Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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46 JANUARY 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL T hey were surely loud enough to hear through the TV and unavoidable if you were there in person. A cacophony of "We are! Marquette!" chants rever- berated through Purcell Pavilion Dec. 11, adding insult to injury. Not only did an old Big East rival run Notre Dame out of its own gym in a 79-64 loss, but its fans also invaded and let the home faithful hear it in the final minutes. Irish fans trudged for the exits or hit the off button on the remote to that un- welcomed soundtrack as the final sec- onds bled off, having watched an op- portunity for a résumé-building win on former Notre Dame forward John Shumate's Ring of Honor induction day turn into a dud that raised a question. What should be made of the 2022-23 Irish? It's not asked out of enthusiasm, but rather concern. Notre Dame is 7-3 with losses to Mar- quette, Syracuse and St. Bonaventure, and an 18-point dusting of Michigan State. Not the end of the world on pa- per. It's a confusing concoction, but not one that's an affront to the taste buds. (They're making the latter four hours south of Notre Dame, though, where the Louisville Cardinals are 0-9.) Not time to yank the fire alarm yet, right? But not time to turn away from the alarm either. Because while Notre Dame hasn't passed the point of no return for making an NCAA Tournament case, it hasn't inspired much hope in that regard. You can't scrub the stretches of un- characteristically stilted offense and an oft-leaky defense from your memory. Four close calls against lesser competi- tion? Can't erase those either, and the more they pile up the less fluky they feel. The dud against Marquette followed an 81-75 win over Boston University, a team ranked No. 246 by as of Dec. 12. Before that? A 62-61 loss to Syracuse, which has dropped games against Bryant and Colgate. The romp over then-No. 20 Michigan State was a shot in the arm, but it followed a 63-51 loss to St. Bonaventure on Long Island in New York. Since then, the Bonnies have lost to Buffalo and Iona by double digits. All of that came after five home games against mid-majors, three of which fea- tured tense late-game situations. Notre Dame needed a go-ahead bucket in the final minute to skirt disaster in two of those tilts. Maybe there isn't a consensus on the level of concern, but it sure isn't zero. Watch even a couple games, and you'll see some legitimate issues. Among them: • The defense has regressed from a year ago, and sharply enough to wonder if there's more to it than losing guard Blake Wesley to the NBA. This roster isn't ripe with elite defensive personnel, but it's better than the missed assign- ments, miscommunications and shaky discipline that have popped up too often through 10 games. • The offense is missing its usual crispness and flow. The Irish are 268th in assist rate, at 47.1 percent. That means more than half their buckets are unassisted. For a team that won't lock down op- ponents even with its best defense, three-point shooting is key. Good t h re e - p o i n t l o o ks are usually assisted. The last time Notre Dame finished a sea- son with a sub-50 percent assist rate was 2015-16. "At times, we run into problems when we play from the ACC [logo in the paint] up," Brey said. • Paul Atkinson Jr.'s post presence was a staple of Notre Dame's offense last year. The Irish don't have a simi- lar back-to-the-basket scorer to play through. Outside of some Dane Good- win turnarounds and a few sprinkles of freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin and The Fighting Irish won seven of their first 10 games this season, but the start has hardly been crisp. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER "We are who we are right now. We'll figure out later in the week after a few [final] exams how to help our group get better." NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH MIKE BREY Notre Dame's First 10 Games Have Been Less Than Inspiring

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