Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

O’Malley’s Key Three

Notre Dame’s All-America candidate, disappearing depth, and a journey beyond the numbers highlight today’s wrap-up of an 84-72 win over No. 14 Florida State.

BONZIE AT HIS BEST

Two respected basketball minds have compared his game to that of Adrian Dantley, a Hall of Famer and the best player in the history of Notre Dame’s program.

Another pair of long-time analysts this week harkened his style to that of the one-of-a-kind “Round Mound of Rebound,” Charles Barkley.

Adding to the existing hyperbole, one of our message board posters tossed out the name of former ABA MVP George McGinnis earlier this week.

In summation, current Irish junior Bonzie Colson has thus been compared to a three-time NBA scoring champion, an all-time top professional player, and one of the best players in the history of the state of Indiana.

But I have a fourth, more generalized and admittedly contemporary comparison that concerns the indomitable Colson:

2017 All-American.

Because Colson’s among the five or 10 best currently lacing up sneakers in the college game.

Colson posted 33 points and collected 13 rebounds in Saturday night’s win over No. 14 Florida State. It marked his 16th double-double – more than any player in what is doubtless America’s best basketball conference.

He was so good Saturday in South Bend that no two Seminoles combined to match his point or rebound totals.

“We had a hard time defending Colson with some of our bigger guys,” offered Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton, he the proud recruiter of a pair of imposing centers in excess of seven-feet tall in addition to a six-foot ten-inch shot-blocker in Jonathan Isaac. “And when we went to a smaller lineup, Colson was a handful against some of our smaller guys as well.

“With Bonzie playing as well as he is, he’s a tough matchup for anybody especially now that he’s shooting the three-pointer once in awhile, or the mid-range jump shots,” Hamilton continued. “He’s very clever, extremely smart, makes good decisions with the ball. The way they’re using him, it’s going to create a lot of problems for people.”

Colson’s 10.8 rebounds rank first in the league and eighth nationally. He’s connected on more than 50 percent of his shots in nine of 13 conference contests, shoots better than 80 percent from the foul line while leading the squad with 126 attempts.

I short, Colson is the rudder that allows Notre Dame’s small lineup to maneuver against the nation’s best.

“I think he’s a strong first-team all-league guy already,” said Mike Brey of his star forward. “If he keeps this surge up he’ll be in the discussion as much as anybody for the Player of the Year.

“That was one of the great performances in our program’s history against a big-time team on National TV.”

THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING DEPTH

Six weeks ago, Notre Dame’s rotation was a solid eight deep each night and fans were clamoring to add a purported sharp-shooting ninth.

Today, as we head down the home stretch of conference play, that 8/9-deep squad is made up of the following:

  • Four starters
  • Two sixth-men
  • Two guys that put a wrench in the offensive operation
  • A shooter that puts points on the board for the other team

Hello Big Four. Hello T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger.

And hello stolen minutes from anyone else.

Notre Dame was a combined plus-two (they scored two more points than did Florida State) when Martinas Geben, Austin Torres, and Matt Ryan played Saturday night (Ryan was plus-five to carry the day).

The threesome was an aggregate minus-12 vs. North Carolina, logged just nine total minutes of court time against Wake Forest, and was an astounding minus-22 in its aggregate court time in the home loss to Duke two weeks ago.

Geben and Torres must provide quality minutes – two apiece would be fine, five from both would nearly guarantee a victory – and Ryan needs to hit a shot or three for the Irish to reach realistic post-season goals, i.e., the ACC Finals and the NCAA’s second weekend.

But it’s more likely that what you see now is what you’ll get over the next 30 to 40 days of Irish hoops: 6 against the world.

“We always have to have that ready,” said Brey of the re-insertion of a second big man alongside Colson. “Two big guys and play some zone. But we’re putting 80 (points) up on the board now. We’re in an offensive rhythm. That’s really important for us. That’s the most important thing for me right now.

“The way we’re playing on the offensive end is helping the four most important guys,” he continued. “Your role should be don’t screw up the ‘Big Four.’ It’s a real simple rule: don’t screw up the Big Four if you’re the fifth guy.”

FOCUS ON FARRELL

A closer look at Saturday’s points (and passes) of interest:

-- Total assists for Matt Farrell: 9

-- Total Irish points produced from those passes: 21

-- Passes from Farrell (not credited as assists) that directly led to Irish buckets: 3 (for six points)

-- Failed Assists after Farrell Feeds: Two missed open wing 3s (six potential points)

-- Points off the Dribble by Farrell: 10 of his 15 (plus both of his free throws following penetration)

-- Irish three-point buckets courtesy Farrell: 6 of the 7 total (three assisted, three field goals)

-- Combined plus/minus by Farrell/Colson: +31 (+16 Farrell)

Farrell is a dominant passer of the basketball.

-- Shot Fakes Are Your Friend: Florida State blocked 11 Irish shots in its 83-80 win over Notre Dame in Tallahassee last month. They blocked just six last night while the Irish rejected four of their own.

-- Home Cookin’ for the Big Four: In addition to Colson’s career-high of 33 points last night, V.J. Beachem posted his four-season best point total, 30, in a home win over Syracuse. Steve Vasturia turned the trick in a South Bend victory against Louisville with a career-high 24 while Matt Farrell matched his best of 22 against the Cardinals as well.

https://youtu.be/opukn1wWluk


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