Notre Dame Basketball: Will All Offense, No Defense Result in Big East Title?
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish fit in among the nation's top offensive teams. Notre Dame leads the country in assists per game and currently sits at 20th in field-goal percentage.
Coach Mike Brey's squad has put together a strong NCAA tournament resume and remains in the Big East regular-season title race. Notre Dame (21-6, 9-5 in conference) is just one win behind first place in the standings, but tough upcoming road tests at Marquette and Louisville loom large.
No team in the Big East shoots as efficiently as the Fighting Irish, who are connecting on 48 percent of total field-goal attempts. Player of the Year Candidate Jack Cooley ranks ninth in the nation with a 59 percent conversion rate.
Despite Notre Dame's offensive accolades, it's still tough to trust this team in the Big East postseason tourney because of defensive deficiencies. The Fighting Irish are forcing the fewest turnovers among conference foes and tend to get caught in dangerous shootouts.
Notre Dame has come up with 274 turnovers through 27 games. The next lowest Big East total is 311 in 26 games for South Florida, a program currently alone in last place.
The Fighting Irish have surrendered at least 60 points in 13 of 14 conference contests. In the team's last two losses (at Providence, at Syracuse) Notre Dame struggled to overcome subpar offensive effort and couldn't keep up because of defensive breakdowns.
Great teams can rely on defensive stability when shots aren't falling. That's why it remains difficult to place an otherwise impressive Notre Dame squad with the Big East's upper echelon of elites.
Georgetown, currently locked in a three-way tie for first place in the conference, has limited Big East opponents to less than 60 points on seven occasions (5-2). Syracuse, another team battling for first, has accomplished the feat six times (6-0).
Notre Dame has done it just once, a 51-42 victory over Pittsburgh. When the Fighting Irish fail to score at least 70 points, this team is just 4-5 in conference action.
The Big East postseason tournament requires baseline-to-baseline defensive effort and offensive game plans often go awry under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. If Notre Dame is unable to identify and sure up particular issues, like a complete lack of transition game, the curtain will quickly close on this team's conference title chances.
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