Tag Archives: VJ Beachem

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

Who Will Further the Irish’s Success in 2016-2017?

ACC media day this week means one thing for me: hope is reborn. Notre Dame football has been like a car crash I can’t take my eyes off of, and finally, I can shift my focus to basketball. After two consecutive Elite Eight appearances, the Irish are primed to make another run at the ACC title and advance deep into March. Head coach Mike Brey has done wonders to turn Notre Dame into a serious threat in the conference, and he’s sent three players to the NBA in the last year.

Two years ago, a team predicted to finish in maybe the top five of the ACC defied the odds and won the conference tournament. The 2014-2015 Irish didn’t stop there. As a No. 3 seed, the Irish knocked off Northeastern, Butler, and Wichita State on their way to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1979. That team, led by standout guard Jerian Grant, was one shot away from upsetting Kentucky and making the Final Four.

The next year, everyone expected a slight dip in performance, considering Grant and Pat Connaughton had left for the NBA. However, Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste stepped up and filled their shoes. Jackson provided the guard play that many feared would be lost with Grant’s departure, and Bonzie Colson stepped up to dominate the paint. The Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year, eventually falling short to North Carolina, 88-74. Jackson and Auguste will not be back this year for the Irish.

Considering the Irish have lost the bulk of the talent that brought them success, what can we expect from them, and who will step up and make plays when it counts? The absence of Jackson and Auguste is huge, but nobody should be surprised if the Irish don’t struggle to replace them. Bonzie Colson averaged 11.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg despite averaging just 25 minutes per game. Colson has proven that he can play as a big man, grabbing rebounds and banging bodies with the best of them. Austin Torres and Matt Ryan can provide help off the bench as well.

V.J. Beachem will have to be the guy who controls the ball and dictates the tempo. Beachem really came into his own last season, especially in the tournament. He will be seeing a lot more of the floor this season, and Brey will expect him to pick up the scoring after he averaged 12 points and four rebounds per game last year. Expect him to play a much bigger role this time around.

Also expect to see a lot of Rex Pflueger and Matt Farrell, both of whom played major roles in the postseason last year. Pflueger and Farrell can both handle the ball very well and are more than capable of running the offense and creating points.

Despite the exits of several key players over the past two years, Brey and the Irish hope to continue manufacturing success through the strength of their bench. Facing a tough ACC slate, the next generation of Notre Dame basketball must rise to the occasion if they will once again challenge for the conference title and play well into March.

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

Image via Flickr -Thomson20192

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