Notre Dame Basketball Used to Being Disrespected, Won’t Slow Them

When the brackets were released on Sunday, the Notre Dame men’s basketball program had to be a little disappointed in their 5th seeding after the season they had, but they likely weren’t surprised and they won’t be deterred.  Notre Dame has gotten used to being disrespected and underestimated on the hardwood.  Lately they respond in the best way possible.  Winning.

It’s become common for Notre Dame men’s basketball team to start the season ranked low in the preseason ACC polls and this year was no different.  The Irish, fresh off back to back trips to the Elite 8 were picked to finished 7th in the ACC this season in the preseason coaches’ poll.  The Irish proceeded to finish 3rd in the regular season and battled to the wire with Duke, the preseason favorite, in the ACC Title game Saturday night.

Bonzie Colson wasn’t on either the 1st or 2nd All-ACC team in the preseason either, but Notre Dame’s undersized center led the conference in rebounding and was the only player in the conference to average a double-double.  Wouldn’t ya know that kind of effort was only good enough for a 3rd place finish in the ACC Player of the Year standings? Shocking, right?

Two years ago the Irish were also picked to finish 7th in the ACC. They finished 3rd in the regular season that year too and then went on to beat Duke and North Carolina on back to back nights to win their first ACC Championship.

After beating the Tar Heels for that first ACC crown, they proceeded to make their first trip to the Elite 8 in 36 years.  The Irish battled the #1 ranked and heavy favored Kentucky Wildcats down to the last second before falling by two points 68-66.

Last year Notre Dame earned their #6 seed for the Tournament with a much less impressive resume than they had this year, but that didn’t stop them from making another run.  After 36 years between trips to the Elite 8, Notre Dame made it back to back trips before falling to another heavily favored #1 seed.  This time the familiar Tarheels.

The Irish find themselves in a position of being doubted and their regular season success being discarded by the Selection Committee this year.  How else can one explain Florida State – a team Notre Dame beat twice and had a better record then – receiving a #3 seed in the same bracket in which the Irish find themselves as a 5?  Don’t expect that to deter the Irish by any means.

This Notre Dame team was not expected to do much this year even after the back to back Elite trips becasuse they had to replace Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste.  Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson took control of the team and steered them through a mid-season slum that nearly derailed the season.

Instead, the Irish charged towards the end of the regular season with momentum that they carried with them to the Barclays Center this past weekend.  While they may have come up just short of raising another banner in Purcell Pavilion next winter – they exceeded expectations once again.

On paper, this is not a team that looks elite.  The starting center stands 6’5″ inches tall.  There is no 6’9″ wing player who can take a few steps past half court before picking up his dribble and slamming home a thunderous dunk.  In fact, when the Irish trot out on the floor they look physically smaller than the majority of their opponents.  Florida State for instance towered over the Irish on Friday night.  The ESPN announcers joked that Notre Dame is like the group of old guys who comes into gym and runs the young bucks off the court because they know how to play the game.

Guess what?  That is precisely what many pundits, and the Selection Committee apparently, hasn’t figured out yt.  This team plays with the heart of a champion.  While that cliche might get a college football team steamrolled when they face a bigger, stronger opponent, this Irish team has shown they can play with anyone because they spread the floor, pass the ball well, limit turnovers, and make their free throws.  They are as fundamentally sound a team as you will find in the country.  It might not be sexy, but its a beautiful thing to watch.

Whether or not the Irish have another NCAA Tournament run in them remains to be seen.  The bracket is actually quite kind to Notre Dame despite the low seed the committee threw their way.  It wouldn’t be wise for anyone to bet against the Irish ripping off a few more wins just as they have the last few years in the Tournament just because the selection committee seeded them low.  This team doesn’t back down when they are doubted and they don’t back down from any challenge.  This will be no exception.

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  1. Very frustrating to get a 5 seed instead of a 3 seed and see FSU rewarded for losing 2 of 3 to ND. Seeding matters—the 4/5 seed would have to beat the #1 seed in the Sweet 16, while the 3 seed would get a 6 seed if form holds true. That is why the 3 seed is big. In fact, you’d almost rather be a 6 seed than a 4 or 5 because of the 1 seed factor. Also frustrating to be shipped out West and not even get a bone thrown for the opening rounds by being placed in Indianapolis or Milwaukee. Meanwhile Kentucky,Louisville, Michigan, Purdue and even Butler get preferential geographical placement in those subregionals. Why couldn’t they have switched Minnesota or Iowa St out with ND in one of those–they were all 5 seeds. Ridiculous.

    On the other hand, I do think Gonzaga is the least battle tested 1 seed, and because of that, ND could have a legit shot at another Elite 8 run at the very least if they can beat Princeton and prob West Virg. So while I think the Committee screwed ND several ways as the other article says, I’d rather play Gonzaga than a Villanova, Kansas or N Car.

    Oh, and the other frustrating thing is ND gets scheduled to play the very first game of the entire tourney on the first day. They never did well with those “morning” starts in the Big East tourney days—I hope Brey has figured out how to get them ready for that early start. Can’t take those Ivies lightly.

    Now we get to watch the UConn women get 4 consecutive home games in the Women’s bracket for the 20th consecutive year!

    1. I used to pay more attention to Women’s Basketball, but it kind of seems futile. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion UConn already won it. I know you have to play the game and all, but can anyone honestly say they don’t believe UConn has another national championship locked up.

      I actually feel bad for the other teams in the AAC conference because they don’t have a shot at any conference championship probably ever. They won their conference championship by 50 points I believe.

      1. I follow ND women bball pretty closely, and its pretty irritating to have UConn on this multiyear roll. I’m surprised this site
        doesn’t have a board for the women bball team. I lament how close ND was to really taking over their dynasty. Those Diggins/McBride years,
        ND basically owned UConn. UConn was not going on any long winning streaks as long as they had to play ND 3 sometimes 4 times a year.
        ND failed to capitalize on that period of being better than UConn by somehow not beating Tex A&M to win it all in 2011 right in
        ND’s back yard (Indy). Then they vanquished UConn again in the Final 4 but couldn’t figure out how to stop Griner of Baylor. 2 more championship
        chances were wasted against UConn in 14 and 15. And if Jewel Lloyd had stayed last year we would have had another legit
        shot at them. Muffet will look back at those years and see prime opportunity wasted when UConn was ripe to be knocked down
        a peg for good.
        I downplay UConn’s winning streak because their conference is a joke. They can put it on cruise control all year without any real
        tests in conference. They only have to get up for the admittedly 5-6 tough out of conference games they play and then the tourney.
        ND meanwhile is playing top 20 teams week in and week out. So to me this streak is overhyped. The problem is that I thought
        ND could have and should have beaten UConn at ND in December, and they didn’t get it done. What Geno understands that Muffet
        does not is DEFENSE is the difference—his teams always play tough D, and ND is soft much of the time on D. And Muffet
        needs to recruit more tall athletic girls with length. UConn has 3 (Samuelson, Collier, Williams), ND has one (Turner). Why Geno is
        outrecruiting Muffet for those Catholic school girls right here in the midwest is very frustrating.

      2. Forgot to add, its also ridiculous that UConn basically plays 4 home games in the tourney to get to the Final 4 every single year. Meanwhile, ND
        gets the 2 opening round home games, but then faces years like this where they may have to play what would be a home game for
        Kentucky in Lexington, or other years where they are sent to sites like South Dakota, Oklahoma or out west. UConn never has to deal
        with that. Its ridiculous to keep giving UConn those built in advantages for ratings and attendance purposes.

      3. It seems more people paid attention to WBK a few years back when UConn was at least a bit more mortal. Now, they are just on an unstoppable run. I think that sucks the life out of WBK because it’s a foregone conclusion they are going to win the NC. Frankly if I were another team in their conference, I’d consider getting out if I could. Let’s face it, no other team in their conference is ever going to win a conference championship. Even if they become like they were a few years ago where a really good team could beat them, they will likely roll through the AAC no problem. Now some might argue ND has won every ACC championship since they joined, but the big difference is they have competitive games. They are not blowing through their opponents like they are paper, like UConn in the AAC. Those games can’t really be fun to watch unless you are a UConn fan. They’re over before halftime.

        Now, to be clear, it’s not UConn’s fault really. You can’t blame a team for being that good. It’s up to another team to unseat them. Notre Dame is probably one of a handful of teams out there that could be that potential team, but right now you have UConn at the top, and no one is in their league. Frankly UConn is at a point where they could probably beat a number of men’s teams. In any event, it’s unfortunate, but not many will pay attention to the women’s tournament because they will win the NC.

      4. UConn couldn’t beat any Div 1 men’s team, trust me. The size and physicality would be overwhelming. They probably couldn’t eve
        beat a Div II or III men’s team.

  2. To bad we’re not playing on Paddys Day. That would have bought us Irish luck. This team seems to bring its best out at this time of year. It may exceed expectations. Arizona and Gonzaga are west coast finesse teams. We have some bangers that can rough things up. We just may get in that final four afterall.

  3. The Irish should just concentrate on beating Princeton and moving on. This should be a good match up for the Irish, as Princeton doesn’t have much size and shoots a lot of 3’s. The first big test should be West Virginia in the next round.

  4. I’ve noticed in recent years the Irish are using what I always thought they should use to their advantage, experience. They will never get the one and done players, the elite players that just want their one year to go to the NBA. But ND will always have more experience. I always thought that had to count for something. I used to be critical of Brey because they consistently seemed to underachieve, year after year they would make it to the tournament only to have an early exit (Winthrop anybody). But a few years back something changed (I forget the exact year). For year after year Brey seemed static. He was a great X’s and O’s guy but the Irish didn’t seem to make adjustments and he seemed stuck on playing the same few players and rarely rotated anyone in.

    But then a few years ago they started the ‘burn’ offense, a huge change for Brey, who seemed to prefer rapid fire offense. That stymied a number of teams that year and they ended up making a good run in the Big East until they got to West Virginia, who favored the same burn offense at the time, nullifying it for the Irish. But then, Brey started making other adjustments until we have what we have now, a team that executes well, is excellent at ball handling and he uses their experience to be efficient. They execute shots well beyond the arc and they are excellent at free throws, all things they can do even without elite talent. He also goes to the bench more often. He still favors some of the same players, but he will go 7, even 8 deep at times if needed. He won’t exhaust his players like he used to.

    This year, it will be interesting to see how far they get. ND is a dangerous team to bet one way or the other on. The Irish are one team that you honestly don’t know if they will win or lose.

    As an aside, that UK loss 2 years ago still bugs me. I can’t help but think had they beat UK, they had a realistic shot at their first NC. On play away. That’s all it was.

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