Hoops Notebook: Irish Ready For Postseason Play
Notre Dame won’t know its opponent for Thursday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal game until Wednesday evening.
It will likely be 19th-ranked Virginia. It might not be. For the third-seeded Irish — who received a double-bye for the tournament, held in Brooklyn, N.Y. this year — that’s not the focus.
“You’ve got to start thinking about certainly Virginia, whose definitely had our number. But in our league, who the heck knows?” head coach Mike Brey said before practice Monday. “You really don’t do much in practice specifically with preparation for either group until the day of your shootaround, and you’ve got plenty of time because you don’t play until 10 o’clock at night.”
The Irish are likely to play the sixth-seeded Cavaliers on Thursday at 9 p.m., but earlier games often push the tip-off times back. First Virginia has to play No. 11 Georgia Tech and No. 14 Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame finished the regular season at 23-8 overall and 12-6 in the powerful ACC. The Irish have a double-bye in the league tournament for the third-straight season.
“We kind of look at it like it’s a new season,” senior guard Steve Vasturia said. “We did a great job, we finished up strong and had a really good regular season. Like we know the past couple years, we’ve got a chance to play for a long time still. Kind of flush everything that’s happened and get ready for the new season.”
Brey said practices won’t be matchup-specific until Wednesday, when the Irish will have a better idea of the opponent. Regardless, Notre Dame has a good idea of every team it’ll face in the tournament.
“You get to this point in the season, it’s you,” Brey said. “You kind of know the other teams. It’s keeping guys sharp, you want to keep the conditioning up, but yet you don't’ want to go too long and get anybody hurt. It’s a fine line.”
Star junior forward Bonzie Colson has one season of eligibility remaining, though the All-ACC first-teamer could elect to test the NBA waters — without hiring an agent — and return for the 2017-18 season.
Brey said through discussions with Colson’s family, he’s not sure if the New Bedford, Mass., native, will even do that. Brey said he had to push senior wing V.J. Beachem to enter his name last summer.
“I don’t even know if he’ll do that,” Brey said. “I’m not sure he’ll want to do that. I actually pushed V.J. to do it, and when that time comes, maybe thats a discussion and a tone I need to take with mom and dad.”
With with the topic looming, Brey said Colson has handled his success and uncertain future well.
“Maybe of all the guys that I’ve had, I’m less worried about distractions of, ‘Is he an NBA guy?’ or ‘Should he test the waters?’” Brey said of Colson. “He has been very focused and the family has been, ‘He’s a four-year guy, he needs four years.’
“That’s probably true, but we’ve got to sit down and have an open mind and really talk about things and see if he wants to put his name in.”
• Notre Dame was the only team to have four players recognized on the All-ACC teams released Sunday. Colson was a first-teamer and finished third in the Player of the Year voting, while Beachem, Vasturia and junior guard Matt Farrell all made Honorable Mention.
“It’s very powerful to have four of our guys on there,” Brey said. “No other team had four guys recognized. We’re really proud of that, and those four guys deserved it. The were starting the season with a Big Three which became and Big Four, and all four got recognized.”
• Though it doesn’t play until Thursday night, Notre Dame traveled to New York on Monday night.
Notre Dame will hold two practices while in New York. The Irish will workout at John Jay College in Manhattan on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s the same place the Irish practiced when they played at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.
So how exactly will the Irish spend those days in New York?
“Just hanging out watching games,” Vasturia said. “Obviously it’s a fun week not only to play but be a fan. There’s going to be games all week and practicing. Just hanging out with family whose around, relaxing and getting some rest.”
“It’s going to be a lot of Netflix for guys,” Beachem said. “Coach is always great at making sure everybody is ready to go when the time is ready.”
• Notre Dame wore gold jerseys for all six of its games during a late-season winning streak. That lucky run was snapped this past Saturday at Louisville, but Beachem expects the Irish to keep wearing gold.
“I think we’re going to be rocking gold,” Beachem said. “Keep going for gold for now. You’ve got to lose at some point in life, but we’ll wear gold.”
• Though Vasturia has struggled to shoot the ball of late, he said his confidence remains high. Over the past six games, he’s just 5-of-29 (17.2 percent) from 3-point range, down from his season average of 32.9 percent.
“During the season there’s going to be some ups and downs,” Vasturia said. “I might not have been shooting it my best the last couple games, but it’s a new season and we’ve got a chance to play another day. That’s the most important thing and for me, I’m trying to help this team win games and I’m going to try and contribute in any way possible.”