If you take a look at the KenPom rankings, you'll see that Notre Dame has the second most efficient offense in the nation. The things you always hear about the Irish are that they move the ball very well and they shoot a lot of 3 pointers. The reason you hear those things is because they are true. In their 66-60 win over Cincinnati on Monday night, Notre Dame put on an offensive exhibition the last 26 minutes of game time. How do they do it and continue to do it? Great question. I have pictures after the jump.
You can see Cincinnati comes out man to man. Pat Connaughton is in the red circle.
There are a couple of things happening in this image. First on the ball, Jack Cooley got a pass on the elbow, dribbled out to hand off to Eric Atkins and set him a screen. In the circles, you have Scott Martin, blue, setting a screen for Connaughton, red. Cincinnati switched both screens. That's about to become very important.
Connaughton makes his way to the corner. He's now guarded by Titus Rubles, a power forward, instead of Shaq Thomas, a 3. UC switching the ball screen has center Cheikh Mbodj on Eric Atkins with Cooley rolling to the basket on JaQuon Parker. Look at the 2 UC defenders on the left side of the lane. They are both ready to drop down and guard Cooley.
Look at the absolute confusion the double screens ended up causing Cincinnati. Mbodj tries to drop back once Atkins starts to drive. Parker is now stuck guarding 2 people.
Connaughton, still in the red circle, gets the ball the corner. Atkins pretty much walks over, hands off and screens Mbodj. Mbodj has no chance to block the shot. Parker has no chance. Where is the man who was guarding Connaughton? Under the red arrow.
This play is a little different because it came off a rebound and mini-break. The Irish pushed the ball ahead to Scott Martin, who caught the pass on the block. All 5 Cincinnati players are in the paint pretty much.
Martin passed out to Grant, who passed to Connaughton in the corner. He's one on one with Rubles. Look at the brilliant seal Martin has on Nyarsuk. Connaughton is going to follow the arrow down the baseline. Parker seemingly knows this is coming as he didn't move out towards Grant at all.
Mass confusion again by the Bearcat defense. 4 black shirts on 2 ND players. Martin, in green, popped out to the wing after Connaughton passed him. Parker crashes the lane to stop a turnaround shot. Rubles and Nyarsuk are totally lost. Kilpatrick is the only one on the wing and has to guard 3 players. The ball went to Atkins, circled in red. He made a 3 pointer.
Notre Dame started the offense so fast on this possession that ESPN didn't have the camera on that side of the floor completely. The maroon arrow is because there is a man in the corner. Grant, circled in red, set a screen for him. The man with the diamond on his head follows the white line to the corner. The guy behind Grant switches on to him.
Cooley screens for Grant. You can see the man trailing Grant fall very far behind. Cincinnati switches the screen, leaving Kelvin Gaines on Grant up top.
Grant faked a pass inside. As you can see, Gaines bought it hook, line and sinker as he started collapsing the lane. Grant would drill a 3.
Grant gets the ball on the left wing and starts to drive, obviously. His man got a little tied up on a screen, which is about to be very important.
Grant passed to Jack Cooley. The white circle is Cashmere Wright, who dropped down and swatted the ball out of Cooley's hands. The red circles are Connaughton and the man who was guarding him. That guy had to cover Atkins since Wright dropped down.
The ball gets kicked out to Connaughton. Wright started out towards Grant, as a result, he has to take a very high angle on Connaughton. The red circle is the man supposed to be guarding the orange circle, Scott Martin.
Connaughton drove and threw a jump pass out to Martin. That's Kelvin Gaines wildly going for the block. Sanders did not go with Martin. UC paid dearly.
Grant drives towards the baseline. Kilpatrick slips, so Gaines has to help. Grant passes out of a double team to a cutting Atkins, that's Sanders, white, in the lane to cut him off.
But that means everyone is sucked up in the paint. Eric Atkins has multiple options.
The pass goes to Scott Martin. Two guys run at him, so he kicks to Connaughton for another wide open 3.
This is the adjustment Notre Dame made in the second half. With Cincinnati sticking to the shooters more, they start using high screens with their guards. This is a screen and roll with Atkins and Cooley. Wright goes over the top of the screen.
Atkins starts to go to the basket. Gaines steps up on him, leaving the circled Cooley to slip to the basket for an uncontested layup.
Notre Dame's offense was brilliant on Monday night. According to stat sheet, the Irish had an offensive rating of 117.9. Keep in mind, they scored 11 points in the first 14 minutes of the game. They had an effective field goal percentage, weighs 3 pointers, of 59.4%.
There are 3 major things to the Irish offense that make them click.
1) The Irish have two very good ball handlers.
For my money, Eric Atkins is one of the better point guards in the nation. After struggling with turnovers last season, Atkins has bounced back with an assist turnover ratio of 3.9. That's the 13th best. Atkins averages 7.3 assists per game, 6th best. He's getting assists on nearly 34% of Irish baskets when he's on the floor.
His back court mate is Jerian Grant. Grant is averaging over 5 assists a game. He has an assist turnover ratio of over 2. They are both great passers who rarely turn the ball over. It's a great combination.
2) Notre Dame has multiple 3 point threats.
The Irish have 5 guys who have made at least 17 three pointers. Their worst shooter is at 35.4%. Scott Martin is hitting 50.8% from 3. Atkins improved from 37% to 45%. Pat Connaughton has added 2% to his total to get up to 36%. They spread you out, make good passes and knock down 3s.
3) They keep you honest inside.
Notre Dame has the best offensive rebounder in the nation inside with Jack Cooley. He's pulling in 22.4% of the offensive rebounds when he's on the floor. He's hitting 61% from the field, a little down from previous seasons, but he's someone that opposing teams definitely have to respect and game plan against.
To go with that, Connaughton has added slashing to his game. He was primarily a 3 point specialist last season. He doesn't have to do it often, he just has to mix it up. Grant and Atkins go to the rim hard. As you can see in the last picture, when you start staying on the wings, the guards go screen and roll and it's has great results for Notre Dame.
As always, it's going to come down to defense for this team. Notre Dame is ranked 139 in defensive efficiency. That's rather poor. As for now, they are rolling offensively and it's fun to watch.