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The White Steve Rises: A Deep Dive on Steve Vasturia and When He’ll Return to Heroic Form

Pat Rick wants to know when Steve Vasturia will turn his shooting around. The answer is: NOW

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

I don’t think there’s a bigger Steve Vasturia fan out there than me.

Maybe his family can make that claim (not trying to one-up any of you, Vasturia clan!), and I guess there’s always Torii Hunter Jr.

But otherwise, I’m the White Steve Fan Club President. Watching him play consistently solid basketball for four years has been an absolute joy, from his fearlessness in dropping bombs on Duke and Kentucky during his sophomore year, to the testicular fortitude we’ve all become completely accustom to in his senior season, as he makes game-clinching shots seemingly every time this team plays a close ACC game.

Oh, and the defensive proficiency he supplies EVERY SINGLE GAME? That’s been criminally under-appreciated, even when he gets one or two occasional shoutouts from broadcasters or Mike Brey’s postgame press conferences.

But just as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have hit a rough patch over the last 5 games (losing 4 of 5), so too has senior and team captain Steve Vasturia. Since the Irish took down Virginia Tech on the road and White Steve scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, he’s shot just 15-of-50 (30%) from the field, 8-of-26 (31%) from 3-point range, and has averaged 11 points per game despite averaging 15 per contest before this losing skid.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The other big scorers for the Irish have all shot well over the last 5 games:

  • VJ Beachem has rediscovered his confidence and aggression, averaging 18 points, 48% shooting, and 47% 3-point shooting
  • BONZIE COLSON averaged just under 15 points per game and shot 59% from the field
  • Matt Farrell, although he’s had some struggles in the past 5 games compared to how he started the year and how he played early in the conference schedule, is still shooting 44% from the field, scoring 13 points per game, and burying a blistering 55% of his 3-pointers during this 5-game span

So what can Irish fans expect from White Steve, whose offensive performance is clearly crucial for Notre Dame to win basketball games? Will this slump persist? Or can we expect Vasturia to turn things around and start draining clutch shots again while remaining the most calm, cool, and collected guy out there?

To try to answer that question, I decided to utilize my rudimentary math and Google Sheets skills in order to plot on a couple graphs the shooting percentages and point totals Steve has accumulated in each game of the past three seasons, just to see if there are any patterns that could help us understand when Steve’s slump will stop.

As you’ll remember, he certainly had a stretch of games last season that felt like a major slump as well, but was able to recover and contribute some scoring at the end of the year.

So, let’s take a look at Steve’s scoring output as each season progressed/progresses:

I made this beautiful and complicated graph in just a few minutes, if you can believe it
I am so impressive

Obviously it isn’t perfect, but the amount White Steve scores as the season moves on does seem to follow a similar pattern. He puts up strong numbers in the first 10-12 games of the year, sees his scoring drop a bit just before conference play begins, skyrockets to some extent once he gets into the swing of things in ACC play, and then hits a rough patch around Game 20.

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

This season, Steve did just that. He averaged 16.6 points through the first ten games, had a rough patch where he averaged just 9 points per contest, had about a 5 game stretch in which he averaged 17, and is now in another rough patch with that 11-point average over the last 5 matchups.

In both his sophomore and junior seasons, White Steve followed this very same pattern. And then, around Game 23 or so, his scoring made a major jump during both seasons. Having just played Game 23, White Steve looks prime for another upswing in scoring, just as he has had at this point in the season in the last two years.

His shooting percentage appears to follow a consistent pattern as well.

Graphs are so much fun

Yes, 2014-2015 had a couple outlier shooting performances, but otherwise you can see that during the past three seasons, White Steve’s shooting efficiency is relatively stable at 50% until that first rough patch, where it dips. Then it returns to that 40-50% range until it falls again during the second slump (where we are now, explaining his 30% shooting over the last 5 games).

In 2015 and 2016, White Steve caught fire right around this point in the season, then hit another slumping period before finishing hot during the NCAA Tournament. The way the two past seasons have mirrored each other is very interesting, and the better shooting in 2015 compared to 2016 can definitely be attributed to the amount of talent and scoring around him (Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, Zach Auguste), because he didn’t have to shoot as much or carry as much of the scoring load as he has in 2016 and 2017.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

So with all that being said, I’m going to make some conclusions and assumptions based on my excellent and all-encompassing data analysis.

Based on his highly successful career up to this point, I think it’s safe to say that White Steve is a basketball machine. Machines are designed and programmed to do the same thing every time, and so I’m going to say right now: Steve Vasturia is about to shoot very well over the next 5 games, because that’s what he is programmed to do.

The past has shown that, and so it’s not even a question of what’s going wrong and how Steve can fix things. The reasons for his current slump could be anything from tired legs to some sort of mental block to pure randomness/lack of luck.

But no matter why White Steve has not shot well of late, all the reasoning in the world that we can glean from a limited data set of 3 years of starter’s minutes tells us that he’s about to turn it all around and start making beautiful basketball music again on the offensive end.

With huge games coming up soon at North Carolina and North Carolina State and against Florida State at home, and with Steve’s offensive play obviously meaning a lot to the team’s success, Notre Dame stands a great chance to land some big, resume-building wins if he indeed cranks it up a notch.

This time last year was when Notre Dame beat #2 North Carolina and #13 Louisville in the span of a week, and Steve shot 50% from the field while averaging 16.5 points per game in those two huge wins.

Considering Notre Dame’s other leading scorers are shooting well and that this team will only go so far as the offense can carry it, the likely resurgence of White Steve should give Irish fans at least a little hope, even if UNC and Florida State both look like scary, potential-blowout-loss matchups for the Irish.

So, I implore you all to take a deep breath, step away from the ledge, and prepare yourselves for the rise of White Steve, who, by the way, is one of 10 finalists for the Jerry West Award, given to the best shooting guard in the country.

This season is about to get very interesting, and White Steve is going to lead us Irish fans to another fun February and March.

That’s a scientifically proven fact.