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  • Off The Schneid

    by Kevin O'Neill

    The Schneid… Is there anything worse than being on the Schneid?

    According to The Word Detective:

    “Schneid” is actually short for “schneider,” a term originally used in the card game of gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points. “Schneider” entered the vocabulary of gin from German (probably via Yiddish), where it means “tailor.”

    The original sense was that if you were “schneidered” in gin you were “cut” (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game. “Schneider” first appeared in the literature of card-playing about 1886, but the shortened form “schneid” used in other sports is probably of fairly recent vintage.

    To be “on the schneid” means to be on a losing streak.

    Virginia 71, Notre Dame 54 followed by Georgia Tech 62, Notre Dame 60 followed by Duke 84, Notre Dame 74 followed by North Carolina 83, Notre Dame 76… The Schneid has a look. The Schneid has a feel. The Schneid has a smell. The Schneid is unpleasant in every way.

    Style points don’t matter when it comes to getting off the Schneid. Any slump buster will do. Welcome to South Bend, Wake Forest.

    Irish 88, Wake 81. It was ugly at times, but the Irish didn’t care.

    “Man, we needed that!” Mike Brey exclaimed to open his postgame press conference. “We needed that, baby!”

    The players knew how badly they needed to beat the Demon Deacons at home if they were going to realize their goals, but their confidence was shaken during the losing streak.

    The team was both tired from the short Sunday-Tuesday turnaround and tight going into the game, so Brey worked to relax them by showing how relaxed he was.

    “I haven’t shot the halfcourt shot after shootaround in a while, so I was firing up halfcourt shots. I missed about three or four. I was kidding with guys. I was just trying to keep them loose because they want it so bad.”

    Was the coach really relaxed?

    “It was total show,” Brey said. “I was tied up in knots inside, man; but I faked it like a son of a gun.”

    It still took time for the team to find its groove. Wake Forest led 41-36 at halftime, and the game was tied nearly twelve minutes into the second half before VJ Beachem’s three point basket with 8:01 on the game clock put the Irish ahead for good. That triggered a run of 28 points in eight minutes that reminded the team and its fans of how the Irish managed a 5-0 start in ACC games.

    “Hopefully that can give us some confidence and get us moving again,” Brey said.

    Maybe Size Doesn’t Matter

    Center Martin Geben’s playing time was systematically reduced during the losing streak, partly because he was not very effective and partly because Rex Pfleuger and TJ Gibbs were playing well especially on defense. The duo also took playing time from Austin Torres.

    The Wake Forest game ended ended any pretense of playing a conventional lineup when Pfleuger was announced as the fifth starter in Geben’s place, but the final transition actually started in the second half of the North Carolina game.

    “What you saw against North Carolina with the smaller lineup, I don’t know how many minutes we played with two big guys. Maybe four,” Brey said after the Wake Forest game.

    “Five out with a smaller lineup with Rex or TJ helps the four most important guys on my team,” Brey continued. “It’s evident in their numbers the second half at Carolina and tonight.

    “We gave up seventeen offensive rebounds, but we were efficient enough offensively to get away with it.”

    Playing small, often with five on the outside and nobody in the post worked against Wake Forest, but the rematch with Florida State would be the real test. The Seminoles aren’t merely tall. They are the second tallest team in NCAA basketball. Two players top 7’0”. Three more are listed at 6’9” or 6’10”, and only one man on the roster is under 6’4”. How would a team full of wings deal with that kind of size?

    Losing the battle on the boards was a given. The Irish would have to compensate with outside shooting. There’s the formula… or not.

    Notre Dame made only 32% of its three point attempts (7-22), but the Irish had a 41-34 rebounding advantage over the Seminoles. Playing five out most of the game, ND’s smaller players consistently got into the lane to score or dish. They made 59% of their two point tries (22-37); and when they weren’t finishing, they were drawing fouls and making their free throws (19-21).

    “Our position defense was excellent,” Brey said, “so even when we played small, we held our own on the backboard.”

    Matt Farrell said, “Battling them on the boards is mostly Bonzie; but Steve grabbing seven rebounds, me grabbing five rebounds, other guys grabbing four… That’s what we need to do.”

    “Our guards play so hard,” Pfleuger added. “We’re attacking the glass constantly. Steve did a great job rebounding. VJ takes up so much space. Even though we’re a smaller lineup technically, our hustle plays differentiate us from other teams.”

    Brey had the best summary of the small lineup. “Our small guys are tough dudes,” he said. “Maybe being big is overrated.”

    Colson

    To follow his 27 point, 16 rebound effort vs Wake Forest, Bonzie Colson scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Florida State game. The five out offense is working for Colson.

    “Right now, he’s in an unbelievable groove,” Brey said. “He’s getting it in areas where they can’t guard him. He’s hitting threes, making free throws. That was one of the great performances in our program’s history against a big time team on national TV.

    “If he keeps this surge up, he’ll be in the discussion as much as anybody for (ACC) player of the year.”

    The Race

    As of this writing, North Carolina (9-3) has a half game lead over second place Florida State (9-4) in the ACC standings. The next five teams (Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Syracuse) are either 8-4 or 8-5. The seventh place team is one game out of second place. The race to get a free pass into the ACC quarterfinals is going to be a basketball fan’s delight.

    Georgia Tech will be Notre Dame’s loss of most regret if it fails to land one of the top four spots. However, that loss is part of the journey. It was an early indicator that playing a small lineup is better for this team.

    A major conference coach would have to be crazy to play almost exclusively with four guards and a smallish forward even if those were his best basketball players. Or maybe not.

    It started to be obvious how much better Notre Dame was playing small during the first Florida State game. In hindsight, the next indicator was the Virginia game; but it’s always hard to tell how much of that loss was the hole in the ND lineup and how much was Virginia’s typical stellar defense.

    Then came the Georgia Tech game and Ben Lammers’ all star performance. He was going to get the 15 points and 10 rebounds whether Geben, Torres, or a guard covered him. That was when Brey’s mind changed. That’s when the big guys’ minutes started to get limited in favor of Pfleuger and Gibbs. Even though they didn’t score in that game, the team was obviously better when they played strictly based on the defensive intensity and effectiveness they add.

    Whatever this team does the rest of the way will be happen with the small lineup, and the small lineup is rooted in that loss.

    In Case You Were Wondering

    According to the Florida State roster, Jonathan Isaac is 6’10”. The question is whether 6’10” includes four inches of hair rising from the top of his head. VJ Beachem, who guarded Isaac so effectively on Saturday, assured me that Isaac is 6’10” without the hair.

    Off The Schneid Revisited

    With 48 seconds left in the Florida State game, Steve Vasturia stole the ball and dribbled towards the basket. The Irish had a four on none breakaway. The crowd expected Vasturia to either give the ball to a teammate or dribble out the shot clock and hand the ball to the referee. Instead, he took it to the basket and dunked.

    That’s pretty routine for most 6’6” college basketball players, but it was the first dunk the senior ever tried in a game. The Notre Dame bench went crazy. Bonzie Colson gave his teammate a bear hug. Florida State’s CJ Walker ignored the festivities and made a meaningless three pointer.

    “We call him ‘Air Vasturia’ now,” Brey quipped. “I’ve never seen him throw down like that. We go three man weave and the guys dunk a little bit in practice, but I’ve never seen him dunk. That’s why our bench went crazy.

    “You know what? I think Leonard Hamilton was even laughing.”

    Vasturia is off the Schneid. Your turn, Matt Farrell.

    2 Responses to “Off The Schneid”

    1. Farrell2Colson says:

      I love this team- I’ll admit the 4 game losing streak worried me a bit— but my confidence in them is at an all time program high because I was mainly worried about the tourney seeding. It’s nice to think in terms of bracket/seeding and not will we make it. There is a very real possibility that we win out or lose to Louisville only and at 12-6 in conference should probably get a top 4 seed. 13-5 might even win the conference! I expect them to avoid the upset the rest of the way and pull off a small upset of our boy Pitino’s squad! If so, a top 4 NCAA tourney seed is a lock with the prospects of an even higher one.

    2. martinjordan says:

      1. Everyone knew that TJ Gibbs and Rex Pfleuger would play a lot but nobody thought that their minutes would be at the expense of Geben and Torres.
      2. I’ve seen Pfleuger turn down wide open threes from the corner and make the extra pass to the wing. I would prefer to see him take the shot or pump fake and draw contact.
      3. Matt Ryan hasn’t done much lately but he also hasn’t come in and recklessly hoisted a bunch of threes. I hope he stays ready because there is going to come a time when they are going to need him.

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