The Runner Sports

Notre Dame Basketball: Looking Back And Moving Forward

Looking Back

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s season ended with an 83-71 loss to West Virginia. The game came down to a few things: West Virginia had a hot shooting game and the Irish did not. West Virginia’s press bothered Notre Dame more than many had expected, forcing turnovers and taking the Irish out of their rhythm. And lastly, the size and athleticism of the Mountaineers helped them have a rebounding advantage and get to the foul line.

West Virginia Hot Shooting

West Virginia junior guard Jevon Carter isn’t a poor three-point shooter (38.6% on season), but he’s not as good as he looked against the Irish. Carter was on fire, making 4-5 threes and finishing with 24 points. The Irish defense did an okay job on him, but when a guy is making shots off-the-dribble and hitting from NBA range (both low percentage attempts), there’s not much you can do.

As a team, West Virginia made 8-14 from three (57.1%) compared to the Irish’s 10-28 (35.7%).

“Press Virginia”

The Notre Dame-West Virginia matchup featured the Irish, the #2 team in the country in terms of offensive turnover percentage (per KenPom), and the Mountaineers, the #1 team in terms of defensive turnover percentage. I thought the Irish wouldn’t have too many issues handling “Press Virginia,” but I was wrong. Notre Dame turned the ball over on 20.6% of their possessions (14 total), well above their turnover rate of 14 percent on the season.

West Virginia also got to the free throw line 26 times and made 21. They grabbed offensive rebounds on 33.3% of possessions (10 total), a rate that would rank top 50 in the nation.

Overall, the Irish ran into a bigger, more athletic team with an incredible press defense that also had a hot shooting game. It would have been very difficult for the Irish to overcome these circumstances.

Coach Mike Brey felt West Virginia’s experience was an advantage as well.“They have old dudes, and staying old is a good thing in college basketball. They were a little older than us today,” Brey said after the game.

Even with the loss, there were a few positives the Irish can take away. If nothing else, these tournament games provided invaluable experience to the players that will be returning. Additionally, the team never stopped fighting and Bonzie Colson played like a star, scoring 27 points.

Returning Next Season

With VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia graduating, the Irish expect to be returning seven rotation players from this season: Bonzie Colson, Rex Pflueger, Martinas Geben, TJ Gibbs, Matt Farrell, Matt Ryan, and Austin Torres.

Torres is returning for a fifth year and although Colson could test NBA draft waters, at this point, he is expected to be back for his senior season.

Mike Brey and his coaching staff are known for developing players, and it seems likely that freshman forward John Mooney and sophomore forward Elijah Burns will see more minutes next season.

Incoming Freshman

It’s typically difficult for underclassmen to receive too many minutes for the Irish, but incoming freshman DJ Harvey Jr may very well buck this trend.

Harvey, a 6’6, 205 lb small forward out of Bowie, Maryland, is the 47th ranked recruit in the 2018 class according to ESPN.

From what I’ve read (credit to ESPN), here’s a quick scouting report on Harvey. He’s strong, long, athletic, and plays with energy. He is at his best when he can get out in transition, finishes well at the basket, and has a solid midrange jump shot. Harvey also is an effective straight-line driver and has the tools to be really solid on the defensive end.

Although Harvey is capable of hitting threes, he’s not a great shooter yet. He’s also not at the point where he creates that much off the dribble.

Harvey should see some minutes next season, but with so many returning players, there won’t be too much pressure on him to produce right away.

Moving Forward

The Irish should be very competitive again next season. They should be ranked in the preseason Top 25 and should have a shot to win a few games in the NCAA Tournament. If Colson returns as expected, a third Elite 8 in four years is definitely in play.

Jacob Zinkula

Jacob Zinkula

Notre Dame Writer at The Runner Sports
I'm from Northbrook, IL and am a student at the University of Notre Dame. I think this gives me an interesting perspective on ND sports. You might think this would make me biased, but I'd say I'm only biased about the teams I've grown up rooting for. So if I write something about the Packers, Cubs, or whatever team LeBron's on, definitely take it with a grain of salt. Otherwise, you should be okay. 🙂
Jacob Zinkula