vs. Notre Dame 2/18/2023

Well. I wrote after the Louisville game that the good thing about “concerning” wins is that you get to learn from them and make adjustments without it hurting your resume/standings. It is concerning, though, when you make a lot of the same mistakes in the following game and have a similar performance against a similar team.

The fact of the matter is that Notre Dame put themselves in position to win the game, and would have, if Dane Goodwin had hit a shot he makes 38.5% of the time. Sure, the odds were still in our favor that he wouldn’t – but being on the precipice of a very bad loss because a poor-quality opponent missed an open look is not where we want to be right now. I’ve noticed a decent amount of chatter among some fans about how we’re 11-1 over our last twelve and are the “hottest” major program right now. While technically true, sometimes W/L record obscures real issues and concerns. The best programs and coaches (as I’m sure CTB surely is right now) realize that a win may be a win in the standings, but not all wins are created equal when it comes to how we should view the state of how the team is playing and the amount of improvement needed to accomplish long term goals. Think of it this way: should the only thing framing our view of how our team played on Saturday be shaped by whether or not our opponent hit a good look from outside or not? Of course not.

The free throw shooting improved (although not necessarily when we needed it the most at the end), missing bunnies around the rim did not. Those are things that I think are variable and I’m not concerned about our ability to clean up. The most worrisome aspect, to me, is that we doubled (tenfold?) down on the issue that I’ve been harping on for a while now, despite the clear evidence in this game that it was not our best option in this game – the BVP and Gardner frontcourt pairing (along with a foray into the four-guard lineup that also didn’t work). The fact of the matter is, since Shedrick went to the bench for BVP starting in the Florida State game, all of the games where we’ve looked our best, Shedrick and Dunn have had close to 30 combined minutes between them (VT at home, Wake, B.C., N.C. State). It doesn’t even matter which of the two it is, it can be heavy on one and minimal on the other. Against Wake, Dunn played a full 30 minutes and Shedrick played 3. Against N.C. State, Shedrick played 27 and Dunn played 2. The most important factor is finding which of the two is playing best (or if both are playing well, also good) and getting that player on the floor so that we have the athleticism, rim-protection and rim-running to couple with one of our primary scoring forwards. We played best against Duke with Dunn and BVP, we had the horrific second half against Pitt when we sat Shedrick for a prolonged period and played Gardner/BVP, the discrepancy between the two VT games is stark, etc., etc., etc. Conversely, in the loss @VT, Dunn played 10 minutes and Shedrick didn’t play, in the Louisville game, they combined for 14 minutes, BVP/Gardner have a negative scoring margin when they play together, etc., etc., etc…. And yet, this still isn’t something we’ve adjusted to yet or that CTB seems to agree with as a problem. In both of the past two games, we’ve started the game with them, started the second half with them, played them for the most combined run, and closed the game with them. Against Louisville, we were up 10 with about 5 minutes left, put both in to close, and barely hung on. In the game on Saturday, we were up 5 with about 7 minutes left, put both in to close (except for one Ryan Dunn defensive possession that was crucial), scored 7 points the rest of the way, and had the ending that we did.

In this ND game, Dunn and Shedrick combined for only 20 minutes and were on the floor for the majority of the time we increased our lead. Dunn was especially effective during his time. So, for this review, I’m just going to walk through the game flow in this one, pinpointing the frontcourt pairings and, as always, with some clips to illustrate points.

The Beginning

Notre Dame was an interesting matchup because they’re a big team. None of their starting guards are under 6’4″, and they’ve recently been bringing one of their best players, 6’6″ Dane Goodwin off the bench (but only technically, he still played 36 minutes). In the frontcourt they feature 6’10” Nate Laszewski, who is primarily a perimeter player, shooting the ball at over a 42% clip from three. So, basically, even though they had size on us across most positions, they’re still a finesse team who prefers to shoot it from deep and when they do take it inside it’s typically to exploit an open look or to use their size to shoot a jump shot off of the bounce. Defensively, this game called for both length and mobility to be able to get out and effectively contest shots across all five positions.

The game started with about 5 minutes of Small Ball with Gardner and BVP and then about another 5 minutes of Shedrick playing alongside BVP. It was a bit of a feeling out process where both teams got quite a few quality looks and were able to convert from outside. I would say it was best characterized by the following clips:

In this one below, you see that we go to our 5-Out in transition with Shedrick and BVP in the frontcourt. N.D. had clearly done their homework on this and tried their best to bring help side defense into the lane whenever possible. Dane Goodwin leaves Franklin from the offside to help on the drive, leaving Cormac Ryan to have to recover to both Franklin and Beekman. Ryan sags a little too far into the lane (perhaps initially thinking he would be the drive help) and Clark does a good job hanging in air to find the best kick out option. Beekman, in a good sign, hits the wide-open look.

On the other way on the very next possession, though, you’ll see N.D. immediately answer. N.D. runs the pick and roll against Clark and Shedrick. 6’5″ Trey Wertz is the primary ball handler and he snakes his way around the screen and gets into the lane, Shedrick sags and keeps himself between he and the basket. As he starts to get into the lane, BVP just takes one false step on the help side toward the dribbler, creating far too much space between he and Laszewski, who catches the kick out and buries the three.

I think some of that play above is just BVP under-estimating Laszewski’s shooting ability this early in the game, but it also illustrates one of the few things I think we could concretely learn from the first ten minutes. BVP was struggling to defend so much space. His footspeed/quickness and lack of comparative length compared to the players he was guarding was making it difficult for him to rotate, recover, and contest shots effectively.

Back the other way, in the next clip below, we see a good contribution by him on offense, though. They end up running the Triangle with Shedrick, BVP, and Franklin in the interior and with Clark and Beekman on the wings. This is a cool little variation where they throw the ball into Shedrick in the extended post, clearing out the back end. BVP attempts to set a back screen for Franklin, which doesn’t work, so he pops to the three-point line where he receives the ball. Now, Franklin doesn’t continue screening, he flares out into the corner. BVP is able to drive, draw Franklin’s defender, and kick to the corner for the open three.

But then, back the other way again, though, we still concede the trade-off. BVP does a good job of initially riding Goodwin through the lane to defend the screen action N.D. set on Franklin near the baseline. We rotate well to shut the initial play down. N.D. gives it to Laszewski on the wing where Shedrick is defending, and he attempts to take him off of the dribble. Shedrick does a good job moving his feet and being physical/not conceding ground when Laszewski attempts to force the shot through him; temporarily dislodging the ball. Laszewski then kicks it back out to Goodwin who Franklin flies out to attempt to close-out on, allowing him the blowby dribble. N.D.’s Matt Zona seals BVP, and Goodwin is able to use his size to keep Franklin on his back to hit the midrange jumper while BVP isn’t able to impact the shot.

Shortly after this both Shedrick and BVP are replaced with Dunn and Gardner, which we’ll look at momentarily. At this point of the game, our offense was functioning fine, but we were unable to consistently get stops on the other end to extend the lead. The main culprit to this point was BVP’s mobility/length. His pairing with Gardner lacked size and offensive spacing, his pairing with Shedrick improved our defense with Shedrick taking Laszewski, but combined they still didn’t have great foot or recovery speed as a unit and still conceded too much the other way.

Ryan Dunn Run

Ryan Dunn entered the game with 10:19 left to go in the first half and left with 2:20 to go. In his time on the floor, our lead grew to 9 points, our largest of the game. He didn’t score a single point, collected one rebound, and got two steals during his time, but his defense, and his pairings with a variety of other frontcourt combinations, held N.D. scoreless for the first SIX minutes he was on the floor, and was clearly a struggle for N.D. to play through. Let’s take a good look at some of these sets.

Dunn initially started at the 5 with Gardner at the 4. Interestingly, this is the only frontcourt pairing that’s gotten run that’s been worse over the season than the BVP/Gardner pairing, albeit on a much smaller sample size. Normally, Gardner doesn’t provide the spacing that BVP does on offense, so the spacing that Dunn adds is negated, and Dunn is still not strong enough to cover most true centers in the ACC. In this game, however, Laszewski as a preferred perimeter player did not have the physicality to punish Dunn for guarding him, quite the opposite, and Gardner’s plus quickness compared to either BVP or Shedrick helped when getting out to shooters. This was, in my opinion, our best pairing in this one, certainly defensively (which also highlights that there’s really no one-size fits all with this frontcourt – and of the pairings between the four can be best – BVP and Gardner can be great against a zone if their defense is good enough).

Here we see ways in which the offense could be fine with this duo (likely the biggest concern if they played extended minutes). This is a variant of the Triangle that they like to use when BVP is off the floor, initially running it more like sides with Gardner setting a ball screen for Reece on the wing and Dunn, who is playing on the inside of the Triangle which he normally doesn’t when BVP plays, kind of unsure of where to go. Unfortunately, he brings his man into the play, which cuts off Beekman’s probe into the lane. He collects the ball and resets with Beekman (IMK and Clark still on the wings). This time, Dunn sets a ball screen for Beekman at the top of the key, and Gardner more savvily (and threateningly because he loves that shot) fades into the short corner, drawing his man. N.D. switches the screen and Beekman just blows by the mismatch for the dunk.

On the defensive end, look at this possession below. It’s easy to spot how much quicker Dunn is than either BVP or Shedrick when defending these pick and roll actions or when recovering to Laszewski. The defense is much more active and disruptive here, initially with Dunn hard hedging a pick and roll with Clark and quickly recovering to Laszewski in the corner. Beekman is disruptive on the ball and Gardner plays sag defense on his man through that pick and roll. Dunn, having since worked his way up to shadow Laszewski, shows at the ball handler only to quickly recover to Laszewski for a very good contest on the three-point attempt, forcing the miss. Fantastic defensive series from Dunn on this one and really addressing most of, if not all, of the defensive issues we were having earlier.

Back on the offensive end, this isn’t the most ideal pairing of the Triangle – but it was effective? This time both IMK and Clark join Gardner on the inside of the Triangle after Dunn sets an initial ball screen for Clark that doesn’t lead to anything. Dunn and Beekman are on the wings. Theoretically, I don’t love this pairing because the screen actions won’t likely lead to much, but they play it really smart; IMK just extends outside of the three-point line straight away. This leaves Clark, who receives the ball in the high post, isolated with his man in space, and he takes full advantage with the blowby and finish. Notice how Gardner times his “back screen” for Dunn with Clark’s drive. There’s really no threat of this screen leading to anything, especially based on where Dunn is and how Gardner sets it – it’s simply a diversion to get his man to follow him and to distract Dunn’s man so neither are focused on helping on the Clark drive. Heady stuff.

Back on defense, now, here’s another really solid defensive possession! These were noticeably different than those we were seeing at any time prior to Dunn stepping onto the floor. Initially he’s there to shut down Goodwin’s drive on Beekman while quickly stepping out to Laszewski. He sags on a curl to keep the drive by IMK’s man from getting momentum into the lane, while still making any pass to his own man unpalatable. He is aggressive about keeping the ball away from Laszewski in the post, then helps on the pick and roll defense with Beekman and Gardner and finally, hedges for Clark on ANOTHER ball screen while recovering to Laszewski, and setting Clark up to force a tough shot as the shot clock expired. Dunn was EVERYWHERE this defensive possession.

Another Clark drawn foul later, we actually see a pretty interesting wrinkle that we haven’t seen in a while; Dunn at the three with both Gardner and BVP on the floor and with Clark and IMK as the guards. We haven’t seen Dunn at the 3 since early in the season. This grouping didn’t last long as Gardner got flopped on and drew a charge, resulting in him leaving after three possessions each way. The defense remained strong with this group, as you’ll see with the clip below. They actually moved Dunn onto Cormac Ryan (versatility!). Throughout this clip, he’s mostly camped on the wing. Gardner defends a pick and roll well (Gardner was on Goodwin, adding some physicality to the defense of him). IMK defends his man well after he rejects a ball screen from Laszewski. Eventually, the ball gets to Cormac Ryan, who takes a dribble handoff from Laszewski and attempt to fire, but Dunn has a lengthy contest on him, he misses, and Gardner collects the rebound after doing a good job of boxing Goodwin into the baseline.

Offensively, though, you can see where this group may have had issues. On two separate occasions, Dunn gets the ball on the perimeter with some space. The first time, BVP has it in the post, Gardner and IMK playing on the interior of the Triangle with him. Gardner sets a pin down on Dunn’s man and, seeing Dunn open, BVP whips a good pass across the defense. Dunn isn’t wanting to shoot the shot, though, so instead he dribbles through the middle of the lane unthreateningly before resetting through Clark and moving to the other wing. Clark sends it over to IMK who passes back to BVP who relocated to the top of the three-point line. With Gardner attempting to pin his man above him and threatening a lob pass backdoor, Dunn’s man sags off of him, threatening to defend the pass. Instead, BVP finds Dunn with space again and this time he shoots it, but misses badly. Gardner actually collects the offensive rebound but then loses it attempting to get it back outside.

Dunn was willing to shoot open looks earlier in the season and made a few. He seems more hesitant now, and it does appear that defenses are scouting and adjusting accordingly. With the lineup on the floor that we had, N.D. was able to balance defending Gardner on the interior, because when we play Dunn at the 4 and BVP at the 5, there’s no one to help on the inside and there are more threats to shoot/drive on the outside. Similarly, BVP wasn’t a big threat to drive from the outside, so that placed less tension on the defense. Collectively, they were able to help off of Dunn more aggressively and usefully and he wasn’t able to punish them in this instance. Interestingly, on the next play Gardner got the charge called on him, CTB countered all of this by designing a pure isolation for Gardner in the post. Was neat to see the offensive strategy evolving. Either way, Jayden left at this point and we went to true Smaller Ball with Dunn at the 4 and BVP at the 5.

It was at this point that Dunn started playmaking on defense. Laszewski was out of the game for this stretch and he was stifling on Goodwin. First getting steals here:

And here when helping on the dribble drive:

But it was also the best collective defense we played with BVP on the floor at the five. Now, surely that was because Laszewski wasn’t on the floor, but remember that Dunn had just taken him out of the offense, so N.D. was giving him a rest and also trying to play smaller. But Dunn on their best offensive player for this stretch in Goodwin, allowed for sets like these below that resulted in contested threes and almost a shot clock violation:

Offensively, more of the same thing that we’ve always seen from the BVP/Dunn pairing – SPACE in the middle of the floor. In this case, IMK, Beekman, and BVP are playing the middle of the Triangle with Franklin and Dunn on the wings, IMK stretches the defense outside, Beekman keeps his man plastered to him, and BVP just makes a nifty backdoor cut which Franklin finds him for the easy layup.

And another look (N.D. finally scored before this on a three as a result of BVP getting caught too far in the lane again) of IMK flashing his improved playmaking skills off of the dribble, facilitated by the clean driving lane that opened with Beekman pulling to the opposite wing and creating the opening to IMK’s right.

This is where Dunn was subbed out – after 10 minutes of play with the team leading 27-18 (after IMK’s free throw). Notre Dame had scored 3 points over 8 minutes and we’d grown our lead by 7, to what would be our biggest lead of the game. From here, Dunn played TWO minutes the rest of the game!!! More on this to come.

Smallest Ball

Up 9, we elected to close the half with our four guards and BVP as the big man… it did not go well.

Here you’ll see N.D. just push the ball up quickly after an IMK miss and hit a three in transition:

Then you’ll see a blown coverage where no one picks up Laszewski for BVP in transition after another miss:

And this is the play at the end of the half where Hammond just takes IMK off of the dribble (the ball screens from Laszewski didn’t create advantage) and Franklin was too reluctant to help off of Goodwin in the corner.

In two minutes, we bled the 9 point lead we’d build to 4. Even more odd, N.D. called a timeout before this play. Why wouldn’t we consider getting Dunn back in here for defense on this possession?

Capping a 13-2 Run

Notre Dame carried the momentum through the half as we brought our starters back out and continued to take advantage of BVP’s defense. In this clip below you’ll see Nate Laszewski cap off their 13-2 run against us that started as soon as Dunn left the game in the first half. He beats BVP off of the dribble through the lane and finishes at the rim, taking our 4 point lead at halftime to a 2 point deficit against the starters. Recall both how Shedrick handled this drive attempt earlier in the game and how he didn’t even attempt it against Dunn.

From here, we tied the game at 31 and BVP came out. You’d think this would have been a perfect time to bring back Dunn, considering how things were going before he left and how they went after he did. Instead, we went Ultra-Smallest Ball with the rarely used (under 30 total possessions all season) Beekman, Clark, Franklin, IMK, Gardner lineup. It went a little better than you’d think, offensively, with Franklin getting an open dunk and carrying that momentum into a three, and Gardner getting to the line at the end of the session but defensively it was exactly as you’d expect.

Here, below, N.D. is actually able to get Laszewski matched up against Clark in the post. Obviously we immediately have to double team and they swing the ball well to find Goodwin for the open three:

And here’s another look. Interestingly, Franklin is actually matched up on Laszewski in this lineup. Gardner executes a quality hard hedge early in the possession and Clark is able to force a miss by Wertz in the mid-range, but Gardner does not box out Matt Zona well and he grabs the rebound. Then with Zona out of the lane, Wertz just bullies Clark into the paint and easily scores over him with no threat of help coming from anywhere.

We were able to tread water and keep the game tied at 36 all with this lineup (actually took the lead after Gardner free throws generated during the run), but it was just way too small and ineffective defensively. I remain confused at the decision to go with this group at this juncture of the game, as well. I absolutely understand the logic behind playing 4 guards against Notre Dame given the way that they play offense, but given how effective Dunn was in the first half and how ineffective the 4 guard lineup was to close the first half, I don’t understand the choice to going to this even smaller lineup before returning to Dunn, especially in response to N.D. having once taken the lead and the game being tied.

Nevertheless, we correctly realized that this grouping wasn’t going to be successful at this point and turned back to Kadin Shedrick to pair alongside Gardner for the next 4-5 minutes. This pairing was improved from the BVP/Shedrick pairing. Gardner’s quickness and Shedrick’s length paired better together defensively, and we’ve discussed in the past how Shedrick and Gardner work better as an offensive unit than Gardner with BVP or Dunn because Gardner can still get his mid-range buckets and Shedrick pulls the larger defender/commands attention around the rim.

Here in the clip below Shedrick sets a down screen for Gardner, who gives a pump fake, and gains advantage on his man. Shedrick’s man helps, drawing the double team, but Gardner is fine operating in close quarters and actually has the attention of three players. He probably had the lob to Shedrick available but it could have been tight quarters. Instead, he spins away from the double team and finds Beekman on the wing for the quality look. This is a great example of how when Gardner and Shedrick play together the lane IS still congested, but because of their playstyles, Gardner is able to function fine in limited space and Shedrick is always a threat to catch a pass near the rim for a dunk. This sucks attention into the lane, which can free up the outside. It’s kind of the inverse of Smaller Ball, but is still effective.

And here’s a look at the defense with the pairing with Gardner taking Laszewski and Shedrick on Zona. Gardner does a good job sagging through the pick and roll, Beekman does a good job getting narrow and staying with his man, and Shedrick gives Zona a strong contest on a shot he probably shouldn’t have been taking but felt compelled to with single digits on the shot clock.

Shedrick and Gardner both go out around the 9 minute mark, replaced by Dunn and BVP, up 47-43. Now, one thing I did notice and like about this, is that there was a glimmer of platooning Shedrick and Gardner with BVP and Dunn, the strategy that I love and have been calling for. On the whole, Shedrick was fine in this one. It wasn’t the best matchup for him given N.D.’s focus on the perimeter, but the team held ground and extended their lead when he was in the game. He helped secure the interior, had three boards and a steal in 10 minutes, and played solid perimeter defense on Laszewski when called to. He paired better with Gardner (as he often does), which also highlighted how Gardner was good in both pairings with Shedrick AND Dunn in this one.

Unfortunately, the BVP/Dunn grouping just didn’t see much time together in the second half, playing for another two minutes and building the lead by one point to 50-45. We also didn’t return to the Dunn/Gardner grouping that had been most effective in the first half until the second to last N.D. possession of the game.

Closing The Game

At just over 7 minutes left in the game, up 50-45, this is where we brought BVP and Gardner in together to close the game, not pulling them out again except for on one play we’ll discuss. From here, the team scored 7 total points over the final 7 minutes, watching the lead slowly erode to the eventual final two-point margin. The most concerning thing about this, to me, is that CTB pretty clearly looked at the margin and time of game, and went to the pairing he felt most comfortable with to close out/win the game… and he went to the group that, aside from the 4 guard lineup with BVP, had been struggling the most throughout the game. This tells me that, at least to this point in the season, he still trusts this group the most and views them as his best pairing, really regardless of what’s happened to that point in a contest.

During this stretch we didn’t just struggle to score, which we’ll talk about momentarily, we also continued to have the same issues defending that we’d been having. Here’s a clip below where, once again, BVP struggled to recover to and contest Laszewski on the three-point line after a simple pick and pop. Again, recall Dunn’s action on this during his big minute stretch earlier in the game.

Offensively, we really started to get bogged down during the final stretches of the game. This clip below is after they’ve pulled to within 3 with just over 2 minutes left. We need a score. The play looks set up to create distraction away from Beekman so that he can take his man off of the dribble. Unfortunately, he loses the ball and they have to reset. Clark attempts to run a two-man-game with Gardner but, without fear of Gardner popping outside, N.D. doubles down on their determination to allow Clark a clean lane by switching the screen. Laszewski just uses his length to shadow into the lane, Hammond sticks with Gardner, and Clark is forced to try to finish at the rim with a player a foot taller than him contesting the shot.

Pretty much the same look. This is like last year’s offense (and sometimes the 2020 offense) when we’d need a shot at the end of the game and Clark would feel like he had to force something among the trees. To be clear, I do not blame Clark for this play below – everyone else is kind of just standing around and deferring to him. There’s no confidence of anyone else to try to go and get a bucket. The spacing is bad, and Clark again has to try to take it inside and can’t get a good look. He kicks it out to Beekman who then ends up taking a runner in the lane as the shot clock expires. He certainly can hit this shot, but it’s another example of us needing offense in the clutch and trading an offensive set for isolation basketball off of the dribble with personnel that allows help at the rim. At the very least, play this through 5-Out with the personnel capable of enforcing the spacing.

Then back the other way, needing a stop now after not being able to score, Hammond just isolates Clark, uses his size advantage to play bully ball, and draws a foul. Notice, Gardner is right there – either Dunn or Shedrick could have helped to contest and/or just straight up block that shot, but Gardner is worried about the recovery to Laszewski and also doesn’t have the ability to really get into this play in an impactful way.

Finally, after Clark is fouled and sinks both free throws, CTB subs Dunn in for BVP to play defense on N.D.’s possession, up 3. Really interesting here, notice that Gardner and Beekman immediately switch on a ball screen, sending Beekman to cover Laszewski and leaving Gardner on Wertz. Dunn is on Goodwin. Wertz initially thinks about taking Gardner to the hoop, but he slides well and stays in front – having the size advantage here. Wertz swings it over to Goodwin who dribbles to his right to create space and attempts the three, but Dunn’s length is very relevant and he makes the shot difficult. Gardner crashes and secures the board and is fouled for the one-and-one. The biggest defensive stand to this point in the game and we finally put Dunn in to pair with Gardner for the first time since the first half. It goes as it had been going all game, Gardner’s mobility being helpful with N.D.’s interchanges and Dunn, in this case, being a nightmare for Goodwin (recall that he picked his pocket earlier and contested several of his shots).

After Gardner misses the front end of the one-and-one, we intentionally foul with 3.9 seconds left on the clock. N.D. hits the first and it seems likely that they’ll try to miss the second to attempt to tie or win. This is the play in question in the clip below where N.D. is able to clutter the middle, get a deflection that goes by Clark to Wertz, who finds Goodwin, who misses the open look at the buzzer. Everything except the outcome was the nightmare scenario.

The biggest thing that I wonder about this play is why we had our two smallest and least athletic forwards up there to help secure the rebound. I understand the theory that, if they collect the rebound, you want to be able to knock down free throws in the clutch and Dunn didn’t look good in his most recent opportunity @ Louisville. But Gardner had just missed the front end of one and shoots only 65%, and BVP shoots only 59%. Shedrick, meanwhile, shoots almost 80% from the line, while Dunn shoots 58%. It seems to me that the most important thing here would be securing the board. Getting fouled, even on a miss, would mean that N.D. would still have to advance the ball the full court and make a shot against a set defense. I’d have much preferred having Dunn and Shedrick in here, or even just Shedrick and Gardner.

In Conclusion

We were very fortunate to escape Saturday with a win. There is certainly more to the bigger picture of what’s going on than just the frontcourt pairing issue. For example, how often was Reece not taking this all the way to the rack earlier in the year, or at least trying?

But, this is certainly the largest issue and one over which we have the most control. The truth is, we almost lost this game because we went away from what was working with Dunn playing so well defensively. It was like we came into the game with an idea of what we wanted to try and when we wanted to try it and didn’t call an audible when one thing was working very well. Worse, we continue to try the thing that isn’t working very well the most often and in the most important moments.

There’s still plenty of time left in the season and, really aside from the road VT game and the second half of the Pitt game, this hasn’t burned us that often in terms of game outcome yet. But, I firmly believe that if this team is going to hit its stride come March and play up to the highest potential that we’ve seen from the group, we have to stop viewing the Gardner/BVP lineup as the “best” when, really, it’s one of the least effective. We must be truly willing to play the hot hand given who is playing best, the situation, and while stressing complimentary skillsets. Dunn was the hot hand in this one – not because he was actually scoring, but because his presence was the most impactful on the game offensively and, especially, defensively. Gardner was the hot hand in this one not because he was on fire by his standards, but because he was contributing on offense and his defense was best at complimenting Dunn and, to a lesser extent, Shedrick. So, the ideal play would have been to try to maximize their time together once we saw that and to use BVP when Gardner needed a break and Shedrick when Dunn needed a break.

There will be plenty of situations where other combinations are the “hot hand,” and I’d love to see that become our philosophy toward playing time in the frontcourt rather than forcing the pairing we’ve seen. It almost cost us Saturday and it likely will cost us down the road if we don’t make adjustments. With this team and this frontcourt, “best” needs to be fluid given any specific situation, not a universal.

One response to “vs. Notre Dame 2/18/2023”

  1. Astute analysis. Dunn essential, Van is not. Tries but too slow, not reliable shooter.
    My take on turning around is a tiny bit simpler. Our shooters
    Must practice shooting!! Mc and Reese especially, plus Dunn must become a threat. Reese must get his confidence back practicing his uncanny layups. These guys have regressed out of some fear of losing PT maybe insofar as aggressively looking for their Shot! That must be Ended!
    We on O must have LOTS more movement, cuts, screens, elevator and new ones — we stand around far too much. Mc must move off 3 pt line, wear his man out running thru dozens of screen ( like Havlicek) so when Mc gets to 3 line he has room – best shooter must shoot.
    Whole team must spend hours at the line!!!!
    We do not need 8 man rotation in odd proportions game to game. Gardner and Shed and Dunn interchange — rare use of Van . Just not his level , too slow, not a jumper, too likely to stray off his man! Unreliable 3 shooter. Good guy just out of his depth.

    I think overall we must play far more aggressively and prepare by tons more practice our shooting, picks, and quickness to the basket on drives With More Determination.
    Too often except Beekman when he sets his mind to it we go up to soft though Clarke must and it works lately.
    Last, at too many times in games Clarke takes the hottest guard voluntarily. Beekman must take their best shooter ! What in the world is that???
    Intimidating early doubles down low on a big who can shoot intimidates and stays in their mind- we must do it Early!!! To worry them.
    One curious thing: may be wrong but so many changes to our 5 is constant cause of slight confusion, less confidence . Play the right 5 of 7 and leave them in. Our team does Not need so much rest on bench!!!


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