The last time I went to a Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball game to cover it in-person was about a month ago, on January 29th, when the Irish hosted the Virginia Cavaliers. At that point, the Irish were 13-6 overall and 6-2 in ACC play heading into that clash with Tony Bennett’s squad, and although the 6-2 conference start was a welcome, pleasant surprise, I don’t think anyone at that point really expected the good times to last.
The Irish had just 12 days previously nearly lost to Howard, and with 12 conference games left to play, I would imagine most ND fans were just hoping for a final ACC record of slightly above .500 from this ND team who’s failed to even be on the bubble the last three seasons, and who’s missed the tournament four years in a row. Just being remotely close to the conversation seemed like the best possible outcome for the team.
In my last in-person game, the Irish took down UVA in a close one — the first time Brey had beaten Bennett’s Cavaliers in the regular season — and that win signaled a bit of a turning point, at least in terms of what this ND team was capable of this year and how much we all began to believe in them. With the down conference, a veteran group, and a stud freshman, maybe the Irish could...actually...compete in the ACC?
We all know how the rest of the schedule has played out since that day. ND got a reality check from Duke, but quickly bounced back with a massive road win at Miami and then rattled off 4 more wins before falling at Wake Forest last Saturday (which would have been gravy, to be honest — Wake is a tournament team).
With that month-long stretch since the UVA game, the Irish had suddenly played their way into 2nd place in the conference, and then after dispatching Syracuse somewhat smoothly on Wednesday night, Notre Dame was suddenly in a position entering Saturday’s game vs. Georgia Tech to clinch a top-4 seed and double-bye in the ACC Tourney, as well as to put themselves in position to almost certainly end up as the #2 seed.
It’s insane to think about how far the Irish have come since their ACC opener disaster against BC back in December, and Saturday’s shellacking of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets was the perfect representation of that — this team was not capable of that kind of conference victory 2-3 months ago.
So, let’s dive into the details to see how this Irish team has gone from “they should fire their coach” to “that’s a dangerous tourney lock of a team peaking at just the right time.”
As has become tradition for me thanks to the Enterprise I rent from closing at the ridiculous hour of 1pm on Saturdays, I rolled into South Bend pretty early for this game, considering the annoying time I had to pick up my Mitsubishi Mirage for its big journey eastward.
After hanging out in my car in the Notre Dame Stadium parking lot and playing every “-dle” game I hadn’t yet conquered for the day,* I finally managed to walk into Purcell a little less than an hour before tipoff to grab my credentials and settle into the press box.
*Pat Rick Note: at this point, I have a routine every day — usually first thing in the morning, but not always — to play the following games: Wordle, Ooodle, Lewdle, Worldle, Letterle, Nerdle, Quordle, and Poeltl. I will also occasionally toss in Crosswordle, Absurdle, and Semantle. I have a problem.
As I got my laptop fired up and ready to send out lots of fire tweets during the game, I began watching the two teams warm up, noting that on the ND side, this early, most of the players were just shooting in their undershirts. Except Cormac Ryan, who had his jersey on, ready to play, and honestly that does seem quite on-brand with him. Dude is always ready to go.
Observing the Georgia Tech squad briefly, my mind quickly wandered to their coach, Josh Pastner, and the ridiculous and stupid and incredibly amazing face shield he’d been donning instead of a mask during COVID.
I knew that players and coaches appeared to be wearing masks less now and that Pastner might have moved on from the shield, but I began praying that Pastner had decided to pull a Rip Hamilton and keep wearing his face shield after it was “required,” just because he was used to it and liked wearing it (and wanted to be extra cautious, I’d imagine).
The teams retired to their locker rooms for some final motivational prep before coming back out, and when they did some fan nearby was doing one of those unbelievably shrill whistles some people can do by using a couple fingers — you know what I’m talking about. It wasn’t super loud or crowded yet at that point, so it was a clear, grating whistle that this dude kept up for about a minute.
Finally the coaches came out too, and as I watched the two head coaches chat near mid-court, I was forced to confront the sobering reality that Pastner had indeed foregone his face shield. I then resolved to wish hard for, throughout the game, Pastner to be confronted with a number of reasons/incidents he should have had a face shield on to protect him. Ideas included:
- Sweat from a player’s hair (it would need to be somewhat long hair) getting flicked into Pastner’s face as they make a move in front of the GaTech bench
- Spittle from a ref with whom Josh is having a heated discussion
- A fan walking by near the Yellow Jacket bench who trips and launches his cup of Pepsi into Pastner’s face
- You get the idea
Unfortunately, at least to my knowledge, none of those things or anything similar happened to Josh Pastner throughout the game that would make him regret not wearing his face shield. I was disappointed by that, but at least I was gonna have a clear view of the court at all times.
One other thing I saw during pregame — ND gave out t-shirts to the student section that said “Breyk down the thunder,” which to me is the perfect mix of horrible, cringeworthy, doesn’t-really-work-that-well pun (because “break” is its own word already lol) with funny, wholesome, I-appreciate-the-effort-and-the-fact-a-pun-was-made-at-all vibes.
Hey, students.— Notre Dame Basketball (@NDmbb) February 26, 2022
Not that you needed another reason to come out for today's game but...
Just in case, here's one more. These are for you pic.twitter.com/rbfRnypzdK
Honestly, I want one of these shirts. Someone get me one.
With the pregame stuff behind us, an ND student came out to sing a really nice rendition of the national anthem, which provided plenty of shots panning over the players and coaches, including one I personally found funny that probably no one else did of the ND coaches, standing in what looked like a Cingular Wireless commercial from shortest to tallest like those “bars,” going Mike Brey to Anthony Solomon to Antoni Wyche to Ryan Humphrey to Scott Martin.
Also, I feel super old making a reference to Cingular Wireless. That is a DATED reference.
- Michael Devoe
- Kyle Sturdivant
- Jordan Usher
- Khalid Moore
- Rodney Howard
- Prentiss “Call Him Kyra Sedgwick Because He’s The Closer” Hubb
- Blake “One More Year” Wesley
- Cormac “Drive & Shine” Ryan
- Dane “Daney G is #BACK” Goodwin
- Paul “Drop-Step King” Atkinson Jr.
1ST HALF ACTION
It was clear basically from the beginning of this game that Dane “Daney G” Goodwin knew exactly how things were gonna go. After a previous two games in which he scored 10 points combined on 4-of-15 shooting, Daney G took it upon himself to set the tone right away.
He drew a foul and knocked down two free throws within the first 18 seconds of action, got himself another bucket on a nice drive not too long after, and than after an Atkinson layup and a Rodney Howard dunk that finally got Georgia Tech on the scoreboard, Daney G buried a three to make it 9-2 just three minutes in, with Daney G having 7 of those 9.
It was around this time that I really took note of Michael Devoe’s shoes, which were such a bright, fluorescent pink that I couldn’t help but be distracted and nearly blinded by it as he played.
It definitely made viewers think back to the 2015 ND team and several of the guys’ neon-green shoes, but unfortunately for Georgia Tech these bright pink shoes did NOT help him play like like Connaughton or Jackson or even Geben. He scored 7 points on 3-of-10 shooting on the evening.
It was also around that time — during the under-16 media timeout, specifically — when my younger brother Timmy, a sophomore at ND right now, sent me the blurriest picture ever of the press box from his seat in the student section, with just the caption “sniped.”
I’d like to note that both I, and he, had trouble actually finding me in the photo. Great work, Timbo.
Daney G would add another layup not too long after his first 7 points, and along with a nifty Ryan layup and a Wertz corner three, the Irish lead hit double digits just before 6 minutes of basketball had been played, up 16-6 at the 14:06 mark.
This was early enough where Georgia Tech was still sort of in the ball game, and so it was at this point that the Yellow Jackets fought back a little bit, getting their deficit to within single digits thanks to buckets like Jalon Moore’s and-one basket with 13:52 to go in the half. Unfortunately for Jalon, he wasn’t aware he would be facing potentially the best free throw defense in the country in the Leprechaun Legion, who willed Moore to miss his free throw, as they are prone to doing. The Lep Legion would manage that 6 separate times on the day, forcing the Jackets to shoot in the low 60s from the charity stripe in this one. Not. Too. Shabby.
It was also around this time where we officially had our “the Purcell clock operator screwed up the clock” moment, as that now seems to happen every game at some point — well done by that person to get it out of the way early on, and especially just around the same time that both teams went ~3 minutes without scoring, leading me to briefly but legitimately believe that the game might end with a final score of 18-10.
During a break in the action, they showed Julian Love on the video board, as the former Irish All-American cornerback and now New York Giant DB was in town and taking in the game. Always fun to see him — he was such a fun player to watch in his time in South Bend. The ND band rode the nice little momentum of the Julian Love sighting that got the crowd to make some noise and started playing “I Love It” by Icona Pop (ft. Charli XCX), which only served to get the crowd feeling it even more.
Upon the return to game action, the Yellow Jackets broke the dual-drought with a three, and then ND quickly answered with Blake Wesley knocking down a deep ball of his own. That was Wesley’s first made basket and points of the day, more than 25% of the way into the game. His slow scoring start wouldn’t hold him down for long, though, as the star freshman soon after converted on an and-one basket off of a nice assist from Hubb, and would go on to finish the day with 15 points.
After a bit of back and forth, this is where the Irish really cranked it up a notch and took the game over for good. Hubb got things going with a fantastic little drive to the hoop and layup, slicing right through the Georgia Tech defense like a knife through butter, although in my notes I said it was less like butter and more like crunchy peanut butter. For the life of me I cannot remember what I meant by that, but I felt it needed to be included.
Following that bucket, Hubb made the extra pass on the next possession to find Daney G for a three, and then after Devoe missed a shot on the other end, Wesley rebounded it and quickly got it up the floor to Daney G for yet another three in transition. Wesley then decided to get back into the scoring action himself, converting on what I described in my game notes as “a man’s bucket” that could have been an and-one, and all of a sudden the Irish led 36-19 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the half.
After Zewski swatted a Georgia Tech layup attempt (which got the crowd — already pretty loud — even louder), Daney G managed another nice driving layup to get the crowd PUMPED heading into the final media timeout of the first half, with ND now ahead by 19 thanks to a 12-2 run they just went on.
During that media timeout, the Notre Dame Pom Squad came out and performed without their poms, transforming briefly into “The Squad” to the delight of the crowd, dancing to MJ’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” and Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop the Music,” among others. This was immediately followed by T-Shirt Toss Time, and considering how pumped up the crowd was heading into the break, it shouldn’t have been a surprise — but was anyways — that there had to have been a record number of grown-ass adults standing, dancing, jumping, and screaming to try to earn a free t-shirt hurled their way by the Irish cheerleaders.
As I was enjoying that spectacle, I noticed the person next to me in the press box had binoculars for some reason and was using them to watch...something? If anyone has been to Purcell, it’s certainly not a huge place and never have I felt the need to have binoculars to see anything, but to each their own I suppose?
Near the end of the timeout, as I scanned the box score just to see what interesting stats jumped off the page, I noticed that Daney G had 17 points in just 14 minutes of basketball, which was pretty fun to see considering his recent struggles. The Irish will need him to be hitting shots if they intend on making any noise in the ACC or NCAA Tournaments.
To end the half, we were treated to Georgia Tech doing a couple things on offense and defense to dull the crowd noise briefly, but Hubb burying a corner three and Wertz finding Zewski for a wide open dunk put the Irish up 17 with less than a minute to play.
Devoe managed to hit a free throw before the end of the half, but that was child’s play compared to the and-one three that Wesley buried with 4 seconds to go before intermission (he would miss the free throw), giving Notre Dame a very fun and awesome 46-27 halftime lead.
It’s probably the standard that was set by legendary performers like Red Panda and Those Frisbee Dogs, but many of the halftime performances I’ve seen recently at Purcell Pavilion have really fallen short of the mark. However, on Saturday, the Irish faithful were treated to some true professionals in the basketball timeout/halftime performance game: the Indiana Pacers Power Pack and Acrobatic Dunkers!!!!
Now, let me quickly just say that I actually saw none of this performance, but that I’m an Indy native and loyal fan of the ‘cers, and so I’m extremely familiar with these guys, their acrobatics, their trampolines, and their dunking abilities. When they get together and perform with Boomer, the Pacers mascot, it can be electric. Here’s a taste of what they do, in case you need a visual:
Why did I pass up seeing such a fun and relevant/targeted halftime show for me? Well, my brother Timbo was at the game as well, as I mentioned earlier, and so being the good, loving brothers we are, we agreed to meet in the concourse at halftime to briefly chat, hug, discuss Timbo’s spring break plans, have me tell him I meant to give him my Media Concessions Voucher but forgot it, etc.
However, for being two decently intelligent dudes, we’re probably two of the denser young men you could hope to watch struggle to find each other in the simplest of places to do so. Purcell is not a big arena and there is literally just one concourse, in the middle of the upper and lower sections, and considering the press box is roughly a quarter of the arena away from the student section, I figured I would just walk in the concourse toward the student section, and somewhere along the way I would spy my brother Tim.
Unfortunately, Tim really had no idea what he was doing in trying to find me/the press box, taking an alternate route that involved that area outside the concourse with all the trophies and memorabilia and history, etc. So, we walked right past each other, then fumbled around in our respective new locations — me near the student section, trying desperately not to look like I was standing in one of the seemingly countless concessions lines that were winding around everywhere; and Tim, somehow finding his way back out near the press box entrance, being told by someone who works there that he could go into the press box, despite Timmy wearing a Guinness t-shirt and sweats and saying he was not media and was just looking for his brother.
FINALLY, thanks to some fantastic communication via text, the two brothers found each other, talked for a while, then said their goodbyes so as to ensure they didn’t miss any second half action.
And so, because it involved a nice little family reunion and also a fun act from the greatest NBA franchise in the league, I would like to award this halftime show a 7 on the scale of 1 to Red Panda.
2ND HALF ACTION
I got back to my seat in the press box with just about 30 seconds until the second half would begin, and was treated to a highlight video being shown on the video board set to Archie Eversole’s pump-up classic, “We Ready.” Here’s what I wrote in my game notes:
“this pleases me”
As I enjoyed that, I noticed the guy a couple seats down from me was talking but super quietly — he either had lost his voice, or was whispering for some reason. I like to think he was telling Binoculars Guy a secret, but I guess I’ll never truly know!
The second half finally began, and within the first minute,Cormac Ryan had buried a three to put ND up 22. Georgia Tech responded the only way they know how.
GaTech just hit a three seemingly at the shot clock buzzer, but upon review it was decidedly still in the shooter's hands when the clock hit 0.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) February 26, 2022
SHOTCLOCK VIOLATION BAYBEEE
After the Yellow Jackets did finally manage to get a dunk, Ryan buried yet another three, prompting me to tweet out at the time, and remind you all now, that his new nickname is “Drive & Shine” thanks to this amazing NIL ad that he and Zewski starred in recently.
I think a major highlight has gotta be Ryan earnestly urging us to “use the mat scrubbers,” but Zewski DOES do an awesome job shooting trash into the trash can and blowing away hard-to-reach dust with the “air tool.” Ryan saying “vacuum like a champion today” is also pretty great, tbh.
Oh, and then there’s this...
We call that “Air Zewski,” folks.
Anyway, back to the game — Prentiss Hubb made a bad attempt at a fancy pass that got stolen, but the GT player who stole it was Jordan Usher, who had a nice game overall but didn’t look like much of a ball handler as he began trying to push it up the floor. Hubb simply held his ground in front of Usher, stymieing him in the backcourt, and Usher panicked and managed a horrible behind-the-back dribble that went haywire, became a loose ball, and led to Trey Wertz picking it up and immediately tossing it up the floor to Atkinson for a wide open dunk.
After Wertz added a corner three for good measure, the Irish led 59-31 with 14+ minutes still to play. Time for a media timeout, eh Yellow Jackets?
During that break, the video board did one of those three hats/hidden ball games, except this was with ND monograms instead of hats. The crowd seemed to have a fun time watching it and guessing which ND hid the ball when they stopped moving, but I once again felt concern for the guy next to me, who pulled his binoculars out again for this. Can he not see the video board??? In the end, monogram #1 was the answer — seemed like lots of people nailed it, but I’m not sure Binoculars Guy figured it out.
As the timeout continued, the band played “Mr. Brightside” to get us 30-somethings going, and the video board did its thing panning over the crowd, at one point showing us a kid in the student section wearing a bathrobe. Confessions Part 1 for me: I love the vibes there — comfy as hell while watching Brey and the boys obliterate a bad team.
Once the game got going again, Jordan Usher — who led Georgia Tech on the day with 16 points — knocked down a couple free throws. “Confessions Part II” for me: on a team with lots of issues and lacking the talent needed to compete, I would at least say, “Yeah!” to the question of whether Usher is really a guy who could “Burn” the competition. I’d honestly tell him “U Remind Me” of some other solid GaTech guards over the years, but that he shouldn’t get “Caught Up” thinking about those comparisons. In “My Boo”k, he’s already one of those guys who makes you say “OMG.”
Still, despite Usher being like a “DJ Got Us Falling In Love,” by the 12:18 mark, the Irish had used a 13-4 start to the 2nd half to drive them to a 23-point lead. But they refused to be satisfied there, with Wertz knocking down another three and then Daney G giving us all some comic relief on a three he just absolutely BEEFED, not hitting anything in terms of the basket.
The under-12 timeout saw the Irish leading by 22 and enjoying another Pom Squad performance, but this time with their poms and thus as an actual Pom Squad. This timeout is also when Binoculars Guy began to really struggle in smoothly handling his binoculars, as he kept knocking them over, loudly, as he moved his arms around to do whatever as he covered the game. Sitting next to him, each time I briefly panicked as I thought he’d knocked over a water bottle or something, but each time it was just those darn binoculars.
Luckily, the band played Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” and that lifted my spirits as I attempted to ignore the binoculars that were suddenly not only present, but loudly announcing their presence in the press box.
Returning to action, Hubb continued to just be an absolute stud with no real explanation how he plays like he plays, as he managed to drain a shot clock buzzer beater three after absolutely shaking his man with a nasty crossover, and then managed to get himself a 2-point bucket and another three in the next few possessions, giving Notre Dame a lovely 72-50 lead at the under-8 timeout with just 6:37 to play.
It was at this point that I noted that 4 of 5 starters were in double figures in scoring, with Cormac Ryan — with 8 points and a career-high 10 rebounds — being the only starter not yet in double figures. Add in that Wertz had 9 points and it was a pretty evenly-distributed game where all the main rotation guys chipped in with some scoring, rebounding, etc.
After the Leprechaun Legion forced Devoe to miss another two free throws, the crowd was treated to back-to-back scores from the Irish, first with Wesley converting on a layup at the shot clock buzzer (after a nice find by Atkinson), and then with Zewski slamming home a dunk to put an exclamation point on this one.
This was finally, at the 5:02 mark, when Mike Brey began to empty his bench, substituting freshman J.R. Konieczny in hopes of giving the talented scorer and shooter a chance to get a little more experience than normal. The first play he was in for was an inbound play wonderfully designed to get him a mid-range jumper look. It worked, but unfortunately Jalon Moore was all over it, and he swatted the rookie’s shot into the stands with some authority.
With Konieczny getting into the game, the student section began their typical “WE WANT ZONA” chant, trying to get the fan favorite some time to mix it up down low. Sure enough, Matt Zona would soon sub in along with Elijah Morgan and Tony Sanders Jr., but before that happened, we got a fun moment with Blake Wesley shooting some free throws and the Leprechaun Legion loudly chanting “ONE MORE YEAR” at the potential NBA Draft pick. The LL knows as well as the rest of us that the Irish would be one of the FAVORITES in the ACC next season if Wesley were to return to join forces with Daney G and J.J. Starling in the backcourt.
With the final media timeout, the Irish got their bench mob out onto the floor along with Wertz as the 5th guy, and with Avicii’s “Levels” blasting over the Purcell speakers, the crowd was ready for some fun, deserved moments for these guys who seldom get to see the court.
After a bad possession resulting in a shot clock violation and a defensive possession where the Leprechaun Legion was chanting “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” (which was awesome, by the way — up 26, 3 minutes left, reserves are in, and the students are still going all out), we were all treated to Elijah Morgan finding Konieczny on a backdoor cut for a dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Morgan managed to draw a foul and hit some free throws on the next possession, and then soon after tried to toss what would have been a WILD alley-oop to Konieczny in transition. And I guess technically it succeeded, in that Konieczny’s shot attempt bounced around and went in, but the dunk was certainly not clean. It would have been ELECTRIC though, considering Konieczny caught the ball and tried to throw it down with just one hand. Dude has sneaky great athleticism.
After a couple more Morgan free throws to cap a nice little showing by the walk-on junior, the Irish ran the clock out on a very fun and impressive 90-56 victory. All smiles for the Irish.
- I mentioned it multiple times, but it was huge to see Dane “Daney G” Goodwin bouncing back after a couple not-great efforts recently. If this team wants to have a chance of making some sort of run in March, Daney G has gotta be bringing his A-game.
- Blake Wesley continues to do Blake Wesley things. Yes, he still occasionally has moments that show he could use another year in college, but I think folks also need to remember that pro scouts might not care about those things. They draft on potential and probably think they could help him develop out of those mistakes quicker than he could as a student-athlete. Plus, he’s been pretty damn impressive anyway, potential or not.
If you've seen him play, you know he's special.— Notre Dame Basketball (@NDmbb) February 27, 2022
Today, he hit the numbers to prove it by becoming this season to reach 400 points, 100 rebounds, 50 3FGM, 70 assists and 30 steals.#GoIrish | @blakewesley0 pic.twitter.com/IqPDb1RsPU
So, selfishly, hopefully Blake and his family are in no rush to get that NBA money (I would blame no one who WOULD be) and think Blake could take a Jaden Ivey path to being a lottery pick after his sophomore year — because God knows I’d love another year of having the please of watching this kid play for the Irish
- Also, did any of us EVER think we’d hear our student section chanting “ONE MORE YEAR!” at a potential one-and-done prospect playing for the Irish????? I still can’t get over that. That’s so cool that we get to watch that level of talent at ND, and will again next year, whether Wesley returns or not. And who knows? Maybe this influx of NBA talent will keep on coming:
MBB: Visitor was 6-9 James Brown from Chicago's St. Rita HS. https://t.co/Bqk8zY9UK9— Notre Dame Hoops Recruits (@NDHoopsRecruits) February 28, 2022
- I’ve covered how impressed I’ve been with Prentiss Hubb this year, but just want to reiterate: in his senior year, following a season where he was 3rd Team All-ACC, he got benched for a freshman (and rightfully so, at the time). He didn’t quit or sulk or do anything except step up, be a mentor for Wesley, and then also transform his own game to fit the needs of the team and re-earn a starting spot back.
The results? He’s absolutely turned it on for conference play. In 11 non-conference games this year, Hubb has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.26, averaging just over 3 assists and nearly 2.5 turnovers in each of those games. But in the gauntlet that is conference play? He’s averaging more than 4 assists per game and less than 1 turnover, giving him a conference play A/TO ratio of 4.65. The current best A/TO ratio in the country is Virginia’s Reece Beekman at 3.69. That means Hubb, during ACC play, has been better and more productive with the basketball as a distributor than the best in the country in that stat, BY NEARLY A FULL ASSIST.
Add in his propensity for making absurd, clutch shots that have no business being made, and he’s honestly been one of the most fun players to watch this season. What a ride.
- Cormac Ryan always deserves more credit for all the little things he does, and I’ll go to my grave saying that and it still won’t be enough. He pulled in 10 rebounds on Saturday in yet another display he’s a FANTASTIC rebounder for a guard — a career high for him, might I add — and just continues to play really good, tough, pestering defense on some of the best opposing players each game. But he’s also started scoring in this recent stretch where he’s been starting, which has been really fun (and very helpful for the team).
Since the Louisville game that Zewski had to sit out with an injury, Ryan has started 6 games and is averaging 11.3 points per game and shooting 50% from three during that stretch. He was scoring just about 7 points per game prior to that stretch, and on the season is a 37% three-point shooter. If he can keep this up, the Irish should have the firepower to hang with just about anyone offensively.
- Paul Atkinson Jr. was once again as steady as ever, and I shudder to think about how this season might have been different without his scoring and rebounding down low. Adding him and Wesley was really the perfect duo of additions for this lost group of seniors
- Trey Wertz has started to really carve out his role and contribute more, which is fantastic to see as we enter March. He knocked down 3 threes in this one and has just looked more under control and assertive recently, whereas earlier in the year he would sometimes look lost and not always play a ton of minutes. As the team enters the stretch where they will be playing a lot of games within just a few days, it will be key that he continues to maximize his minutes and keep this a strong 7-man rotation
- Shout out to the bench mob — “the Blue Team” according to Brey — for really looking sharp and making the most of their 4-5 minutes of PT in this one, ending the game on a 10-2 run for Notre Dame. J.R. Konieczny showed us a bunch of reasons to be excited for him to really break out as a sophomore — great athleticism and we know he can shoot — and Elijah Morgan was super productive in his short time out there, managing 6 points, 2 assists, and a steal in just 4 minutes of basketball
- Speaking of making the most of one’s time, shout out to the fan-favorite Matt Zona, who gave a very Stanford Hall B2 Basketball-worthy performance in his 4 minutes, snagging 4 rebounds and picking up 2 fouls in that time. I wonder if at some point there may be a scenario in March where Brey needs someone to come foul some folks...if so, Matt “Ari” Zona has GOTTA be the guy — he’s got that shit DOWN
- It was fun as hell to see Jack Nolan back on the call for a day, and even better to hear him do the postgame interview with Mike Brey after the game with lots of fans sticking around to listen
- Something interesting that Nolan noted to Brey in that postgame interview was that, despite the short 7-man rotation, ND only has one guy who cracks the ACC’s top-10 in minutes played, and that’s Daney G at #10. Considering there have been games where Wertz only played like 10-12 minutes, I found that really surprising and also pretty encouraging that maybe the Irish won’t have dead legs in the ACC Tourney and NCAA Tourney
- Speaking of the ACC Tourney — considering ND will almost certainly avoid Duke until the Finals and the Irish will literally start in the quarterfinals, I would say there’s a very strong chance we get to see another Irish ACC Tourney run to at least the ACC semis, if not the championship game. Whether it ends more like 2015 or 2017 we will see, but just the fact we can feel pretty confident about that is such a fun, nostalgic feeling after the last 4 seasons
A glance at the possible ACC tournament matchups for @NDmbb— @NDmbb Athletic Comms (@NDmbbSID) February 27, 2022
If the final week holds form (and the favored team wins the games across the league) Notre Dame would be the No. 2 seed, face the No. 10 Clemson/No.15 NC State vs. No. 7 Va Tech winner
- If you were wondering when the last time was that ND beat an opponent this badly — especially a conference opponent — wonder no longer:
The 34-point victory over Georgia Tech for @NDmbb is the largest over an @accmbb opponent since the Irish joined the league in 2013-14.— @NDmbb Athletic Comms (@NDmbbSID) February 27, 2022
Previous high was 30 points in the 1-3-2018 victory over NC State when @NDMikeBrey became the all-time winningest MBB coach in ND history.
- Looking forward, the Irish have NEVER won in Tallahassee, so despite FSU being down and having some key injuries this year, this game won’t be a walk in the park at all. Just ask UVA how easy it was to beat Leonard Hamilton’s squad recently...
March is near. Florida State pulls off a miracle to beat Virginia.— SSN - College Basketball (@SSN_CBB) February 26, 2022
Matthew Cleveland hits the best shot of the season. (Arguably best shot)
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this one...here’s to hoping the Irish keep the good times rolling this week and finish the season with two more wins and a wildly unexpected 16-4 conference record, virtually locking up their NCAA bid before conference tourneys even begin. Go Irish!!!!