Irish, back in top 25, head to Boston College for ACC matchup
Alex Carson | Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Back in the Associated Press rankings after a one-week absence, No. 25 Notre Dame heads east Tuesday, visiting Boston College with tipoff at 7 p.m.
The Irish (19-7, 8-5 ACC) are fresh off an 84-72 win over No. 17 Florida State on Saturday, and suddenly are back in the mix for a top-four seed — and a double bye — in next month’s ACC tournament. They’ll have an opportunity to boost those chances against the Eagles (9-17, 2-11 ACC), who sit as the league’s weakest team by most measures — the only team in the league with an overall losing record.
Boston College is young, too, led by a pair of young guards: sophomore Jerome Robinson (19.4 points per game) and freshman Ky Bowman (13.5), who’s a particularly good threat from 3-point range, hitting 45.1 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
Still though, the Eagles boast a win over Syracuse, and Brey said Boston College has improved from last year’s squad, which went winless in ACC play.
“They’re better. They made 16 threes against Syracuse; if we’re not ready to play, we’re gonna get beat,” Brey said. “I hope we’re mature enough to understand with what we did the last week, you can do some things here at the end to put yourself in a position for a double bye in the league tournament.”
After using the same starting five for the first 23 games of the season, Brey has turned to four different lineups in as many games. One of those four lineups will be repeated — with either freshman guard T.J. Gibbs, sophomore guard Rex Pflueger, junior forward Martinas Geben or senior forward Austin Torres starting in the “open” slot — but Brey’s taking a flexible approach to filling out his starting five.
The role of the fifth starter, Brey said, is to be complementary to Notre Dame’s “big four:” junior guard Matt Farrell, senior guard Steve Vasturia, senior forward V.J. Beachem and junior forward Bonzie Colson.
“Don’t you dare screw up the other four,” Brey said of his fifth starter’s role. “Help them on the defensive end, help them on the offensive end, but it is very flexible.”
For Tuesday, and the foreseeable future, though, it appears likely that either Gibbs or Pflueger will be in the starting five.
“You never say never going back to playing two big guys and maybe playing a little tighter to the bucket — it has helped us at times, too — but I think right now, this is the way we’ve gotta play,” Brey said. “Especially this is the way we have to start a game. When we start that way and the floor is open, there’s more opportunities early, and there’s nothing like putting some points on the board before the first media timeout to kind of feel like you’re in a rhythm.”
For Colson, who notched a career-high 33 points in Saturday’s win, Tuesday’s game is a trip home — something the New Bedford, Massachusetts, native looks forward to every year.
“Getting to play at home in front of my friends and family is something that everybody likes to do and looks up to and marks it on the calendar,” Colson said. “Then that my dad used to be a coach there, me playing in the arena when I was younger, I was in there around the team — it’s definitely something that I remember.”
Between the national attention Colson’s been receiving — he was named ACC Player of the Week on Monday — and the homecoming Tuesday, Brey said he wanted to sit down with his forward before the game.
“I do want to talk to him a little bit because he’s had a monster week, he’s player of the week, and now he’s going back to Boston and all of the family,” Brey said. “He usually handles stuff great, but I just want to spend a little more time with him ’cause I think they’ll really come after him defensively, and if it isn’t going good early, I don’t want him frustrated.”
After Saturday’s win, Notre Dame is likely just another victory or two away from being a lock for the NCAA tournament — and Brey thinks his team can go deep again in 2017.
“We still have some work to do, but obviously our resume is very, very strong,” Brey said. “We’ll be very confident playing in the NCAA tournament. This group has experienced two Elite Eights — they believe it’s their time.”
Notre Dame will try and take one more step toward punching its ticket to March Madness on Tuesday, when it visits Boston College at 7 p.m.