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ND vs. Pitt, Detailed Recap: ‘We’re Not Done Yet’

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YOU GOTTA BELIEVE IN SOMETHING — AND I BELIEVE IN BONZIE

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

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team improved to 18-12 overall and 8-9 in the ACC last night, easily handling a Pittsburgh Panthers that has now completed a winless conference slate.

Pitt finishing the ACC season 0-18 wasn’t the biggest story of the night, though. Nor was it that Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey won his 400th game at the helm of the Irish program.

Nay, this game was all about the Notre Dame basketball seniors (who won their 100th game, continuing to push their record number of wins further), and most of all, BONZIE COLSON, who made his triumphant return to the court after 2 months away with a broken foot.

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

COLSON was brilliant in limited minutes (he played 21), scoring 12 points with silky-smooth shooting, grabbing 9 rebounds with those go-go-gadget arms of his, and even blocking 3 shots, just for good measure. He looked a bit slow on defense — which is not at all surprising considering the time he missed, and considering BONZIE has never been a great defender anyway — but his offensive and rebounding games didn’t look rusty at all.

Now, this Notre Dame team that has been counted out by most bracketologists already (barring a miracle), heads into a season finale at the home of the #1-ranked Virginia Cavaliers with a lot of confidence, energy, momentum, and hope — before diving headlong into the ACC Tournament next week, where the Irish will absolutely NEED to make a run.

A 17-point win over an absolutely hapless Pittsburgh team means little in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. But the return of an All-American scorer and rebounder like BONZIE COLSON, just in time to make a run, and the fact that his limited return was EXTREMELY productive?

Well...

“We’re not done yet.”

Pregame

Due to the 7 PM start, I was barely able to get out of work and down to South Bend in time for this one. I probably power-walked into the Press Box with about 12 minutes to tip-off.

Once I got situated in my seat, I was able to catch the pre-game honoring of the seniors. As each one came out with his family to be honored, the roar of the crowd was strikingly strong — especially considering there were a lot of empty seats at that point (and still quite a few throughout the game).

Side note: the student section nowadays catches a lot of flak for not showing up in droves like they used to “back in the day,” and sometimes that complaint from older fans is justified. But regarding last night, that complaint falls flat.

The student section was completely full in the lower sections and filled most of the upper sections behind it, with a couple of the very top rows empty. Meanwhile, there were empty seats all throughout the rest of Purcell at tipoff, specifically noticeable among the lower sections, where you would hope to NEVER see empty seats for Senior Night.

Furthermore, the fans that actually bring it for the majority of the games are those students who are there in the Leprechaun Legion, full section or not. The crowd noise goes as they go, and so I wanna shout out the ND Whiteboard Crew and Gold Jacket Guy and all their compadres — they brought it last night and set the tone with some solid chants and great energy overall.

Anyway, back to the honoring of the seniors...needless to say, the arena was BY FAR the loudest when BONZIE came out with his family, including his father, BONZIE COLSON, sporting a green ND BONZIE jersey. This was a great moment, but would be topped by later moments, I must say.

After they finished that, they put on the usual pre-game hype video on the Purcell video board, and I chuckled to myself, per usual, when they mention the program’s 2 national titles. I chuckle like this because they give that stat and then immediately show two old, black-and-white team pictures of guys who are wearing those old-timey shorts that needed belts. I know technically someone named those teams national champions, but good God those teams played long ago and were probably not very consensus title-winners. Oh well, I love it anyway.

They prepared to do the national anthem, but first they played the Lithuania national anthem for Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben, who is, of course, from Lithuania. As they played it and awkwardly zoomed in on Geben’s face ~1000 times, I also noticed the student section had been given little Lithuania flags to wave during it, to support Marty. This was a super cool touch to show him how much we love him, and I’m sure the Bird Whisperer appreciated it greatly. As the Lithuanian national anthem says, “Let the love of Lithuania burn in our hearts.”

With that completed, they then brought out a girl named Sydni Colson to sing the U.S. national anthem. Wait, let me correct a typo there: they then brought out a girl named SYDNI COLSON to sing the U.S. national anthem.

For as great at basketball as BONZIE is, SYDNI is probably just as good at singing. She stole the pregame show with an unbelievably good rendition, and the crowd loved it. However, the crowd definitely didn’t love it the most of anyone in Purcell last night. No, that honor goes to BONZIE himself, who got visibly riled up listening to SYDNI nail the final notes, then strode quickly over to her from the anthem line of players to give her a massive hug at center court.

This was probably my favorite moment of the evening — the raw emotion and love and just excitement and enthusiasm from BONZIE were electric. The crowd WAS DIGGIN’ IT and so was I:

After all that, we started the game.

Starters

Pittsburgh: Parker Stewart, Jonathan Milligan, Khameron Davis, Terrell Brown, and Shamiel Stevenson

Notre Dame: Matt Farrell, TJ Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, BONZIE COLSON, and Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben

1st Half

BONZIE’s much-anticipated return got started almost immediately once the ball was tipped, as on Pitt’s first possession they took it straight at him. He managed to force a miss and grab the rebound, bringing about a solid cheer from the crowd to see him owning the boards again. On the other end, he skied for an offensive rebound that he nearly had, but he lost control of the ball and then gave ND fans everywhere a heart attack diving for the loose ball. He was fine, thankfully.

Shamiel Stevenson came down, then, and got the Panthers on the board with a bucket, but the Irish answered right back with Gibbs finding The Bird Whisperer all alone under the hoop for a patented two-handed thunder dunk.

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

Not long after that, BONZIE received an entry pass in the paint and, looking like he had been doing this all season, made a nice move and drained a little shot to put Notre Dame up 4-2 and give him his first points of 2018.

On the next possession, he did almost the same thing, camping out in the empty space in the middle of the Pitt defense, receiving an entry pass, and then turning and draining a little jump shot with ease. Those kinds of shots, as we know, are basically automative for BONZIE M.F. COLSON. 6-2, Irish.

A little later, BONZIE would drain another mid-range jumper, signaling to everyone in the building that a zone defense like the one coach Kevin Stallings’ team was playing would never stop COLSON from scoring. After that shot, the Leprechaun Legion began a very loud BONZIE chant, forcing a turnover and proving once again that the ND student section is one of the best defensive student sections in the country.

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

Pittsburgh switched to man-to-man defense at this point, but that wouldn’t stop BONZIE, as he took the increased presence of defense on him as an opportunity to work on his rebounding. On a missed Gibbs three, COLSON snagged the offensive board and got himself another bucket. For anyone keeping track at home, BONZIE had 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting — with his one miss coming from beyond the arc — in just 5 minutes of basketball. It’s like the guy had been playing basketball this whole time! 10-7, Notre Dame.

Gibbs got another assist by once again finding The Bird Whisperer with a nice dish, and Geben’s bucket made it 12-9 Irish. The Panthers responded with a basket of their own, though, briefly worrying Irish fans that this game might be closer than anyone would like. 12-11 Notre Dame at the first media timeout.

During the first timeout, I pondered how funny it was that whenever the P.A. guy said Parker Stewart’s name over the speakers in the arena, it sounded a little muffled and thus sounded like he was saying Martha Stewart. I wonder if Martha Stewart ever played basketball...

Also during that timeout, the Purcell video board showed a highlight video of Matt Farrell’s career, and although it ended with the classic Matt/BONZIE “tongue boy” shot of Farrell running down court with his tongue out after hitting a three, I do feel it could have used more “tongue boy” shots. Also, I refuse to rename this something other than “tongue boy.” That’s what my friends and I named it on St. Patrick’s Day last year and we stand by it.

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

Finally, they introduced a “Who Am I?” segment, revealing facts about a player while showing childhood photos until finally revealing who it is. This one was valedictorian of his high school class and had made “three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll.” I guessed Matt Gregory, and then had that brilliant guess confirmed both when they said the mystery player was from Indianapolis and when they revealed that it was Matt Gregory.

As play resumed, BONZIE got his first rest of the game. Pittsburgh soon got an open layup, but missed it, because they’re an 0-18 type of team. Woof.

On the other end, Austin Torres got the ball at mid-range, thought deeply about taking the open jumper they were giving him, but then instead put the ball on the floor, took his man to the hoop, and made a shot through uncalled-contact. WHO WAS THIS AND WHAT HAS HE DONE WITH AUSTIN TORRES???

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

Pitt responded with another basket, though, as the Irish once again left a Panthers player wide open under the hoop and allowed them to make it 14-13, ND.

The Irish refused to let Pitt take the lead, though, as Austin Torres got an offensive rebound on a badly-missed Djogo shot and managed to get an and-one, because of course he did. Can we just tell Torres it’s Senior Night every night? He loves that shit.

BONZIE and a few of the other starters returned to the game at this point, and this is where the Irish began to roll. Torres missed his free throw on the and-one, but a Gibbs three that rolled around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and in made it 19-13 Irish, setting off a run for ND.

Torres found The Bird Whisperer down low to draw a foul and make two free throws, Farrell drained a three after pump-faking his man so well that the guy is still flailing and falling away from the stock-still senior point guard, and then BONZIE passed out of a double team down low to a wide open Gibbs, who buried another deep ball. All of a sudden it’s 27-13 Notre Dame at the 7-minute mark, and the Irish are on a 13-0 run. The Purcell DJ tossed on “Sandstorm” and the Purcell crowd was a tad rowdy.

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

Gibbs nailed ANOTHER three after that timeout, making it a 16-0 run and a 30-13 lead for the Irish. After some Farrell free throws and Pitt finally getting some points, the Irish held a 34-16 lead with just under 5 minutes to go in the half. That’s a 20-3 run, folks.

It was 34-18 at the under-4 timeout, and as I watched the Pom Squad cast their pom poms asunder once again, inducing a gasp from the student section, I thought also about how scared Pflueger and Nikola Djogo seem to be to shoot open threes. Both seemed to be passing them up in favor of haphazard drives to the hoop that usually end poorly. They really need to fix that somehow.

The Irish quickly made me feel better, though, as Gibbs found John “John Mutton” Mooney for an and-one dunk. He made the free throw (!!!!), making it 37-18.

After a Pitt basket and an Elijah Burns bucket, Pitt was able to scrounge up one more three pointer before halftime.

39-23, Irish, at halftime

Halftime Stats

Notre Dame: BONZIE COLSON led the way with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in just 12 minutes of play. TJ Gibbs scored 9 points and had 3 assists in the half, The Bird Whisperer had 6 and 6, and Matt Farrell chipped in 5 points of his own. The Irish shot 47% from the field and 31% from deep, and they already owned the battle on the boards, out-rebounding the Panthers 25-13 in the first half.

Pittsburgh: Shamiel Stevenson led the team with 10 points in the half, and Marcus Carr and Terrell Brown each added 4 points. The Panthers shot 32% from the field and an abysmal 14% (2-of-14) from three point range.

Halftime Show

The halftime show started off great, with an elderly woman named Maureen Suth named Fan of the Game. She was absolutely ADORABLE as far as old ladies go, as she was very slow-moving and hunched over but had this big smile on her face. She clearly loved being there.

Then, the “halftime entertainment” began, and as I was also typing out halftime stats during that time, I missed exactly what was happening. Essentially, 3 different ND athletes won some awards for some things, and one of them was LB Greer Martini, who just finished his final season at Notre Dame.

That was the entire halftime entertainment.

Neat.

Well, I guess it’s time to rate the show. I want to give Maureen Suth a 9 on a scale of 1 to Red Panda because she was amazing, but the second part being the main event really killed this halftime. Let’s say the second part was worth -6.5, and so the halftime entertainment finished with a score of 2.5 overall.

Not a strong finish to a season without Red Panda (AND WE WONDER WHY WE HAD SO MANY INJURIES AND LOSSES — BRING BACK RED PANDA NEXT SEASON!!!).

2nd Half

During warmups before the second half got underway, the ND band was playing a very familiar song that I knew the words to but couldn’t quite place what it was. Then, it hit me. They were playing “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard, an ALL-TIME CLASSIC jam. Pretty rad.

With all the starters back in, BONZIE went immediately to work, backing his man down and knocking down a jump hook to make it 41-23. After a Farrell layup off a nice cut and inbounds pass, and after BONZIE got another basket thanks to a Farrell drive-and-dish, ND led 45-23.

From there, the Irish would have their lead chipped away at by Pittsburgh, with The Bird Whisperer and Matty Farrell keeping the scoring going for ND but also with Pitt doing the tiniest bit of damage, cutting ND’s lead to just 14 at the 15:20 mark.

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

The Bird Whisperer then made a beautiful pass to a cutting Farrell for a bucket, though, and the Irish called timeout to correct some mistakes on defense.

When they came back, the Irish went out onto the court with a 4-around-1 group with Torres as the “1,” and it was fantastic. My notes from seeing that:

“let’s rock!!!”

At some pause in the action, the Purcell DJ played the part of the “Cha Cha Slide” that says “everybody clap your hands!” That part of the song stayed undefeated last night in terms of making everyone, out of habit, clap along. It’s powerful as hell — I almost started rhythmically clapping in the press box. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s used in any mind control experiments by the government.

ND opened things back up again over the next few possessions, with Farrell getting a basket after a textbook splitting of a double team and then Gibbs and Djogo playing “hot potato” with the ball until finally Gibbs was open and took and made a three. 54-33, Irish.

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

With ND leading 54-36 at the under-12 timeout, the Notre Dame band played “Mr. Brightside” because they’re amazing and they know I love that song. The student section did not sing loudly along with it, unfortunately, but I had a good time nonetheless.

Jared Wilson-Frame hit a three soon after that timeout, capping an 8-0 Pittsburgh run that brought them to within 13 points. That comeback was quickly quelled, though, as Geben hit a free throw and Farrell knocked down a three to push the lead back to 15 at the under-8 timeout.

During that next media timeout, the DJ put on that swag-surfin’ song for the Dance Cam, and Purcell was treated to Gold Jacket Guy and his boys in the front of the Leprechaun Legion with their arms around each others’ shoulders, swaying back and forth in awesome and intimidating fashion. Love it.

Back to the action — John Mutton got himself 1 of 2 free throws after he drew a foul on his 4th shot attempt (first three he missed or got blocked, but he kept fighting HARD), and then his second free throw was rebounded by Djogo, enabling a Farrell-to-John-Mutton pass and dunk combination with the shot clock winding down. 6 minutes to go, 61-43 Notre Dame.

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

The Irish ran away with the game from there, with some notable ball movement by Farrell and John Mutton leading to a Pflueger three that he actually shot and actually made (!!!!), making it 64-46.

With just above 4 minutes left of Senior Night, the Leprechaun Legion began chanting “MATTY G! MATTY G! MATTY G!”

No, they weren’t chanting for One Foot Down’s very own Matt Greene, but rather for Matt Gregory, as they wanted the former walk-on to get his Senior Night moment, just like Tom Kopko did 7 years ago.

During the next media timeout, Purcell’s video board named BONZIE its Player of the Game, and rightfully so considering the near-double-double he picked up in just 21 total minutes of play. Not a bad return game for COLSON, eh?

After some Gibbs free throws, the student section began a “We want Gregory!” (clap clap clap clap clap) chant. This inspired Elijah Burns while he was on the floor, apparently, as he took his man one-on-one, off the dribble from way up near mid-court and got the and-one. He hit his free throw, too, making the score 69-48, ND. Nice.

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

At this point, Brey began taking out the seniors one by one to get them final applauses. The Bird Whisperer went first to a standing ovation, and the student section chanted “THANK YOU MAR-TY!” briefly, but that was cut off by the roar of the crowd reacting to Austin Torres getting ANOTHER basket to fall.

At the next dead ball, Gregory finally rose from the bench and strode toward the scorers’ table, and the crowd — especially the students — were going bananas for the former walk-on fan favorite. Before he could come in, though, Torres made another nifty pass, this time to Djogo, for a basket, making it 73-51.

Then, it was finally time. As Gregory walked out onto the court, the crowd gave him a loud standing ovation. Okay, well maybe some of that ovation was for Matt Farrell, who was finally pulled off the court. I guess he deserved that adulation as well.

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

With Gregory in the game, the goal immediately became getting him a bucket. And, very quickly, the Irish got the ball to him in transition for a three pointer that rimmed out, causing the Purcell crowd to LOUDLY groan, considering how close the shot was to going in and setting the arena on fire in terms of the rowdiness of the fans if that had happened.

After that, everyone’s hunger to see Gregory score was evident, and this is what the Notre Dame-specific play-by-play looks like for that shot and for everything following it:

  • MISSED 3 PTR by Matt Gregory
  • REBOUND (DEF) by Elijah Burns
  • MISSED JUMPER by Matt Gregory
  • MISSED 3 PTR by Matt Gregory
  • FOUL by Austin Torres
  • SUB IN: Liam Nelligan
  • SUB OUT: Austin Torres
  • REBOUND (DEF) by Elijah Burns
  • MISSED LAYUP by Matt Gregory

In that span of plays, I want to point out that Gregory took a super-deep two point jumper but it got tipped and didn’t hit the hoop, and that “MISSED LAYUP” was actually a shot that Gregory tried to shoot backwards, one-handed, over his head, and instead had it absolutely stuffed by a Pitt defender.

Also, Torres’ subbing out got us another standing ovation (of course). Dude finished with 6 points in 9 minutes on Senior Night. Not too shabby, man.

With 11.5 seconds to go, Pitt drew a foul on Notre Dame. The ref made the call, and when the P.A. guy announced that the foul was on Matt Gregory, the place went nuts. Anything that Matt did was perfect last night, and this shows even more that the key principle of fouling as much as possible that my college intramural and work league basketball teams follow is absolutely right and just. I knew it!

After Pitt’s free throws, the Irish ran out the clock and won the game 73-56.

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

After the game, they showed highlights from the seniors’ careers on the video board, and at one point the highlights showed a three that Gregory hit in garbage time in a non-conference game earlier this season. When it went in, the student section went crazy, which I thought was a great touch.

After the highlights, each senior got a chance to grab the microphone and say something to the crowd. Most of them just thanked the fans and school and their family for all the support — Farrell, The Bird Whisperer, and Gregory all did this (Gregory, of course, after the students quieted down from the yelling they did when he picked up the microphone).

Torres, meanwhile, had a nice little sound bite, thanking his teammates for giving him their extra tickets to games so his family in the area could come see him play.

BONZIE’s speech was the best, though, as the game MVP also thanked everyone for the support, but then launched into a fiery, passionate quick few lines that he shouted about the season. The big quotes I pulled out of it: “We’re not done yet. We’re gonna do something special. Stick with us.” This got the crowd all riled up for the rest of the speeches, and even more riled up for the rest of the season, however that will play out.

Final Stats

Notre Dame: BONZIE COLSON was the game MVP with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 21 minutes of play. TJ Gibbs scored 14 points, Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben scored 9 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Matt Farrell chipped in 14 points and 3 assists of his own. Also, Matt Gregory had 1 foul.

The Irish shot 42% from the field, 29% from deep, out-rebounded Pitt 51-35, and had 17 team assists to just 8 total turnovers.

Pittsburgh: Jared Wilson-Frame led the way for the Panthers with 20 points and 5 rebounds, while Terrell Brown added 10 points and 8 rebounds and Shemiel Stevenson contributed 10 points and 5 fouls. Parker Stewart had 7 points and 4 rebounds as well. Pittsburgh shot 33% from the field overall and 23% from three point range on the evening.

Stray Observations

  • Not sure there’s much else to say — beating Pittsburgh is something that literally everyone else in the ACC also did this year, so there’s not a lot we can learn from it. However, I do want to briefly run through the seniors right now and say why I love them all so much...also, here’s a nice little summary of the evening
  • Matt Gregory: the dude is just amazing — an academic all star from my alma mater of Cathedral High School in Indy, the son of the local weatherman, and one of the funniest players on the team...I’m gonna miss rooting for this guy to get open three point looks in garbage time — but we will always have his postgame interviews with Austin Burgett...
  • Austin Torres: this guy came in to ND as the toss-in player in a very good recruiting class that featured Demetrius Jackson, VJ Beachem, and Steve Vasturia, and yet for the past 4 seasons now he’s been a guy who has been able to come off the bench and give the Irish energy and hustle and lots of drawn charges.

He’s a super hard worker, and although his offensive skills have always been not great, he’s still been able to make a lot happen on both ends of the floor. Also, he’s developed into a really good passer, and has shown that a lot this season. Finally, he’s an amazing locker room and bench presence, and the program was much better off for having him, even if his free throw shooting, among other things, was completely maddening. I’m definitely gonna miss this guy.

  • Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben: Holy shit, in my initial publishing of this article I forgot to include Geben in these senior recaps. How did I possibly leave out this beautiful and amazing senior swan song story???

Geben has been incredible in terms of how he’s blossomed this season. He spent 3 years in this program deemed too slow and not skilled enough to really provide anything more than fouls, and yet he continued to work and work and found an amazing opportunity to be The Guy this season with BONZIE out and Farrell partially out and a huge hole to fill in terms of rebounding and scoring and on-court leadership.

Look at the improvement for Geben:

Almost across the board, he improved drastically and stepped up from being a guy no one really wanted on the floor in crunch time to being a reliable scorer, a ferocious rebounder, and literally the end-of-game hero in the Maui Invitational Championship, nearly getting a game-winning thunder dunk and instead sinking two clutch free throws for the title.

His development speaks to Brey’s ability to turn these guys into real contributors as upperclassmen, but even more so speaks to Ryan Humphrey’s impact on big man development. That hire cannot be understated, and if Geben’s transformation is any indication, Irish fans should be SUPER excited about the futures of guys who came in or are coming in with more skill than Geben, like John Mutton, Juwan Durham, Nate Laszewski, etc. I am absolutely giddy just thinking about it.

I am now forever a huge fan of Lithuania and its people, and will always cherish Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben as one of the most pleasant surprises that Notre Dame basketball has ever had. What a finish to his career.

  • Matt Farrell: It’s amazing to think about how far this guy came in his career. He came in as a 2-star guard who we all assumed would never be more than a backup, and we even bemoaned his playing time his sophomore year on that second Elite Eight team. His transformation from that season to last season as a junior was phenomenal, though, and shows just how much we need to trust in Mike Brey and his staff in developing these guys. I know part of this was just that guards like Jerian Grant and DJ were above him his first two seasons, but the improvement is still stunning:

His quickness and quick trigger and lethal accuracy from deep have all made him EXTREMELY fun to watch, and his swagger and passing ability and penchant for making big plays at the end of games has made him a fan-favorite over the past couple years. I’ll never forget that game last year where he made the diving steal to seal the game, or this year when he got the steal against Wichita State that gave the Irish life and enabled that comeback at the end. And then there are the game-winning shots. Oh, and obviously the time when his brother Bo came to a game at Purcell and surprised Matt and it was amazing...

Matt, you’ve been just awesome, and it’s gonna be very tough to see you go. Hopefully we somehow find a way to get you to one more NCAA Tourney, though

  • BONZIE COLSON: I could write a book here about how much I love BONZIE COLSON. He’s up there with Pat Connaughton in terms of my favorite Notre Dame players of all-time. It’s just amazing to think about when he burst onto the scene in early 2015, getting a chance due to some Zach Auguste academic issues, and showing immediately that he can score on anyone. Then, later that season, he took over against Duke in the ACC semifinal, foreshadowing quite a few more unbelievable games he would have against Duke.

His sophomore year he still deferred to Demetrius Jackson in terms of whose team it was, but he began to really have games where he exploded, like his 31-point, 11-rebound game at Duke. Then, last season, he became a permanent starter and was definitely the ACC Player of the Year in any reasonable person’s mind, scoring 17.8 points per game, grabbing 10.1 rebounds per game, and shooting 53% from the field and 43% from deep.

Then, this year, he was on pace to go head-to-head with Marvin Bagley for ACC Player of the Year and also would likely have been a 1st Team All-American, as he was averaging 20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds while again shooting 53% from the field before his foot injury. Then, after going for 22 and 17 against Georgia Tech with what turned out to be that broken foot, BONZIE was robbed of just about all of his senior season in the ACC. Absolutely brutal.

But in his return, he galvanized a team and fan base and picked up right where he left off, just barely missing a double-double. Even more so, though, his return brought back a much needed passion and love for competing to the court. His pregame hug with his sister after the national anthem was electric, and obviously his confidence and swagger have been much needed on a team that’s looked lost without him at times. Remember his game against Virginia in the ACC Tourney last year? Oh man, I hope he can channel that again on Saturday and in next week’s tournament.

Finally, I just want to leave in your minds the final image of BONZIE I saw before leaving the press box and heading to the coaches’ postgame pressers. He was making his way over to the scorers’ table to be interviewed, but on his way he must have stopped more than a dozen times to take pictures with fans of all ages, shake their hands, etc. He was very gracious in doing so and made a point to say a little something to the kids who came up to him. He’s just an amazing representative of Notre Dame, and it’s going to absolutely crush me to see him go.

What a run this 3-star, undersized forward has had with his 2- and 3-star classmates, who have all exceeded fans’ and coaches’ wildest expectations of what they would become as players and as leaders. I’m gonna start crying, so I’ll stop here. But thinking about this graduating class and how far they’ve come is truly incredible when you reflect on it.

  • With all that said, it’s time to trust in Mike Brey and BONZIE and Matty and The Bird Whisperer and allow them to do their thing. Who knows what might happen over the next week or so? I’m not going to sit here and say I think the Irish are definitely gonna find a way in, but considering these seniors have done nothing but accomplish what we never thought they could, why wouldn’t this be the only logical reaction from ND fans:

That’s insane, right? There’s no way, right?

You mean, like there’s no way Geben will ever be a competent big man?

Like there’s no way Matt Farrell will ever see the floor, or be the long-term starter at point guard?

Like BONZIE COLSON actually has the ability to compete with guys down low who have 5-7 inches on him?

Like Mike Brey can ever actually win in March?

Don’t count this team out yet, you guys.

“We’re not done yet.”