Despite 21-6 Record, Notre Dame Hard Team To Figure Out

By douggriffiths
Jerian Grant Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Good luck trying to get an accurate read on Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish team.

Earlier this month, Notre Dame needed overtime to beat woeful DePaul. That performance was followed up with a double-digit loss to Syracuse.

Then came the classic five overtime home win over Louisville, which was followed by another overtime game against DePaul at Purcell Pavilion.

So you figured the Irish had some momentum going, right? Wrong.

On Saturday Notre Dame goes to mediocre Providence, who has caught fire lately, and gets drilled by 17.

A little over 48 hours later, the Irish go into nationally ranked Pitt and beat the Panthers, 51-42, tonight.

The latest win improved Notre Dame’s record to 21-6 overall, 9-5 in the Big East.

What was really impressive about the Irish win over the Panthers was the fact that Notre Dame acted like it didn’t want to play and dug itself a huge hole. It trailed 19-3, hitting just one shot of its first 19, including 0-for-12 to start the game. The usual mild-mannered Brey got a technical, which seemed to wake his team up after he gave it an earful.

Now Notre Dame will get some much needed time between games. The Irish only play four more games in the regular season.

Although this is a veteran Irish team, it’s one that is athletically challenged.

Guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant are the most athletically gifted veterans on the squad, while big man Jack Cooley can cause teams fits with how productive he is on the blocks (averaging a double-double).

Hurting the Irish cause is a lack of depth. This wasn’t a deep team to begin with and with veteran guard/forward Scott Martin still on the shelf due to a bum knee, it’s even thinner. Just when Martin may return is anyone’s guess, but he may not return at all.

To say the least, Notre Dame will be an interesting team to follow this post-season. It has proven it can play at a fairly high level, beating nationally ranked Cincinnati and now Pitt on the road. The Irish have also taken care of Kentucky and Louisville at home.

However, some of Notre Dame’s losses are cause for concern when thinking about how far this team could go in the Big Dance.

It lost to St. Joseph’s (14-10 currently) early in the season, fell at St. John’s (15-10) and at Providence (14-11).

The Irish have done a pretty good job in the Big East, but how will they do against NCAA Tournament competition.

Currently Notre Dame is looking like a No. 5 seed in the Big Dance. You know what that means? The dreaded 5-12 matchup.

I would be leery of thinking Brey’s team will survive the first weekend. To be successful, it needs to dictate tempo, preferring a slower game, one that isn’t kind to the eye most of the time.

If the Irish draw say a pretty athletic team, they may very well be looking at one-and-done.


Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.

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