Irish Escape Pitt, Advance to Second Round Against Virginia Tech

Phew. Luckily for the Irish, their all-important ACC Tournament kicked off against one of the worst power conference teams in the history of college basketball (only a slight exaggeration). Notre Dame played, to be quite blunt, terribly in the second half and barely skated by the historically bad Pittsburgh Panthers, 67-64. The Irish shot less than 18%(!!!!) from the field in the second half and only emerged victorious because of their typically-stellar free throw shooting.

To their credit, Pittsburgh shot better in that half than they probably have at any point during their winless ACC season to crawl back in it. They had a couple of chances to tie the game up late but couldn’t quite hit the timely shot to complete their comeback effort.

No one shot well for the Irish, not even the usually super-efficient Martin Geben (4 points, 2-6 FG). Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell led the way with 19 and 18 respectively, but they combined to go just 9 of 25 from the floor and did most of their damage late from the stripe. Rex Pflueger came up with a big 13 points after scoring just 15 points in the last five games combined.

Worst of all was having to listen to the insufferable Dan Dakich through it all. ESPN has laid off the population of Iceland the last few years but somehow that guy still has a job.

It All Comes Down to This

For a team looking to make a statement to the NCAA tournament committee with their best player back in the lineup, this was a very, very, very, very bad statement to make. Still, I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter in the slightest. All they will care about is tonight’s game (7pm, ESPN) against Virginia Tech. The Hokies are easily in the tournament field, so picking up a neutral court victory against a tournament opponent could nearly put the Irish on the right side of the bubble. A loss, and Notre Dame is without question NIT-bound.

To be honest, when you really look at the resume, the Irish don’t have too many equivalent or better wins this season. They are hanging on by a thread thanks to that Maui championship game over Wichita State. To be even more honest, they would easily be in the field if the refs didn’t steal that home win over top-five-in-the-RPI UNC, a travesty that I will never let go of as long as I live.

Coming off one of the worst halves they have played all season, the Irish need to bring their best for forty minutes tonight. These are two very good offensive teams that are evenly-matched on paper. I’m looking/hoping for Geben to have a big bounce-back effort tonight against a team that likes to play pretty small, which could really open things up for the sputtering Irish offense. Ultimately, though, I’m just very, very nervous for this one. The pressure couldn’t be higher on these guys tonight, as the whole season comes down to this game with the entire college basketball world watching.

By |2018-03-07T09:44:58+00:00March 7th, 2018|Basketball|16 Comments

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Joe Schueller

If you’re a pessimist, you saw shades of the terrible Crossroads Classic where a sleepy Irish squad seemed unable to do the little things right and let a substantial lead slip away against a bad opponent on a “neutral” floor. No one particularly liked that version of the Fighting Irish, and seeing it back on Friday cause for grave concern.

If you’re an optimist, you could look to the Chaminade game as a decent parallel. Although the Irish eventually went on a 15 point run in that game to truly put the host team away, there were shades of early-tournament sloppiness in that performance. This was a sleepy game in a blasé atmosphere against a clearly overmatched opponent. All the coach-speak in the world can’t fight human nature. The best edition of the Fighting Irish didn’t show up Tuesday.

That really leads to the most interesting observation: Brey’s teams, particularly this one, are much better chasers than front runners. Given the recruiting history of guys like Colson and Farrell, this makes total sense. They’re much more motivated by doubters than praise. ND has been a darling since the return of their warrior captain, and the “close loss” shine of the performance in Charlottesville had a lot of people saying nice things about this team. They went in to this game a massive favorite, and didn’t bring their scrappy, hungry, “us against the world” attitude in to the first day in Brooklyn. It almost cost them. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Now’s where things get interesting. I don’t see this purely as a play-in game, but it is undoubtedly a play-out game. Lose and you’re NIT bound for sure. Win, and you stay very much in the conversation. I still have scars from 1992 where the Committee left out LaPhonso Ellis in his senior season.

As I said in my preview post, today’s game is against an opponent who needed their 3rd best 3P shooting performance of the season to win by 5 without Bonzie or Matt in the lineup. I’d love to see the Irish perpetuate the Maui pattern and overwhelm the coaching show and his charges. I’m not sure that’s really who this ND team is, but we’ll find out for sure tonight.

MikeyB
MikeyB

If we get a double digit lead, we absolutely cannot start settling for empty possessions with wasted jump shots. We coasted into halftime yesterday knowing we had the game in the bag, and we came out in the 2nd half and jacked up garbage shots. In the first half, we took something like 11 shots in the paint. In the 2nd half, I think we took 5.

Get them down, then step on their throats. This is no time to get complacent; you lose, and you’re headed to a tournament nobody cares about. Win, and you get a chance to knock Duke out of the ACC Tournament again.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

I was hopeful coming in but what has happened so far? Bonzie does not look good. We are turning it over and we look entirely overmatched right now. Here’s to hoping an all-time come back is coming up.

Btw why aren’t we on slack for the game?!

dannan14
dannan14

All-time comeback you say?

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Haha yea. With these guys you just know that kind of play is in there somewhere (it’s not just a wildly blind hope). Now whether it was going to come out I wasn’t too optimistic. But man was it fun!

Joe Schueller

Couple of stats to keep in mind about the previous VT game:
Minutes – Torres 12, Burns 15, Djogo 34, Mooney 32, Farrell 0, Colson 0
3FG Shooting – VT 14-25 (56%, season average 39%), ND 12-29 (41%, season average 37%)

Had the teams simply shot their average from deep, VT would have made 11 and ND 11, meaning the Irish would have won by 1 even without Colson/Farrell.

This is a team (and a coach) I intensely dislike. If ND loses tonight, they deserve their NIT fate.

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

Buzz had a bit of a Rain Man vibe about him during the in game interview yesterday.

Would love to see us get a three big rotation going with Mooney, Geben, Bonz on the floor together but VT gives me concerns about full court pressure if we try that. Just destroy them in the paint and open up clear 3s for Mooney, Gibbs and Farrell if they send help. Could that also provide some length to defend VT’s three point game? Offensive flow/rhythm is just so yucky – not sure they will show much improvement over night if they didn’t show improvement over the last week.

Publius2010
Publius2010

There is something insanely dislikable about former Marquette coaches.

irish_bandit_10
irish_bandit_10

Not a thorough follower of CBB…why do people dislike Buzz? Isn’t he pretty unanimously regarded as a solid coach? And I haven’t seen anything particularly distasteful about him from the limited games/press conferences/random videos I’ve looked at. Please enlighten me?

Publius2010
Publius2010

Dan Dakich is the Doug Flutie of ESPN

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

More Tom Hammond than Flutie – and still not as bad as Dan “Bonzi Wells” Dakich. Not like Bonzie Colson leading ND to the NCAAs is one of the top stories in college basketball or anything.

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

Djogo is 4-20 from the field last five games with one shot in 36 minutes between Pitt and UVA. Says a lot if Brey applies a “red light” to a shooter – seems almost unprecedented. With two rebounds in those same 36 minutes – I really wonder if finding a way to go 3 bigs instead of forcing Djogo on the floor is the way to go? Bonzie to a 3 defensively with Mooney and Geben at 4-5 – you then have five offensive weapons on the floor instead of essentially playing 4 on 5.

Also Rex – is quite the conundrum of a shooter. Seems so much better as a complimentary player working in the flow (4th or 5th option) than trying to create. 40% from three last year versus 33% this year on twice the volume of shots. FTs shot 95% as frosh, 65% soph and 75% this year. I don’t get the variance from the line but I think from the floor he is goes from dangerous to liability when his role changes.

Joe Schueller

Some of that is, “If we’re going down, we’re going down with our seniors firing away.” There’s definitely a bit of a culture right now where we have a “shooting order.” Matt/Bonz have the greenest of green lights. TJ and Marty have a much less green, but still mostly green light. Rex is on a light yellow, and Mooney is allowed wide open corner looks (but only if he makes his first). This is very typical Brey ball and part of having a “senior dominated” program culture. A guy like Djogo doesn’t flow, he’s just there not to f it up for the others. There’s a reason we played Syracuse, UNC, and VT fairly OK without Bonz and Matt on the floor. Everyone was a little looser and the load is more distributed.

gambit1077
gambit1077

So. Do you get any style points for being down 21 with 14 minutes to go and then winning by 6?

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Wow!! What a team! I’m so happy for the seniors especially. Look forward to watching some more of them!