.

“They’re similar to Maryland in that they’ve got big, long, athletic guys up front, and they got skilled guys at the guard and wing positions,” Notre Dame guard Colin Falls said of the Crimson Tide. “It’s gonna be the same focus for us as far as we have to protect the paint, and we have to rebound the basketball. If we can do those two things on the defensive end, I think we’ll give ourselves a shot.”

Forward Jermareo Davidson, averaging 15.3 points per game, leads the Crimson Tide offensively. But he isn’t the only scoring threat.

“[Davidson’s] a great player,” said Kurz, who will probably have the task of guarding Alabama’s leading scorer on Thursday. “It will be a challenge for all of our forwards.”

All five Alabama starters are averaging double figure points.

One of those five is All-America point guard Ronald Steele. Steele missed two games earlier this year due to injury, but is expected to play against Notre Dame.

“He’s one of the best players in the country,” Falls said. “He makes them go.”

Steele will be matched against McAlarney, who scored 18 points Sunday in the win over the Terrapins.

“I think that will be the matchup,” McAlarney said. “But I think we’ll probably play a little zone too. … It’s a challenge, but I’m not backing down at all, so it’s going to be fun.”


uIrish coach Mike Brey has requested that fans wear black to Thursday night’s game. Notre Dame wore black uniforms in Sunday’s win over Maryland.