Basketball Is Ugly When a Team Can’t Shoot

Brad Stevens has a great quote about basketball that I believe applies to the 2017-18 Fighting Irish. “You have to earn your right to win the game with effort and togetherness,” he said.

Stevens neglected to mention that a team that can’t shoot doesn’t have many options. Effort, toughness, rebounding, defense… Those are important, but they won’t win many games if the team can’t shoot. A team that can’t shoot is going to be a bad team. Bad record. Hard to watch. Ugly.

Basketball is ugly when a team can’t shoot.

Notre Dame will try to end a seven game losing streak when Boston College comes to Purcell Pavilion Tuesday night. During that streak, the Irish have made only 37.3% of their shots from the field and only 31.7% of their three point attempts.

The loss of Bonzie Colson has left Martin Geben as the only post scoring threat. Geben is a fine secondary threat and a good scorer off of screen and roll, but he isn’t a player who will draw a double team. That has made the Irish an outside shooting team with a whopping 43% of their shots taken beyond the three point arc over the last seven games. That would be fine if the shooters could make a decent percentage; but three point shooting has been abysmal. Why?

  • Aggressive defense on the perimeter without fear of inside scoring
  • Good shooters connecting at a lower rate than their historical norms
  • Few good shooters in the first place

It isn’t as if the Irish aren’t getting enough open shots to score more than 66 points per game. They simply aren’t making them; and without an inside game, they can’t compensate by getting to the free throw line.

Wait Until Next Year

Barring Colson’s return and a run through the ACC Tournament that resembles the Maui Classic performance in November, an incredible long shot, the rest of this season is preparation for next season.

It isn’t even close to being too late in their careers for players like Nik Djogo and Elijah Burns to emerge, but they haven’t grabbed their seats on the 2018-19 train yet. With four top 100 recruits arriving in the summer and Juwan Durham becoming eligible after doing NCAA transfer penance, roles not defined now will be hard to create next season.

Freshman DJ Harvey has shown how good he can be (but isn’t yet). Sophomores John Mooney and TJ Gibbs have earned their stripes, Mooney as a promising scorer and rebounder and, more importantly, Gibbs as a leader.

TJ Gibbs speaks with media after the Virginia Tech game

I asked Gibbs what he has learned about leading after the Virginia Tech game.

“I have to be vocal,” said Gibbs. “Usually when Matt and Bonz are there I defer to them and feed off of their energy. Now it’s me trying to provide energy for our guys and making sure we’re all in the right positions. I’m pretty much learning a new role and position. I’ve always been able to look at Matt for the last year and a half and say, ‘Hey, man. What are we doing?’ He’s always been there and had my back. Learning it now is something that’s going to help me for next year and help this team.”

Accountability is an important leadership trait, and Gibbs is accepting that responsibility.

“I know I could have done a lot more,” Gibbs said after scoring 27 points against the Hokies. “I could have gotten my teammates more involved. I missed a layup. There’s a couple of things I could have done better.”

“He takes it really personal,” Mike Brey said when asked about Gibbs. “It’s powerful to be around, and I love it.

“His voice is more there in huddles at timeouts,” Brey continued. “He speaks up and has really good stuff (to say). He is an emotional guy, and most of that is good; but he gets so mad at himself when he makes a mistake. I’m trying to get him to move on to the next one, but that’s why he’s special. He’s got such an edge about him.

“He and Rex (Pflueger) do a good job of running our group and keeping it organized. They have become very good leaders and talkers to the rest of the guys.”

What to Watch

Train your basketball eyes on the following between now and mid-March:

  1. Gibbs, Pflueger, Mooney, Harvey, and Durham are the likely starters for Game #1 of the 2018-19 season. When Harvey returns, all but Durham will play together regularly through the end of the season. Will that combination look like it’s a post player and some rotation depth away from being an ACC contender next season?
  2. Watch Djogo and Burns. Will they make cases for roles in next season’s rotation?
  3. Find live streams to state high school playoffs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Massachusetts so you can catch Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin, Nate Laszewski, and Chris Doherty against their states’ best competition. Who of those four will have rotation spots next season?
  4. Prentiss Hubb is recovering from an early season knee injury, but you can put his junior highlight video on a continuous loop.

That’s what I’ll be watching.

5 thoughts on “Basketball Is Ugly When a Team Can’t Shoot

    • I’m not giving up either. This team hasn’t quit, and no one else here will either.

      But I don’t think that’s what Kayo is saying. There’s stuff to watch for even if the results are frustrating.