Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marquette 89, Notre Dame 79

Marquette shot lights out in the second half, a day after looking terrible from the field and got the Irish out of their rhythm in the second half. Great games by Jerel McNeal and Maurice Aker off the bench mean yet another early exit from the BET for the Irish.

No complaints about the first half. Going into the break with a six point advantage while your best player spends half the time on the bench is very respectable. The second period looked like a direct copy of our first contest.

When a team shoots just 34% the night before, you don't expect them to off for 89 points on you. Marquette shot 52% from the field and Jerel McNeal looked like an All-American scoring 28 against a slow Irish D. McNeal's a 27% three point shooter! Give me a break. Obviously zone defense leaves open looks on the outside, but that was ridiculous. A guard oriented team with little post play, Marquette played the contest to their pace in the second half and outscored Notre Dame 55-35 over the last 18+ minutes. A very deserving win for Tom Crean's bunch and yet another disappointing finish at Madison Square Garden for us.

Earlier, Georgetown was the only favorite to win. Connecticut and Louisville can join our pity party after letting down their fans. Perhaps the saddest part of the night is how the Irish gave up a great chance to make the Big East finals. An opportunity like the one we had tonight rarely comes along again.

Kyle McAlarney scored 20 on 8-18 shooting. The Irish caught a hot streak in the final minute to pull the game within 6 with the ball, but could not finish. Mac was harassed all night, but still managed to find a few open looks. His shooting ability is simply amazing with the smallest amount of room possible.

Tory Jackson showed some flashes of last year's Georgetown game. Finished with 10 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. His driving ability is fantastic and he set up scoring opportunities for himself and others all night. Made a few bad mistakes while pushing the ball up the floor to allow Marquette to keep the pace high in the second half. With such a great defensive opponent, you have to play smarter than that.

Zach Hillesland was the player of the game. 14 points, 8 rebounds. Drove to the hoop a few times and cleaned up on the offensive boards. Made 5 second chance opportunities with his effort. Great hustle and provided some lift from the perimeter.

Rob Kurz finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Still 1 off 1,000 points in the career for the senior. 2-5 from beyond the arc, but failed to mix it up down low. Has the tendency to stay out on the arc all game and should have been more physical with Harangody in foul trouble.

Luke Harangody became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points in a career. He now has 1,003. Certainly a bitter-sweet night for him, however, as the big man was dogged by fouls and Ousmane Barro all game long. Would have liked to see a better performance from him after his awards and playing in front of the family. Finished with 13 and 5 and fouled out.

Off the bench, 4 points for Luke Zeller. He had a chance to cut the lead to three in the closing seconds, but let off a terrible air ball that sealed ND's fate. Ryan Ayers had a clutch three pointer but not much else. Jonathan Peoples must have played, because his name is listed in the box score but it was quite brief.

So let's talk seeding. Losing to a ranked opponent in your first conference tourney game is not the end of the world. Certainly we had the toughest first round opponent of any top 15 team in the country (save maybe Louisville) and should not be punished too severely for this. However, should not and will not are two very different realities.

The Irish deserve a 4 seed. Tied for second in the deepest conference in the league. Only conference losses came against the top six teams. RPI of 19 going into tonight and the toughest schedule in the conference. Only two losses against currently unranked opponents were by 5 or less in November. Unbeaten at home and above .500 on the road.

However, I can certainly see this team slip to a 5 after today. Not the end of the world, play a similar caliber opponent and wear the blacks in the second round. If the Irish fell all the way to a 6 seed, I would be extremely upset with the selection process. But that is for discussion on Sunday.

For now, this was a tough loss. Allowing 57 in the second half is unacceptable but could re-energize the team for a deep tournament run. I would much rather see the Irish make a solid attempt at Sweet 16 status than win a conference tournament game. However, if we draw a team the caliber of Marquette in the NCAAs with quick guards and strong outside shooting, the attempt must be made to slow the game down and look to Harangody inside. We failed in that aspect tonight.

Certainly a loss does not ruin the success of the last couple months in conference play, but there will be a sour taste in the mouths of the players if they go one-and-done again. Hopefully we will right the ship and go back to playing quality basketball next Thursday or Friday.


Anonymous said...

All you have to do is call a game a "tournament game" and this team will. Find. A. Way. To. Lose.

Bryan said...

Moving this here:

You think Mike Brey will ever win a big game again?

I mean, I know I'm always on him, but maybe, JUST MAYBE, he could have seen the zone wasn't working a LITTLE earlier than with 2 minutes left, seeing as Marquette was shooting about 70% in the second half?!! Would that have been too much to F-ing ASK!!????!!!!

What a diaster....Would have been handed a 3 seed with a win thanks to LV and UConn's loss, and a big fat no show!!!!! Congrats Mike, you let me be blinded by the glare off the COY trophies, and i'm remembering that the last big game ND won was vs Illinois 5 years AGO!

Let's just say that pulling an 0-2 postseason isn't gonna sit well at this point...

BlackandGreen said...

No one's making excuses for the second half performance tonight, but let's not be too quick to jump to conclusions.

Marquette is a ranked team that were 26 points better than the Irish in January. Certainly tonight's game was a similar disappointment, but this isn't even close to something like losing to Rutgers in '05 or Seton Hall in '03 (by the team that you mentioned beat Illinois).

Obviously we have a terrible track record in this tournament and I'm not sure exactly what the too cause for that is. I wouldn't be beyond placing some or most of the blame on Coach Brey for the failures in NYC.

However, going back to the 2003 comparison, that squad went into Selection Sunday with a record of 22-9 and ranked 22nd in the AP poll. They did have 4 quality wins, but also laid eggs against Seton Hall and Rutgers. Drawing a 5 seed in the tournament, UW-Milwaukee came within a basket of ending the Irish season in complete disaster. However, the team recovered to beat Illinois and surge to the second weekend of the tournament. That was Brey's crowning achievement.

Since then, there have been some disappointing seasons, but this is the first year we could really look for something greater. I'll take another BET embarrassment if it means a repeat of 2003.

Anonymous said...

I'll take another BET embarrassment if it means a repeat of 2003.

Except it is much more likely that this team will be one-and-done than it is a Sweet 16.

BlackandGreen said...

That's probably true, depending on the mindset of the guys and the draw in the first round.

With a 4 seed, we draw one of the better low major champs. 5 means we get a bubble team in the first round.

How would you feel playing Villanova or Syracuse again? That's probably the best comparison I can make. The Irish have beaten Kansas St. (a probable 8 seed) and Villanova (on the bubble) on the road and West Virginia (8), Connecticut (4), Marquette (6), Pitt (7), and Syracuse (bubble) at home. 6 of 7 losses have been to tournament or storng bubble teams (I'm getting the numbers from Bracket Project).

Am I trying a little too hard to make this situation positive? Probably. Now I wish we had more neutral site or road games against fringe tournament teams, as those would better predict a first round performance.

Anonymous said...

You naysayers will always find something that you would have done better. This was one stinking game and the other team went nuts!

Maybe you ought to pay attention to the other COACHES who have made him COY twice. I think they see what you are missing. To get to where we are with the level of natural talent on that team is amazing. When you look at the athleticism on other teams it's great we have competed as we have. Mike and Luke and everyone have performed WAY over their heads this year. That's something that true fans can see.

Go Irish!

Bryan said...

Ah, but here's another side point:

You matter how many times they say they DON'T judge by conference, there is too much evidence (and rules in play too) that say the committee doesn't like putting teams from the same conference as the same seed. So there is no way that the BE is gonna get 3 #4 seeds or 3 #5 seeds and they will try to 'spread them out' more

In the pecking order b/f yesterday, ND started behind LV,GT, and UCOnn. ND had a chance to get to pass those two when they lost, but choke it away. And is now in danger of falling behind another team or 2. If Pitt (with the win over Duke) or Marquette (win in Wisc) or even WVA win the BE, that's another team that should be at least a 5 seed. There is a serious danger on ND dropping a line here

Bryan said...

And another one: I really pissed me off last when all the idiots who hadn't seen ND play last year kept picking Winthrop based on a) the analysts' Winthrop love and b) the bias/hatred half the country has for ND. Throw in that now they is AMPLE evidence that they can't beat a good team in a bog game away from SB. A win could have avoided all this. Now we get to hear this crap for the rest of the week

I mean, can you imagine if they're matchup with George Mason? Or VCU? Or (gasp) Winthrop?

Bryan said...


I call bull again. Yes they may playing/coaching over their heads, but when you have 2 ALL-BE, the POY, and 2 time COYs, expectations change and going 0-2 in the Postseason. It's Sweet Sixteen or bust when you get that maybe accolades. A win would have made that a little easier; now, they need to win this week this week and actually win a big game

BlackandGreen said...

Wow, you people know how to spend a Friday. Seven comments and counting... keep it coming.

Before last night, I was very happy with how the season was going and one game will not change that.

But I see your point, Bryan. 0-2 should not be acceptable, but that's still TBD. I couldn't care less about an early conference tourney exit if we can make some noise in the NCAAs. Maybe last night is a demonstration of our inability to win big games on the road, maybe not.

The biggest problem with losing to Marquette is that our seeding will be impacted. Thankfully Louisville and Connecticut also lost. If Georgetown wins the tournament (they should), we don't have to worry about dropping below WV or Pitt. Half of the Bracket Project sites have updated and we're still a solid 4. Hopefully that will hold up.

If we do get the same kind of treatment as last season, however, I'm completely with you. Winthrop was a ranked 11 seed... no reason for us to play a team of that caliber. A team like Davidson in the first round would be a similarly unfair draw.