Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

January 20, 2009

The Irish Aren’t Fighting

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:58 am

When a team returns four of its five starters, including the Big East Player of the Year, it will be expected that said team will improve. In the case of Notre Dame, however, that hasn’t been the case this season. The voters in both polls are rather stubbornly keeping the 12-5 Irish in the top 25, but the truth is that so far this team has performed well below the level it set last year. Indeed against a conference schedule that’s been equal parts malicious (versus Georgetown, at Louisville, at Syracuse) and mild (at DePaul, at St. John’s, versus Seton Hall), Mike Brey‘s team has actually been outscored by 0.03 points per trip.

The problem, as it so often is in South Bend, is defense, specifically a lack thereof. Don’t blame Luke Harangody, who, as always, has been an absolute monster on the defensive glass–otherwise the Irish D would be off-the-charts bad. We knew coming into the season that Notre Dame’s opponents would never turn the ball over. Check. What we didn’t know, however, was that those opponents would shoot so well from the field, especially from the interior. Not only are ND’s Big East foes hitting a robust 53 percent of their twos, they’ve also done their homework and decided to forget about threes. Instead opponents are pounding the ball into the paint, and it’s working: the Irish have given up a shield-your-eyes 1.12 points per possession in conference play. Maybe Rob Kurz was more important than we knew. 

Next up for the Irish are Connecticut and Marquette, due to visit South Bend this coming Saturday and Monday, respectively. Those are two of the Big East’s best three offenses (the third being Pitt), about to collide with a defense that is reeling. At this point you’d have to give better than even odds that ND’s 45-game home winning streak will come to an end in the next six days.  

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