Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

WBB | A Few Notes Before Selection Monday

March 14, 2019

While Irish players, coaches and fans have to wait until the NCAA selection show Monday evening to learn if they will be staying close to home for the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, there’s no doubt the Irish nailed down a number one seed by winning the ACC Tournament on Sunday.

Before the 20 point loss to the Irish, Louisville was thought to have the inside track to be named the top seed in the Chicago region with Notre Dame likely headed to Portland, Oregon.  Now, the Irish are likely to be the top seed in Chicago while the Cardinals will be headed elsewhere possibly as a two seed.

ESPN is projecting that the Irish will be the top seed in Chicago with Stanford as the two seed.  They’re guessing the other regions will be #1 Baylor and #2 Iowa in Greensboro, #1 UConn and #2 Louisville in Albany, and #1 Mississippi State and #2 Oregon in Portland. 

The selection show will also reveal the three opponents who will join ND for the first two rounds at Purcell Pavilion, as well as which other highly ranked teams will challenge the Irish for the regional title.

Rankings and Ratings
As expected, Notre Dame moved up a spot in the weekly rankings to #3 in both the AP and coaches’ polls.  The order of the top eight teams is the same in each poll — Baylor, followed by UConn, ND, Mississippi State, Louisville, Stanford, Oregon, and Iowa.

When the NCAA selection committee announced its second ‘reveal’ of the seedings recently, they had Baylor on top, followed by Louisville, Notre Dame and UConn.  So, the Irish may end up as the second number one seed.

The RPI and Power ratings suggest that there might be a different order when the selections are announced.  Notre Dame is at the top of both the RPI and Power ratings, with Baylor second, and Louisville third.  The Power rating has UConn fourth, while the RPI has Stanford in that slot.  

NCAA Scoring Leader
Notre Dame continued its scoring barrage in the ACC Tournament.  The Irish averaged 95 points with an average margin of victory of 21 points.  Over the past nine games, ND’s average is 96 points per game with an average margin of 28.7 points.  This run increased the season scoring average to 89.0 points — the highest in the nation.

Oregon and Mississippi State had both been averaging over 90 points per game recently, but the grind of conference play dropped their scoring averages to 86.1.

Notre Dame sits just behind Iowa as the top shooting team in the nation.  The Hawkeyes shoot 51.9% from the field — the Irish 51.8%.   Only four teams — Oregon at 50.7% and Baylor at 50.1% — have topped 50% in shooting percentage.

Notre Dame played the nation’s toughest schedule.  Baylor’s is assessed as 14th hardest in the Power Ratings, while Iowa’s schedule is 18, Oregon 19, UConn 52 and Mississippi State 55.

ACC Tournament Honors
Jackie Young was named the MVP of the ACC Tournament.  She averaged 19.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists per game.  She was much more aggressive offensively in the tournament.  She averaged 10.2 shots, 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the ACC regular season.  She averaged 14.3 shots per game in the three games of the tournament.

After a season-high 30 point effort in the championship game, Jess Shepard joined Young on the All-Tournament first team.  Arike Ogunbowale was named to the second team.

Managing Minutes
Three games in three days is a grind and even top teams see their scoring and offensive efficiency tail off as they advance through conference tournaments.  As the teams advance, the competition gets tougher, but the scoring and shooting drop-offs can be dramatic.  Here are some examples from this past weekend. 

In the Pac12, Stanford beat Oregon in the final.  Stanford scored 72, 72 and then 64 points in its three games as shooting percentages dropped from 52.9%, 45.2% and 40.7%.  The Cardinal averaged 69.3 points in the tournament vs. a full season scoring average of 74.8.

Oregon averaged 74 points over the three games and only managed 57 in the final loss to Stanford.  For the season, the Ducks averaged 86.1 points per game and made 50.7% of their field goal attempts.  In the three tournament games, the Ducks shot 53.3%, 46.5% and 33.9%. Oregon starters averaged over 18% above their season minutes per game with team leader Sabrina Ionesco playing every minute — including 45 in their overtime win on Saturday.

UConn doesn’t face the level of conference competition that exists in the Pac 12 or the ACC, but even the Huskies suffered a game by game slip in scoring and shooting — 92 to 81 to 65 in points for an average of 79.3 and 55.9% to 53.3% to 42.4% in shooting.  UConn averaged 82.6 points and 49.3% from the field for the season.  Even with a 24 point halftime lead in the final against UCF, Christyn Williams played 40 minutes, and three others — Napheesa Collier, Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker — played 39.

After leading her team in scoring the first two games in the ACC Tournament and playing 37 and 38 minutes, Asia Durr could only manage 15 points against the Irish.  She played every minute before leaving the game with three minutes to go.  Tellingly, her shot attempts fell from 30 in game one to 20 in game two to just 15 against Notre Dame.  She was 1-for-6 in the second half against the Irish including 0-for-2 from three.

Louisville averaged 8.8 made three-pointers a game during the full season.  In the ACC Tournament, the Cardinals made 6 in game one, 8 in game two, but could only connect on two of 18 tries behind the arc against the Irish.

After looking at average minutes for Oregon, UConn, and Louisville, Notre Dame’s coaches managed starter minutes differently.  For the season, the Irish starting five averaged 149.6 minutes per game. They averaged 150.0 minutes across the three games last weekend despite the starters playing 169 minutes against Louisville.  The starters only played 124 minutes in the second game.  For the three games, four starters were no more than 0.6 minutes above their season averages and Marina Mabrey was actually below her season average. No starter played more than 28 minutes in the second game.

Still, Notre Dame’s primary outside shooters, Arike and Marina, were less efficient each game.  Together their shooting percentages fell from 45.2% to 34.5% to 29.0% in the final.   Arike was 10 for 37 over the last two games (27%) — about half of her season average.  Marina was 9 for 23 (39.1%).  

Notre Dame made 7 three-point shots in the first game against North Carolina and 6 against Syracuse — both above the season average of 4.7 made threes per game.  Arike and Marina only hit three against Louisville, but for a team not overly dependent on making a high number of threes, the final game number wasn’t significant.

The Irish still shot above 50% for the final game because Brianna Turner, Jess Shepard, and Jackie Young combined for 31-47 (66.0%) and dominated points in the paint and offensive rebounds.

The 72 points in the paint was a season-high — ten points higher than the 62 paint points against Marquette and NC State.  The 23 offensive rebounds produced 28 second-chance points — the second most of the season. The Irish collected 30 second-chance points against Duke — also on 23 offensive rebounds. The 83 total shots against Louisville was also the most taken in any game all season.  

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