Just three weeks ago, this year’s Notre Dame men’s basketball team appeared destined to contend for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the school’s first Final Four berth since 1978. After losing three of its last five games, the Irish are now out of the AP Top 25.
Notre Dame played just one game this week, a showdown with in-state rival Indiana at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. The Irish squandered an eight-point lead with two minutes remaining in regulation and, after a half-court heave from Bonzie Colson nearly fell at the buzzer, lost in overtime, 80-77.
The loss followed recent defeats at the hands of Michigan State and Ball State. All three games were characterized by poor defense and rebounding for the Irish. Notre Dame allowed Indiana, which already has five losses on the season, including a 21-point defeat to Indiana State, to out-rebound it 41-32. The Irish also couldn’t stop forward Juwan Morgan, who finished the game with 34 points, including 26 after halftime.
Notre Dame began the season with fairly lofty expectations, ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP poll, then quickly ramped up the hype. The Irish easily defeated DePaul on the road in their season-opener, then cruised to comfortable wins over Mount St. Mary’s and Chicago State. The Irish then traveled to Maui for the Maui Invitational, which they won thanks to a thrilling, one-point victory over Wichita State in the final.
The loss to Michigan State dropped the Irish from No. 5 to No. 9 in the rankings. The upset by Ball State proved more damaging, dropping Notre Dame to No. 18, where it sat prior to the matchup with Indiana. This week, Notre Dame will wrap up its non-conference schedule with home games against Dartmouth and Southeast Louisiana before beginning a daunting ACC schedule Dec. 30 against Georgia Tech.