ACC Burning Questions: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 8th, 2017

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Notre Dame always has a returning player make a big leap in production — who will it be this year?

In this one-and-done era of college basketball, Notre Dame has flourished by following Mike Brey’s general plan to “get old and stay old.” To win that way at the highest level requires strong player development within the program — something at which Brey and his staff have certainly excelled over the years. Usually Notre Dame’s players make steady progress over the course of their careers — much like with senior All-America candidate Bonzie Colson — but often that development results in a breakout season for a player who has only made moderate contributions up to that point (see: Matt Ferrell last season). Who are the prime candidates for a breakout season for this year’s Irish?

Rex Pflueger could be poised for a breakout year in his junior season at Notre Dame.
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Notre Dame must replace a pair of multi-year starters on the wing in V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia, so there are considerable minutes available at those positions — as a result, expect junior Rex Pflueger and sophomore T.J. Gibbs to become newly important pieces of Brey’s revamped lineup. Each player averaged 4.7 PPG off the bench last year and should be ready to handle the heavy minutes that Brey likes to give to his key guys. Pflueger has shown a good stroke from deep — 39.7 percent on threes last season — in addition to being a good defender. Gibbs proved a capable ball-handler (2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio) as a freshman last season, so pairing him with Farrell in the backcourt should keep the Irish among the national leaders in ball security (Notre Dame’s 14.0 percent turnover rate ranked second in the country last season). Another possible jump in production could come from senior center Martinas Geben — Brey likes the dirty work that the Lithuanian provides but wants him to be more confident and assertive with his offensive game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Juniors

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 1st, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the first of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout juniors in the ACC this season. The breakout sophomores will publish tomorrow.

Junior Jumps

1) Terance Mann – Florida State – 25.0 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 120.1 ORtg, 61.1% 2FG.

Florida State’s Terance Mann is a prime candidate to have a breakout junior season.
(Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports)

With the departures of Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes from the Seminoles’ roster, there are going to be a lot of available possessions for the remaining players this season. We would advise head coach Leonard Hamilton to give as many of those touches to Mann as he can handle. In addition to the 2016-17 statistics listed above, the versatile wing also excels on the boards (8.6% offensive rebound rate) and at getting to the foul line (45.0% FT rate). Read the rest of this entry »

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Where 2016-17 Happens: Reason #7 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2016

As RTC heads into its 10th season — Season X, if you will — covering college basketball, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 11. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#7 – Where Pflueger to the 16 Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15 and 2015-16 preseasons.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Notre Dame 76, #14 Stephen F. Austin 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Rex Pflueger’s only basket of the game sent Notre Dame to the Sweet Sixteen. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

  1. One Shining Moment. Welcome to the montage, Rex Pflueger. The California kid tipped in Zach Auguste‘s missed shot with one second remaining to send Notre Dame to the Sweet Sixteen. It was a classic example of this tournament creating an iconic moment for a player not many people have heard of. It was Pflueger’s only two points of the game and his first made field goal since Notre Dame’s regular season finale against North Carolina State on March 5. For the time being, Pflueger saved Notre Dame’s season. We will see his one shining moment on video for years to come.
  2. Notre Dame won this game in the paint. The Fighting Irish scored 52 of their 76 points either in the paint or from the foul line as they took advantage of a substantial size edge. Auguste led the way, but the Notre Dame guards did a fantastic job getting into the paint and creating for both themselves and teammates. It is incredibly difficult to win games in this tournament when a team is passive offensively, and the Irish were the antithesis of passive this afternoon. Notre Dame was aggressive and efficient en route to shooting 56.9 percent from the floor for the game. A lot of that had to do with Auguste and his team’s dominance around the rim.
  3. What more can you say about Stephen F. Austin? The Lumberjacks put on quite a display this week in Brooklyn. On Friday night they took out a West Virginia team that many experts said could contend for a spot in the Final Four. They beat the Mountaineers at their own game and today they were one missed defensive rebound away from making the first Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history. Thomas Walkup is a special player who got better in each of his four years in Nacogdoches. He had 21 points today after scoring 33 two nights ago against West Virginia, performances that nearly carried his team to the second weekend. With the Lumberjacks losing Walkup, Demetrious Floyd, Clide Geffrard, Trey Pinkney and Jared Johnson to graduation, the focus now will turn to head coach Brad Underwood and whether or not he stays with the program. He will likely be mentioned as a candidate for the open Big 12 jobs at Oklahoma State and TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 01.26.16 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 26th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. The Dagger: I agree wholeheartedly with the headline of this article. Duke shouldn’t be ranked next week. But the reason Miami didn’t rush the court against Duke says as much about the Miami program under Jim Larranaga as it does about the undermanned Blue Devils. More on Duke’s recent struggles and their NCAA Tournament hopes later, but don’t let that distract from the fact that the Hurricanes are great this season. They’re experienced, well-coached, and a little inconsistent.
  2. Tomahawk Nation: Exhaustive review from Michael Rogner of Florida State‘s rebounding struggles against Pittsburgh. He classified each offensive board as lucky, good offense, or good defense. My first takeaway reading this was that I wish we had similar numbers for all teams. Florida State’s much smaller than expected because of injuries, so they’ll need to start rebounding by committee.
  3. Chicago Tribune: Speaking of important injuries, Demetrius Jackson will be out in Notre Dame’s game Thursday at Syracuse. Jackson’s absence (assuming reports are correct and the team is just being cautious) may prove a blessing. The reason is freshman Rex Pflueger has played very well in the last three games after only playing more than ten minutes once earlier in the season. It also gives Steve Vasturia valuable time at point guard, which could be important if Jackson ever gets in foul trouble.
  4. Syracuse Post Standard: If the Orange want to safely make the NCAA Tournament, the next five games are all close to must-wins. The first four are at home and the Orange should be favored in all four. At 3-5 in ACC play, Syracuse has to claw it’s way into the top half of the conference. They do have two very strong non-conference wins (Connecticut and Texas A&M), but the St. John’s loss looks awful.
  5. Louisville Courier-Journal: Louisville is an enigma. Statistically, they’re a great team. But they have no “great” wins (the last three are the only ones even worth mentioning). We should find out more  starting Saturday. Eight of the teams last 11 games are against likely NCAA Tournament teams (not even counting Pittsburgh as one), including at Duke, Virginia, and Miami. Rick Pitino, mildly trolling, noted: “It reminds me so much of the Big East in its prime.”

EXTRA: The NCAA made a good decision pushing back the date college players have to declare for the NBA Draft until after the combine. That gives kids a lot more time to get accurate information on where they might be picked. And while coaches might privately complain about the uncertainty (publicly doing so in the current climate would be out of touch), they may see more borderline guys come back and this should prevent the draft from becoming a distraction during the NCAA Tournament.

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Notre Dame’s Explosive Offense Makes Them A Dangerous Team

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 18th, 2016

Last season, Notre Dame had the most successful run of Mike Brey‘s tenure in South Bend. The Irish finished third in the ACC with a 14-4 record, and then won the ACC Tournament in Greensboro by knocking off league stalwarts Duke and North Carolina on back-to-back nights. Then came an excellent NCAA Tournament run where they fell to an unbeaten Kentucky squad on the game’s final possession in a Regional final. That Irish team featured the second ranked offense in the country according to KenPom’s efficiency ratings, trailing only Wisconsin’s historically best offense. After losing its top two players from last year’s group, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton (both NBA draft picks), Brey’s current team may not be as strong overall due to a significant drop off defensively. But Notre Dame’s offense has remained elite (currently #1 in Kenpom) and that makes them a threat to win any time they take the floor.

Demetrius Jackson leads Notre Dame's outstanding offense and is among the nation's best point guards. (Ben McKeown/AP Photo)

Demetrius Jackson leads Notre Dame’s outstanding offense and is among the nation’s best point guards. (Ben McKeown/AP Photo)

As if to prove this point, on Saturday afternoon Notre Dame outscored Duke 95-91 by posting an outstanding 1.36 points per possession. We looked over the 15 years of KenPom historical data, and couldn’t find a better offensive performance for a visiting ACC team in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Granted, this is not a vintage Duke squad, with youth and a lack of depth being the main problems. But yesterday, the Blue Devils played hard and well most of the game (51.8 FG%, 50.0 3FG%), and the Cameron crowd was at its best, making it a difficult environment for the visitors. Still, Notre Dame maintained its poise and offensive efficiency down the stretch to come out on top in this shootout.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 09.12.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 12th, 2014

morning5

  1. Villanova picked up a big commitment yesterday from five-star point guard Jalen Brunson bringing their 2015 class to three as he joins shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo and power forward Tim Delaney. As Jeff Borzello notes, Brunson’s recruitment was complex and probably wasn’t decided until after Brunson’s father, who was expected to be part of a package deal as an assistant coach, was arrested for alleged sexual assault. Brunson is from Illinois so this is another tough loss for Illini fans, but it still early in the recruiting season so there are still plenty of big names available.
  2. Josh Pastner’s decision to hire Keelon Lawson is paying dividends more quickly than many anticipated. In addition to having a pipeline to Lawson’s kids, who are all highly recruited, Pastner will also get Dedric Lawson, who was the #7 overall recruit in the class of 2016, a year early as Dedric announced that he will reclassify to the class of 2015. By doing so, Dedric will join his brother K.J., ranked #38 in this class, at Memphis next year. The move should not come as too much of a surprise because Dedric’s birth date would make him eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
  3. The season hasn’t even started yet, but we already have a pair of significant ACL injuries to report. The most significant one will probably be at Illinois where they appear to have lost Tracy Abrams for the season due to an ACL tear. Abrams, a senior who started all 35 games last season, averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season. Fortunately for Illinois, they appear to have an adequate and seasoned replacement in Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks. Valparaiso might not be so lucky in terms of finding a replacement for starting point guard Lexus Williams who will also be undergoing surgery for a torn ACL. Williams averaged 6.5 points and 2.3 assists while starting 23 games as a freshman last season. Unlike Illinois, Valparaiso has not set a time table for Williams’ return after his surgery, which is expected to be performed today.
  4. Outside of the Brunson and Lawson news there were also several other significant announcements. The first comes from four-star forward Mickey Mitchell, who recommitted to Ohio State. Mitchell had initially committed to Ohio State, but reopened his recruitment over the summer before finally deciding (we think) that Columbus was the right place for him. Four-star shooting guard Rex Pflueger committed to Notre Dame giving the Irish more options to help with scoring after Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton leave following this season. On the other end of the spectrum is Kedar Edwards, who reopened his recruitment after having previously committed to Florida State. Edwards was previously expected to play for the Seminoles this season, but for reasons that aren’t clear to us did not enroll. With Florida State picking up several top-tier recruits last week, perhaps Edwards realized that Tallahassee might not be the ideal location for him even for the upcoming years.
  5. We are not sure how many of you have been watching the FIBA Basketball World Cup (judging by the online response we have seen not too many of you), but with the Finals coming up this weekend we were wondering how long the pro experiment will go on. We are young enough (well at least one of us) to not remember what it was like to have amateurs represent us at championship level events against professionals from other countries. It seems like every time there is another international competition the cries for going back to the old format grow louder. While at some level we enjoy seeing the US beat up on the rest of the world, which is something we would expect to do regularly if all of the best NBA players participated, we wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to have a group of players who were really committed to the program although with the brief stops in college for many top players that might not be realistic.
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