Notre Dame Basketball: Depth Will Continue to Hinder Irish


Notre Dame fell to the hands of Purdue for their second consecutive loss of the season.

The Fighting Irish started 2016-2017 red hot, but have since found trouble in their last two games. With a number of talented upperclassmen on this team, Notre Dame looked to have little trouble working their way into the top 25. But since then, the Irish have struggled to stay competitive for an entire 40-minute game.

In the last week, Notre Dame has lost their first two games against top 25 teams. It seemed that the Irish haven’t lost talent or received more hype than deserved, but that they are struggling to find players outside their starters who are reliable enough to play.

The Fighting Irish’s bench have found little success all season. Even before the team’s recent losses, the Irish had few players contributing outside the starting lineup.

Temple Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, and Matt Ryan are the only Irish players not in the starting lineup who average over 10 minutes per game. During a 40-minute game, these three are the only players Notre Dame relies on to relieve their starters.

Besides Gibbs, Pflueger, and Ryan, the Fighting Irish don’t have another player on the bench averaging more than 2.3 points per game.

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John Mooney averages 6.3 minutes per game and is third on the team in rebounds. But the 6’9″ freshman has only played in six games this season, and although he’s third in rebounds per game, he only averages 3.2 RPG.

Notre Dame’s problem is simple – without forming some depth, the Irish are going to continue tiring out by the second half. The Irish are 11 games into the season and have four players averaging over 30-minutes per game.

It’s only December, and Notre Dame is already showing signs of fatigue during the second half of games. In their two losses, it was evident that the Irish couldn’t stay consistent into the second half.

The proof is in the stats. Notre Dame outscored Villanova and Purdue 93-74 in the first half but was outscored 86-54 in the last 20 minutes.

The issue is that there isn’t anyone else to contribute on either end of the ball. There looks to be no one on the Irish’s bench worthy of more playing time. Players like Ryan, Gibbs, and Pflueger may be in line for more minutes, but without more players supplying positive minutes, the Irish will continue to tire out in games.

With ACC play right around the corner, Notre Dame is in for a serious dilemma. If they continue to wear out their reliable players, they’ll be completely exhausted come the conference tournament.

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Notre Dame has one of the best starting units in the NCAA. But without a bench, the Irish aren’t going to do anything but fall in the second half of games.

There may not be a solution to the Irish’s problem. Besides key role players, their bench doesn’t consist of anyone worthy of additional minutes. As the season progresses and Mooney develops more, maybe the Fighting Irish can begin working him into more significant minute intakes.

For now, Notre Dame is stuck. They need to take advantage of easy games and start progressing Mooney quicker. If the forward can work his way into a larger role, he’d be a major help for the entire Notre Dame team.

Bonzie Colson seems to be the only player impacting the front court. Matt Ryan and Martinas Geben aren’t strong rebounders, and at 6’9″, 245 pounds, Mooney has all the physical attributes to be a dominant post man.

It’s a stretch, but the development of Mooney can be the solution to Notre Dame’s problems. They’re in desperate need of depth and help in the paint. Mooney may be able to solve both with the proper development.