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  • Get That (poop) Out Of Here

    by Kevin O'Neill

    Duke’s 10-4 run in the last two and a half minutes of the ACC Championship game ended Notre Dame’s bid for its second title in three years.

    Each of the last three successful seasons had a different story of the season. Connaughton and Grant lead the way to an ACC Championship and an NCAA regional final. Demetrius Jackson emerged as a leader, the Fighting Irish hit their stride in February, and a repeat trip to a regional final followed.

    The 2016-17 season has been a story of the even keel… until this week. This is the week that the Irish became Bonzie Colson’s team. This is the week that the Irish stood up to the always tough Virginia Cavaliers. This is the week the Irish developed an edginess that we hadn’t see before, and nothing epitomized that more than the words that Colson yelled as he blocked Kyle Guy’s layup attempt.

    “Get that (poop) out of here!”

    “It just shows his emotion and his passion each and every game,” Rex Pfleuger told me.

    The Seniors

    That isn’t to say that team has been under-led this season. Seniors Steve Vasturia and VJ Beachem have their teammates’ attention and respect.

    “They aren’t as quiet as you guys (media) think,” Colson said after the final home game. “They talk, and we hear them.”

    “Poise” is the word Matt Farrell used to describe Vasturia and Beachem. “No matter what’s going on around them, no matter if they’re not playing well or they’re playing good, they’re always the same. They play at the same (intensity) level, and that’s something that’s been really good for this team. We have guys who play with energy, and we have those two captains who are poised all the time, who keep us calm in big time situations.”

    An emotional player, Farrell said the seniors help him re-focus after mistakes. “VJ has gotten ten times better vocally as the season progressed. He’s always talking to me, and Steve does too, saying ‘Next play, next play.’”

    “From the day I met him, it’s been mutual respect between us,” Beachem said when asked about Vasturia. “It’s about winning no matter what it takes from either one of us. We’ve been able to do a lot of that for the past three years. It’s been a great run, and we don’t plan on being done any time soon.”

    The seniors’ steadiness accounts for the team’s ability to recover from difficult December losses and start well in the ACC season. It explains how a four game losing streak didn’t turn into a death spiral. Instead, the Irish rallied to be in contention for a share of the regular season championship going into the final weekend.

    The Edge

    Steadiness is a perfect prescription for success over the long haul, but tournaments are different. It’s win or go home every game. There is no bouncing back tomorrow. It’s time for intensity every game. It’s time for an edge.

    “Get that (poop) out of here!”

    But the words aren’t enough. Colson supported the attitude with actions – 21 points and 10 rebounds vs Virginia, 18 points and 6 rebounds vs Florida State, 29 points and 9 rebounds vs Duke. He made 52% of his shots from the field, dished out 5 assists in the FSU game, and had only a single turnover in each of the three tournament games.

    “What he did – willing us, keeping us in it, making big plays, and chasing down loose balls… It was a great performance,” Mike Brey said after the Duke game.

    Looking Forward

    “I think we got a little better in New York,” Brey said on Sunday. “We delivered in the bright lights and played well even though we couldn’t finish in the championship game. We had our March swagger. Everything was up a level.”

    “It’s not just winning four games. It’s who we beat,” Mike Krzyzewski said after winning the championship. “We beat four terrific teams who could end up winning the national title. That’s how good our conference is.”

    I don’t think Krzyzewski really meant to include Clemson in the national championship comment, but I believe he was sincere about Louisville, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. The man should know a contender when he sees one up close. He has seen more than a few.

    There is room for the even keel in tournament games, but it’s better as a balance to emotion than it is as a substitute. Remember the ACC tournament as the week that the 2016-17 Notre Dame basketball team’s identity changed. It’s edgier. It’s Colson’s team now.

    Shuffle Off To Buffalo

    The Irish are the #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional with the first weekend’s pod playing in Buffalo. Their first round opponent is Princeton; and if they advance to the second round, West Virginia will be their likely opponent.

    The Tigers are known for former coach Pete Carril’s offense, aptly called the Princeton Offense, which emphasizes constant motion, backdoor cuts, and crisp passing. The offense has given major conference teams fits over the years, but the Irish aren’t facing it cold.

    “Coach has been talking about Princeton Offense all year,” Nikola Djogo told me after the selection show ended. “We’ve been talking about it because a lot of teams run different versions of it. Now we’re actually playing Princeton. We’re kind of used to playing against it.”

    Brey said he told the team, “Now you get to guard the Princeton Offense run by Princeton.

    “We even do some of it,” Brey continued. “We get some elbow hits and cuts. You’re guarding spacing; but of course, we guard spacing every day when we guard ourselves. You’re guarding shooting. We guard shooting every day because that’s our personnel. Back cutting? We cut a lot, so we guard cutting. We’re ‘Princeton-ish’ without the predictable movement. Ours is free flowing, but it’s a very Princeton-ish philosophy as far as spacing and cutting.”

    The Last Word

    Brey was asked about recent tournament success.

    “When the lights have been brightest, we have been in a rhythm lately where we just love it, embrace it, deliver in it,” he said. “I think it’s gotten to be the tradition of the program where it’s handed down to the younger guys and they’re dragged along by the older guys.”

    In other words, “Get that (poop) out of here!”

    10 Responses to “Get That (poop) Out Of Here”

    1. Doctor Boone says:

      I was in Brooklyn for our quarterfinal and semi. I also was there on Wednesday. Watched 10 games in 3 days. Gotta love it. Had seats ten rows behind the basket. ND played great including the final which I watched on TV. As a former coach I watch the refs closely. I feel Duke might have got 2 calls late. The inbounder clearly touched the line when we pressed at the end. The call I thought was critical involved ref Ted Valentine when Grayson Allen tried to save the ball under the basket that was supposedly tipped by VJ (I think) that was reversed in favor of Duke. I saw Grayson Allen stepping on the line while saving it. Valentine missed it. He was right there. It was his call. Did anyone else see it like I did? 2 big calls in that type of game are critical. I really think this team can make a run but let’s squeak past Princeton first. Be ready boys. That game will not be easy. Similar kids in a chess match.

      • Yes, i saw it too. Allen was already out of bounds when he “saved” the ball. The announcers failed on that as well.

    2. Gotta give Brey some props. They got over the hump. Amazing three year run. I’m not sure what happened, but the team is a real pleasure to watch and they play with a lot of grit.

    3. Dr. Boone, I saw that too. When G. Allen “saved” the ball on the baseline, his foot had already touched at least 6 inches out of bounds. We did get a stop on that ensuing Duke possession, so maybe it wasn’t too critical.

      More importantly to me, Coach Brey, whom I love, just doesn’t trust his bench enough. I saw maybe one substitution (Matt Ryan, for about a minute) in the last 12 minutes of game action. That ND team at the end of the game had tired legs after three games in three days. I know Duke had played four games, but Duke’s tired legs don’t help our tired threes go in the hoop.

      I believe that had Brey put in some fresh legs for the 12:00 – 8:00 window, both the subs and then the refreshed core five would have thrived. I think that a fresh TJ Gibbs would have flourished for some time against some tired Duke legs. Them the Farrell 3ball (or drive) at the end would have been with rested legs.

      Listen to the players’ comments, post-game. No one is blaming Brey, but they admit to being tired at the end. Especially Beachem.

      I think that Mike Brey is the best thing to ever happen to ND basketball, including Digger. But he is consistently too reluctant to let go of his comfort zone and truly trust his bench at key moments.

    4. Bonzie's Team says:

      While the loss to Duke was very disappointing, (couldn’t make a 3 all night) I was upset by the seeding. It’s one thing if the conference was considered to be down this year and everyone took a hit because of it. (Big Ten) In this case, everyone of the top teams was given an incredible benefit of the doubt because of how good and deep the ACC was except our Irish. I simply don’t get it. How is FSU 2 seeds above us playing in their home state? How is Louisville considered this juggernaut 2 seed? Even VA who had a pretty awful 5 week stretch and hasn’t been very good since January were given an equal seed to ours. All we can do is prove once again that we are being overlooked but I can’t help but be annoyed that we have a dangerous 12 seed and then a top WVU team before even getting to sweet 16 now.

      • Drasail2 says:

        The silver lining is that we’re in a regional bracket where we don’t have to deal with our ACC foes (I’m pretty sure the Seminoles will lose in the first round to FL Atlantic). And if we make it to face the #1 it’s Gonzaga and that’s a game I’d love to see. If they keep playing like they’ve been playing it’s going to be a very exciting March!
        Go Irish

    5. It’s interesting how the Irish were expected to get a 3 or 4 seed, and they end up getting a 5. It’s amazing and unfortunate how political the process has become to the point that it lacks credibility. If there was any thought process behind this placement, it must have been on a different planet. I hope this just fuels and motivates the team that much more. Go out there a play with a chip on shoulder. Go Irish!

    6. cloverp75 says:

      Dr. Boone, I saw Allen step out of bounds too, by at least a foot. I can’t believe no one saw it or complained to the officials. Teddy V has never been a favorite around Central Indiana.

    7. Doctor Boone says:

      If I’m not mistaken Gonzaga is the #1 seed in our region so I will gladly take them in the regional semifinal vs. any other #1 seed. I’d go to Buffalo but we might get 18 inches of snow tonight in Reading. Thanks for that confirmation Mike. Just proves Teddy boy is a poor ref. Even heard Dan Dakich say it yesterday. I’ve grown to like Dakich as a color guy

    8. Hard to receive a 3 or 4 seed with a 27-9 and playing these teams pre-season….Mercy, Catholic,
      Bryant, Seattle, Loyola(MD), Colorado, Northwestern, Chicago State, Iowa, NCA&T, Fort Wayne,
      Colgate, and St. Peter’s. That’s 13 auto-wins. The only 2 quality pre-ACC games they played they lost.
      This team is really good and really fun to watch. But one cannot complain about a 5 seed instead of a
      3 or 4 based on this scheduling. JMHO.