The 5-0, #13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish basketball team dismantled LSU on Tuesday night, winning 92-53 to advance to the Maui Jim Maui Invitational finals.
There, they will square off with the 4-0, #6 Wichita State Shockers, who beat Marquette 80-66 to reserve their spot in this top-13 showdown.
With ND’s pummeling of Wichita State in the 2015 NCAA Tournament fresh in everyone’s minds, let’s dive into how these two teams match up, who the key players are, and what I think will ultimately happen in this fantastic November matchup of two very likely tournament teams.
- #BreysChase: Mike Brey is now just 7 wins away from becoming Notre Dame’s winningest men’s basketball coach (he has 386 wins, and Digger Phelps’ record is 393)
- Brey is also 13 wins away from 400 wins at Notre Dame (would make him the 13th active coach to have 400 wins at his current school) and 14 wins away from 500 in his coaching career, which would make him the 31st active coach to do so
- This is the 4th meeting between ND and Wichita State in the two programs’ histories. The Irish lead the series 2-1 and won the last meeting, defeating the Shockers 81-70 in the 2015 Sweet Sixteen
- Matt Farrell has a knack for coming up big in these in-season tournaments — in last year’s Legends Classic Tournament and this year’s Maui Invitational, Farrell is averaging 20.5 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 48% from 3-point range
- Notre Dame has yet to allow an opponent to shoot over 40% from the field this season (Depaul: 34%, Mount St. Mary’s: 38%, Chicago State: 36%, Chaminade: 35%, LSU: 37%)
Where: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, Hawaii
When: Wednesday, November 22nd at 10:30 PM ET
How to Watch: ESPN2 and WatchESPN or at WatchND.tv
#6 Wichita State Shockers (4-0)
The Shockers enter the Maui Invitational title game with an unblemished 4-0 record and a #6 ranking in the AP Poll, offering the Fighting Irish’s first truly formidable test of the season.
Gregg Marshall’s squad opened the season with a couple blowout victories over UMKC and College of Charleston before heading to Maui, where they’ve picked up a couple of impressive wins over the California Golden Bears and the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Led by redshirt sophomore guard Landry Shamet and senior center Shaquille Morris, the Shockers have yet another talented and experienced team.
Morris is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 17.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while also shooting 59% from the field and 40% from long range. Last season, Morris averaged just 10 and 5, so he has certainly taken a huge step forward in his final year for the Shockers.
Shamet averages 17.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Other key players include senior forward Darral Willis Jr. (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg), senior center Rauno Nurger (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), and senior guard Conner Frankamp (9.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, career 39% 3-point shooter).
One of the interesting things to watch will be how the Shockers’ skilled frontcourt of Morris (6’8”), Willis Jr. (6’9”), and Nurger (6’10”) will perform against Notre Dame’s young big men and against the Irish’s smaller lineups.
How BONZIE COLSON, Martinas Geben, and the young big men John Mooney and Elijah Burns navigate that size down low will be fun to watch and will tell us a lot about Notre Dame’s inside game this season.
Shocker to Watch
Landry Shamet, G, Redshirt Sophomore
No matter how good the Wichita frontcourt is, the Shockers go as their point guard goes, just as they did when Fred VanVleet was running things in Wichita.
Landry Shamet emerged as a redshirt freshman phenom last season, averaging 11.4 points and 3.3 assists while earning First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) honors, being named MVC Freshman of the Year, and leading the Shockers to a near-upset of 2nd-seeded Kentucky in the 2nd Round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, leading all scorers in that game with 20 points.
This year, Shamet has only built upon that great redshirt freshman season and come out firing — specifically in this Maui Invitational. Shamet scored 23 points in the Shockers’ first game against California while shooting 80% from the field (4-of-4 from deep), and then followed that up by lighting up Marquette for 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists yesterday.
Shamet is a long, athletic point guard, so it will be interesting to see how he matches up with Matt Farrell and TJ Gibbs on the perimeter all evening. I expect Gibbs to guard him most of the time when the Shockers are on offense, but Shamet may be tasked with guarding Farrell at least some of the time on the other end, and his length and height could take away some of what Farrell likes to do, especially shooting the ball.
BONZIE COLSON, F, Senior
BONZIE had a quiet 12-point, 11-rebound double-double on Tuesday night against LSU (his 26th career double-double), letting the red-hot TJ Gibbs and Matt Farrell carry most of the scoring load.
With Shamet pestering Farrell and Gibbs tonight and considering the Shockers’ talented big men, BONZIE COLSON’s performance will be incredibly crucial if the Irish hope to knock off the #6 team in the country.
Knowing BONZIE’s history of taking it to much bigger opponents (e.g. Florida State last season), I think he has a fantastic game and goes back and forth with Morris in a battle for the contest’s leading scorer. I think BONZIE wins that battle.
This will be a very close game, and I can see Landry Shamet and the Shockers’ frontcourt really frustrating the Irish early on.
However, Maui Brey’s offense will continue to fire on all cylinders against Wichita State, and ultimately the Shockers will have no answer for BONZIE COLSON, who will be hitting shots from all over the floor tonight.
Also, look for DJ Harvey to chip in a nice scoring day with the Shockers keying much more on COLSON, Farrell, and Gibbs, and also expect Martinas Geben to get ANOTHER rim-rattling slam dunk off of a nice setup from Farrell.
Notre Dame wins this one in the final five minutes, emerging victorious with an 82-77 victory.