We expected the train to keep chugging along without a hitch, and Matt Ryan to step into the V.J. Beachem role next season. We expected a possible breakout season for a talented player who just couldn’t find the floor much the year before, in the mold of Matt Farrell. With news that Matt Ryan has been granted a release to transfer, the Irish lineup looks a little less certain for 2017-18.
Before we look at who is going to have the opportunity for some big minutes, we should briefly discuss Ryan’s two years in an Irish uniform. From day one, it was obvious that he could really shoot it. It was also evident that he struggled on the defensive end. This was familiar territory though, as V.J. Beachem’s freshman year was incredibly similar. Ryan averaged 14.5 minutes a game as a freshman, shooting only 37.4% from deep, but showing enough promise to expect big things in the future.
Then, he injured his foot in the offseason, which cost him the majority of fall practice. It looked like he would still get around 12-15 minutes a game early on, and put up 23 with 7 triples against Chicago State in a game that Rex Pflueger missed with an injury. Early in the season, he had some really rough stretches defensively, specifically in the Clemson and FSU games in January where he was partly responsible for Gabe DeVoe and P.J. Savoy having big first halves. In the first 13 ACC games, he played a total of 46 minutes, which apparently did not sit well with him.
In the postseason, we saw a different Matt Ryan. He scored 11 in 13 minutes in the ACC semifinal win over FSU. In the title game, he played 14 minutes and did some really good things despite missing all of his shots. It was apparent that he had made a concerted effort to be more involved on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass. The solid play continued in the NCAA Tournament, with 6 points in 9 minutes against Princeton, and 8 points in 11 minutes against West Virginia.
What potentially confirmed the decision to transfer (and we may never actually know why) was Brey’s decision to stick with an ice cold V.J. Beachem over Ryan in the second halves of both tournament games. Yeah, that’s speculation, but Ryan appeared visibly upset at times in the loss to WVU.
Hell, I was upset that Ryan wasn’t seeing any action.
This is really unfortunate, because I think Ryan is going to go somewhere and have two very productive seasons. I wish they were in an Irish uniform, but good luck to the Rifleman wherever he lands.
With a talented Top 50 wing in D.J. Harvey arriving this summer, the loss of Ryan may not knock the Irish far off track. Where they are going to replace Beach’s shooting is the big question mark.
The starting five likely will be Farrell, Gibbs, Pflueger, Bonz (if he stays…and PLEASE STAY BONZ), and Geben. Gibbs shot only 32% from deep, going 1-15 over the final 12 games. Pflueger shot almost 40% from behind the arc, but there is no question that he needs to develop his offensive game to go with his defensive tenacity.
Of course, they still have Farrell (42% from deep) and Bonz (made 16 of his last 25 triples – 64%), but the loss of Vasturia, Beach and Ryan leaves 30+ points per game that will need to be replaced. Gibbs and Pflueger will get the first chance, but Harvey and Nik Djogo certainly have an opportunity to get big minutes if they can put the ball in the hole.