A lot has changed since the Hoos last played Notre Dame six weeks ago. That loss began a 4 game losing streak for the Irish, but they’ve lost just 1 game since that streak ended. That loss was their last game, a road loss to Louisville in the regular season finale.
Everything Notre Dame does begins with Bonzie Colson. Though just 6’5”, he led the ACC in rebounding (10.4 rpg). And Notre Dame does not play at a pace which would artificially increase his totals (221st in tempo, according to KenPom). He also finished 10th in scoring (17 ppg) and 14th in FG% (52%). That FG% is particularly impressive, since he likes to step out and shoot the 3 (40% from downtown). He’s also at 80% from the stripe (14th in the ACC) and ranks 11th in FTA. Colson was first-team All-ACC for a reason. Against the Hoos, he had 20 points on 8/11 FG (0/2 3PT, 4/7 FT). But he had just 3 rebounds as Isaiah Wilkins was able to almost match his production (13 points and 9 rebounds for Wilkins). Of course, Wilkins isn’t 100% and admitted to being worn down during last night’s game. A less-than-100% Wilkins is concerning for the Hoos against a guy like Colson. Colson is so good inside because he’s quick and he’s strong for his size. Those are also Wilkins’ best attributes.
For detailed reports on the Irish beyond Colson, take a look at our preview from the previous matchup back in January. Keep in mind the numbers have changed quite a bit. For example, Steve Vasturia’s 3 point percentage has dropped. Colson’s has improved. In the last matchup, the Irish started 6’10” Lithuanian big man Martinas Geben, though he played just 15 minutes and did not score. He has since fallen out of the rotation a bit and isn’t likely to get much run in this one. Even without Geben, the Irish have 4 starters at 6’5” or better. That said, they are still a perimeter team.
Marial Shayok had a strong game in January, using his quickness to beat a bigger defender to a spot and rise up for his pull-up jumper. We haven’t seen much from Shayok of late, as he’s lost minutes due to the emergence of Kyle Guy. Is it possible that Shayok regains some playing time in this one due to his length? Kyle Guy is likely to have a big quickness advantage over whoever is guarding him. Guy’s ability to move without the ball and curl off screens could be very useful in this matchup, as he may struggle to get his shot off against the bigger defenders. Guy (and fellow freshman Ty Jerome) did not play much in the previous matchup, totalling just 25 minutes but scoring 13 points on just 11 shots. That duo has been getting a lot more run recently and figure to play a big role in this contest.
Overall, the Irish are still a very good offensive team. They rank 16th in the nation in offensive efficiency, despite just a 40th ranking in eFG%. They shoot the ball well (26th in 3 point shooting), but one of their best attributes is not turning the ball over. They aren’t a big offensive rebounding team, though Colson is very good on the offensive glass. What they do is spread the court with 4 shooters around Colson and let Colson work inside. Beachem actually leads the team in FGA, with well over ½ his shots coming from behind the arc.
Defensively, the Irish aren’t nearly as good as they are offensively. They have improved as the season has progressed, but they are still just 63rd nationally. They don’t force turnovers, and they are susceptible to offensive rebounds (again, other than Colson and Geben, nobody on the team is strong on the boards). The Hoos grabbed 33% of their own missed shots in the first matchup, which is well above their season average. Even better, they held Notre Dame to just 2 offensive rebounds (6%), which is well below anybody’s season average.
Because of their length, the Irish tend to contest shots well and generally do so without fouling. Though they don’t force a lot of turnovers, they do a good job of jumping passing lanes and getting to loose balls. They rank 10th in the nation in steal rate, but just 168th in turnover rate. Against the Hos, they had 6 steals (9% of possessions), but forced just 11 turnovers (17%). Both of those numbers were above the Hoos season average. Obviously, the Hoos need to be careful with the basketball in this matchup.
The Hoos shot 47% from 3 in the last contest (remember that was in South Bend), but much of that was Perrantes. Over the past 4 games, the Hoos have shot the ball even better than that (43/84 or 51%). They might need that kind of shooting in order to knock off the Irish again and move on to the ACC Semi-Finals.