Friday, March 16, 2007

It's All Over

It hurts, but all good things must come to an end. Dominating most of the 2nd half, Winthrop won their first NCAA game ever, but not after a heroic comeback by the Irish.

The Eagles used a 22-6 run to start the half and take a commanding 20 point lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the game. Using great press defense and getting some misses from Winthrop at the charity stripe, ND was able to roar back and take a lead before inevitably falling in regulation.

Winthrop really impressed me. The annual overhyped mid-major they are not. Instead, Notre Dame faced a quality team with serious talent. Without being able to hit the perimeter shot, the Irish dug serious holes for themselves all afternoon.

Rob Kurz fouled out. A lot of the fouls called against the Irish were questionable at best, but the outcome was not decided by the officials. The rising senior ended his season with a double double, 13 over 10. It will be great to have him back as a leader next year.

Luke Harangody was unable to provide much inside. Seated on the bench for most of the 2nd half as Brey looked for a quicker lineup, Bamm-Bamm scored 4 points and grabbed one rebound.

Tory Jackson looked very rattled for much of the game. However, during Notre Dame's 2nd half run, Jackson seemed much more capable and also provided a few drives to the basket. His penetration has greatly improved over the year. Also hit a couple threes. As of right now, a starting spot is his to lose.

Zach Hillesland provided the usual hustle off the bench. 10 points, 6 rebounds. It will be interesting to see how he fits in next year. Sometimes, the point forward handled the ball up the floor. Others, he played on the wing.

Ryan Ayers used his great wingspan to disrupt Winthrop's offensive flow on the press and made a great move that looked to be at least a no-call. He was called for a block; the free throws that followed ended ND's chance for a win. No made shots, but should participate as the best perimeter shooter next season.

Luke Zeller earned a lot of minutes as a more athletic big man than Harangody. Unfortunately, he was unable to add much to the offense. Peoples handled the ball some and made a shot.

Finally, our seniors. Colin Falls couldn't knock anything down from three, which severely hurt the team's chances. However, his overall game was pretty good. His last contest in a Notre Dame uniform ended with him trying to make things happen on offense and acting as an extention of the coaching staff on the floor. His leadership will be greatly missed.

Russell Carter had a few good drives and one tremendous dunk. The TV commentator rightly mentioned how much Russ has improved the last two years. Unfortunately, his last game ended poorly with him shooting 0-6 from three-point land. Good luck to you in the pros, Russell.

A bitter end to a truly great season. This year's team has laid the groundwork for extended sucess in the future. Our seniors will be greatly missed, but as Coach Kearney said, the nucleus is there for another great year next season.

That's all for the game. Over the weekend, I'll wrap up the season with a few year-end specials on the team. Congratulations to Winthrop and good luck to the rest of the Big East teams that are alive in the tourney.


Anonymous said...

With poor shooting (from both three-point range and the free throw line) and questionable defensive strategy (sticking with an ineffective press once the lead got down to 7), Winthrop didn't so much win the game, as we lost it. We didn't deserve to move on.

c-stone said...

I agree...the full/halfcourt pressure did little to slow down Withrop and only worsened matters, giving them uncontested layups and easy 3-on-2 advantages.

I lay the blame for this one on:
1. Coaching (see above);
2. Lack of reliable inside game.

When the 3's weren't dropping, ND has little other recourse.

Nevertheless, a good season which more than exceeded expectations, though the post-season did little to exemplify as much.

BlackandGreen said...

I agree that the press may have been relied upon too much once the deficit was managable, however the tenacious defense is the #1 reason why ND got back into the game. Winthrop was held scoreless for six straight minutes because of the soft press. Let's not fall back into the old habit of blaming Mike Brey for unexpected losses. Without the defensive adjustment early in the 2nd half, the game would have been a blowout.

Poor shooting killed the Irish today. Jackson was the main culprit as ND made 31% from the charity stripe along with 18% from 3. We knew beforehand that this team relies heavily on the three-point shot. They didn't fall, we panicked, and fell way behind.

Also very correct on the lack of inside game. Without hitting outside shots, there has to be another recourse.

Finally don't forget that we lost the only first round matchup between ranked teams. I had very little respect for Winthrop before this game. However, in hindsight, many of the analysts were correct about the Eagles. No bad losses, first good win comes against us. It will be interesting to see if they can repeat the same effort against Oregon. The outcome of that game could determine how our loss is perceived.

BlackandGreen said...

We played a mediocre 1st half and an awful first seven minutes of the 2nd half. The next eleven minutes, however, consisted of very good basketball. Of course the end result ended up being very poor.

In the end, what do we have? Overall, not a good basketball game (though not in the same category as St. John's and South Florida). However, the last 40 minutes of the season should not overshadow what we accomplished this year.

c-stone said...

Does the NCAA committee know anything about geography? Spokane WA is in the Midwest? Sacramento CA is in the East? Chicago IL is in the Midwest...AND the West? WTF?

My point about coaching as a culprit to the loss was just as the adjustment of going to pressure helped ND get back in the game, once Withrop starting being able to break the press and get easy buckets, another coaching adjustment should have been made to minimize the damage. With the poor shooting by ND, they simply could not afford to give up easy baskets, yet they did. Death sentence.

Nevertheless, good year for the Irish. I'll be curious to see if any other +/-5 "upsets" in the tourney get as much pub...

BlackandGreen said...

The directions for the regionals are solely for the second weekend, but point well taken. Some of those locations are pretty absurd.

The Duke loss is probably a bigger deal. Winthrop winning will get a lot of pub because it makes the analysts who predicted it look good. I'm cheering for Illinois to close out the Hokies. Maybe Arkansas can send USC packing. Other than that, the lack of Cinderella candidates will reinforce the belief that Winthrop is this year's George Mason.

Anonymous said...

Winthrop was held scoreless for six straight minutes because of the soft press

No such thing as a soft press when the other team is shooting, and missing, free throws. I think that, as much if not more than the press, was the main thing that enabled the comeback.

However, the last 40 minutes of the season should not overshadow what we accomplished this year.

If the last game of the year would have been like the Georgetown game, I might agree. It wasn't, and I have to fall back on the old cliche, that you're only as good as your last game; and ours was a major disappointment.

Anonymous said...

As far as senior leadership, we didn't have any. Falls is a hot-and-cold talent; Carter is a greater talent with less maturity. If McElarney returns with some new-found wisdom, we'll be better off next year.

Admittedly, we made improvement this year. If we can grow as much next year, we'll compete with some distinction in the Big East. Big men continue to be a problem for the Irish. Whenever Luke Zeller wants to show up and play, that would be fine with us. He is the Mark Prior of collegiate basektball.

BlackandGreen said...

You know, I really agree with that. There were times this season that the team looked better with Carter off the floor. The #1 thing both players brought was the ability to shoot the three. If Ayers can become a consistent outside threat and a couple others can step up (Jackson shot well yesterday and we really missed McAlarney's ability all year), the Irish can make up for the losses.

Falls is a great help with his basketball IQ, but for a while many (including myself) were calling for him to be benched. Carter was a lot of fun to watch, but threw up a lot of bad shots.

I think your analysis is correct on Zeller. Next season the team's fortune may rest on the development of the inside players. Kurz made great strides, but never really became a force in the big conference games. Harangody is still a ways from being polished (scary, isn't it?). If Zeller can become a solid post player at 6'11", the team will be pretty well off. Without recruiting a tall guy like him the last two years, we need LZ to be at least a solid sub.