December didn’t go well for the Irish. That’s a fact.
However, looking at the message boards and Twitter, Notre Dame “fans” are ready to jump off the bandwagon as quickly as they jumped on during the 2014-15 season.
Aaron Rodgers famously told fans to relax after the Packers got off to a slow start a couple years back. Why did he have such confidence? Because he is Aaron Rodgers.
This is Mike Brey, people. He figured out a way to beat ranked teams, on the road, when Gody went down with an injury by busting out the “burn” offense. In the 2014-15 season, with Zach Auguste out, he turned to a freshman that had barely received any PT, to help pick up a road conference win. That freshman…Bonzie Colson.
I’ll be the first to admit that they have looked awful, except for the first 10 minutes of the second half in East Lansing and the Delaware game, the entire month. Why am I so confident that the Irish are going to turn it around? Besides Brey, here are seven more reasons.
1. That guy, you know, the All-American…
While the rest of the team was struggling over the last five games, Bonz has averaged 25.4 points and 10 rebounds. He pretty much saved the Irish against Dartmouth taking over the game late when the lead was cut to three, and scoring 37 points.
Overall, 21.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. He’s even doing some positive things on the defensive end with 2.0 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. Bonz will be the reason that the Irish win some big games on the road…guaranteed.
2. Farrell and Gibbs will be more consistent
Though they average over 31 points between them, I’m sure both will say that they need to be better.
Farrell needs to be better earlier in games. When he attacks, the Irish play well. When he doesn’t, they don’t. The Ball State game was just odd. Farrell took only nine shots, and did not appear to be engaged until the final five minutes of the game when the Irish were in trouble. Dexter Fowler as the Cubs leadoff man comes to mind…”you go, we go.” Setting the tempo early in games should help the Irish offense get into a good flow.
TJ has had some of the same issues with consistency that Beach struggled with last season. The good: four 20+ point games and 47% from deep. The bad: five games of less than 10 points and some struggles at the FT line. He’s been better of late, with three 17+ point games in his last four.
3. D.J. Harvey will emerge
Take this to the bank. D.J. will have a similar impact that Bonz had during the 2014-15 season. It looks all mental right now.
This kid has the goods. Trust me.
4. The schedule is favorable early
I get that you don’t count wins. What we’re here to point out is that Notre Dame has four very winnable games at the outset.
The Irish have Georgia Tech twice…and the Ramblin Wreck is closer to a Train Wreck. The game in Atlanta will undoubtedly be close, though, and I’ll want to suffocate myself with a pillow for the majority of it. In Atlanta, ND has lost to GT 62-60 and 63-62 the last two seasons.
After today’s home opener against GT, Mr. Wuf and NC State come to town on Wednesday. The Pack recently lost at home to UNC Greensboro. After that, a trip to Syracuse, who was tied at halftime earlier this week with Directional (E) Michigan.
The opportunity is there for the Irish to build some early momentum and get confident.
5. Rex will hopefully morph into “Connsturia”
Going into the season, Rex’s athleticism made it easy to compare him to Connaughton. Obviously, he’s nowhere near the shooter.
What is disappointing is the fact that Rex is not as active on the boards as he should be. He had 19 rebounds in the first two games, but since then has basically disappeared on the defensive glass. Conveniently, the Irish have been getting pounded on the boards.
Rex stepped into Vasturia’s starting spot, but is averaging five less points per game. Like Rex, Stove was an average shooter. But Stove could get to the rim and finish…repeatedly. Look for Pflueger to attack the rim more often to try to get some easy buckets.
And please, Rex, no more fadeaway 15-footers.
6. January/February vs. November/December
Let’s just look at what the players had to deal with in a five week stretch. 1) A trip to Maui, 2) get back and immediately prep for/play Michigan State, 3) fly out to Delaware the weekend before finals, 4) take finals, 5) play a quasi-road game against IU.
I’m guessing these guys were a little burned out. Brey referenced that his team needed to get away in his presser after the win over Multidirectional Louisiana.
Now, these guys are going to be able to get into a routine, with a little less stress in the classroom. Most are familiar with the rigors of ACC play. With nine days to prepare for conference play to begin, I’m betting that the Irish are recharged and ready to make some noise.
7. Brey knows how to beat these teams
Just so you have it handy, below is ND’s record against each ACC team since joining the conference.
NC State (3-1)
The Irish will be in contention for a double bye, and the finale at Virginia could decide that. Don’t jump off the bandwagon just yet.