The Wild, Wild ACC – Pitt 86 ND 82

Well, that was a wild two hours that required a strong gin and tonic at halftime and a 4-hour nap when I got home (hence the 4 a.m. post).  I’ll dig deeper below, but the main theme of today is that the Irish defense struggles have become a serious liability.  With that said, there were some positives, and it is important to remember, we aren’t at the halfway-point yet.  25 things you need to know, in honor of Michael Young’s team-high 25 points for Pitt.

  1. That was an incredibly entertaining basketball game that was not dominated by the officials and is exactly what the rule changes are supposed to bring to college basketball.  The rule changes aren’t supposed to result in whistles every time down the floor (see the UCLA/Washington game last week).  There were 37 fouls called in the game, but outside a couple ridiculous calls at the end of the 1st half, the refs were not the story.  Just a really fun basketball game.
  2. Pitt may be pretty darn good.  I haven’t witnessed a start like that in years, as Pitt had 33 points at the 10 minute mark.  Young was simply unstoppable, both in the post and even flashing the 18-foot jumper.  Artis is apparently a 3-point specialist now, as everything he threw up early was splashing.  Their guard play is suspect, but if Young and Artis can be consistent, this team has a chance to be a Top 15 team going into the tournament.


    Chances are this shot went in.

  3. Obviously, ND’s defense was not very good.  First, Brey started the game with Bonz on Young, which is a huge mismatch.  Young immediately took advantage with a 3-pt play on the first possession, followed by another easy bucket in the post.  Two possessions in, Auguste switched over to Young, which didn’t make much of a difference, but that’s how the game should have started.
  4. Though meaningless, it is interesting that Bonz has taken the opening tip the last two games over Auguste.  ND may have the record this decade in 6’5 guys jumping center (Connaughton did it multiple times last year).
  5. The Irish attempting to play zone is (to quote my HS football coach) “like a monkey trying to hump a football.”  Zone defenses are designed to keep the ball on the perimeter, and offenses try to attack it with ball movement and getting the ball to someone at the free throw line to open up lanes.  Well, the Irish repeatedly gave up uncontested, 10-foot baseline jumpers to Young and Jeter, which simply should never happen when in a zone.
  6. It took the Irish getting down 18 points for DJ to go into FU mode.  The four consecutive 3s he hit to keep the Irish in the game in the first half was extremely impressive.  At the game, I’m always watching the stats that are on the scoreboard.  I’m pretty sure Demetrius stayed at 14 points after that barrage for about 15 minutes.  It’s hard to ask him to do more than he did today, playing every second and leading two furious charges at the end of each half.

    Jan 9, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) goes up for a shot as Pittsburgh Panthers forward Sheldon Jeter (21) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Pittsburgh won 86-82. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    Aggressive DJ = Good DJ

  7. More Rex Pflueger please.  He’s active defensively (especially at the top of the zone) and he can knock down shots.  As predicted in last week’s State of the Union, Matty Farrell may not be getting off the bench much in ACC play.  Rex got nine minutes today, and while 10-15 may be his ceiling this year, I want to see more.
  8. I really like Austin Torres because he plays D and hustles, but his free throw stroke looks like one of Charles Barkley’s golf swings.
  9. Jamie Dixon had a huge brain fart at the end of the first half, as Young picked up his second foul with a minute remaining.  At this point, the crowd was in a frenzy (I had already sweat through my hat) and I’m sure he simply just missed the announcement of #2.  As important as ND cutting the lead to 6 at half, I thought it was even more important that Young picked up his 3rd foul before half.  Big time coaching mistake, but it didn’t matter.
  10. The beginning of the 2nd half continues to be an issue.  Young didn’t play the first 11 minutes of the 2nd half, and Pitt still started the half on a 23-11 run to open up a 72-54 lead.  The Irish looked lethargic after the furious ending to the 1st half.  Sheldon Jeter took his turn shredding the ND defense, as he scored 14 of his 18 in the 2nd half.  I really don’t understand why this has been such an issue for the Irish since the beginning of last year.  First, I thought it was a coaching issue, but the more I look back, it is simply a lack of defensive intensity.

    Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem (3) fouls Pittsburgh’s Sheldon Jeter (21) who dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

    Jeter was a stud in the 2nd half with Young on the bench.

  11. Understandably, the Irish were a disaster on the glass for most of the game against Pitt’s monsters when Auguste was out.  While they did much better (both defensively and on the glass) once he fouled out with six minutes to go, there were multiple sequences where Brey had to rush Auguste back in because Pitt was playing volleyball at the rim.  At one point, Brey went to a lineup of Bonz at the 5 with DJ, Vasturia, Beachem and Ryan…which just got pounded on the glass.
  12. Back to the defense, you should never lose when you shoot 54% and only turn the ball over 3 times.  Offense certainly is not a problem.
  13. Bonz now has 7 blocks in his last two games.  Pretty impressive for a 6’5 guy asked to guard guys multiple inches taller than him.
  14. Beachem is really struggling defensively and is in jeopardy of losing minutes, even though he is an exceptional shooter.  He also missed a wide open 3 (badly) with a few minutes left that would have brought the house down.
  15. Vasturia 13/4/4…solid as usual.  Played pretty damn good defense on Artis in the 2nd half as well.
  16. Auguste showed flashes, but he simply needs to be more consistent at both ends of the floor.  Need more than 5 rebounds in 29 minutes.
  17. The way the second half started, if you told me Matt Ryan was going to have an open 3 to tie the game with ten seconds left, I would’ve have said there was a better chance of winning the Powerball jackpot.
  18. Ryan looked pretty down after missing that shot.  He seems like the type that has that shooter mentality to forget about it, but as a freshman, I am interested to see how he responds against GT.  I bet he comes out chucking.
  19. Speaking of GT, they beat Virginia today.  Outside of BC, there does not appear to be any gimmes in the ACC.
  20. When the Irish cut it to two at 79-77, Young got the ball in the post and DJ took a stab at a steal that left Robinson wide open under the bucket for an easy score.  I’d have to go back and look, but there was no help at all, which makes it seem that DJ went off script.
  21. There were at least five different times that Irish assistant coach, Rod Balanis, likely frightened many young children in the crowd as he attempted to get the crowd into it.  I love Balanis, and I make it a point to not get fired up unless he does.
  22. Listening to Brey’s post-game presser, Brey is clearly frustrated with the defense.  He suggested that there could be a different starting lineup on Wednesday to get some early defensive intensity.  Maybe Torres in a game against a GT team with solid bigs?  He likes the defense of both Torres and Pflueger.
  23. Brey – “Artis and Young are men.”  Predictable Brey-speak.  Another one coming up on Wednesday in Charles Mitchell.
  24. ND now has five losses.  Their fifth loss last year came on February 24.  I’m surprised the gold jerseys aren’t out yet…but I bet they are coming.
  25. The schedule still sets up nicely for the Irish.  While I wanted 6 or 7 of 8 before the BC game, I think 6 wins is still achievable.  If they play defense next Saturday like they did today, Duke will score 125.  They need to take care of business at home the next couple weeks with GT, VT, BC and WF coming to town.  Those are four games they SHOULD win.  With the win at BC, if they can get those four and then win on the road at Syracuse (who simply is not good), that would put the Irish at 6-3 at the halfway point.  Definitely doable.




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