Is anyone else thankful that the obsession with Notre Dame basketball seems to have calmed down? I admit, I'm KIND of surprised they've fallen as far as losing to Cincinnati (not a bad team, but not particularly great either) but I'm surprised it's taken that long before they really started to raise some eyebrows...and not in a good way.
Notre Dame is not a BAD team--how can you be when you boast a fantastic player like Luke Harangody and a kid like McAlarney who can hit from the parking lot? They certainly deserved the attention and expectations that came their way in the preseason. But their current resume leaves much to be desired and it's surprising that it's taken this long for people to figure out they might not be as powerful as everyone thought they were. Their losses before the Louisville game on Jan. 12 may have been overlooked, but the Cardinals exposed several weaknesses that have been plaguing the Irish throughout their Big East season. This is a team that only rotates 7 players, can't run and plays no transition defense--all it takes is a deep team with a little bit of speed to wear them out. Harangody, who gives a phenomenal effort night in and night out, simply can't do it all himself. To take that one further--it may better when he doesn't. In Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh, Harangody had a quiet first half: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 of 11 from the field and yet Notre Dame held the 45-39 lead at the break. Multiple teammates stepped up to the plate, including Luke Zeller (18 points in the first half), who seemingly couldn't miss a 3. In the second half, ND fed Harangody again and again...but essentially, he was the only one. Although he's the strongest player on the team, it makes you wonder if Mike Brey will work on coming up with a new strategy anytime soon to spread the love and perhaps a few more wins.
In ND's defense, the Big East IS the toughest league in the nation right now and most of those losses have come against extremely talented teams...but Notre Dame still needs to prove they're legit...and if the Irish don't pull some big victories out of their remaining schedule, they may be looking at an early exit come March.
On the flip side, HELLO XAVIER! I haven't had much of an opportunity to watch them this season, but they're using their game against Temple to announce their #9 ranking is not a fluke. Draining 3s, great defense and Derrick Brown and his sick dunks....this is a fun team to watch.
PS--Props the Xavier guys proudly standing head-to-toe in blue body paint...now THAT'S hardcore dedication.