First of all, I noticed that I neglected to give credit to Portland for a great game last night. They played us hard all game, but there's a reason the Pilots play in the WCC and not in a bigger conference. Give a squad with 4 and 5 star recruits that kind of heart and they win the game.
I'd like to focus on one aspect of the game last night that stuck out. For all of the things that Notre Dame did wrong, mostly in the 1st half, it was evident that Mike Brey's offense really works with the current lineup. This is the first year in a while that Coach Brey has had 5 guys on the floor who can drive and cut to the basket with regularity.
The basic setup that Notre Dame plays is a 3-out 2-in Motion Offense. The point guard brings the ball up the floor with the shooting guard and small forward split on opposite sidelines, one post player down low, and the other forward at the charity stripe. Kyle McAlarney is the catalyst for the current offense. He's a pass-first guard who doesn't need to put up big stats to be successful. Kyle has struggled with his shot from time and had only 3 assists on Tuesday, but he knows when to press the ball or play the halfcourt game. He can do both easily and calmly without turning the ball over.
The shooting guard and small forward are essentially the same position in the offense. The point guard can play to either wing or attack off a pick from the top of the key. Brey's wings need to be athletic with a good outside shot. Captains Colin Falls and Russell Carter are the current starting guard/forwards. Falls is a pure shooter but has improved his driving ability some this year. Carter is the ideal candidate for a wing in the offense. Russell can drive to the basket and keeps opposing defenses from playing zone by shooting over his defender on occasion. Look at recent recruits Ayers and Hillesland as proof of Brey's affinity for smart, athletic players.
The two forwards are interchangable, but some players work better in one location rather than the other. Rob Kurz and Luke Zeller started the game at forward. Kurz inbounded the ball after made Pilot baskets. Rob would then jog to the top of the key or free throw line. From that position, he can run a center pick and roll with the PG, screen low for the other forward, or cut to an open area. Luke Zeller played in the low post, backed up by Bamm-Bamm. At the post position, both Lukes posted up to create an option inside or moved away from the ball to open up the center of the court. All three players (Bamm-Bamm, Kurz, and Zeller) rotated between the two spots with varying effects. Harangody is most effective with his back to the basket and with Zeller or Kurz playing up top, either high post player can step outside to shoot.
With the amount of cutting and passing in the system, high basketball IQs are needed at each position. K-Mac runs the offense. Falls doesn't turn the ball over. Carter creates opportunities moving without the ball. Kurz and Zeller can drive to the hoop from ten feet out or knock down a jumper. Harangody backs down and boxes out other centers. Everyone has a job.
Finally, I can't wait to see how Tory Jackson finishes his career at Notre Dame. Watching last night, Jackson looked like a younger, smaller Russell Carter. They have similar talents and like to attack the basket. On the other hand, Tory is 6 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter. Have you seen Carter lately? His 220 pounds must be all muscle. One of Big Russ' best attributes is how he can draw a foul by going up strong in the key. Jackson might not be able to put up a whole season getting hammered in the Big East without bulking up.
On the other hand, many have talked about Jackson as the successor to Kyle McAlarney, three years from now. Until then, Tory would either play Chris Quinn's former role as the off-guard or continue sitting on the bench. The second option is less likely due to Jackson's talent. As the shooting guard, he has a lot more athleticism than the former holders of that role, Quinn and Falls. Put into the context of the offense, Tory could turn out as a smaller wing. No matter what role he takes in the future, he will be a nice weapon in Coach Brey's arsenal.