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  • So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance

    by Kevin O'Neill

    Notre Dame’s 84-67 victory at Boston College on Saturday improved its conference record to 6-8. The depleted Irish must get to 9-9 just to be in the NCAA Tournament discussion; and even then, they will have work to do in the ACC Tournament.  A couple of conference tourney wins might be enough, but ND still has to live down early season non-conference losses, especially the one to Ball State at home.

    “If we go 2-0 and we get to 7-8 in the league, if you squint, you’ll see the bubble; and we’ll see what happens down the stretch,” Head Coach Mike Brey said after the BC victory.

    So, Coach Brey, you’re telling us there’s a chance.

    Brey isn’t counting the chickens yet. He has his team focused on the next step.

    “We didn’t talk much or celebrate in there (the locker room),” Brey said. “We talked about getting another one. We need to go back, get some rest, get Rex healthier… I think he’ll be fine. It’s a bruise… and play against a good Miami team on Monday.”

    The Path

    Let’s look at the schedule:






    February 19th


    Miami 18-8/7-7
    February 24th


    Wake Forest 10-17/3-12
    February 28th


    Pittsburgh 8-20/0-15
    March 3rd


    Virginia 24-2/13-1
    March 7th – ?


    ACC Tournament

    Although this team cannot take any opponent lightly, Wake and Pitt are should-win games. The road finale is a likely loss unless Matt Farrell wants to make nine three point baskets in a row again. That makes tonight’s gave vs Miami the key to a spot on the bubble. A loss will require a trip to the ACC Tournament finals for NCAA consideration and, probably, a win in the finals to make the tourney. gives the Irish a 67% chance of beating Miami. That’s the good news. However, the Team Rankings computers also project a final ACC record of 8-10. That’s a factor of Miami’s 33% chance to win tonight and whatever Wake Forest’s chance to beat Notre Dame on its home court is. If the Irish beat Miami, I expect the projection to be 9-9 when I get the Team Rankings email in the morning.


    Miami is similar to Florida state, a team the Irish defeated 84-69 at home on February 10th – consistently a winning team, big men who don’t score a lot, athletic wings, well coached. Statistically, the Hurricanes mirror the Irish except when it comes to shooting, and ND runs hot and cold in those percentages.


    Miami ND
    Points per game



    Rebounds per game



    Assists per game



    Turnovers per game



    Shooting percentage



    3 point percentage


    Free throw percentage



    Notre Dame is a team that must shoot well to beat good teams.

    “I’ve felt, this week, like our program at the offensive end of the floor,” Brey said after the Florida State game. “This kind of feels like nothing is forced. The last two games I didn’t feel like we were forcing anything. Hopefully we can stay in that mode.”

    The Irish did not stay in that mode in the North Carolina game. They missed early and often; and the more they missed, the more they forced shots.

    They returned to a more normal offensive flow in the Boston College game, but it always looks better when one or more players is hot. Matt Farrell made his first nine three point attempts while his teammates made 4-11. Averaging 12.2 points per conference game, Martin Geben has covered some of the post scoring threat the Irish have missed since Bonzie Colson’s injury; but this is a team that must make outside shots to win. That doesn’t mean it has to be a perimeter team. Both Farrell and TJ Gibbs are capable penetrators, but their forays into the lane are as likely to end with a pass to a shooter as a shot at the basket. That looks a lot better when the shots fall.

    Playing For Time

    Bonzie Colson in healthier days

    The Irish are trying to keep their heads above water until Harvey and Colson return. DJ Harvey’s most recent setback has his return scheduled somewhere between the ACC Tournament and next season. Colson’s target is the Pitt game. When it comes to tournament selection, the question is whether the committee will make an allowance for ND’s injuries and consider Colson’s return a positive. If he stays on schedule, he will have two conference games and whatever the Irish do in the conference tournament to show that he is the first team All-American he was projected to be. It will be a great story is that proves to be the case, but it isn’t a reasonable expectation for a player who has been unable to work his legs into basketball condition for two months.

    I don’t know how the story of the 2017-18 season will end, but it has been an interesting tale to date. Despite the injury losses and despite the January losing streak, this group has not folded.

    “This group has been calm the whole way, even in January,” Brey said last week. “They’re not freaking out, and I don’t talk to them like that… They talk like a veteran group and a poised group. Their poise helps them in those situations. We don’t panic.

    “We’ve played two games where it got interesting in the second half, and we’ve made big shots, assassin-like shots, which is who this program has been. We didn’t see it much there in January, but that makes me feel good. That makes me feel like maybe we’ve got a shot at this thing.”

    So… There’s a chance, enough of a chance to stay tuned.

    3 Responses to “So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance”

    1. Comforting to have a more than capable coach to assess players, schedule, injuries, and possible outcomes.

    2. Just read FBI report. Notre dame has players on the balance sheet that receive money. How will Notre Dame handle this problem. Could this be the end for Mike Brey?