Sunday, February 26, 2006

Marquette Recap | by Other Kevin

Final Score

Marquette 80 , Notre Dame 72

The Essentials

AP Game recap
Box Score
SBT game story
Photo Gallery

This and That

If you had told me before the game that Torin Francis would have sixteen points and fifteen rebounds and that Steve Novak would make only six of his fifteen shots from the field, I would have predicted an easy Notre Dame victory. Instead, Marquette won by eight on the strength of its defense, holding the Irish to 39% shooting from the field and forcing sixteen turnovers.

I have been to every home game this season, as well as the first ND-Marquette game in Milwaukee, and Marquette is by far the best defensive team I have seen this season. Officials allowing body bumps throughout the game helped the already-physical Warriors’ cause, but that’s par for the course when Tim Higgins is one of the referees. If Notre Dame is ever going to be a consistent force in the Big East, pushing back must become part of its game.

The Irish played good defense themselves, holding Marquette to 41% shooting from the field, five percentage points below its average, and making the rebounding battle a virtual push, forty-one for ND and 40 for MU. Colin Falls and Rob Kurz took turns shadowing Novak, and he had few uncontested shots. Even his consecutive three point baskets with under seven minutes to play, blunting an ND run, were fade-away shots against good defense.

It was ND’s inability to handle the Warriors’ physical defense that cost it the game. Since going to a four guard line-up, the Irish offense has thrived on penetration by Russell Carter and Chris Quinn. The Marquette guards successfully bumped the ND guards off of their dribble, repeatedly forcing turnovers and offensive resets.

The game was decided by ND’s three consecutive offensive possessions without a shot starting with a possession at the 3:04 mark. Trailing by three points at the beginning of the sequence, ND had a shot clock violation, a turnover after a steal, and an errant pass by Francis as he was bumped with no foul call. It can’t be that easy to make a 6’11”, 252 lb. man throw a ball out of bounds, can it?

Marquette came out of that sequence with just a five point lead, but time remaining demanded a free throw shooting contest, and the Warriors made more than enough to win comfortably.

The real treat of seeing the game in person was watching the Kyle McAlarney vs. Dominic James match-up. James scored eighteen points (6-14/1-4) and added three steals and an assist. McAlarney scored fourteen points (6-12/2-8) and had eight assists. More importantly, McAlarney was the one ND guard who was quick enough to get past the Marquette guards and their physical defensive tactics to force defenders to rotate. The McAlarney-James match-up will be a treat for the next three years.

Other game notes:

• It’s always good news for the Irish when Colin Falls hits a couple of shots early, and it’s bad news when he misses open shots early. Falls missed three open shots in the first eight minutes and finished 1-9 from the field.

• Things I don’t understand, part 1 – The Irish had two fouls to give at the end of the first half. They used one with eight seconds. Marquette inbounded the ball, and good ND defense forced a long shot by MU’s Jarel McNeal with three seconds left. McNeal missed, but Dan Fitzgerald got the rebound in traffic and he made a lay-up with a second left. Did ND’s players forget that they had another foul to give and that they could have fouled Fitzgerald on the rebound forcing Marquette to inbound with a second left to play?

• Things I don’t understand, part 2 – Why do coaches leave their best scorers on the floor for defense with four fouls when they know they have to foul on the inbounds pass? If there is going to be a miracle comeback, won’t they need their shooters on offense? Carter fouled out with thirty-four seconds to play and Quinn fouled out with eight seconds to play. They were replaced by Ryan Ayers and Zach Hillesland, respectively. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put Ayers and Hillesland in to foul on defense and put Carter and Quinn back on the floor for offense? This isn’t just a Mike Brey issue. I never see coaches do it differently, and it seems like an obvious move to me.

• Things I don’t understand, part 3 – After twelve points and seven rebounds in twenty-seven minutes against UConn, Rick Cornett played six minutes against Marquette, only one minute in the second half.

Stat Line of the Night
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Francis, Torin...... f 7-11 0-0 2-2 3 12 15 0 16 3 3 1 0 36

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Back-door cut | by Pat

Interesting article in the Chicago Sun-Times today about the Big East and the teams that will be invited to the NCAA Tournament. Specifically, the article highlights the possibility that a Big East team who fails to even reach .500 in the conference could still find themselves selected for the Big Dance.
Littlepage said Wednesday that expansion of major conferences like the Big East, now with 16 members, has created new twists in the evaluation process because of unbalanced conference scheduling. Because of that, a team might have a losing conference record with losses to highly ranked teams but still have credentials to be considered for one of the 34 at-large openings in the 65-team field.
The Littlepage mentioned in the above blockquote is selection committee chairman Craig Littlepage, who then went on to say:
'The record itself in the league will not be a consideration,'' he said. ''It's about who you've played. A 7-9 [conference] record at face value might not look good, but if the losses are to top-25 teams and the wins are against top-50 teams, that might be worth strong consideration.''
If the Irish sweep their final three games against Marquette, Providence, and DePaul -- not to get too much ahead of ourselves here -- will that, combined with say only one win in the Big East tournament, be enough to impress the selection committee? I'm not so sure.

The key phrase to me in the first blockquote is "unbalanced conference scheduling". The past two years this term definitely applied to the Irish as they had to slog through the TV-friendly portion of the unbalanced schedule that saw Notre Dame face the top teams in the league twice, only to fall a game or so short of making the NCAA's.

However, this year ND avoided playing teams like UConn, Pittsburgh, and Villanova twice whereas a team like Louisville did face a harder schedule. So I'm not exactly sure if that will be the feather in ND's cap that help them slide into the tournament.

On the other hand, ND's "bad luck" in close games has been well-documented in the media by Irish-friendly talking heads like Digger and Jay Bilas. And ND's two-point loss to #2 Villanova at home, one-point OT loss to #3 UConn in Hartford, three-point OT loss to #9 Pittsburgh at Pitt, one-point loss to #14 West Virginia in West Virginia, and three-point double overtime loss to #23 Georgetown at home certainly fall in Littlepage's "losses to Top 25 teams" criteria. Switching to RPI rankings, the Irish played five teams with a Top 25 RPI ranking. Stretch that to Top 40 and the number of opponents rises to ten.

As for the "wins against Top-50 teams" qualifier, ND currently can only claim victory over Alabama (RPI ranking: 39) , Seton Hall (RPI ranking: 43), and Hofstra (RPI ranking: 47). Not terribly impressive, but the fact both wins were road wins does help. ND also has a chance to notch a win over Marquette (RPI ranking: 21), which would definitely bolster the resume.

Personally, I think if ND is going to have any chance to make the tournament, they are going to have to sweep the regular season and win two games in the Big East tournament. I feel that that hot finish, combined with the well-documented close losses, will be enough. If the Irish can only manage one win in the Big East Tournament, then ND will find itself once again firmly on the Tournament bubble, which, if the past two seasons are a guide, means get ready for the N.I.T.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hey, Anyone Remember a Little Flick Called "Groundhog Day"? | by Teds

Final Score

Connecticut 75, Notre Dame 74 (OT)

The Essentials

AP Game recap
Box Score
SBT game story
Photo Gallery

This and That

• The snakebitten Irish lost yet another heart-wrenching conference battle in the final moments, as the Huskies tied the game toward the end of regulation on a Marcus Williams putback. ND had last shots to win the game at the end of regulation as well as overtime, coming up empty in both situations. The cut line on Irish fortunes in conference play appears to be 7 points, as ND is 4-0 in Big East games decided by 7 or more points and a startling 0-9 in contests closer than that. This includes an 0-4 record in games extended to overtime. Even coin-flip success in those nine games would find the team's ticket all but punched for an NCAA at-large bid with two weeks still remaining in the regular season.

• It was a game of absurd streaks and hot- and cold-spells for both clubs that bordered on the cinematic. After Rick Cornett scored to close an early Irish deficit to 24-21 at the ten-minute mark of the opening stanza, Connecticut took control of the game by outscoring ND 24-11 over the remainder of the half. But as they've done so often this year, the Irish gamely stormed back in the second half behind tightened defense, improved rebounding and a streaking Colin Falls, touching off a 25-2 run that included a stretch of 18 consecutive points. And as hot as they'd been, Notre Dame cooled off once more just that quickly, shooting 3/18 (16.7%) over the remaining 12 minutes of the game -- overtime included -- and scoring only 8 more points. Overtime in general was a battle of attrition, with only seven points scored by the two teams combined and a Rob Kurz three-point jumper representing the only score for the Irish in the entire period.

• An interesting sidelight on possession length: during Notre Dame's 18-0 run, they scored on seven consecutive possessions. In the course of those possessions, the average amount of time used before taking the first shot was just over 11 seconds, with 23 seconds representing the longest stretch that the Irish held the ball to work for a shot. Conversely, in the team's final eight possessions over the last 6:30 of regulation (excluding Falls' missed jumper from the corner in the closing seconds, when ND was forced to work quickly), they held the ball an average of over 27 seconds before shooting. In all, there were five trips among those final eight in which Notre Dame burned the shot clock under five seconds before acting; they scored zero points on those possessions. Perhaps Connecticut's defensive presence (or lack thereof) played a role in the shift in offensive tempo, but the Irish did themselves no favors in the final minutes of regulation by getting away from what had led the charge and falling into the familiar late-game trap of what amounted to "prevent offense".

• As noted above, it was another Jeckyll-and-Hyde performance from ND, one that often found both characters on the floor in (ahem) traditional Irish black concurrently. As a team, the Irish committed only 4 turnovers but had 19 (!) shots blocked. Russell Carter's laudable defensive effort in containing Husky star Rudy Gay played a large role in the team's second-half resuscitation, and he continues to show more sustained glipses of vast potential. At times, UConn dominated the Irish on the interior like a college team toying with high schoolers, but Torin Francis, Rick Cornett and Rob Kurz also enjoyed bouts of holding their own against the best that the Big East has to offer. Additionally, Cornett responded to Jim Calhoun's defensive philosophy of frustrating ND's guards at the expense of opportunity on the interior by racking up 8 first-half points on 4-6 shooting. In the backcourt, Chris Quinn wasn't quite his normal babyfaced assassin self and was overshadowed by Marcus Williams' triple-double (18 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) on the Connecticut side. Overall, the Irish guards who were a collective 22-25 from the charity stripe at Seton Hall on Saturday mustered only one free throw attempt against the Huskies, converted by Russell Carter. Falls earns the stat line of the night, not only for an unprecedented four two-point baskets but also for doing the unthinkable: outlasting Quinn on the court, 45 minutes to 44.

Stat Line of the Night

                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
15 Falls, Colin........ g 9-19 5-14 0-0 1 4 5 0 23 0 0 0 0 45

Monday, February 20, 2006

Men in Black | by Pat

Final Score

Notre Dame 102, Seton Hall 91

The Essentials

AP Game recap
Box Score
SBT game story
Photo Gallery

This and That

• Wearing new black uniforms, the Irish broke the century mark for the first time in regulation since a 102-71 victory over DePaul on December 14th, 2002. Leading the way were Chris Quinn and Colin Falls who combined for 66 points, which is four more points than the entire Irish team scored in the previous game, a 62-55 win over South Florida.

• As the Seton Hall Pirates kept fouling, the Irish kept shooting free throws and ended with a season-high 38 attempts. The good news in an inconsistent year from the line is that ND made 30 of them and notched a 86.8% completion percentage. The only games that saw the Irish shoot better from the charity stripe was a 17-19 (89.5%) effort against IPFW and a perfect 2-2 night against West Virginia. Of special note was Chris Quinn, who was a perfect 14-14 from the line.

• Recent trends of sharing playing time and player development continue. Rick Cornett saw more playing time (23 min.) and his PT nearly mirrored that of Torin Francis (26 min.) as the two have slowly been splitting time more evenly lately. This includes some stretches where both are on the court at the same time. And in the development area, the emergence of Russell Carter continues. In addition to chipping in 17 points and 8 rebounds, Carter was solid on defense once again and really is coming on strong in the latter half of the season. Sophomore Rob Kurz' 9-10 effort from the free throw line also hints at a player that has been gaining confidence on the floor this year.

Stat Line of the Night
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 Quinn, Chris........ g 8-16 4-8 14-14 1 1 2 3 34 5 2 0 1 40
15 Falls, Colin........ g 10-17 8-15 4-5 1 2 3 2 32 0 0 0 0 36

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bounce back | by Jay

Pretty good story in the Fort Wayne Gazette this morning on Russell Carter's exile/homecoming this season.
Russ won’t exactly go into his feelings during that January week, where he transformed back into the Russ Carter from his first two years, always coming off the bench and wondering whether or not he’d play in a game. He won’t say he was sad or bothered or pressing or unhappy.

Between his words, though, the frustration emerged. This wasn’t the career the 20-year-old envisioned when he left Paulsboro High School a state champion. He saw what every high school kid sees – go to college, play a ton, improve, move to the NBA.

“I didn’t hold no grudges or say ‘Why this or why that,’ ” Russ said. “You can’t stress why you’re playing or why you’re not. When you’re out there, you have to have fun.

“It’s a basketball game. Not a basketball life or whatever.”

During his week off, he saw what he missed. He observed the little things during a game that only players can see and understand. It brought back the joy to his game. It unwound him a little bit. Relieved the pressure and the stress and produced this: the junior guard who has scored in double figures in four of the last six games, part of the 10.9 points a game he’s averaging entering today’s game at Seton Hall.

RPI update | by Jay

Official RPI 98
CollegeRPI.com 98
Mike Greenfield's Team Rankings 104
Warren Nolan 103
Ken Pomeroy 37

So what's up with Pomeroy? For the uninitiated, Ken Pomeroy uses a slightly more complex formula in devising his rankings, giving each game played a weight according its significance and when it was played. Significance increases in games involving teams with similar ratings, and increasing weight is also given to recent games.

Most importantly, he only takes into account the margin of victory or defeat, and ignores the result (win/loss). Overall record means nothing; it's all about the points, baby.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A win is a win | by Pat

Final Score

Notre Dame 62 , South Florida 55

The Essentials

AP Game recap
Box Score
SBT game story
Photo Gallery

This and That

• For a team that was only averaging 4.6 steals per conference game, the 8 steals by the Irish is a good sign that the defense just might be getting more aggressive on the floor. Interestingly though, seven of those steals came in the first half and only one after intermission. While South Florida plays a slower paced brand of basketball and came in only averaging 61.5 points a game, Notre Dame did hold the Bulls to 55 points, which is 23.5 points below the average point total normally allowed by the Irish (78.5).

• Overall the Irish went 20-29 from the free throw line for a 69% total that, like the game itself, wasn't horrible, but also wasn't particularly great. What made those numbers seem worse than they were was the inconsistent manner in which they converted the shots. ND only made 6 of their first 10 attempts to start the game, but then picked it up by hitting 9 of the next 10. However, the final 9 attempts as the game wound down only saw 5 successful conversions.

• I wanted to give Kurz the stat line of the night below for his first career double-double as he really came off the bench and gave the team a spark with his hustle when shots were falling early. But Quinn does deserve some praise for a balanced stat line that includes 12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 drawn charges. Like Colin Falls (1-10), Quinn had some trouble shooting the ball (3-10), but he definitely made up for it with the rest of his game.

Stat Line of the Night

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
31 Kurz, Rob........... 3-4 1-1 3-4 2 9 11 0 10 0 0 2 1 26

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Arrested Development? (part 2) | by Pat

This post is part 2 in a series of posts. Part one can be found here.



Class of 2005

Chris Thomas

High School:
RSCI ranking - 34
Rivals.com ranking - info not available
Scout.com ranking - info not available

Chris Thomas came to Notre Dame as heralded as any recruit in recent memory. A McDonald's All-American and the first Mr. Basketball from the state of Indiana to attend Notre Dame, Thomas' committment to the Irish over schools like Indiana, Stanford, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and a whole host of others was a coup for the Irish. He was seen as a do-it-all point guard who would hopefully lead ND back to the Final Four for the first time in over 20 years. Rankings-wise he was generally considered a Top 30-50 player. With Martin Inglesby graduating, Thomas was not only an attention grabbing commit, but also a key recruit due to his perceived ability to step right in as the team's starting point guard.

Thomas at Notre Dame
ClassPPWS eFG% %Shots FTR
FT%
Reb%
A/100TO/100 Steal% Block%Min/G
Freshman1.0444.621.10.3987.24.611.564.892.80.840.2
Sophomore1.0446.2
28.90.3384.96.710.005.932.80.138.1
Junior1.0146.431.10.2581.46.27.163.832.10.438.8
Senior0.9440.023.60.3389.27.210.544.552.60.3
38.3

Summary:

Chris Thomas' career at Notre Dame is frequently mentioned whenever the topic of player development is brought up. With that in mind, I'm going to be a bit more thorough in this summary than in others in order to try and capture everything.

I don't think any Irish basketball player started faster out of the gate than Chris Thomas. Expectations were sky-high for Thomas before the season started. He recorded Notre Dame's first and only triple double in his first game in an Irish uniform and managed to go up from there. While logging a staggering 40.2 minutes per game in the Big East, the weekly awards piled up for Thomas and he ended his frosh year not only as the Big East Rookie of the Year but also a member of The Sporting News All-Freshman team and the National Freshman of the Year according to Basketball News and Basketball Times. Not only was Thomas a quality shooter, his assists metric show that he was superb when it came to feeding teammates the ball. His defensive abilities were bolstered by an impressive steal percentage as well.

His sophomore year started out just as hot as he was named to the Top 50 list for pre-season candidates for the Wooden Award. The NBA rumors were already starting as Thomas started the season by guiding the Irish to three consecutive wins over Top 10 teams helped to lead the Irish to the Sweet Sixteen. Statistically he improved his shooting efficiency slightly while taking on a much larger percentage of the team's shots. Normally an increase in shooting results in a decrease in efficiency, but Thomas managed to improve his freshman year numbers. He also kept this defensive steals percentage steady while increasing his rebounding total. Clearly, it seems that he was getting better as a player. He was named a finalist for the Wooden award, brought down 2nd Team Big East honors, and joined Matt Carroll as an honorable mention All-American. Those NBA rumors though came true when Thomas announced his decision to declare for the NBA draft. However, not sure that he would be a first round pick, Thomas returned to the Irish for his junior year.

His junior year though is where the story gets a bit more complicated. As with his sophomore year, he started the year on the short list for Wooden Award Player of the Year honors. But things weren't always great as he didn't seem to have the same spring in his step he did the two previous years. His stats all took a bit of a slide and he shot an interestingly large 31.1% of all Irish shots that year. From what I remember, there was a feeling of him trying to do it all and the team accepting that. The Irish were right on the bubble for a tourney bid but fell short and had to settle for the NIT, where they would lose in the quarterfinals. Despite earning another 2nd Team Big East honor, it seemed like Thomas was stuck in neutral a bit in terms of development. Injury rumors had floated around Thomas all year and ultimately were proven correct when he had arthroscopic knee surgery immediately following the season to correct a season long injury.

In his final year, Thomas' NBA prospects were faltering despite yet another nomination to the Wooden Award Pre-season Top 50 list. It seemed to me that he, along with Brey, realized that if he was going to make the NBA, he would have to round out his game as a point guard so as not to just be known as a shooter-scorer. The dip in his percentage of shots taken number (%shots) and increase in assists average tend to back up this theory. Unfortunately, while his assists did improve, his offensive numbers continued their downward trend. He hit career lows as a shooter his senior year and actually averaged under a point per shot, which is not at all what you would hope from an NBA caliber guard that had cut back on his number of shots. As the mounting criticisms of him noted, clearly something was wrong with his game and he was not the same quality of player he was as a freshman and sophomore. This regression also showed up as he was named to the 3rd Team All-Big East after being a 2nd-teamer for the past two years. To top it all off, the Irish failed to crack the NCAA Tournament once again and suffered an embarrasing home loss to Holy Cross in the opening round of the NIT to end his career. To complete his Irish career arc, Thomas went undrafted by the NBA, although he did manage a spot on the Pacers summer league team. Currently, Thomas is playing in professional ball with Fabriano in Italy.

Chris Thomas' career at Notre Dame is an interesting one when trying to determine player development. The fact that he did not live up to the lofty predictions that came during his stellar freshman campaign resulted in many concluding that he was not properly developed as a player. But due to the fact that he actually regressed as a player as opposed to just failing to improve leads me to believe that his knee injury is the major reason for his decline rather than a failure of the coaching staff to develop him. When a player enters a school with some holes in his game and leaves with those same deficiencies, it's fair to say he was not properly developed as a player. But Thomas came into ND with the ability to score, drive, distribute, and defend. He already was an excellent all-around player. But just by looking at the stats, you can see that something happened his junior year to slow down his game and that continued into his senior year. I remember breakaways that were easy dunks his freshman year turned into lay-ins as a senior and his defense was not nearly as aggressive. Combining this with the fact that he is perhaps the only guard to not improve under Coach Brey leads me to believe that injuries are what held Chris Thomas back much moreso than the coaching staff. To be fair though, the coaching staff does deserve some criticism for the sheer amount of minutes they had Chris play. Credit to Thomas for playing through his injury, but I do wonder if he might have not lost so much of the spring in his step if he wasn't forced to play nearly every minute of every game. In the end, Thomas still managed to become a solid player for the Irish, just not the superstar he appeared to be early in his career.


Jordan Cornette

High School:
RSCI ranking - not in Top 100
Rivals.com ranking - info not available

Scout.com ranking - info not available

Coming out of the Greater Catholic League in Cincinnati, Cornette was known as a very versatile player who excelled as a defender and shot blocker. He also was comfortable as a perimeter shooter, which perhaps owes much to the fact that he started high school as a 6 foot guard. He earned all-conference honors both his junior and senior year and was named honorable mention All-State as a senior. In AAU ball, his team finished second in a 120 team tournament in Orlando. As a recruit, Cornette drew interest from Michigan State, Ohio State, Xavier, and Dayton. One recruiting website mentions Cornette as a Top 150 recruit, but overall it looks like he wasn't recruited much outside of the midwest.

Cornette at Notre Dame
ClassPPWS eFG% %Shots FTR
FT%
Reb%
A/100TO/100 Steal% Block%Min/G
Freshman0.8945.111.70.3238.513.22.431.702.42.615.7
Sophomore1.0149.0
11.00.2757.112.72.181.643.18.719.4
Junior0.9443.512.50.2177.810.82.871.562.35.129.2
Senior0.8140.012.80.0760.09.73.121.642.17.1
26.6

Summary:

Cornette played around 40% of the Big East minutes as a freshman, but his main role on the team was that of defensive specialist, as that was his strong point coming out of high school. He proved to be a pretty effective rebounder during his time on the floor as well. The following year his defense got even better as he posted a commendable steal% and a spectacular block%. He also managed to improve his shooting efficiency and it seemed that he was developed nicely as a player. However, as his minutes increased as a junior, his numbers all seemed to take a step back. One of the reasons is likely his knee injury that forced him to miss a number of games during the season. In his final year, Cornette's offensive numbers continued to fall as his offensive shooting failed to result in many points. Especially troubling is the drop-off in free throw rate (FTR) from an unimpressive 0.27 to a barely non-existent 0.07. This stat seems to reinforce the memory that Cornette spent his senior season bombing away from the perimeter -- with lackluster results -- and did not drive to the basket much when he had the ball. Based on the decline in his numbers, I'd have to conclude that he did not develop as an offensive player during his career and most of the blame falls on the coaching staff. Cornette was a quality defender for all four years and posted some extremely impressive blocking percentages (equal to any that Ryan Humphrey produced) so his athletic ability was never in doubt. But Jordan came into Notre Dame as an unpolished player on the offensive side of the ball and never really improved. His outside shooting did not get better, but the real issue is that a player of his size remained out on the perimeter and did not develop an inside game or the ability to consistently drive to the hoop. He turned into a vocal team leader and continued to play hard even though his game suffered and that should be mentioned, but I have to say that his offensive output is a black mark on the coaching staff's development resume.

Next Up - Class of 2005 (Chris Quinn, Torin Francis, Rick Cornett)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Arrested Development? | by Pat

As the Irish struggle through this season, you hear the criticism "lack of development" over and over again. But there never seems to be much in the way of empirical proof to either support or refute the accusation.

This post will be the first in a series that tries to answer the question about Mike Brey and his knack for developing basketball talent. I'll take a look at the incoming expectations and eventual production of the players that have graced the men's basketball roster during Brey's tenure under the Dome. And while I don't expect everything to boil down to a simple yay or nay, I do hope to at least provide some facts and analysis that will be helpful in future debates about the developmental abilities of Coach Brey and his staff.

Of course, all of this begins with a significant question: How do you measure talent development? My solution will be to present each player under Brey's tutelage, starting out with his high school accolades to try and establish some sort of picture of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of a player prior to his enrollment at the University. I will follow that with a statistical look at his production during their time under Brey and conclude with a short summary.

As for the statistical look at each player, allow me to step back briefly and explain all of the metrics I chose. The excellent Marquette blog Cracked Sidewalks has a side-blog that measures the Tempo-Free stats of the current Big East teams and players, and it's this base that comprises the number-crunching. (As a primer to TPS, I highly recommend you check out this handy intro composed by the Big Ten Wonk.)

Simply put, Tempo-free stats measure a player's effectiveness during the time they are on the court. The benchmark makes sense as a development measure because while anyone can score more points if their playing time is increased, true improvement can be noted if the player actually improves his productivity regardless of minutes played. Also, it usually works on a per possesion basis, so teams that play a faster brand of basketball can be compared to those that play a more deliberate style.

So let's go over the metrics that will be used to track each player's development (descriptions cribbed from Ken Pomery's excellent glossary):

Points per Weighted Shot (PpWS). Calculates how many points a player scores per shot attempt. Read more here. The 0.475 multiplier in the equation is a constant you'll see in many of these formulas. It's a number calculated by Pomery to simulate the percentage of time that free throw results in a change of possession. As a general rule of thumb, I would say that a PpWs rating of 1.15 or over would put a player in the Top 20 in their conference.
PpWS
= Pts / (FGA + (0.475 * FTA).

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%). This metric is similar to field goal percentage but gives a bit of a boost to three point field goals. Anything over 60% should be considered very good.
eFG% = (FG + (0.5 * 3FG)) / FGA.

Percentage of Shots Taken. A measure of how many shots a player takes as a percentage of all team shots while they are on the floor. It's also a decent approximation for what percentage of a team's possesions that a player uses. As there are five players on the floor at a time, the average is around 20%.
%Shots
= FGA / ((Min / (Team Min / 5) * Team FGA).

Free Throw Rate. Good players are able to get to the free throw line more. This stat measures how many free throws a player attempts for every field goal shot they attempt. Anything over 50 is good. Over 70 is excellent. Consider that players that play in the low post or drive to the basket frequently will post higher numbers than outside spot-up shooters.
FTR
= FTA / FGA.

Free Throw Percentage. What percentage of free throws does a player make?
FT%
= FTM / FTA.

Rebounding Percentage. A measre of rebounding efficiency. It calculates how many rebounds a player gets out of the total possible number of rebounds, based on the percentage of time that a player is actually on the court. 15% and over should be considered very good.
Reb%
= Rebounds / (( Team Reb + Opp Reb) * (Min / (Team Min / 5))).

Assist Percentage. A calculation of how many assists a player averages per 100 possessions. I don't have a great estimate for this one, but I would guess that anything over 10.0 is excellent.
A/100% = A / (Min / (Team Min / 5) * (Team Possessions)) * 100.

Turnover Percentage. Like the assist percentage, this metric tracks how many turnovers a player averages per 100 possessions. It's sort of a hard number for comparison since guards handle the ball far more than big men so their numbers are naturally going to be higher. Context is very important for this number. For example, Chris Quinn, as a senior PG, is naturally going to have a higher TO% than Chris Quinn as a junior SG.
TO/100%
= TO / (Min / (Team Min / 5) * (Team Possessions)) * 100.

Steal Percentage. Our first defensive metric, it measures how many steals a player gets for every opponent possession. A number over 5% should be considered excellent.
St%
= Steals / (Min / (Team Min / 5)* (Team Possessions )) * 100.

Block Percentage. Like the steal percentage, the block percentage is a good way to measure how a player, usually a big man in this case, plays defense. This is more of a rough estimate guide than an exact measure since the number only includes opponent's 2-point field goal attempts. The "very good" benchmark for this stat is anything over 8%.
Block%
= Blocks / (Min / (Team Min / 5) * (Opp 2FGA).

Minutes per game. While the above metrics do a great job of breaking things down to a per possession basis, it's still important to recognize simply how much a player plays. If a player gets less than 8-10 minutes of PT a game, their results will tend to be unreliable based on the small sample size.
Min/G
= Total minutes / Number of games.

With the math section of the post over, let's move on to the player capsules. A few qualifiers:

• I included only those players that had at least 3 years under Coach Brey -- a reasonable time period to measure development -- but that means no Murphy, Graves, Swanagan, Humphrey, or any of the transfers. Also, Jere Macura never played enough minutes a game -- another debate for another time -- to have statistically relevant numbers so he was left off as well. Today we'll look at the players in the Class of 2003 and 2004. Tomorrow I will cover the Class of 2005, the Class of 2006 on Thursday, and finally the classes of 2007 and 2008 on Friday.

• I only used statistics from Big East conference games. This was done to keep the quality of the opponents as similar as possible as well as the number of games.

• As noted above, the results can be rather misleading if a player doesn't average at least 10 minutes of playing time a game. Otherwise the numbers are skewed by the smaller sample size or by the fact that most PT probably occured during garbage time. I included everyone's numbers for the sake of completeness, but years where a player didn't average a statistically meaningful amount of minutes will be shaded in gray.

• Finally, I want to be clear that any perceived improvement is as much a credit, if not more, to the player in question and his work ethic as it is to the coaches. Likewise though, barring injuries, a failure to develop should rightly fall on the player's shoulders as much as the coaching staff's.



Class of 2003

Matt Carroll

High School
RSCI ranking - 40
Rivals.com ranking - info not available

Scout.com ranking - info not available


Carroll entered Notre Dame with some lofty accolades. He is the only player in Pennsylvania high school history to be named state Player of the Year twice, and in the southeastern portion of the state trails only Kobe Bryant in terms of career scoring. Furthermore, as a two-year member of the USA Junior National Team, Carroll was named to the 12-man roster for the 1999 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship team that took home the silver in Portugal. Known as a shooter and a scorer with more experience against top talent than the average high school player, Carroll came to ND ready to contribute right away. Despite the lack of an exact number from rivals or scout, Carroll was generally considered to be a Top 30-50 player by various recruiting gurus.

Carroll at Notre Dame
ClassPPWS eFG% %Shots FTR
FT%
Reb%
A/100TO/100 Steal% Block%Min/G
FR *1.0046.826.20.2673.05.83.551.921.51.425.9
SO1.2156.5
19.10.2787.27.16.573.391.40.533.5
JR1.1957.822.90.1478.36.83.302.591.20.232.4
SR1.1853.428.40.3885.48.02.753.041.50.3
37.2
* Carroll's freshman year was under Coach Doherty.

Summary
Although he did arrive at ND with an impressive bunch of creditentials, Carroll didn't need to be the star on a team that featured Troy Murphy. Still his talent was noted early on as Coach Brey called Carroll an NBA prospect during his sophomore year. After a summer touring Europe with the NIT-All Stars, Carroll returned to have a junior year that saw an increase in shooting efficiency but a slight drop in other categories. As a senior he took a big leadership role on the team on route to being named the team's MVP and First Team All-Big East as well as an honorable mention All-American. One statistic of note from his senior year is his improvement in free throw rate from 0.14 to 0.38. That tells me that he worked on his ability to drive to the basket and draw fouls. A shooter who continues to hang out by the three-point line rarely gets to the line and an sudden increase in FTR usually reflects a more aggressive attitude with the ball. His increase in steals also seem to indicate a better job defensively. So while he came to ND with a notable resume, I think it's very fair to say that Carroll continued to develop each year as an all-around basketball player under Coach Brey. Currently Carroll is a member of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats.



Class of 2004


Torrian Jones

High School
RSCI ranking - not in Top 100
Rivals.com ranking - info not available
Scout.com ranking - info not available


A two time all-state selection, Jones received recruiting attention from a few Big East schools as well as Boston College and Stanford before receiving and accepting an offer to Notre Dame.
There isn't much pre-college material on Jones out there , but he was an athletic scorer in high school who hit nearly 44% of his three points attempts. Jones was also noted as a good defender. At 6'4" he was probably too short to be considered an elite wing player, yet also not polished enough to be ranked as an elite guard prospect. Still, he had more than enough talent to develop into a quality D-1 player.

Jones at Notre Dame
ClassPPWS eFG% %Shots FTR
FT%
Reb%
A/100TO/100 Steal% Block%Min/G
FR1.0250.011.70.8950.01.91.059.463.11.64.5
SO1.0851.210.80.7458.14.93.734.392.41.716.3
JR1.1956.511.50.4470.810.53.393.921.42.819.8
SR0.9644.116.30.4464.311.03.613.721.31.533.8

Summary
Jones didn't play much as a freshman but as a sophomore started to make more of an impact on the team. Playing in nearly 40% of the team's Big East conference minutes, Jones' Steal % indicate a good defensive mentality and his free throw rate was exceptional for a guard. Considering he wasn't the primary ball-handler, his TO rate was a bit high and that, combined with the high FTR, suggest a player that drove the lane hard looking for the foul but also occasionally turned the ball over. His junior year he seems to have settled down a bit as his shooting became more efficient and he cut back on the turnovers. Also of note is the doubling of his rebounding percentage. His increased blocking percentage is another testament to his defense. As a senior and captain, his playing time and responsibilities increased but Jones seems to have plateaued a bit as his shooting efficiency dipped while the rest of his numbers stayed about constant.

I want to keep the analysis as quantifiable as possible, but I do admit that such an approach can omit other areas of development. While his numbers didn't improve much, Jones definitely took on the role of vocal team leader. Still, while his numbers did creep up his first three years, they leveled off once he saw a lion's share of the minutes his senior year. Overall I'd say that Jones' improvement wasn't perhaps as rapid as some fans might hope, but he did get better and really emerged as a leader his senior year. It would have been interesting to see what he would have done with more playing time as a junior. I'd also suggest that while his pro prospects early in his career were rather dim, Jones is currently a member of the NBA Development League's Florida Flames. The fact that he is still getting paid to play basketball is a testament to his development at Notre Dame. Then again, the fact that he is still playing professional basketball means it's very likely that with better coaching he could have developed even more while at ND.

Tom Timmermans

High School
RSCI ranking - not in Top 100
Rivals.com ranking - info not available
Scout.com ranking - info not available

Growing up in the Netherlands, Tom Timmermans came to Blue Ridge Academy in Virginia as a high school senior to develop his basketball skills and hopefully attract more attention from college coaches. While earning all-state honorable mention that year he managed to attract some attention from schools like Tennessee, Southern Methodist, and Oregon, but was not a highly sought-after recruit. Although he would grow to around 6'11" by the end of his year in Virginia, he entered his senior year of high school closer to 6'8" which certainly limited his initial attractiveness to college coaches.

Timmermans at Notre Dame
ClassPPWS eFG% %Shots FTR
FT%
Reb%
A/100TO/100 Steal% Block%Min/G
FR0.4020.035.10.00.05.10.011.360.00.01.4
SO0.7334.515.40.4842.912.51.813.170.51.49.7
JR1.0951.016.40.3570.613.42.584.020.30.412.3
SR1.0246.914.20.4368.69.62.953.410.80.524.5

Summary
Timmermans barely played as a freshman due to nagging injuries and the fact that Troy Murphy was ahead of him on the depth chart. The following year he saw more time but was not a very effecient shooter, especially from the free throw line. He did contribute to team rebounding, but was still a backup option behind Harold Swanagan. Junior year he remained a backup option to freshman Torin Francis but became a much more productive player on offense shooting the ball. As a senior, his numbers seem to remain about the same although he did come on strong later in the season when Torin Francis went out with a back injury. Case in point: a 20-point breakout game against UCLA in late February that isn't included in these conference statistics. Timmermans came into ND as a lightly recruited big man with very little basketball experience and developed into a player who was invited to the Portsmouth Invitational for top senior NBA prospects and ultimately found work in professional leagues in Europe.

Next up: Class of 2005 - Chris Thomas and Jordan Cornette.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Routing Rutgers | by Pat

Final Score

Notre Dame 90, Rutgers 63

The Essentials

AP Game recap
Box Score
SBT game story
Photo Gallery

This and That

• In the blowout 90-63 win over Rutgers, the Irish won by a larger margin (27) than the combined losing margin for all eight conference losses (26). On the season, the Irish are +16 scoring in ten conference games but only have a 2-8 record to show for it. Amazing.

• The obvious theme in this game was the return of the Irish inside game. Following up a 1 for 11 performance against Louisville, Francis and Cornett had their way with an injury-depleted Rutgers team that was missing 3 of 5 starters and their 6th man. Individually, they had great games dominating in the low post as the Irish scored more points in the paint (40) than from the perimeter (30).

• More importantly though, Francis and Cornett did some of their damage while playing on the floor together. As of late it was either Francis or Cornett as the lone big man surrounded by the four guard lineup. But now Brey is having thoughts of doubling up the low post men more in future games. Granted not every team will be nearly as defensively deficient down low as the Rutgers team that took the floor of the JACC, but at the very least the Francis and Cornett combo should punish teams that extend their defense out to harass Quinn and Falls behind the arc.

Stat Line of the Night
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Francis, Torin...... f 8-12 0-0 5-10 2 5 7 1 21 2 2 0 0 25
11 Cornett, Rick....... f 5-8 0-0 4-4 2 5 7 3 14 0 0 0 0 20

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

tales of a walk-on | by Jay

Pretty good story in the Binghampton Press about current Irish walk-on Kieran Piller.

Piller longed to attend Notre Dame — alma mater of his father, Sean, and sister, Brooke — for academic reasons. And in his mind, it was virtually Notre Dame-or-bust out of high school. He'd no doubt he'd gain acceptance, with a No. 6 class ranking among the highlights on his résumé.

Lo and behold, he was not accepted at Notre Dame, and instead spent his freshman year at Villanova University.

He transferred to Notre Dame as a sophomore, again, for reasons purely academic, he said.

He continued a steady diet of pick-up basketball in his free time, and some of his regular competitors were friends of Irish player Jordan Cornette. At the time, the basketball team was short of players in the preseason due to injuries, and Cornette contacted Piller to inquire about his interest in working out with the team.

Piller participated in an open tryout early in his sophomore year, "But more than anything, I looked at it as a good pick-up game," he said.

He remained a fixture on the pick-up basketball scene on campus, and last spring helped his team to a berth in the final eight of the Bookstore Basketball Tournament — the only team without a varsity athlete to reach that stage of what is billed as the world's largest outdoor five-on-five tourney.

Then last fall, Notre Dame conducted an open tryout a week-and-a-half into the season. Piller attended, and afterward received a letter from the coaching staff stating that, while no decision had been made, he'd hear from them.

"A couple days later, Omari Isreal transferred, they called me up and asked if I'd be interested in being the 12th man on the team," he said. "I was 100 percent surprised. Basketball was something I did because I enjoy it, that's all."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Seeing red | by Pat

Honestly, what can you say at this point? Saddled with a near celler dwelling record, the Irish faced off against a fellow underacheiving conference member and yet again lost a close one as a Chris Quinn shot failed to find its home as the buzzer sounded.

We still haven't hammered out a set way to recap a game, so in the meantime I hope you don't mind more odds and sods of the good and bad that stuck out during the 89-86 OT loss to the Louisville Cardinals. If you want a more polished review, here is the AP story on the game.

On to the highlights and lowlights.

• Just like Gillette can't stop adding blades to their razors, Notre Dame seized a chance to add yet another guard to their lineup. The starting five against the Cardinals were guards Chris Quinn, Colin Falls, Russell Carter, Kyle McAlarney, and big man Torin Francis. And to be honest, it was a pretty effective offense. Not only that, but the defensive liabilities weren't nearly as bad as I thought they might be. I really think that we're going to see more and more of this small ball type of lineup the rest of the season to start games. If the shooters are off or opposing forwards are feasting on our shorter defense, then Cornett and Kurz will be quick off the bench. But in the meantime look for more of the four around one type of offense that hopefully will lead to more open looks from the perimeter and more room down low for Francis. It's not the ideal offense for the rugged Big East, but at 1-8, I'm willing to give it a shot if it can stop the bleeding.

• Speaking of Torin, I'd like to hammer on his 1 for 7 shooting night, but at least he converted a shot. Rick Cornett and Rob Kurz contributed to the dearth of points in the paint with a combined 0-5 shooting effort. I don't care how hot a hand Quinn or Falls bring into a game, a 1-12 shooting performance from the bigs will sink the Irish just about every time. If ND wants to make it to New York for the Big East tournament, both the players and coaches are going to need to work hard to establish a more consistent low post presence. The fact that Torin Francis has a lower in-conference shooting percentage on short range lay-ups and jumpers than Quinn, Falls, and McAlarney do on 3-pointers is something that needs to change now.

• Thumbs up for Russell Carter. Just a few weeks ago Carter was on the verge of disappearing onto the bench for good. But he cemented his starting status, to me at least, with an all-around superb game against Louisville. It was more than just his 24 points and 6 tough rebounds. It was also his excellent decision making on when to penetrate and when to step back and hit the open 3. Even better, he seems to have brought himself under a bit more control on his drives. If he can add a dependable pull-up mid range game, he really is going to attract even more attention and help free up his teammates. In a season where the postives aren't all that numerous, the continued, dare I say, development of Russell Carter is fun to watch.

• I'm really pulling for the team to finish out the season strong, but the main thing that will continue to keep this team down (in addition to the noted weak low post play on offense) is the subpar defense. I'd love to see a game where everyone had their hands in the passing lanes even when the ball isn't near them. I'd love to see our big men not allow opposing centers to establish position so low on the block. I'd love to see our guards fight through more screens rather than slide under them and leave the shooter the open 3 if they want it. I'd love to see our players do their best to stick with their man rather than causually switch off. Next game when we switch to man defense, watch how many times opposing teams run the high post screen and peel the big man down low hoping for the mismatch. Too often we leave Quinn or Falls fighting a 6'10" power forward or center for low post position while Francis or Kurz get the pleasure of trying to defend an opposing guard off the dribble. Those mismatches aren't fair to either player. I like how Brey is mixing up the defenses and even threw in a box and one and triange in two in an effort to confuse Louisville, but a stronger comittment to aggressive defense when in our standard 2-3 zone or man-to-man is what is going to help this team win more than anything else.

• Despite all the criticisms and day-after coaching, I have to admit that this team is a favorite due to the attitude they show on the court. The inevitable five minute scoring droughts still frustrate me to no end, as do the multitude of 2nd chance points we seem to give up (25 for L'Ville vs. 7 for ND), but consider how bad it is for the actual players out on the court. And yet Quinn and others have not packed it in or stopped fighting to the bitter end. Carter responded to a seat on the pine with a renewed vigor out on the court. Cornett continues to be one of the first off the bench cheering despite his own lack of playing time. We all may find varying reasons why the team is currently 1-8 in the conference, but lack of effort and emotion are definitely not one of them. Sure, moral victories don't show up in the standings and they certainly don't keep coaches employed, but it definitely is worth mentioning that the team is still holding their head high and playing each game as if it were a struggle for first place.

It's going to be tough to climb up the rankings in the remaining seven conference games. The schedule will be much easier, save a trip to Hartford, so it will be interesting to see how the team finishes out the regular season now that a trip to Madison Square Garden will require an immediate halt to the late game losing ways. The conditions are set for the team to salvage some pride this season, but it will take both teamwork and coaching to get there.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tra La La, La La...oh, to hell with it. | by Dylan

Well, after 11 consecutive wins, they finally got us. Hair Bear and Pit Snoggle have exacted their revenge, heaping hijinks and plush mountain music down on the Irish and sending them to their seventh conference loss in eight games. The game was all too familiar, complete with a scoring drought, questionable defense, aimless offense, quizzical substitutions, a 15 point deficit, a furious rally, and a loss. Such has been the '05-'06 Big East campaign. I know that we at the Fieldhouse are planning an opening "State of the Program" post, the focus of which will likely be the future of coach Brey. I'm loath to steal any thunder, but I'm compelled to give my reaction to the latest in a seemingly unending string of moral victories, and I can't help but find fault at the top of the pyramid. Quick thoughts on the game:

• I have not been one of those fans calling for increased minutes for Rick Cornett. It's been my opinion that Torin Francis, especially after a strong start to the season, was a far better option down low. All I can say is, "My bad." After watching tonight's game, I'm of the opinion that Cornett not only deserves more minutes than he's getting, but he should be the starter. He is better now, in every regard, than Francis, who has become a liability on both ends (did you see Kevin "Federline" Pittsnogle abuse him 20 feet from the basket?). He's quicker, he's a better finisher, he's a better rebounder, he's a better defender, he's a better passer out of the post and on the outlet. God bless TF, and God love him for working through all the injuries, but he is the new Dale Davis and he needs to be used like the old Dale Davis. He needs to be a physical defensive presence and a rebounder. His offensive touches need to go somewhere else. He is a role player, and there is nothing he can do to help the starting five that can't be handled by Cornett. Brey's loyalty to Torin is a mystery to me. That ship has clearly sailed.

• I don't understand the offense. I know it's far from the consensus view, but I think it was shown again tonight that Colin Falls is our most dangerous offensive player. No, he is not quick. No, he cannot create his own shot. But he is a deadly spot-up shooter, and there have been slower two guards/small forwards than him who went on to be All-Americans. If Chris Mullin could get open in the Big East, so can Colin Falls. Instead of a motion offense geared toward getting the best shooter open, we get Chris Quinn, who deserves better, dribbling around the perimeter looking for a hole or, often, a double team in the corner.

• I don't understand our rotation. Why, when McAlarney is in the game alongside Quinn, is it McAlarney playing the 2 and Quinn running point? There must be something I'm missing, but it's blowing my mind. Imagine, if we must use a three-guard offense, baseline screens and curls for both Quinn and Falls and a defense chasing them. See my first point for the Francis/Cornett conundrum.

• I don't understand why we are the only team in the NCAA that cannot extend its zone defense outside the three-point line. Even West Virginia can, and I'd like to hear someone argue that they have the type of athlete to do so while we do not. We should be able to meet them at half-court and check them man-to-man for all forty minutes. What kind of indictment is it of Francis that Brey does not trust him to handle the middle while the guards push the opposing offense out past the arc, choosing instead to run the most claustrophobically dense zone since Princeton v. UCLA? Defense is about scheme and effort. I think our guys play hard, so what's the deal? Why don't we know how to play a 2-3 zone? It's beyond frustrating. Why can other teams trap our guards at the hash marks, but we can't return the favor?

• I don't understand our play selection at the end of the game. Knowing that WVU had 19 fouls to give, why was the decision made to run a half-assed screen 30 feet from the basket? Francis, who is no threat to "roll", was effectively out of the play, and there were two defenders available to foul Quinn. We needed 2 points, and we put ourselves in a position where we needed to inbound again with less than 4 seconds. It seems to me that the play should have involved some space and some passing, rather than relying on Quinn to try to win the game off the dribble.

I hate to bring Weis-isms into a basketball discussion, because the games are so different, but when he said "you are what your record says you are", he was right. This team loses close games. It loses them at home and on the road, to good teams and bad teams. But it loses them. We are 10-9, and 1-7 in conference. Depaul is also 1-7 in conference, and they've beaten us. Our best win is against 11-8 Alabama, and we have beaten IPFW, Wofford, and Columbia by two, seven, and three points, respectively. We are in real jeopardy of being one of four teams left out of our conference tournament, a defeat I would consider as ignominious as any 5-7 football season.

We are what that record says we are, and it's time to take a hard look as to why.

Peoples Get Ready | by Mike

On Tuesday, news broke that Notre Dame had received a verbal commitment from Westchester, Illinois shooting guard Jonathan Peoples. Even those who follow Notre Dame basketball recruiting were surprised by the commitment, as Peoples' name had not previously been linked publicly with Notre Dame. We thought we'd share what we have been able to learn about Peoples so far.

Jonathan is a senior at Chicago-area St. Joseph High School, and will ink his letter of intent during the April signing period. Before selecting Notre Dame, he was reportedly considering Southern Cal, Seton Hall, Purdue, Dayton, Northern Illinois, Ball State and UNLV. We have seen his size variously listed as 6' 4", 210 lbs.; 6' 3", 200 lbs.; and 6' 2", 180 lbs. Given the exaggeration that occasionally occurs in recruiting, I would ordinarily tend to believe the last numbers. However, with a prospect like Peoples, who has been largely under the radar, it seems equally plausible that Scout simply may have out-of-date information.

Peoples, who is a cousin of new football signee Sergio Brown, visited Notre Dame for the Villanova game and decided that he saw enough to make his decision.
"It feels real good," Peoples said by cell phone as he left school Tuesday afternoon. "I liked the environment and the history of Notre Dame and decided that would be the best place for me."
From the descriptions of Peoples' game, he has the potential to add an aggressive, attack-the-basket mentality to Notre Dame's stable of guards. Rivals has described Peoples as "a big body guard that powers his way to the bucket and plays within himself." Some of Peoples' biggest fans on the internet can be found at Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye.

Before Peoples ended his recruitment, Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye had this to say:
Peoples received a lot of early recruiting interest, but for whatever reason several schools have since decided to back off. Illinois Prep Bulls-eye can't quite figure out why, especially seeing as though Peoples did not have a bad summer. He does a little bit of everything--he can shoot, handle the ball and above everything else defend. Yes, we would like to see Peoples be more consistent from time to time, but there is no question that he sports talent. Peoples' current list is quite diverse, but he has said that he will wait until the spring in the hopes of getting even more offers. With a strong showing this season, we think that Peoples will do just that.
And in their article dealing with Peoples' commitment, they added this:
Peoples is a player who does a little bit of everything. He can shoot from 3-point range, handle the ball and is a solid defender. Above everything else Peoples does all the little things that don't show up in the box score and simply put he knows how to win. He is enjoying a solid season for a team that is one of the most talented in the state and a serious contender for the Class AA state championship in Peoria come March.
ChicagoHoops.com rates Peoples the 4th best prospect in the Illinois, just two spots below Duke signee Jon Scheyer. As a junior, he was named to the Illinois AA All-State Third Team. Rivals.com rates Peoples a three-star recruit, and Scout.com gives him two stars.

Just last month, Peoples (No. 20) led his St. Joe's Chargers team to the championship of the prestigious Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The PW tournament brings together teams from the Chicago Public League as well as teams from the south, west, and north suburbs. In leading his team to a 69-54 win over Homewood-Flossmoor in the championship game, Peoples scored 17 points on 7-12 shooting (3-4 from behind the arc), dished out 4 assists, and had 5 steals.

What does Peoples' commitment mean for the future of Irish hoops? Peoples does not arrive with "blue chip" or "can't miss" labels. While we try not to put too much stock into the "guru" rankings, it would be disingenuous to pretend we don't enjoy when they rave about our guys. And given Peoples' rankings, it's probably unrealistic to expect him to step in and make an immediate impact. However, he does have the physical tools to develop into a penetrating 2 guard.

Furthermore, Peoples' rankings with the major services appear to have suffered due to a somewhat disappointing tour of the summer AAU circuit. However, Peoples was reportedly suffering from back problems at the time. Chris Quinn's rankings suffered when a foot injury prevented him from showing his true potential during the summer recruiting season, and he's turned out alright for the Irish. Furthermore, Russell Carter chose Notre Dame over William & Mary, but his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop (or the foul line, as he did 11 times against Nova) has provided this year's Irish squad with an element they would otherwise lack.

Peoples' commitment also provides reason for optimism because he appears to bring a skill set well-suited for Big East play. Since joining the Big East, the Irish have largely been a finesse team in a physical league. While Peoples may lack the pretty outside shot possessed by most of Notre Dame's guards in recent years, he should bring driving and defensive abilities that many of these guards have lacked.

Peoples joins a class that already included two Top 100 recruits who fit the Big East mold - a low-post banger in Luke Harangody and a lightning quick point guard in Tory Jackson. Interestingly, all three of these recruits hail from the Midwest. While restarting the Northeast corridor pipeline will be important for Notre Dame's long-term success, it's nice to see the Irish establish a stronger Midwestern presence. It's interesting to speculate whether the Irish are witnessing the fruits of previous commitments by star Midwestern recruits Chris Thomas and Luke Zeller.