Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Notre Dame Post Game: Hello? Anyone Home?

Muttering Ineffectually
In a game that will rival the St. Mary's loss in the round of 32 last March, the Wildcats coughed a gigantic, 93-72 hairball for a national audience Monday night. In a performance that epitomized February of 2010 and 2011, Villanova played virtually no defense while allowing Notre Dame to score just about any way they wanted at the Joyce Center in South Bend. The Irish fan-base must be ecstatic.

The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "Fisher's 22 Not Enough...", lead with the Notre Dame seniors complementing their staff and themselves over their terrific shooting performance. And who can blame them, really? How many times in a player's career will his team hit 20 three point shots? 60 of Notre Dame's 93 points (64.5%) were scored from beyond the arc. The breakdown (no pun intended) by halves...

Opponent:Notre Dame University
 Offense Defense
1st2ndGame 1st2ndGame

Down 20 at the Half...
The Wildcats controlled the opening tip, but Antonio Pena's miss 16 seconds into the game was Villanova's last chance this game to take the lead. Rebounded by Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame wing Carleton Scott hit a three point shot 12 seconds into their first possession and Notre Dame was off to the races. Villanova scored on consecutive possessions only twice in the half. And they never score on three consecutive possessions in that half.

Giving up 1.48 points followed by 1.41 points per possession in consecutive halves (see table above -- "Rate" is points per 100 possessions) might be unprecedented in the Jay Wright Era. The worst (possession-based) half recently was the second half of Villanova's 78-76 win over Marquette on January 9, 2010, where the 'Cats gave up 1.59 points per possession. Two halves of 1.4 or more however has not happened in the Ear of the Two Coreys. Truly a new low for a program that prides itself on tough defense (though with problems defending the three). The culprit was three point defense, a troublesome problem until the 2009 season, when defending the arc seemed to become a priority again. Notre Dame's 62.5 conversion rate, every bit the fluke it appears, was not only responsible for the win (note Notre Dame's two point conversion rate, 45.0% is actually below the Division 1 average of 47.8%) but also the blowout. To put into context, had Notre Dame attempted only two point field goal, the Irish would have had to convert at a 93.8% rate to yield as many points as they earned from their 62.5% three point conversion rate.

Notre Dame raises their record to 24-5 overall and 13-4 in conference play. The Irish finish the season at Connecticut Saturday, then prepare for their quarter final Big East Tournament game Thursday. Villanova's record drops to 21-9 overall and 9-8 in conference play. The Wildcats close out the season at Pittsburgh Saturday. They will then begin preparations for their Big East Tournament game, either Tuesday or Wednesday.

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