CROSSROADS CLASSIC PREVIEW: The good and bad for Notre Dame this season
This is the first in a series of stories pertaining to Saturday’s Crossroads Classic basketball event in Indianapolis.
Today: Notre Dame: What has gone right/wrong this season?
Tuesday: Butler: What has gone right/wrong this season?
Notre Dame has seen the upside and downside of garnering national attention this basketball season.
The Fighting Irish (8-2) shocked many by beating LSU and Wichita State en route to the Maui Invitational championship. However, eight days later Michigan State pounded Notre Dame 81-63 on national television and earlier this month Ball State knocked off the Irish in South Bend on a last-second shot.
The Irish will face Indiana (5-5) Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 2:30 p.m. (FOX) following the Purdue vs. Butler game at noon.
Here is what has gone right and wrong for the Irish this season.
When you win 80 percent of your games, including a tournament championship, obviously a number of things have gone well for Notre Dame, particularly its offensive play.
The Irish are shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range and a number of players are contributing to that success.
Senior forward Bonzi Colson has essentially matched his career shooting numbers this season, despite being the focal point of every defensive strategy. He is making 52 percent of his shots overall and averaging nearly 20 points per game.
As solid as Colson has been, sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs has been stunning with his development from a year ago.
As a freshman, Gibbs made just 37 percent of his shots, but has improved on that to almost 49 percent so far this season.
From long range, Gibbs, who made just 17 3-pointers a year ago, has already sank 21 this year and is shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc.
Also developing nicely has been senior center Martinas Geben, who is making an astounding 72 percent of his shots this season and has tripled last season’s scoring by average to over nine points per game.
The Irish don’t have much of a bench (more on that topic in a bit), but they are getting very nice play from freshman guard D.J. Harvey.
The 6-foot-6 athlete is shooting over 51 percent from the field and playing almost 18 minutes per game.
Harvey played double-figure minutes in each of Notre Dame’s initial eight games, but hasn’t in the past two. He has made 40 percent of his 3-point shots and is averaging 6.4 points per game.
The Fighting Irish have done a very nice job of sharing the ball, which has fueled their efficient offensive play.
In seven of its 10 games, Notre Dame has totaled at least 14 assists.
Senior point guard Matt Farrell leads his team with 45 assists, while Gibbs (27) and junior forward Rex Pflueger (22) have also done a nice job of finding open teammates.
As good as Notre Dame has been offensively, it hasn’t been half-bad defensively either.
The Irish are limiting their opposition to less than 40 percent shooting overall and just 30.6 percent from 3-point range. However…
GRAB THE BALL!
The Irish are defending shots well, but haven’t finished defensive possessions by being a good rebounding squad.
Notre Dame has only grabbed seven more rebounds total than its opposition this season and it has yet to enter ACC play, so that is not a good sign, particularly, at the defensive end of the floor.
The Irish opponents have outrebounded Notre Dame in terms of offensive boards by a 121-83 mark.
In the loss to Ball State, Notre Dame got outrebounded by 14. If the Cardinals are doing that to Notre Dame, what will Duke do?
CALL FOR HELP
The Irish have a very good starting five, but aside from Harvey and sophomore forward John Mooney, veteran coach Mike Brey has gotten very little from his bench.
Prior to the season, Brey touted sophomore forward Elijah Burns as his team’s “sixth man,” however, that hasn’t proven to be the case.
The 6-foot-8 Burns has played double-figure minutes in just half of the 10 games and played just two minutes in a recent rout of Delaware.
Not only does Burns need to improve his play and production, but the Irish could also use a boost from fifth-year forward Austin Torres or redshirt freshman guard Nikola Djogo.
COLSON IS COLD
A year ago, Colson surprised many with his much-improved shooting from long range, as he increased his 3-point percentage from 33 percent (and just four made shots) to 43 percent (and 26 makes). However, that prowess has digressed this season.
So far, Colson has made just 6 of 23 long shots (26 percent).
His ability to play inside and outside will make him a much more difficult match-up defensively this season.
TAKE CARE OF THE BALL
Farrell’s shooting numbers have been OK this season (45 percent overall, 40 percent from 3) and his assists have been good. However, he is averaging over two turnovers a game and has committed at least three errors in four games so far this season.
“We’re playing a little bit faster,” Brey said in a postgame press conference following the win at Delaware. “On purpose. We’re pushing the ball down the floor a little bit more and we don’t have to play against a set defense.”
As a team, Notre Dame is averaging fewer than nine turnovers per game, which is very good, especially considering the faster pace. However, Farrell needs to reduce his number of throwaways, which he has from last season.
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