Notre Dame basketball is 16-3 and 5-1 in the ACC. As one of the top teams in the NCAA’s best conference, the Irish have found success through players no one expected.
V.J. Beachem. Before the 2016-2017 season, this was the name centered around Notre Dame’s team. If the Fighting Irish were going to succeed this season, this senior forward was going to be the reason why.
As a preseason Naismith Award Watchlist player, Beachem was supposed to be Irish’s savior. For a team who was predicted to barely make the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Irish are fighting their way to the top of the AP Polls game after game.
Where they’re finding this success isn’t from some of the best players in the NCAA. Outside of Notre Dame, many people don’t even know who they’re starting five consists of. These are the unsung heroes of South Bend. And without them, Notre Dame wouldn’t be one of the ACC’s top dogs.
Even with their first loss in the ACC, Notre Dame learned they can compete with any team in the top 10. Whether it’s the top team in the country or a team sitting in top 25, the Irish can give them a run for their money. Whether they win or loss, they’re becoming more and more or a dominant team.
A scrappy 6’1 Jersey boy, a scronny white kid, and a 6’5 big man walk onto a court – 18 games later, the Irish are first in the best conference in college basketball. How? Because this Jersey kid, skinny white dude, and undersized big man are the heart and soul of Notre Dame basketball.
Who are they? Well, Notre Dame fans know, Matt Farrell, Steve Vasturia, and Bonzie Colson are three of the best players in the country, but three of the most underrated as well. As the top three players for the Irish, this dynamic trio has led ND to the top of the ACC, and into the top 20 in the country.
For Bonzie Colson, his team-leading 15.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game have moved the Irish past plenty of opponents this season. He may only be 6’5, but Colson has dominated the glass in almost every one of Notre Dame’s games this season. And in the games they lost, this junior forward gave them everything he had.
In the backcourt, Matt Farrell was “this” close to transferring over the offseason. But the basketball gods didn’t let it happen, and now, he’s one of the best players in the entire NCAA. He may not put up 25 points a game, but his hustle and determination are what Notre Dame thrives off of every game. This may be his first year in the starting five, but he’s become the Irish’s leader on and off the court.
And last but not least, Steve Vasturia. For four years, Vasturia has been in Notre Dame’s starting group. Even with his 99 consecutive games started, Vasturia has never been anything more than the third or fourth guy in the starting five, besides some impressive runs in last year’s ACC and NCAA tournaments.
This season, though, he’s taken off. His 15 points per game are impressive. What’s even more important for the Irish, though, is his consistency. This season, the senior is shooting 48% from the field, 91% from the free-throw line, and 44% from deep.
Without every one of these three stars, Notre Dame would never be where they are right now. Beachem’s off and on season and the lack of depth have hindered the Irish this year. But at 16-3 and a top team in the ACC, Notre Dame isn’t complaining.
They’re taking it one game at a time. With these three leading the way, the Irish are getting more and more confident with each win, and loss.