Thursday, November 29, 2012

Notre Dame 64 - 50 Kentucky

ESPN had a nice celebration of Notre Dame tonight.  In the first half of the broadcast, they had a lengthy interview with former Irish coach Digger Phelps.  In the second half, they had another long interview -- this time with ND's Heisman Trophy candidate, Manti Te'o.  There were lots of shots of happy, celebrating Irish fans throughout -- and I'm sure Dick Vitale had lots to say about the Fighting Irish, although I didn't bother to listen.

Oh, there was also a basketball game, although it wasn't much of one.  Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress got into quick foul trouble in the first half, and UK's offense pretty much fell apart after that.  The only Cat who played well at all was Julius Mays, who led the team in scoring with 16 points.  Nerlens Noel had a few moments here and there, but no one else looked good at all.  The Cats looked frail and callow compared to the beefy Irish, and they were pretty much shoved all over the court.  If Poythress or Goodwin ever got to the rim for one of their typical baskets, I missed it.  Goodwin had only 3 points, and Poythress had only 5.  Kyle Wiltjer, who is supposed to be good at making three-pointers in this type of game, could not do so.  In fact, the Cats as a whole shot only 4-12 from three-point range, and only 8-14 from the line.  The result was an offensive shambles -- the fewest points scored by the Cats since January 7, 2006, when Kansas beat them 73-46.

Their defense was slightly better -- at least they appeared to show some effort on defense.  But unlike UK, Notre Dame knew their offensive scheme and ran it with discipline.  The Irish can also shoot -- they hit 8-15 three-pointers, and the four extra three-pointers that they made accounted for almost their entire margin of victory.

On the whole, this was a very discouraging night for anyone who thinks UK will make a deep run in the tournament this year.  The Cats looked young, they looked like they were intimidated, and they looked like they didn't know how to score against a big, physical defense.  Furthermore, some of their problems don't seem to have obvious solutions.  Noel and Cauley-Stein are thin compared to lots of other college players, and they can be pushed around.  The situation with Ryan Harrow clearly isn't straightened out -- Calipari was yanking him in and out of the game like he was on a yo-yo -- so the Cats don't have a true point guard.  And Wiltjer is really struggling to get his shot.

Of course, UNC lost their whole team from last year as well, and they've already been waxed by Butler and Indiana.  I certainly don't think that Roy Williams or John Calipari have forgotten how to coach.  The night all of our guys announced they were turning pro, nights like this were probably inevitable.  And at least we have a coach who knew what he was getting into, and who has experience in dealing with this situation.  But he's got his work cut out for him.

The players have some work cut out for them, too.  They are learning that winning college basketball games is much, much harder than it looks on TV. Until they adjust to the officiating, the intensity, and the physicality of games like this one, they are in for some major disappointments.


  1. I hope Alabama or Georgia beats Notre Dame by about four touchdowns. That broadcast was an embarrassment.

  2. Wow coming from Eric that means it's true. Not knocking on you goheath but I can never tell from your perspective how to take stuff like that.

    1. I don't blame you for not trusting me, and I'm glad Eric is backing me up here.

  3. You know the whole mute-the-national-broadcasters-and-listen-to-Cawood-against-the-TV deal? Well, I never did that. Mom and Dad did that with the TV in their bedroom, but I always listened to the TV guys on the TV in my room. And I've always liked Vitale fine--he's a kook, but he's a genuine kook, and he seems thankful that he gets to do what he does. He's fine. It's just basketball. I like him.

    But last night was just awful. Certainly Vitale was an accomplice in the crime, but I don't hold him to blame. (My parents-in-law do; by the end of last night, they wanted Kentucky to officially rescind his key to the city of Draffenville.) I tuned in about 10 minutes into the game, and it honestly felt like Kelly Tripucka had to be the producer of the show.

  4. But, to Go Heath's greater point, that's just TV.

    I agree about UK's problems. I choose to take solace in the three or five minutes there where the Cats cut the 20-point lead to 10 (and, yes, of course, I understand that Notre Dame would be playing more conservatively so as not to extend the game or expose opportunities for run-out buckets the other way). Cauley-Stein, Mays, Noel and Polson showed some independent gumption in that span, which isn't saying much but is saying something at least. I don't know how Calipari is going to solve his personnel issues, but I suspect that those four, Goodwin and Poythress are going to be parts of the plan.

    Anyway, as a fan, the championship season is now officially over. Now it's hand-to-hand combat. We've got Baylor on Saturday, and that's the only game on the schedule now. There are no banners. There is no NCAA tournament in March. Neither Anthony Davis nor the Harrison twins exist. These our guys, and Baylor on Saturday is the task. The Cats might've already been in that one-game-at-a-time, here-and-now mindset, but I officially confess that I was not. I was still living off last year's laurels. I'm here now.