Of the surprises so far this year in the still-very-ripe 2017 college basketball season, the 17-4 Fighting Irish have a case to be made. After back to back Elite Eight appearances, Notre Dame opened up the year on the outside looking in to the AP Top 25. Considering the losses of key players, Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste, many questioned the caliber of the incoming Irish team, but Mike Brey and company had something different in mind.
Now eight games into ACC Conference play, Notre Dame maintains an impressive 17-4 record and are ranked 15th nationally assisted by a hot start out the gate, winning their first eleven contests of the season. This is a well coached team with proven focal points around execution, consistency, fundamentals, and mistake-free ball. Adding the clutch scoring of Steve Vasturia and consistent play of double-double machine, Bonzie Colson, the Irish are looking more and more like a contender come March as this season progresses.
Thus far, the current season has seen some areas of the game where this team can thrive, but it also has identified shortcomings. Early on in the season, the first half proved the best performances but it couldn’t be maintained, leading to stagnant second half efforts and ultimately falling to both Villanova and Purdue in this very same fashion. More recently, losses to Florida State and Virginia have shown the inability to close games out and continue to compete in the closing minutes. These opponents, however, stack up well and include two top ten teams in (then #1) Villanova and Florida State. The important theme shown through the ups and downs is the improvement shown over the course of the season.
Following the home loss to Virginia on Wednesday, the Irish now look forward to the toughest portion of their schedule. On the horizon is a difficult road test against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Following will be a gauntlet of foes over the next week involving back to back games against familiar opponents, Duke and North Carolina. Notre Dame has had success in recent years with the ACC’s best offering, and with continuous improvement of this team, look for them to put up as good of a fight as anyone in the country.