Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

This week’s highlights include an Austin Carr sighting, Notre Dame’s nearly undefeated (football) February and the true definition of a winner.

1 – It wasn’t pretty, but it had teeth: If you missed Sunday night’s 64-60 Irish victory over Georgia Tech, well, you timed your absence well, because there wasn’t much to see aside from another outstanding effort from Notre Dame’s best player – and perhaps the ACC’s best player – Bonzie Colson and Notre Dame’s 11th win in 16 league games to date.

Aesthetically displeasing? Distractingly tiresome? Downright boring?

All of the above suffice regarding Sunday night, but not all hardwood winnings can be things of beauty over the course of an 18-game ACC grind.

The end result put the Irish one step closer to coveted double bye status and second-place finish is in sight.

Admitted Irish head coach Mike Brey post-game: “You have a real shot to get to Saturday night (ACC Championship) if you get the double bye. If you don’t get the double bye, it’s really, really hard to do that.”

2 – A Winner by any other name… Brey hit the nail on the head last night when he offered that senior Steve Vasturia and V.J Beachem – the most successful duo in Notre Dame Basketball history in terms of total victories – rank among the program’s “all-time winners.”

It’s not because they’ve technically won the most games as a class, that’s misleading as teams play more games today than did the glory teams of Irish past. (Let me put it this way: Harangody, Jackson, and Peoples won “more” games than did Tripucka, Wooldridge, and Jackson. Comparisons between the trios end there.)

Rather, it’s because of what Vasturia and Beachem have accomplished as a pair along the way (and remember, this occurred after a 2013-14 freshman campaign that ranks as Brey’s worst ever at any school):

  • 13 League Wins as sophomores
  • 11 League Wins as juniors
  • 11 League Wins and counting as seniors
  • An ACC Championship as sophomores
  • An ACC Semi-Finals appearance as juniors
  • An Elite 8 run as sophomores
  • An Elite 8 run as juniors
  • Poised for a pair of tournament runs as seniors
  • 17-7 in games decided by five points or less/overtime
  • 6-0 in overtime games
  • A 2016 NCAA All-Regional Selection for Beachem
  • A 2015 All ACC Tournament Selection for Vasturia

Vasturia and Beachem aren’t the top players in program history, they’re not even the top players from their Notre Dame recruiting class (that was early NBA entrant Demetrius Jackson) but they define what it means to be a winner in the sport.

That is: they’ve accomplished and likely will continue to accomplish far more than should be reasonably expected of them.

And they’ve done it with equal parts class, toughness, grit, and timely crunch-time heroics.

3 – February Flash: It’s a good month to be a Notre Dame Football fan.

  • A certified “Ship is Sinking” recruiting class of 2017 morphed instead into one that was decidedly solid (and it was spectacular considering what the new staff was recruiting against since season’s end)
  • The 2018 class has enough star power at present to rank second nationally per Scout.com
  • The program’s Strength & Conditioning unit received a much-needed overhaul and subsequent infusion of life
  • There are no games scheduled to prove the difference between off-season illusion or honest-to-goodness change and improvement

None of the above is worth more than an undefeated couple of months next fall, but putting your personal view of the program or its head coach aside, change was necessary, and as of this moment, it’s hard to argue with what Brian Kelly has attempted to put in place since mid-January.

4 – He Said It: Notre Dame shot just 10 of 29 from long range last night, and at least four of the misses were point-blank, open corner jump shots against Georgia Tech’s zone.

That effort – and the presence of all-time great Austin Carr in the media interview room – spawned the following spontaneous comment from Brey:

“I think we were abIe to escape tonight because of our defense. I thought our defense (suddenly noticing Carr)…I should have put you in the game Austin Carr. I looked over – I should have put you in. But I didn’t think you’d guard anybody…”

The program’s all-time leading scorer responded: “Just give me the ball, coach.”

Brey added: “You’d have made all those corner threes. You were drooling at those shots!”

You can make all kinds of jokes when you win, and as such, the self-proclaimed “loosest coach in America” continues to enjoy his three-year, Midas Touch existence.

5 – Overheard in my Kitchen: Declan (age 4): “Mommy, can you reach the crayons?” 

Answer: “The box or the green container?”

Declan: “The circ-- the hexagon. Wait, how many sides does that have?”

I admit I had to look it up (English major) to verify my guess was accurate…

6 – Hit Rates, Continued: The last two editions of the Musings have examined Notre Dame’s “Hit rate” over the last 10(plus) recruiting cycles along the offensive line (16 of 28), at quarterback (5 for 13/14 pending your opinion of Malik Zaire’s career) and wide receiver (a roundabout arrival at 18 of 25 with three pending).

This week, the running backs:

2007: Robert Hughes and Armando Allen – Three of their four offensive lines stunk out loud…Hits relatively speaking? Is that fair?
2008: Jonas Gray – Hit
2009: Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood – Two Hits
2010: Cam Roberson – Injury Miss
2011: George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel – Relatively speaking, they didn’t Hit, though McDaniel was a team captain.
2012: Will Mahone and C.J. Prosise – A Miss and an epic, late blooming Hit. (RB prospect KeiVarae Russell will be counted with the CBs).
2013: Greg Bryant, Jr. and Tarean Folston – Miss (transfer) and Hit
2014: None (and they weren’t burned by it in future seasons)
2015: Josh Adams and Dexter Williams – Hit and Pending
2016: Tony Jones, Jr. and Deon McIntosh – Pending

Final verdict: Three standouts (Gray, Riddick, Adams), plus one standout with baggage (Wood), and one dynamite revelation after three position switches (Prosise). Add to that a few relative hits (Folston, Hughes and Allen, I’d argue) and a solid guy (McDaniel) against and the Irish running back recruiting machine has been decidedly…just above average.

Prosise’s evolution and late development really swings the balance to the positive side of the ledger.  

7 – Five names for next week: Spring ball starts on March 8 and Brian Kelly will hold a press conference prior. These are the five most important names you’ll hear in his opening address or ensuing Q&A:

  • Daniel Cage (Concussion concerns at ND’s most vulnerable position)
  • Alizé Jones (Return of the Mack?)
  • Chase Claypool (Where are you using him! WE DEMAND ANSWERS!)
  • Early enrollee Isaiah Robertson (My pick to click this spring)
  • And Kevin Stepherson (There’s been smoke but with not yet traceable fire.)

8 – Chronologically Off-the-Cuff: Steve Vasturia, Pat Connaughton, David Graves, Daimon Sweet (as a senior), and Bill Hanzlik.

None of the above was the best player on their respective teams – but try to find an Irish squad over the last 40 years they wouldn’t automatically make better by their mere presence in the rotation.

9 – Beyond the Numbers: Interesting stat unearthed because irishman50 posed a related question our message board today.

Here are the best-to-worst three-point shooting efforts by Notre Dame over the last two seasons in ACC and NCAA tournament action:

- Michigan (1st Round 2016): 8-15 – won by 7
- UNC (ACC Championship 2015): 10-20 – won by 8
- UNC (Elite 8 2016): 9-18 – lost by 14
- Wichita State (Sweet 16 2015): 9-19 – won by 11
- Miami (ACC Quarters 2015): 9-22 (started a remarkable 7-for-8) – won by 7
- SF Austin (2nd Round 2016): 6-17 – won on last-second tip-in
- Duke (ACC Semis 2016): 7-19 – won by 5 in OT
- Northeastern (1st Round NCAA 2015): 2-6 – won by 4
- Kentucky (Elite 8 Loss 2015): 4-14 – lost by 2
- Duke (ACC Semis Win 2015): 2-8 won by 10
- UNC (ACC Semis Loss 2016): 5-19 – lost by 31

If you’re looking for a common thread to differentiate the three defeats against Notre Dame’s 10 post-season victories (10!) over the last two seasons, I believe I’ve found it, and it is indeed revelatory: 

In their three defeats, Notre Dame lost to the most talented team in the sport that season. And those teams were very, very tall.

The end.

Until next week, Irish fans…


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