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Prister: This win wasn’t enough (Mar. 18)

Eric Prister | Friday, March 18, 2011

CHICAGO — It just wasn’t enough.

A 13-point victory over a No. 15-seed that finished the regular season sixth in the Mid-American Conference wasn’t enough. Sure, it was a double-digit win against a team that just won a conference championship, but that’s not enough. Notre Dame is more than 13 points better than Akron. The Zips just kept hanging around, the Irish could not put them away, and if a few more shots had fallen, things could have been very interesting down the stretch.

Senior guard Ben Hansbrough’s 15 points, including only four in the second half, weren’t enough. Yes, this team is well-rounded and has lots of players who can score, but Hansbrough is the Big East Player of the Year – four second-half points isn’t going to cut it against Kansas, or even Florida State. He showed signs of the old Hansbrough, the Hansbrough who carried Notre Dame to the Big East tournament semifinals. But at other times, it was easy to forget he was on the court. He was the best player in the best conference in the country this year — he earned that award. He just needs to start playing like it again.

Notre Dame’s 11-rebound advantage wasn’t enough, especially because they were being out-rebounded throughout most of the game. Their two fast-break points weren’t enough, especially in a game where the “burn” wasn’t and shouldn’t have been used. Fourth-year forward Tim Abromaitis’ zero points in the last 17 minutes of the first half certainly weren’t enough, nor were sophomore forward Jack Cooley’s four minutes of playing time.

More than all of those things, Notre Dame’s emotions weren’t enough. Or maybe they were too much. For the second straight game, Irish coach Mike Brey said in his post-game press conference that his team, and especially Hansbrough, were ‘wired’ and ‘frazzled.’ He said that it took them all of halftime to calm down. Yes, it’s the NCAA tournament, but that problem is one that belongs on a much younger team. Notre Dame’s composure is what carried it all year, and now it’s slipping away.

But in the end, Akron wasn’t enough. Despite everything that just wasn’t enough for the Irish, they advanced to the final day of the opening weekend, and that’s the most important thing. But one win isn’t enough. This team is supposed to be special, supposed to be different, and I truly believe that they are.

Making it to the Sweet 16 may not even be enough, but getting through the first weekend is a good start. Notre Dame’s performance was enough to get by Akron, but it probably won’t be enough to beat Florida State, and it certainly won’t be enough to make a run at the Final Four. Luckily for this year’s Irish, if they play up to their potential, to the level to which they’ve played almost all year, they actually do have enough to make that run.