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Men’s Basketball Weekly Report: Irish climb back into AP top 25

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Notre Dame swept the week and appear to be heating up at the right time. Is a regular season ACC crown out of the question?

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t a long absence from the AP top 25 for the Irish, who after two straight wins find themselves back in at number 25 in the newest AP rankings. After one week of being unranked, the Irish responded with a win against Wake Forest and a very promising victory over 14th ranked Florida State.

The time is now for Notre Dame to make a move in the ACC, with five games remaining starting tomorrow night on the road against Boston College (it’s a road game, but Boston is always littered with Irish faithful). Notre Dame will play the Golden Eagles twice the rest of the way, which in theory should be two easier games on their remaining slate, given the fact that Boston College sits in the cellar of the ACC with a 2-11 conference record.

Meanwhile, the Irish are currently sixth in the ACC and looking to claw their way into the top four to secure themselves a double bye in the conference tournament which is fast approaching. The only team ahead of the Irish that they will play in the regular season is Louisville, so the Irish will need some help if they are to get back into the ACC’s top four. At least the schedule leading up to Louisville will be favorable, and the schedules for some of the teams ahead of the Irish look daunting.

First place North Carolina currently rests atop of the ACC, and while a number of teams separate them from the Irish, they still sit just a game and a half back of the Tar Heels. North Carolina still has to play Duke, Louisville, and Virginia twice, while Notre Dame only has one game remaining against a team with a winning conference record. It is not outlandish to think the Irish can sweep the next four games heading into Louisville and create a very interesting final weekend of the regular season.

Of course, the Irish need to take things one game at a time and simply focus on the next opponent. With grueling schedules ahead for most of the teams they are chasing in the ACC, the rest will take care of itself. Look for Mike Brey to continue with his smaller lineup that worked wonders on Saturday against Florida State. After being dominated on the boards last week against North Carolina, Brey elected to start freshman TJ Gibbs and let the backcourt create the offense. I’d say it worked out.

AP Top 25

RANK SCHOOL POINTS RECORD Prev
RANK SCHOOL POINTS RECORD Prev
1 Gonzaga (60) 1,620 26-0 1
2 Villanova (5) 1,564 24-2 2
3 Kansas 1,493 22-3 3
4 Baylor 1,394 22-3 6
5 Arizona 1,301 23-3 9
6 UCLA 1,276 23-3 10
7 Oregon 1,229 22-4 5
8 Louisville 1,204 20-5 4
9 West Virginia 1,012 20-5 13
10 North Carolina 1,005 21-5 8
11 Wisconsin 868 21-4 7
12 Duke 857 20-5 18
13 Kentucky 854 20-5 15
14 Virginia 825 18-6 12
15 Florida 717 20-5 17
16 Purdue 682 20-5 16
17 Florida State 665 21-5 14
18 Cincinnati 634 22-3 11
19 SMU 415 22-4 25
20 Creighton 298 21-4 23
21 South Carolina 296 20-5 19
22 Saint Mary's (Cal) 269 22-3 20
23 Maryland 136 21-4 21
24 Butler 129 19-6 22
25 Notre Dame 122 19-7 NR

Brey’s plan was effective because Bonzie Colson is currently playing out of his mind. Colson poured in a career high 33 points while grabbing 13 rebounds an being an absolute menace in the paint. The Seminoles had no answer for him. Gibbs really wasn’t on his offensive game on Saturday, scoring just five points and all of them coming from the free throw line. Still, he keeps the ball moving which opens up space for Colson to do damage.

While Gibbs didn’t have his best game on Saturday, his counterpart Rex Pflueger came off the bench to help spark the offense, shooting 3-5 from the field and playing his usual shut-down defense. This young duo of Gibbs and Pflueger is helping the Irish find their identity at exactly the right time, so look for that combo to continue to get more playing time. It may be at the cost of Martinas Geben, but he should be able to come in and throw down a vicious dunk every once in awhile.