Notre Dame men’s basketball has sprinted out of the blocks this season to a 7-0 start, including an impressive championship at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, FL. The Irish defeated Georgia, California, and Wisconsin to take home the title and earn themselves the 25th spot in the AP poll this week.
Heading into the season, I expected a solid, but unspectacular season from the Irish. Yes, they would start four seniors and a fourth-year junior, but I didn’t know how they’d respond to the losses of Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody. I have been pleasantly surprised so far, though I still expect the Irish to battle to make the NCAA tournament in an always tough Big East. Most importantly, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Notre Dame play this season, notwithstanding an ugly, brutal first half against California.
Here are 5 reasons why I love to watch Notre Dame hoops:
- Defense- Mike Brey’s teams are not typically known for their defense, but so far this season, the Irish have stifled their opponents. Notre Dame’s 3-2 zone has been highly effective because of the overall team size Notre Dame has. The Irish are keeping their opponenets out of the paint and contesting the outside shots with their length. Size has also helped Notre Dame prevent many second-chance opportunities, as the Irish rank eighth in the nation with 44.7 rebounds per game. All these factors combine to form a defense that held California to five first-half points and is surrendering just over 60 points per game, despite giving up 83 to Georgia in a double overtime game.
- Ball-movement- This is characteristic of Mike Brey teams, but it is especially evident this season as the Irish are without a true point guard. Ben Hansbrough has done an admirable job playing the point, but he is more suited as a two-guard. Notre Dame has compensated for the lack of a point guard by never dribbling too much and moving the ball around at an impressive pace. Next time you watch the Irish play, watch and appreciate the fluidity with which they pass the ball around the permeter. There is never any wasted dribbles, or any player holding the ball for long periods of time. It’s basketball the way it was meant to be played.
- Toughness- This version of the Irish is as tough as they come. Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis are warriors at the guard slots and Tyrone Nash is a beast in the paint. Abro showed his toughness against Georgia, when he took a vicious elbow from teammate Jack Cooley,, blood pouring down his face, yet he returned to the game and scored eight crucial points in the second overtime. As a center, Nash is almost always undersized compared to his opponenets, but he is relentless around the rim and does not back down from anybody. These three guys set the tone for the Irish and the rest of the team follows their lead. Notre Dame may not have as much talent as some other teams in the Big East, but they will not be outworked this season.
- Carleton Scott’s jump shot- Abro may be a better shooter, but Scott has the prettiest jump shot on the team. I would run around the Joyce Center naked just to be able to shoot like Scott for one day. Not that Scott is strictly a shooter. He also leads the team in rebounding with 7.7 rpg and in blocked shot with 1.9 bpg. Consider me enamored.
- They wear the Blue & Gold- You may or may not know this, but I am hopelessly addicted to Notre Dame. I love basketball with a passion many people might find a little over the top, but I can’t help it. Any group of athletes that wear the blue and gold I will support, even more so when it comes to basketball and football. Notre Dame could suit up five blind guys and I’d watch them as if my life depended on the outcome. I can’t help, it’s just the way I am. If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am (sorry, I couldn’t help msyelf from the Eminem lyrics)?Howevever, this season, Notre Dame is not suiting up five blind guys but a fun group that has a chance to make some noise in the Big East–even better.