Tag Archives: Steve Vasturia

Recent losses reveal Notre Dame’s weaknesses

Breaking News report, the Notre Dame basketball team is mortal. A hard-fought loss on the road to Florida State was a minor setback, but the Irish were severely exposed on their home court against a very talented Virginia squad. The Irish now sit at 17-4, 6-2 in the ACC.

These losses, as well as the wins surrounding them, showcased the weaknesses that may plague the Irish during a tough upcoming stretch.

The Irish are small–dangerously small. In three road games in January, the Irish were blocked an average of 9 times per game. Junior Martinas Geben brings some height at 6-10, but he’s averaging 4.1 PPG and 4.5 RPG; he’s not exactly a key player. Bonzie Colson is the main man in the post, but at 6-5, he’s vulnerable against taller opponents, which is to say essentially every forward in the ACC and some guards.

V.J. Beachum is 6-8, but he spends most, if not all of his time at the free throw line and above, where he is either a lethal jump shooter or a non-threat. Flip a coin on that one. Steve Vasturia is 6-6, and Matt Farrell is 6-1. The Irish’s lack of size has been masked by their ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line, but they’ve been figured out as of late.

The lack of size has hurt the Irish dearly on the glass as well. Against Virginia, Notre Dame was outrebounded 38-22. Against Florida State, the Irish were outrebounded 34-29. They had a combined 10 offensive rebounds in those two losses. If opponents continue to control the glass, that’s going to force Notre Dame to shoot the ball extremely accurately.

Fortunately for the Irish, that seems to be a strength. But if the Irish don’t get it done inside, they’ll just have to beat teams from the perimeter. Heading into the showdown with Virginia, the Irish were shooting a league-best 40.8% from behind the arc. Virginia shut that down with a tight defense that allowed the Irish little to no room to shoot the ball. In fact, after the abysmal 3-17 performance from 3-point land last Tuesday, Virginia overtook Notre Dame as the best 3-point shooting team.

The Irish looked completely lost when cold from outside. Colson’s 20 points kept it close for as long as possible, but a combined 11 points from Farrell, Geben, and Beachum was far short of what the Irish needed, considering those three average a combined 32.2 ppg.

Despite two recent losses, Notre Dame sits second in the ACC with a showdown with leaders UNC on February 4. All is not lost for surprise ACC title contenders Notre Dame, but the road will be tougher than it has been if these weaknesses aren’t protected.

E-mail John Horlander at [email protected] or follow John on Twitter @John_Horlander.

Image via Flickr -Thomson20192

Mike Brey and Irish Basketball: A Winning Combination

In the nascent stages of ACC conference play, the Irish seem to be firing on all cylinders once again. A strong 9-0 start was derailed after the Irish blew double-digit leads against No. 1 Villanova and  No. 15 Purdue, but Notre Dame got back on track with a big road win in overtime against Pittsburgh, and a hard-fought win at home against No. 9 Louisville. This Notre Dame team remains on the periphery of the College Basketball elite, but it is never to be taken lightly.

The reason for that: Mike Brey. In his 17 seasons at the helm in South Bend, the Irish have locked down the fundamentals of the game and truly become feared opponents. Each year Brey and the Irish are among the best in the NCAA in offensive efficiency, free throw percentage, and assist-turnover ratio. This year the Irish are third, first, and first, respectively, in those categories. Brey has emphasized time and time again that his philosophy uses veteran leadership and solid, fundamentally-sound basketball to win games, and that he does.

After back to back Elite Eight appearances, the expectations were high but fans and critics alike anticipated a drop in performance following the departures of essential playmakers Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson. But then again, they expected a drop in performance after Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant left after the 2014-2015 season. A third straight Elite Eight is not at all unrealistic for this Irish team. Matt Farrell has proven that he can take care of the ball and lead the Irish offense, while sharpshooters V.J. Beachum and Steve Vasturia provide a lethal threat from behind the arc and driving to the basket. Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben are the brute force rebounders and post players. Year after year, Mike Brey seems to be able to resist the inevitable personnel turnover and maintain a high level of success.

Those are just the tangible, statistical aspects of this Irish team. On paper, they’re efficient, lethal, and fundamentally-sound. But it’s the intangible that really stands out. On the sidelines, Brey is fired up like any other head coach. But Brey exerts a positivity almost unheard of among the likes of college basketball’s elite coaches. In a world of Jay Wright, John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, and Roy Williams, it seems like the level-headed positivity of Mike Brey wouldn’t find its place at the top. Yet it does, and it permeates the team. No matter what five players are on the floor, they all seem to radiate the hope and positivity that Brey embodies. No matter the opponent, no matter how big the task, The Irish always seem to be within striking distance. Since the 2014-2015 season, the Irish have notched wins against top 15 North Carolina and Top 10 Duke on the road, as well as at home against No. 4 Duke and No. 1 North Carolina. The Irish are 4-1 against Louisville in the last five years. When the big games arrive, Notre Dame is there to withstand the challenge and emerge victorious.

There is just an aura of hope and confidence that surrounds Brey and his troops that can’t help but lead to success. I was tentative to make a prediction earlier in the season, but I am confident now. This Notre Dame can certainly make a third straight Sweet Sixteen, but I think they could make a third straight Elite Eight and possibly earn their first birth in the Final Four since 1978.

Mike Brey and Notre Dame Basketball are on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.

Contact writer John Horlander via email: [email protected], or on Twitter: @John_Horlander

Image – Google Images