The Notre Dame basketball team has gone into a bit of a funk over its last four games. The offensive numbers have gone down drastically and it begins and ends with guard play. Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia must step up in order for the Irish to make run in March.
After Notre Dame 68-50 loss at the hands of No.7 Miami on Wednesday night, the Irish have now lost its last three of four and have looked bad doing it. The other two losses happened against Georgia Tech and Florida State, two teams in the lower tier of the ACC. It wasn’t too long ago that Notre Dame basketball had an outside shot to win the ACC title and get a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Well fast forward a two weeks and the Irish currently sit at 19-10 and are sixth in the ACC. They are also projected to be a six seed in the NCAA tournament. Two weeks ago they were projected to be as high as 3 or 4. You want to be playing your best ball going into March and clearly the Irish are doing anything but that.
One thing Notre Dame has been able to hang their hat on all year long is its offense. While they still do rank No.5 in KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency, they have gone into a bit of a funk over their last four games. During this four game stretch the Irish have averaged just 59.2 points per game. That’s nearly 17 points less than what they have averaged all season.
One of the main reasons of this current dry spell has been the play of Notre Dame’s two guards, Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia.
Since Jackson dropped 27 points on February 13th in a win over Louisville, he is averaging just 11.7 points per game and is shooting a dreadful 36% from the field. Over that four game stretch his three-point percentage has been even worse. He’s shooting just 23% from three. When the Irish have enjoyed success this season, Jackson has been one of the main reasons. Notre Dame needs him to step up his production is the season’s most important month.
Vasturia’s production has also dipped mightily over Notre Dame’s late season drought. He put up 20 points on 8-13 shooting in the win over Louisville. Since then Vasturia has averaged just 8 points per game. Like Jackson, his shooting percentage has also been woeful. Over his last four contests Vasturia is shooting a little over 29%, that includes an 0-9 performance against Miami.
It is no secret that guard play is what takes teams deep into March. The last five national champions all had their guards carry them deep in the NCAA tournament. The Irish sure have the talent at the guard position with Jackson and Vasturia, but the production needs to change and needs to change fast. Jackson is certainly capable of carrying a team deep into the tournament a la Kemba Walker or Shabazz Napier, but he needs to step up and all that can start on Saturday in the season finale against NC State.