In what was an incredibly exciting and draining week for Notre Dame basketball fans, the #21st ranked Irish snagged two more victories, with both coming in overtime. By now we are sure that if you didn’t watch the 5 OT thriller against #11 Louisville on Monday, then you have at the very least, heard about it. We made the mistake of turning this game off with 2 minutes to go in regulation, only to be notified by our iPhone, that the Irish and Cardinals were heading into overtime. If we are being honest here, how were we supposed to know that Jerian Grant would lead an Irish comeback that saw them down 56-48 with just 0:51 left, to tie the game. As we watched one overtime period roll into the next, we loved the drama and excitement that built with each passing second. So much was going on, and it was incredible to see it all play out right in front of our eyes. Each team struggled with players fouling out, players getting tired, and players playing who had very little experience, but were being called upon to perform in a nationally televised game and in front of a packed house.
The Irish would see seldom used reserve center, Garrick Sherman take over in overtime. He showed moments of brilliance on the offensive side of the ball, using post moves that quite frankly we didn’t think he possessed in his repertoire of plodding moves. Yes, he still struggled passing the ball, and his defensive footwork still makes one feel as though his feet are incased in blocks of cement, but he finished at the rim, and hit 2 huge free throws to help secure the win for the Irish. Although it wasn’t by design, it was nice to see Coach Brey having to utilize his bench, and see what certain individuals can do in crunch-time. As much as we like to give Brey a hard time for his late game coaching style, it was very evident that he had his squad loose and having fun, while the Petino led Cardinals looked tentative and unnerved. It’s true the Irish offense looked horrid in regulation, but they stayed focused and finished the job in the end, and a win like this could have a positive impact on the Irish when they get into the late game moments come Big East Tournament time, and of course, the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame would turn around four days later and face a squad that they had just beaten in overtime on the road, in the DePaul Blue Demons. The Blue Demons may not be a huge threat on the glass, or from outside, but they have one attribute that has given the Irish troubles this year, and that is athleticism. This game really had a close resemblance to the one played in Chicago the prior week, as fans would watch the Irish take a 43-32 lead into halftime, only to see that lead evaporate in the 2 nd half. Turnovers would plague the Irish(14) and DePaul would take advantage hitting 33-69(.478) from the field and an impressive 8-16(.500) from beyond the arc. This is the same DePaul team that is averaging just .436 from the field and .300 from the behind the 3point line, but have played above those levels in both meetings with the Irish this year. What crowd that was there in Purcell Pavilion would see another overtime game, and another overtime win. The Irish have now gone to overtime in three out of their last four games, and have won all three. We will assume that tired legs and emotional drain had more to do with the second-half collapse, than lack of focus and ability, but the Brey led squad has got to learn to be aggressive and put teams away when they have the chance.
As of right now, the Irish sit 4th in the Big East at 20-5(8-4), and most projections have them as a 4-6 seed in the NCAA tournament. The next couple of weeks will determine so much as Notre Dame will face a Providence(13-11) team that have won 3 in a row, with victories over Cincinnati, Villanova, and South Florida. That’s the easy game, as the Irish will then hit the road and play a very tough Pittsburgh(20-5) squad, and then return home to take on a Cincinnati(19-5) squad, who still remembers what this same team did to them on their home-court back in early January. We won’t bother bringing up the fact that Notre Dame still has games at Marquette, and at Louisville to end the season. Being ranked #21 st and 4th in the Big East is nice, but there is a lot of important basketball left to be played, that will determine where the Irish End up come March. We believe it is safe to say that Notre Dame will be dancing again this year, but as always, our concern is that the dance will be a quick and disappointing one.