With Bonzie back, Notre Dame desperate to dance

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

March 3, 2018 07:38 AM
Mike Brey and senior point guard Matt Farrell kept the Fighting Irish from falling apart during Bonzie Colson's two-month absence.
© USA Today Sports Images

When he’s running on two good feet, Bonzie Colson is one of the top 10 players in college basketball. March is a do-or-die proposition, a time for desperation, and fortunately for Notre Dame, Bonzie is back.

Unfortunately for the Irish, they might need to win at No. 1 Virginia on Saturday just to fight their way to a dance invitation. It’s a lot to ask even with Bonzie back.

In November, after taking down Wichita State to win the Maui Invitational, Notre Dame was ranked No. 5 in the nation. A spot in the NCAA Tournament field seemed a sure thing — until two months ago, when Colson went down in practice with a broken left foot. In the 15 games Colson missed, the Irish went 6-9, which was not bad considering the strength of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In Colson’s return Wednesday, the 6-foot-6 senior forward totaled 12 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes as Notre Dame routed Pittsburgh, the only pathetic and weak team in the ACC. So the Irish (18-12, 8-9) are back in the bubble debate with their best player on the floor and a 5-2 record in their past seven games.

It’s a credit to Mike Brey, who’s an elite coach, and senior point guard Matt Farrell that the Irish were able to avoid falling apart. Few teams could lose a star as productive as Colson (20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds) and keep it together.

Notre Dame is No. 32 in the Pomeroy ratings (Kenpom.com) even with Colson missing half of the season. But if you factor the flawed RPI and listen to the Bracketologists with bad hair and pocket calculators, the Irish are not in the 68-team field today. That would be wrong. If Las Vegas oddsmakers set the field, the Irish would be in for sure.

How about Notre Dame-Oklahoma as No. 11 seeds in Dayton?

Brey, Colson and Farrell are focused on winning instead of whining about what might not happen. "We've been through more adversity than anybody in the country," Farrell said this week. "It's going to be fun. We like being the road dogs."

Arizona, Minnesota and Pittsburgh have been through a fair share of adversity, too, but the bad luck of the Irish was all about injuries.

Notre Dame is a 9-point road ‘dog at Virginia, a team that has been really good all season and really lucky lately. The Cavaliers are two days removed from a miraculous 67-66 win at Louisville, where De’Andre Hunter banked in a 3 as time expired to wipe out a four-point deficit in the final second.

In what should be a low-scoring brawl with a total of 121, the Irish seem to be in a good spot to give the Cavaliers a fight. The early sharp money showed on Notre Dame.

A 12-pack of plays for Saturday (rotation numbers listed):

523-Virginia Tech (plus-3) over MIAMI; 529-Kentucky (plus-5½) over FLORIDA; 558-TEXAS TECH (-5) over Texas Christian; 559-Stanford (plus-8½) over ARIZONA STATE; 563-Notre Dame (plus-9) over VIRGINIA; 587-Wyoming (plus-9½) over BOISE STATE; 620-NEW MEXICO (-3) over Fresno State; 625-Nevada (plus-2) over SAN DIEGO STATE; 629-Ucla (plus-5½) over USC; 635-Michigan (plus-3½) over Michigan State; 644-Brigham Young (-4½) over San Diego; 661-Weber State (-3) over MONTANA STATE.

Last week: 7-3 against the spread

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