Scouting report: Learning about Notre Dame from The Observer
The last time the University of Notre Dame played a basketball game in East Lansing, back in 1974, the Spartans played in Jenison Fieldhouse.
No. 3 MSU hosts the No. 5 Fighting Irish Thursday at 7 p.m. for the first time at the Breslin Center. Thursday marks the first matchup between the two since Notre Dame took a 79-78 decision over MSU in 2014.
Notre Dame, fresh off a win against a ranked Wichita State team to win the Maui Invitational over the weekend, comes in 6-0 on the season, while MSU’s lone loss came to No. 1 Duke in Chicago. The only other time in series history when both teams were ranked in the top-5 was the 1979 NCAA Tournament, MSU defeated the Irish in Indianapolis en route to the program’s first-ever National Championship.
Here’s what he had to say:
If you were introducing somebody to the narratives of this team and things to know about Notre Dame and what should people know about their starting five?
I think if you look at that starting five, if you do a Google search on everyone there you’re going to find the most stuff on Bonzie Colson. He’s a preseason All-American by numerous outlets, including the Associated Press. He’s coming off of being named ACC player of the year. Many expect him to win ACC player of the year again with the talent that left for the draft last year. And he’s — kind of simply put — a double-double machine.
The amazing thing about Bonzie Colson is all of this comes with him being 6-foot-5. He’s a very small person, almost always plays defense against players who are much bigger than him, or who are more athletic than him but he continually works. He rebounds very well, he gets into a very good position and he’s a very cerebral and heads-up player.
With Michigan State you really see turnovers as an issue if they get out of hands, and fouls can be an issue as well. When you see Notre Dame, what is the one part of Notre Dame’s game limiting them from their ceiling?
I think every team has those Achilles’ heels. I think at this point in the year, Notre Dame’s Achilles’ heel is mostly on offense. Specifically, finding a third consistent scorer behind Colson and Farrell because those guys have proven they can score. But as a lot of people know, you can’t win big-time games on a consistent level if you’re only relying on one or two people. If you watch the first half of the Wichita State game, that lack of production was kind of pronounced. Wichita State took away a lot of what Notre Dame was trying to do and they looked very much in a rut.
So who for Notre Dame is going to step up and be that third scorer? It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same person every night. I think the best candidate to take over that “third scorer” role would be sophomore guard TJ Gibbs. He’s had a couple of 20-point performances so far this year, albeit not teams of the caliber of Michigan State. But who can step up on this given night and make a difference on the offensive side of the ball when Michigan State will undoubtedly key in on Farrell and key in on Colson? Who can make that step up? It’s still a question mark for the most part for Notre Dame.
As you saw, Michigan State just turned over North Carolina a bunch. They held North Carolina to under 50 points and I would say for the most part North Carolina is a vastly better offensive team than Notre Dame, so that would be an area of concern for me from Notre Dame’s point of view. How often will they be able to get offense going against a tough Michigan State defense.
When you look at Notre Dame’s Bench, I see a guy in DJ Harvey who kind of sticks out on the score sheet. What can you tell me about him and who are some other guys off the bench that can really contribute?
D.J. Harvey is the only freshman on Notre Dame’s roster. It’s a very old team, You could say it’s an ancient team even. But he is the only freshman. He’s the best recruit that Notre Dame has gotten in awhile. … He’s a highly touted recruit coming out of DeMatha high school in Maryland somewhere. He is a big wing, I wanna say 6-foot-7, 6-foot-6, in that range and he’s really athletic and that’s why Notre Dame loves him.
Notre Dame has usually never had one-and-dones. They’ve always been a team that gets old. They get good defense, they play smart. They’re not going to be dunking on you like some other teams, but in D.J. Harvey they do have a guy that can do that in time. He is very good at being athletic, creating some steals, getting some loose balls on rebounds especially. … His jump shot is good, but obviously a little rusty from high school where you didn’t have to rely on a jump shot as much. That will improve as the season goes along. I think if Michigan State played Notre Dame in late February, I think you’d see a very different and much better D.J. Havery. But for now he’s still a work in progress, but very promising.
Beyond the bench, other than Harvey NOtre Dame will usually bring out sophomore stretch four player John Mooney and junior forward Elijah Burns. Those two guys are both big, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10. Mooney provides a bit more of an offensive rhythm for Notre Dame and if Notre Dame gets down early against Michigan State, Mike Brey might elect to go with him to try and eject some offense into the lineup.
Mazurek's prediction: MSU 70, ND 60