Well, I was going to post this tomorrow, but the Navy game is anything but exciting. Right now, Brey and the Irish probably have their feet up in Maui, watching the game, laughing at the fact that it is pouring, cold and windy in South Bend.
What You Probably Missed
It is certainly plausible that some Notre Dame fans failed to realize that hoops season started last Saturday afternoon at DePaul, hours before that massacre in Miami. As the footbaw (shout out to Bob Davie) team is no longer realistically in CFP contention, Brey’s boys will start rightfully getting some attention.
Here are five observations from the season-opening three Ws.
1. T.J. Gibbs is the real deal, people. He appears willing and able to take the “Gibbs 2nd year jump” as discussed in more detail here. T.J. put up a career-high 21 in the opener at DePaul, and topped that with 23 against Chicago State two days ago.
His stroke from deep is pure, hitting 8-16 in three games. And impressively, Gibbs’ defense has not suffered in the least bit. He chased around Eli Cain (DePaul’s best player) last Saturday and routinely pressured him into difficult shots.
2. To the known studs. Bonz is really, really confident. Spinning jumpers in the lane, fallaway baseline jumpers, putback buckets…he’s doing everything except hit threes. Only one triple (1-5) in the first three games, but expect those to start falling. 20 and 11 so far…and actually, those may be pretty close to what he averages by the end of the season.
Farrell is Farrell. He struggled a bit in the first half at DePaul, but then was a major part of a torrid second half that saw the Irish hit eight straight from deep in one stretch.
3. D.J. Harvey is not only physically ready to play as a Frosh, but he’s going to play…a lot. He’s already averaging 21 minutes a game, and played the majority of the second half against DePaul. Brey went to Harvey in place of Geben, and we might be seeing that “4 around Bonz” lineup to close out a lot of games.
Harvey has all the tools. That 15-foot pull up jumper is so smooth. He can finish at the rim, and shoot it from deep. The kid’s going to be excellent.
4. Brey’s using an eight-man rotation with Harvey, Elijah Burns and John Mooney coming off the bench. I wouldn’t be surprised if this decreases to seven, with either Burns or Mooney earning the lion’s share of minutes as the big off the bench. Feels like they are auditioning right now, with an early advantage to Burns due to his D.
5. Saving Rex for last, because it’s like that old Facebook relationship status: “It’s complicated.” He’s always going to be solid defensively, but I might be expecting too much offensively.
Let’s start with the good. In addition to the defense, Rex is crashing the boards. 19 rebounds in the first two games shows that he’s taking that Connaughton role to heart, which he will need to continue if the Irish go small for long stretches. Rex picked up his first double-double against the Mount.
In that game, he was aggressive taking the ball to the rim and getting to the line. The other two games…woof. In those two: 10 points, 1-7 from deep, 7 turnovers. Rex absolutely could turn it around, and with the production of Gibbs and Harvey, maybe just focus on not giving it to the other team.
Now, on to Maui. We’re going to look at ND’s favorable first round draw with Chaminade, each of their potential 2nd round games (Michigan or LSU), and the two possible championship opponents (Wichita State and Marquette…but Marquette isn’t beating Wichita). If ND plays VCU or Cal, we’re going to be talking about a frustrating loss before seeing either team.
The Division II hosts famously knocked off Ralph Sampson and Virginia 35 years ago. Since that win, Chaminade has played 94 games in the Maui Invitational, winning only 7 times. But I have a feeling they are okay with that, since of course, they LIVE IN HAWAII.
The Silverswords’ last win? 2012 against a horrible Rick Barnes-led Texas squad.
The Irish have had no problem with cupcakes, Mount St. Mary’s and Chicago State, and they shouldn’t have any problem Monday night.
Any team coached by John Beilein should not be taken lightly. The Irish last saw the Wolverines in the 1st Round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, winning a tight one thanks to V.J. Beachem.
Michigan did not take part in the Gavitt games, and have opened the season with wins over Directional Michigan and two other bums. D.J. Wilson and his short shorts are gone, but the Wolverines return three solid starters. Moritz Wagner is a big who can shoot it, and is incredibly annoying. Duncan Robinson chucks it and apparently is friends with Pat Connaughton, and MAAR has been in college for 15 years.
The addition that intrigues me is Charles Matthews, who transferred to Michigan after one year at Kentucky. Matthews is a Chicago kid and former big-time recruit, who is averaging 13 a game.
A semifinal game with Michigan could look a whole lot like that 2016 Tournament game.
Will Wade and his antics come over from VCU to try to clean up the mess that Johnny Jones left. How Jones survived as long as he did is beyond me. You have Ben Simmons, and you can’t get to the NCAA Tournament? I digress…
Two blowouts to start Wade’s tenure, and the Tigers are averaging over 100 points per game. Brandon Sampson (15.0 PPG/6.5 RPG) is still there, but there are a lot of new faces (at least for me since I haven’t seen them play since 2015-16) on a team coming off a 10-21 season.
I’m guessing Michigan takes care of business. Let’s hope for a LSU/VCU 5th place game, which could be fun.
Wichita State (2-0)
On the first night of college hoops, I tried to flip around and catch all the top teams in action. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Sparty all looked good, but then I put Wichita on against UMKC to watch the last 10 minutes of the first half. The result…
Wichita State 62 UMKC 23.
I know what you’re saying, “Who the hell is UMKC?” I’m telling you, the Shockers are legit. They are 10 deep even without Markis McDuffie, who might be their best player. Thankfully for the Irish, he’s out with a stress fracture.
Starting with the guards, Landry Shamet and Connor Frankamp (former transfer from Kansas) both can really shoot it. Wichita picked up a JUCO transfer, Samajae Haynes-Jones, that comes off the bench and is quick as they come. He’s averaging 9 points and 6 assists a game. Zach Brown is a glue guy, who plays exceptional defense.
The Shockers have a big, Shaquille Morris, that will remind you a little of Draymond Green. A little undersized, quick, can shoot it, and is an excellent defender. If the Irish do meet up with the Shockers, that Morris/Bonz matchup will be the one to watch. THEN, they have three other bigs who are all solid. Darral Willis, Jr. is averaging 16.5/8.5 early, Rauno Nurger is in double-figures, and Rashard Kelly is another tremendous rebounder/defender.
And they pressure you…constantly. Remember that West Virginia game last year…the Shockers are much better. Will be a huge challenge if the Irish get a shot at them.
They just got run by Purdue, at home. Okay, they don’t have a chance to beat the Shockers.
Irish win a close one against Michigan, but run into a buzzsaw in the championship against Wichita. I actually think the Irish have a better shot of knocking off Sparty. Hope I’m wrong.