Friday, December 2, 2011

Bench Puts the "Fight" Back in the Irish

When the Irish needed a whole team effort, it didn't know it would get this type of spark the bench provided Saturday against Marquette. The 27 points, including 8-of-9 FT's, 10 rebounds, and 2 turnover output, throughout the combined 49 minutes gave Coach Brey and Irish fans more confidence for meaningful minutes.

Luke Zellar led the bench players with 11 points. Zellar played with so much intensity against the Eagles, that he had forced his way to four rebounds and one thunderous dunk in the first half. Ryan Ayers and Jonathan Peoples had nine and seven points, respectively.

The 27 bench points were the fourth highest output on the season for the Irish. Notre Dame had 45 points against Northern Illinois, 30 against Brown, and 29 versus Long Island earlier this season. For the season, Brey's bench has been averaging 17.3 points a night. In conference play, the Irish are just below average at 16.2 points per night, however, during the current five game winning streak, Notre Dame is averaging 17.4. Coach Brey's decision to move Ayers from his starting position ha definitely paid off.

Below is the point production of the Irish bench so far this season:

Long Island - 29 points
Monmouth - 24 points
Baylor - 11 points
Georgia Tech - 12 points
Youngstown St. - 16 points
Colgate - 25 points
E. Michigan - 11 points
Kansas St. - 8 points
N. Illinois - 45 points
San Francisco - 11 points
Brown - 30 points
North Florida - 13 points
West Virginia - 5 points
Connecticut - 2 points
Marquette - 10 points
Cincinnati - 16 points
Georgetown - 25 points
Villanova - 12 points
Providence - 10 points
DePaul - 17 points
Seton Hall - 21 points
Marquette - 27 points

The bench will be needed more than ever in this next stretch of five games, which could possibly determine not only conference standings, but first round byes in the Big East Tournament. Also the Irish will be playing for the important seeding in next month's NCAA Tournament. I don't want to get too ahead of myself but Notre Dame is playing itself into a possible 3 seed. If things turn out like my new predictions, (24-6, 14-4) to finish the regular season, I believe they will not fall below a # 4 national seed!

We shall see in the coming weeks if that prediction holds true or not. But one thing is for sure, if the Irish bench keeps putting up big numbers; good things will happen!

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