Post-game Six-Pack

O'Malley's post-game points in the wake of Notre Dame's 79-78 overtime win against No. 19 Michigan State.

1.) Four around one, more often than not: For all the hand-wringing previous and still to come regarding a potential nine-man Irish rotation, it's clear Notre Dame's best chance to win -- as currently constructed -- is to play four guards/swingmen around one big.

Zach Auguste is big man option No. 1 and pending the foe, No. 2 will be freshman Martin Geben or redshirt-freshman Austin Torres.

Pairing two of the three above for an extended period will be done only if the Irish simply cannot matchup with a massive front line down the road. And even then, they're betting off attacking size with speed and precision.

But to be blunt, quality post-play is unlikely to be part of the 2015 equation. Embrace who you are.

2.) Jerian Grant's a difference-making finisher, but… The Irish can't fall into the amateur game's maddening version of "The Jordan Rule." While it's clear Grant is the team's best weapon and likely one of the best creators in the nation, the Irish offense -- any collegiate offense -- worsens late when a team's best player attempts is asked to win one-on-one, repeatedly. Ball movement and some semblance of an offensive plan must accompany the occasional mano a mano tactic head coach Mike Brey entrusted upon Grant Wednesday night.

It's inevitably a self-defeating tactic at game's end, perpetuated by the myth that a team's best player will likely be successful more often than not going one-on-one off the dribble when a bucket is needed. It flies in the face of logic and free-flowing offense on which good squads thrive. (Would a pick away from the ball be that difficult? How about coupled with a ball screen and a weak side cut?)

3.) Demetrius Jackson, running back: The Mishawaka Marian product got off to a hot start, scoring Notre Dame's first eight en route to a career-high 22 points. But it's the sophomore's persistent, aggressive on-ball defense that distinguishes him from most point guards that make their way through South Bend.

Oh, that and the ability to hit a crease like Melvin Gordon hits the B-gap. Jackson's strength and speed off the dribble, coupled with his ability to finish through contact gives Notre Dame a pair of playmakers when the chips are down. It gives them two that can create turnovers and finish at full speed in the open court.

Coupled with Grant, the pair offer an athletic guard tandem not seen in South Bend since John MaCloud's "Texas Connection" of Daimon Sweet and Elmer Bennett graced the Joyce Center Floor.

4.) V.J. Beachem hurt, hurts: The Irish are suddenly a half-court shooter short. It's the sophomore Beachem, out until at least early January with plantar fasciitis. At full strength, Beachem was set to provide a crucial extra scorer off the bench on days in which Jackson or Pat Connaughton or Steve Vasturia -- or two of the three -- can't find the range from beyond the arc.

Without a post game in site, the Irish need their budding sixth-man's outside stroke for the bulk of ACC play.

5.) Must include one more -- last night the exception: Grant, Connaughton, Jackson, Vasturia, a big man, Beachem, and…Bonzie? Burgett? It'll take a village for this Notre Dame team to A.) finish in the top 5-6 of the ACC, B.) Qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and C.) Make a run in either the conference tournament (semi-finals would equate to "a run") or the second weekend of the NCAA.

Four Irish starters played between 42 and the full 45 minutes against Michigan State. Without a more reliable rotation, the top dogs will wear down, per usual, by the time mid-March rolls around.

In a one-off situation such as last night -- a matchup after which the Irish won't face a team with a pulse for nine days -- heavy minutes from the team's top four players won't result in long-term damage. They have ample time to recover. But more often than not during forthcoming league action, either Bonzie Colson or Austin Burgett has to provide 5-10 quality minutes off the bench. It's up to Brey to cultivate those roles and for the pair to accept them and thrive during practice week (as has Torres of late). It's the only way they'll be trusted, and thus receive more than a minute of action, on game days.

6.) The Ultimate Glue Guy: Pat Connaughton couldn't buy a three-point bucket last night. He missed open from the corner, twice. He missed rotation swings from Grant. He missed a certain crowd-shaker with the Irish rolling, up five late in the first half.

Just 1 for 6 from downtown and yet, he was, as Brey is fond of saying, "fabulous."

Eight boards, most of them skying in traffic. A pair of steals, a pair of blocks, a five-for-five effort from the free throw line including a pair in the clutch with 16 seconds remaining. 12 points. Invaluable throughout over his 44 minutes of extended action.

Notre Dame can win at home when its best shooter Connaughton isn't lights out from downtown. It can't compete with the big boys if he doesn't do the little things for 40-plus minutes like he did last night. Expect Brey's lone captain to come through in that regard.

A final takeaway: -- Remember, it's not an upset when you enter the game as the favorite. Credit Notre Dame for taking care of business on its home court Wednesday night. Nine more such efforts might be necessary vs. nine ACC foes still to come.


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