ND’s Corner: Sparty Cash

By: Nicholas Drew

Notre Dame has had experience playing against powerhouse basketball schools, including lots of recent success. Some of these highlight wins include beating Duke 5 of the last 8 games, and big wins against North Carolina; including a 2015 ACC championship game. So going into the big game against Michigan State isn’t something out of the ordinary, yet it had many of its own unique challenges.

Athletic Mismatch

Notre Dame never really goes into games with athletic mismatches in their favor, including several of their easier nonconference games. Mike Brey does what he can for a “football” school by often bringing in 3-star recruits that he can build over the course of 4 years.

Tom Izzo does a fantastic job of convincing his men to stay longer than one year, but he is developing highly talented recruits while still bringing in high caliber freshman. Notre Dame has to account for this athleticism in every aspect of the game and will find it especially difficult on defense.

Mismatch seemed like a fair word to describe how the game went. Notre Dame was manhandled on the boards all game, especially in the first half. Notre Dame was doubled in rebounds 42-21including allowing 15 offensive rebounds which often lead to second-chance buckets and 3s. Any hopes of minimizing the athletes were eliminated when Notre Dame allowed Michigan State to crush them in transition and cruise after poor shots were put up, essentially acting like turnovers.

Winner: Michigan State

Depth

Mike Brey has always had a short bench as a coach, only going about 8 deep with very limited minutes to his bench.

Tom Izzo, on the other hand, has a contrasting style and the personnel to favor that decision. Michigan State has an incredible bench mob available which includes Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, and Tum Tum (Larry Nairn Jr.).

What is so impressive about this bench is the fact that they were actual starters for MSU last year. Not a bad lineup when you have the veterans coming off the bench, almost like an NBA team.

Bench efficiency ended up playing a key factor but in Michigan State’s favor of course. Sparty led the way with 16 points off the pine, but by far the most effective part of the bench was the defensive ferocity and energy that was brought to the table. Notre Dame, on the other hand, had 2 bench points (yes, you read that correctly) with the bench coming in with one literal goal in mind which was to give Colson and Farrell breathers.  

Winner: Michigan State

Individual Matchups

There were several matchups that looked promising in this game. Bonzie vs Bridges, Farrell vs Winston, Gibbs/Flueger vs Langston. The theme of the matchups always tends to be the same for Notre Dame: experience vs. talent level. Which one will prevail?

Notre Dame has been here before, they have experience so why would we expect them to get rattled?

Because they haven’t played a defense as active as the Spartans were coming out of the gate tonight. Sparty came out with somehow even more energy than in their UNC game and laid the smack down on ND. Matchups in which ND needed to win handily were coming out as huge losses. Colson had 6 pts and Farrell had 0 pts at halftime in which Notre Dame had dug a hole so too deep to find a way out of.

The Spartans were led with a consistent starting lineup which produced at a superior efficiency compared to the Irish, resulting in a mismatch at every major position. Size differential was apparent when you watch Geben leave the floor and Bonzie standing at 6’5” trying to lock down the paint.

Props to the Spartans on coming to play and showing that Miles Bridges may have known all along what he was coming back to this sophomore season. 

Winner: Michigan State

Notre Dame has several more tune-up nonconference games before they’re off to Bankers Life Fieldhouse (shout out to my Pacers) to face on the interstate rival Hoosiers.

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