Notre Dame Basketball may have struggled the last two games, but don’t worry, Irish fans. Mike Brey’s Irish will be just fine.
I can feel it. It is in the air like a tension. Most Notre Dame basketball fans simply don’t know what to make of a loss to… Radford? Maybe you tell yourself, “it happens, and we will bounce back.” Then you tune in and watch the game against William and Mary and (after the first half, especially) think, “What in the HECK IS GOING ON?!”
I am here to tell you, it’s all good. It is not great, but everything is going to be fine. Here is why:
1: Mike Brey is still your head coach. When I see Coach Brey on the sideline or heading into the locker room at the half, he doesn’t look worried. If he isn’t worried, I am not worried.
2: Don’t forget that this team is still made up of newcomers and players that are adapting to new roles. We have four freshman that log heavy minutes. They are going to improve with every possession that they play at the collegiate level. Prentiss Hubb looked very good today.
Today’s game was also only the 23rd game of DJ Harvey’s career. That number may seem low because we have been talking about the guy forever, but he has still played less than a full season at this level. He played a season-high 28 minutes Saturday. He also scored 15 points, the most he’s had since January 3rd of last year. He is really coming along and looking healthy.
As far as role acceptance goes, John Mooney has been fantastic. If you remember last season, Martinas Geben was the center. John was a stretch four type. Now he is the center, being asked to do things that he has really never had to do before. He has responded by averaging 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds through four games.
3: Rex Pflueger will play better. I say this with tremendous confidence. “Why?” you may ask. History? I love his game? Analytics and peripherals? None of those. The reason is because he simply cannot play any worse, and he is a senior. Currently, Rex is shooting a career low 25% from the field and 25% from deep. For his career, he shoots 38% from the field and 34% from deep. There is bound to be some regression. He did provide a solid floor game today with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover.
4: The competition is better than you think. That Radford team is no pushover. Their Kenpom ranking or conference affiliation may not wow you, but that is a tournament team from last season. In fact, that is a tournament team that won a game in the dance. Granted it was only the 16 vs 16 play in game, but the fact remains. They also hung with Villanova in the second half of their first game game. Nova had no doubt called off the dogs a little bit, but second have scoring was 43-38 in that game and they brought back almost everyone.
William & Mary? That is a team that has finished 52nd or better in adjusted offensive efficiency (Kenpom) every year since 2014. They were fourth in the entire country in points per game last season and returned 3 of their top 4 scorers.
We knew coming into the season that this Notre Dame team would take some lumps given all the new parts and pieces. 3-1 is not a bad place to be sitting with three home games coming up. All of which are winnable. The freshman will get better. DJ Harvey will get more comfortable with his knee. Temple Gibbs led this team in the second half today. This team is still going to dance.