ACC Basketball

Notre Dame Ready For Their Boston Bye-Week

SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ

HOW DID THEY GET HERE:
The Notre Fighting Irish are 23-4 overall, sitting in second place in the ACC at 11-3. While their SOS will impress few, two of their four loses have come to teams expected to earn top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, so they got that going for them. Since losing that 30-point blowout to the Blue Devils, they’ve rebounded nicely, taking down Clemson on the road and beating a pesky Wake Forest team at home.

On the flip side, Boston College hasn’t tasted victory since January 25, losing seven straight. They are 9-16 overall and their 1-12 record in the ACC is good enough for last place. At least this will be their toughest match up remaining on their schedule and they get it at home.

PREVIOUS GATHERING:
These two faced off back on February 4 and it wasn’t even close. The Irish opened up the first 10 minutes of the game on a 26-7 run and then put it on cruise control the rest of the way. A 7-0 run late in the game got the Eagles back to within nine, but that’s the closest it got. Despite not hitting a two-point shot, Jerian Grant hit four threes and scored 17 points, dishing out seven assists. Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan led all scorers with 28.

FIVE NOT-SO-DEEP THOUGHTS

  • This match up features two of the better guards in the nation, led alone the ACC. Let’s start off with the one who plays for Notre Dame, because this team’s Final Four hopes live or die based on Jerian’s Grant’s play. Luckily for them he’s pretty damn good. He’s averaging 17.3 points, 6.4 assists and nearly two steals per contest. He runs the pick-and-roll like an NBA pro and can do lots of damage with high screens. A good defensive team could force him off his spots and dare him to beat them deep…too bad B.C. is not a good defensive team.
  • Oliver Hanlan doesn’t get the press that Grant does (that happens when your team owns the conference basement), but he’s a stud surrounded by duds. Already leading his team in scoring, he’s exploded in his last five, averaging 27.6 points per game, breaking 30 three times. While he can do damage from deep (he did hit six threes against Notre Dame), it’s his penetration that breaks down opponents. Even though foes know he’s coming, he’s still made 35 of his last 55 shots from inside the arc.
  • The problem with Boston College is, they are basically a two-man team now with Hanlan and guard Aaron Brown. Sure, every now and then a third player will score 10 points, but typically in ACC play, Hanlan and Brown are the only two who reach double figures. In fact, the dynamic duo account for 57% of the Eagles’ points. Facing a weak Irish defense that struggles guarding the three-point line, doesn’t force turnovers and commits too many fouls, there is no reason why both Hanlan and Brown won’t have a great game offensively.
  • The battle in the interior won’t be much of a battle. Boston College’s power forward is Patrick Heckmann, a three stuck playing the four. He and 6-11 Will Magarity would rather be shooting threes than fighting for buckets under the rim. This leaves Dennis Clifford. The 7-footer is the closest thing to a third option on offense (he averages just 6.8 per game). He’s also a decent enough rebounder when he gets position, but he’s not a good defender and I don’t see him matching up well with the pick-and-roll. For the Irish, the only true big man is Zach Auguste, but he has come up small lately. After scoring 16 points against Boston College back on February 4, he’s simply disappeared. Of course the problem is that in his last three games he’s faced three solid big men, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Clemson’s Landry Nnoko and Wake Forest’s Devin Thomas. He’s struggled to compete with those guys and his minutes have suffered. He hasn’t played more than 19 minutes in any of his last three games, making just three baskets. Clifford is big, but he’s slow and if Auguste can’t rediscover his grove against this weak interior, then Mike Brey could have problems moving forward.
  • Of course Notre Dame doesn’t win games because of great defense or interior play, they win games with the long ball, because chicks dig the long ball. The Irish have cooled lately having produced a few 9-28 or 8-24 games, although thanks to a ton of attempts, they still make a ton of threes. Against one of the worst teams in the nation at stopping the three, Pat Connaughton, Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem should have plenty of open looks from deep and will lead the Irish to victory.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Notre Dame, 84-69

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