Hutton: No time for Irish to panic ... not yet
By MIKE HUTTON email@example.com Twitter: @MikeHuttonPT January 21, 2013 10:24PM
Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, right, drives the lane while Georgetown guard Jabril Trawick defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday Jan. 21, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: February 23, 2013 6:36AM
SOUTH BEND — Funny. You never know what you’re going to get until they lace up their sneakers and roll out the basketball.
The Purcell Pavilion fans, a rowdy, full house variety, were filing out in the final minutes of Georgetown’s 63-47 victory over Notre Dame Monday. Mike Brey was sitting in his seat, running the walk-ons and freshman who never play, into the game. Brey was likely already going over his post-game radio speech that is telecast to the crowd, in his head.
It was a deflating, disappointing sight for the Notre Dame faithful. Can’t lose on your home court to a sub .500-league Georgetown team.
But they did. The Irish were walloped by the Hoyas, trailing by as many as 20 in the second half. It’s been a long time since the Irish got beat this badly on their floor — four years to be exact — when they lost to Villanova in March, 2009 by 17.
It’s hard to explain this team so far. It can be a long, cold South Bend winter at Purcell Pavilion when the basketball isn’t going in.
Last year, Notre Dame was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East after Carleton Scott left and Tyrone Nash graduated.
Then, it looked it was going to get perfectly awful for them when Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Almost inexplicably, they found something very special when Jack Cooley turned into a force inside and Jerian Grant turned out to be way better than anyone thought he could be in his first full year. They had the usual assortment of role players, like Scott Martin and Pat Connaugton contributing and Eric Atkins at point guard doing his thing.
They finished third.
This year, with every starter returning, Notre Dame was picked to finish third and possibly contend for the title.
The early results are in: It’s going to be real slog for the Irish. They are a mediocre 3-3 in the league with the same guys, plus a couple of additions such as freshman Cam Biedscheid and transfer Garrick Sherman.
Brey better start pushing buttons and kicking tires or it’s going to be terminally long season for Notre Dame.
His men, as Brey likes to refer to his upper class lineup, are starting to play like old men.
The problems are multiple.
Teams have figured out how to get in the grill of the guards — Grant and Atkins — and turn them sideways before they can get the offense rolling.
Notre Dame’s unselfishness on offense — always making the extra pass — turns into a detriment when they make too many passes. Smart teams like Georgetown and Connecticut and St. John’s — all of whom beat the Irish — can recover quickly with their length and quickness.
And defensively, Notre Dame just isn’t all that good. They played a mixture of zone and man-to-man against Georgetown, but none of it really worked. The Hoyas made 24 of 45 (53.3 percent) from the floor and they were 7 of 15 from 3-point range.
Offensively, if Cooley, one of the better post players in the league, can’t get it going and if the guards can’t break free and penetrate inside, the team heads to offensive no-man’s land. Cooley was clearly bothered by the length of the Hoya’s inside players. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
They have had good 3-point shooting intermittently from Connaughton and Martin but not consistently from anyone. They finished 2 of 18 from 3-point range. Brey tried to get Biedschied, an offensive machine in high school, going but he couldn’t make a shot. He finished 0 for 8.
To make matters worse, Martin, who started the season out making 30 of 59 from 3-point range, is 0 for 6 in his last four games. He has also only scored seven points. He was shut out against Georgetown after playing just 18 minutes.
Brey said the problem with Martin is his knee, which has had two surgeries on it, is not good.
“It’s across the board with him,” Brey said. “His knee is bothering him. It’s affecting all phases. We’re in a weird situation with him not practicing a lot. We have to see if he can give us what we need.”
It’s way too early for Notre Dame to panic. It’s a long season and crazy things happen.
But it’s certainly time for the Irish to start looking for answers because panic is always lurking close by in this meat grinder of a league.
Once it hits, it’s hard to shake it.