Notre Dame basketball is now 6-4 in the ACC and 1-5 against ranked opponents. But the Irish are exactly where they should be at this point in the season.
Regular season records don’t win NCAA Tournaments. In fact, what you do in the regular season means almost nothing come March. What Notre Dame is doing right now is precisely what they should be doing. Losing.
Coming into the 2016-2017 season, Notre Dame was given no shot to be where they are right now. No one expected them to start 9-0 or run the ACC for a few games. What they were projected to be was a team with little talent who would barely make the tournament come March.
They have already beaten expectations whether they fall out of the top 25 or not. The Irish aren’t built to beat the best teams in the country. They don’t have a top 10 player or a real superstar. They have scrappy players, some of the scrappiest in the country, and a bunch of guys who will fight until the final buzzer against anyone.
This team will never find themselves beating a top 10 team during the regular season, or finishing the rest of the year unbeaten. It isn’t what they’re built to do, and honestly, if they did it would exhaust them for the NCAA Tournament. That’s where they’re going to shine.
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The best team in the nation doesn’t win in March. You don’t get a group of future NBA players and make a Cinderella run to the elite eight. You don’t find yourself upsetting anyone when you’re a top four seed in a region. To win in March, you need to be Notre Dame. A team with players who can compete with the best of the best, but to beat them they need to give 120% every night.
If Notre Dame were to finish the season have beaten Villanova, Florida State, Duke, Purdue, and the rest of the top 25 teams they will play, they would have nothing left to give come tournament time. This team is built through four players with three or four supporting guys. You don’t go undefeated or even fall into the top 25 with four players who aren’t NCAA superstars.
What you do is play with everything you’ve got, don’t tire yourself too much, and win enough games to get into the tournament. Notre Dame is doing all of that and with a few more wins will find themselves in a relatively middle-ground seed.
Mediocracy is key for Notre Dame. No one wants to hear it, but it is. The Irish can’t beat everyone if they want to have any gas in the tank for the tournament. Because, just like the last two seasons, this team is primed for a tournament run. They have everything you need – Talent, heart, determination, and the ability to beat anyone. Just because they haven’t won every game doesn’t mean that if they give that extra push, they can’t.
Teams like the Irish win in March. You never see them coming, and they always find a way to win. This Notre Dame team may not have the players it did in the past, but it’s built to win more in March than any other team in the country. Put a group of players with no superstar and a bunch of guys who will risk it all for a victory together, and you have the perfect Cinderella story. That’s what the Irish have.
Notre Dame is doing everything right. It’s called March Madness for a reason. Teams like this one are set to win.
That’s why they always do.