Notre Dame coach Mike Brey clearly had a unique take on how to contain Duke prodigy Jahlil Okafor on Wednesday night: he didn't. His strategy was to let Okafor do his thing and focus on attacking Duke in other areas. The approach was commendable, because Okafor mauled the Irish with 22 points and 18 boards on 10-18 shooting. Yet Brey stuck with a four guard approach and punished the Blue Devils on the perimeter for most of the evening. Jerian Grant did as he pleased all evening and was a pleasure to watch. Anyone who shoots 9/15 for 23 points against one of America's most talented teams is truly impressive. But that wasn't stat that stood out the most for Grant: he had TWELVE assists. Collectively, the Irish buckled down defensively late, and Duke struggled mightily in the final minutes after being extremely efficient for most of the game. Oh, and a little luck never hurts either.
At this point, with wins over Miami, at NC State, at North Carolina, and now Duke, Notre Dame being the real deal is no longer up for debate. This team is winning big games that a 2 or 3 seed would. The Irish are 5-2 against the top 50 with no bad losses. However, Notre Dame's non-conference slate is truly laughable. I'll leave you a list of good wins they accumulated in non-conference play and then list the bad programs they beat:
Out of Conference Good wins: (RPI)
Michigan St. (42)
Out of Conference Wins against Cupcakes: (RPI)
Coppin St. (315)
Chicago St. (347)
Farleigh Dickensen (282)
Mt. St. Mary's (166)
Northern Illinois (209)
This list alone is bad enough, but the Irish had a composite out of conference strength of schedule of 324 and played ZERO road games. There is absolutely zero excuse for an ACC school to put together that kind of pre-conference slate. The selection committee will have a dilemma on March 15th. They've said time and time again that non-conference scheduling matters and makes an impact on seeding and selection. While the Irish don't have to worry about getting selected for the field, they can probably kiss any hopes of a 2 seed goodbye. The highest they can climb with that embarrassment of a schedule will be the 3 line....that is, if the Selection Committee follows through on their clearly defined expectations for scheduling.
We'd like to extend a warm welcome to Jeff Kotlarczyk to the Bracketmarch family. A Michigan State alumnus living in San Antonio, Jeff has an extensive knowledge of college hoops, especially the Big Ten Conference. Jeff will be contributing his Top 25 each week and will also be making his own bracket. In time, we might even merge our picks together to resemble a smaller selection committee. We look forward to seeing his rankings, projections, and thoughts as the season rolls on!
Jeff K's Top 25
3 ) Arizona
6) Notre Dame
9) Wichita St
10) Iowa State
13) North Carolina
17) West Virginia
21) Colorado St.
22) Northern Iowa
Under consideration: Ohio State, Dayton, San Diego State, George Washington, SMU, LSU, Miami FL, Oregon State, Tulsa, Providence
Welcome back to the blog and happy belated 2015, everybody! We decided to wait a little bit longer to post our first bracket of the season, partially due to real life commitments (Chris and I both have day jobs). The other (and primary) reason is because late January is when the signal starts to get separated from the noise. I've already heard chatter on Twitter about how it's "TOO EARLY" to do a bracket, and that this is a totally useless exercise. For starters, we look at bracketology sites because we're unabashed college hoops nerds and we get our kicks out of it. We run Bracketmarch mainly for enjoyment. But also to troll the hell out of all of you. Stop taking it so seriously, guys! Secondly, there is some value in looking at where things stand in late January. Let me make a rather ridiculous (but poignant) analogy via the Earth's geologic history.
Around 200 million years ago, the super continent Pangea looked like a huge amalgamated mess. What are now the continents looked nothing like what they do today. However, the tectonic plates started to shift, and 50 million years later, the Earth began to show what the continents were going to look like today. If you were alive around that time and looked down from space, you'd be able to differentiate South America from Africa and North America from Asia. Take a look:
In a nutshell, Pangea is what the college basketball picture looks like in late December and early January. The out of conference schedule is largely finished, but we have no idea who is going to hit a wall and break down in conference play. This year, there are teams like UNLV, which beat Arizona, that looked like they had a serious shot at an at-large, only to quickly fold after the new year. With a few weeks of the conference schedule under our belt, we have a solid idea of who can sustain solid play through most of the season. I looked back at my bracket from late January 2014, and roughly 80 percent of the teams in that bracket made the field. More than 60 percent of teams were within 2-3 seed lines of their final standing on Selection Sunday. So while yes, this is primarily for our entertainment, there's something to be gained if you want to know where your team stands about 60% of the way through the college hoops season. So kick back, relax, and enjoy the madness! We'll be updating the bracket at least weekly as well as throwing in blog posts/podcasts in between. Happy hoops season!
Growing up outside of Richmond, Virginia in the heart of ACC Country, college hoops was set into the fabric of Rusty Tutton at an early age. A 2008 graduate of VCU, he lives in the Fan District of Richmond and works full-time in higher education.