Notre Dame was a top-15 team in preseason polls, and rose as high as No. 5 after winning the Maui Invitational. Then they lost at home to Ball State.
Four games after that terrible loss, the Irish suffered an even bigger one. Bonzie Colson, their senior little big man, who had been named the preseason ACC Player of the Year, broke his foot.
Without their star in the middle, Notre Dame still surprised just about everyone by starting 3-0 in conference play. That 3rd win (over Syracuse) even came without their senior point guard Matt Farrell.
Then reality set in, and they lost seven straight.
Now the Irish (14-10, 4-7) are just fighting for respectability. If they can finish strong, and they get Colson back, then maybe - just maybe - the NCAA tournament committee will throw them a bone.
Without Colson’s 21.4 ppg and 10.4 rpg, the Irish lean on a trio of talented players.
Sophomore TJ Gibbs (6-3, 188) scores 16.2 ppg and knocks down 42% of his 3s. In Tuesday’s win over Boston College, he drilled 5-7 from deep.
Senior Matt Farrell (6-1, 175) is the spark plug. He scores 15.9 per game and has the 3rd best assist rate in ACC play.
Martinas Geben, a burly 6-10 senior, scores 10.1 and grabs 7.9 boards. He can be a beast on the offensive glass, as he showed grabbed 11 offensive boards against Louisville.
Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t been the efficient machine we’ve come to expect. Without Colson, they’re just 38th nationally, and 11th in ACC play. They kill tempo and they take care of the ball.
On defense, they aren’t the mess that Mike Brey’s teams often are. But they aren’t a juggernaut either. In ACC play they’ve been 8th. They don’t put teams on the line, but FSU - like Notre Dame when they have the ball - should be able to find good looks.
This one will likely come down to which teams controls the boards and knocks down 3s.
The game tips at 4 PM from the Joyce Center, and will be broadcast on ESPN2. Notre Dame is a 2-point favorite.