We found an assistant coach from a recent Notre Dame opponent willing to talk about the Irish under the condition his name not be used. Here is his report on Wichita State’s Sweet 16 opponent:
▪ Notre Dame’s shooting and offensive efficiency numbers are among the tops in the nation, and not top 10 or 20. They’re top three in several categories and any look at the Irish starts with offense.
“If you let them go free and let them do whatever they want, it’s going to be a long night,” our assistant coach said. “If your ball-screen coverage is not very good, they’re going to expose you. Once you make it a dog fight, you’ve got a chance. You can crawl up in them a little bit, just know that (forcing turnovers) is not going to happen over and over. You’re going to have to grind it out.”
▪ Notre Dame makes 58.3 percent of its two-point shots, tops nationally, and 38.9 percent of its threes, which ranks No. 20. “You better get back in transition,” he said. “They are really good in the open court. They’ve got four guys on the floor who can really shoot. If they get you in scramble mode, you’re really in trouble.”
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▪ The Irish don’t block many shots and the Shockers may find success in the lane.
“We were trying to attack,” he said. “Attack and make them guard for longer periods of time and hope that wears them out. You’ve got to make them work and you can get shots.”
▪ Much of what the Irish do depends on guard Jerian Grant, who leads them in assists (6.6) and scoring (16.8). He shoots 32 percent from three-point range and his 150 attempts rank second on the team. He is 5 for 28 from three-point range in the past eight games. In NCAA wins over Northeastern and Butler, he played every minute.
“Some people try to take him out, total denial,” our assistant coach said. “The deal with him is, he’s a willing passer. They’ve got other good players and just because you totally take him out doesn’t mean you’re going to win. We were able to corral him a little bit. We were able to get up in him.”
▪ Notre Dame center Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s best scorers when he rolls to the basket after setting a screen. He is shooting 60.4 percent from the field and likes to score over his left shoulder. “He rim runs and makes you collapse and help,” our assistant coach said. “Grant is such a great passer throwing it to the rim.”
▪ Senior Pat Connaughton is a 6-5 forward with good range and he leads ND with 34 blocks, 10 more than Auguste. He is Notre Dame’s leader. “Just a tough kid,” our assistant coach said. “He’s sneaky athletic. He’s physical defensively and can really shoot the ball.”
▪ Sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson is a 2013 McDonald’s All-American pick. He started 15 games as a freshman and improved considerably this season at point guard. “He’s a stud,” our assistant coach said. “He didn’t play much last year and didn’t play, but he stayed the course. He’s really athletic. He drives it. He worked on his jump shot. His improvement from freshman to sophomore year is outstanding.”
▪ Sophomore guard Steve Vasturia averages 9.6 points and is another excellent shooter. While the Shockers can’t let players such as Vasturia get their feet set for jumpers, Notre Dame’s shooters can hurt sloppy or over-eager defenders with fakes and drives.
“Him and Connaughton are very similar,” he said. “He prefers catch-and-shoot. He is capable of putting the ball on the floor. They love attacking bad closeouts.”
▪ Irish coach Mike Brey doesn’t go deep into his bench. Sophomore forward V.J. Beachem plays 15.4 minutes a game and made 42 of 100 three-pointers. Freshman forward Bonzie Colson plays 12 minutes and averages 5.6 points.
▪ The Irish will play man-to-man defense, perhaps going to a 2-3 zone. Their offensive reputation exceeds theirs on defense, but it’s not what our coach considered a weak spot.
“They’re not reluctant defenders, but it’s not what they’re built on,” he said. “They do have quick hands. If you’re lazy, they’ll knock the ball away.”