December 08, 2008

And Aloha Means Goodbye!

Somewhere Larry Biel and Chad Ford are high-fiving about the Irish coming to the Islands for the Hawaii Bowl. Maybe we could talk Biel into doing the game for ESPN so that we could get a few “Aloha means goodbyes” and “WITH AUTHORITY” lines out of him.

Maybe I’m in the minority on this one, but I like this game for the Irish. Do we belong in the a bowl game at 6-6 after that disastrous finish?? No, not at all. If there were fewer bowl games, we would not have been invited. And to be perfectly honest, I would have had no problem with ND turning down a bowl bid. But let’s be real here. There was no way ND was turning down a bowl game. What schools are turning down bowl bids these days?? Alabama played in the Independence Bowl last year. I don’t even think you are allowed to turn down bowl games anymore. At the end of the day, ND was accepting a bowl bid no matter what.

Considering the other options that were out there, I’m actually pleased with the game that we picked. In my eyes, it’s a win-win situation. If our team actually takes this game seriously, circles the wagons, and wins the game, we could use it as a springboard into next year. Texas went into their Holiday Bowl game last year with something to prove, and they used that game as a rallying point headed into this season. Alabama did the same thing in Shreveport. I hope the ND players view this game as an opportunity and not as some sort of vacation. Hawaii is not a great team by any means, but they at least have somewhat of a name and the game should get a pretty good tv rating being around the Christmas holidays. If we go out and make a statement on national tv, it could be a turning point for this program under Charlie Weis. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a believer in Charlie Weis, but I hope he views this game as the start on a path to redemption. He better be treating this game as the Super Bowl like Bo Pelini did when he was the interim coach at Nebraska. If he wants to grab some facemasks, I’m all for it.

And if we lose, big deal. This season has been a disaster anyway, so another loss isn’t going to affect our program any more than the Syracuse game or any other loss in the last 15 years.

Recruiting is also going to play a big story here. It sounds like Manti Te’o is still legitimately interested in ND, so we can use this game to put a huge sell on Te’o to come to South Bend. Te’o is the next Rey Maulauga. If we lose this game but pick up Te’o, the trip will have been worth it.

Will I be surprised if we come out flat and lose?? No, of course not. We’ve been uninspired for over two months now, so nothing would be surprise me at this point. Hawaii is a thugged out team playing at home, and I will not be surprised at all if they are in Clausen’s face all night long. They are going to be fired up to play ND, so we better be prepared to match their intensity or it could be a long night.

Kirk Herbstreit said it best last night on the ESPN bowl selection show. Guys like Jimmy Clausen and Tate and company are now juniors. I know they are technically sophomores in class, but it is time for them to start thinking like they are juniors and the leaders of this program. The clock is ticking, and the window is closing up ever so slightly on their careers as hard as it is to believe. If Clausen and company want to be remembered as champions, they need to start with this game in Hawaii. They have reached the crossroads of their ND careers. If they are going to treat Hawaii as vacation to hang out on the beach and drinks mai tais, that’s how they’ll be remembered as ND. But if they go out there and run the Rainbows off the field, they could use it as an opportunity to get focused for 2009 and 2010.

As for the complaining from fans saying that ND should have gone to a different bowl like the Texas Bowl that more fans could have attended, give me a freaking break. The Texas Bowl?? What fans were going to attend the Texas Bowl?? Heck, I have been to 3 road ND games this year and swore that I would go to whatever bowl game the Irish played in, and even I lost all interest in going to the bowl game to see this team after we lost to Syracuse. Fans were not going to be signing up for the Texas Bowl or the Independence Bowl or any bowl that we ended up in. At this point, the bowl game is about the players and the coaches. The players voted to go to Hawaii, and I don’t blame them. If they wanted to go to Hawaii, then that’s cool with me.

Anyway, that’s my take on the Irish bowl game. If people don’t watch to watch, I don’t blame them. If we win 24-21 or something and look lousy, I doubt it will soothe the pain of the god awful season and surely will not clear up the controversy swirling around Charlie Weis. But maybe just maybe the Irish will show up ready to play on Christmas Eve and bring home a big win.

--- As for the Irish hoops team, tough loss on Saturday, but I’m not too stressed out about it. We are what we are. We have an experienced and talented team, but we also aren’t exactly trotting out a roster loaded with five star recruits. We are capable of beating anyone, but we also have enough weaknesses that a good team can beat us on any given day. Ohio State is a good team with a lot of talented young players (every guy on that team is a 4 or 5 star recruit other than the JUCO point guard and there are 3 future NBA players on the roster) and a good coach, they were “up” for the game, we didn’t play well, and they beat us. It happens in college hoops. If we played that game next week, it could be an entirely different story. While we didn’t play well at all, we battled back and showed a lot of heart to make it close.

Some thoughts on some players:

Harangody – Good to see Harangody back in business; hard to complain about 25 points out of him

McAlarney – Ohio State admittedly had a great game plan for us in this game by extending out on our shooters and going all out to shut down Kyle McAlarney. They were blanketing KMac the entire game. Credit to Thad for coming up with that game plan. While I agree that this strategy is a blueprint for beating ND, there are very few teams that are disciplined enough and have the athleticism to execute that strategy. Most teams do not have the discipline to get out on our shooters like OSU did, and KMac will burn those teams. I'm willing to tip my hat to Matta and say that he had a great game plan that his team executed. It happens. There have been plenty of games where Brey had a great game plan against an opposing coach (Rick Barnes, Bill Self, Boeheim, Calhoun, Pitino, etc) and put us in position to win big games. You can't win them all in college basketball, but I'll take my chances with Coach Brey in most games.

As for KMac, he probably needs to find some other ways to contribute and score for this team when the other team is taking away the three. And I’d like to see Brey work on getting McAlarney better looks even when teams are keying on him.

Ayers – Not to bang on Ayers, but we need to get more production out of him in 34 minutes when the other team is concentrating on KMac. 3 boards and 1 assist in 34 minutes to go with 3 3s when he was basically being ignored for most of the game?? Ayers is a senior. We probably need him to be more assertive.

I actually think Ayers is better off coming off the bench. He was better last year off the bench. He’s a little bit like David Graves in that respect.

Speaking of David Graves, they showed a montage of the last ND-OSU game on the scoreboard at the game, and then introduced Graves to the crowd. What a moment! He has packed on some pounds. Graves was always one of my favorite players at ND.

Zeller – As we have seen so many times in the past, Luke Zeller is a bit of a tease on the court. No knock on Zeller (who seems like a great guy from a great family), but he’s not capable of being a major contributor on a big time team. The guy is 6’11” but seems to be incapable of getting inside and banging for rebounds. If he’s not rebounding, he can’t get minutes in big games.

We need some people to step up to fill the void of Rob Kurz on the boards. OSU is not even a good rebounding team, and yet they got way too many second chance opportunities. If Zeller isn't going to give us an inside presence, then Nash needs to play more minutes. Nash should be on a mission to grab defensive rebounds. If I was Brey, I would be pounding that into his head. If we grabbed a few more boards yesterday, we would have won the game.

Bench - Did anyone even score off the bench?? I don't recall Peoples or Nash scoring at all. If a team is going to try to take out McAlarney as a strategy, we need guys like Nash and Zeller and Peoples to step up.

I know Kurz is a loss for this team, but it’s not like he’s Troy Murphy or something. He is replaceable. We have talented young guys who can come up and replace his minutes. Guys like Nash and Hillesland and Ayers need to step it up.

Tough loss on Saturday, but I think we’ll be fine. If we can regroup and get off to a good start in the Big East, we can put this loss behind us.

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