No. 19 Notre Dame wraps up its home schedule Wednesday night as the Irish host Boston College at Purcell Pavilion.
Wednesday’s contest is the second meeting between ND and BC in the last two weeks. In the first matchup in Chestnut Hill, BC challenged the Irish and took a lead into halftime before ND mounted a second half comeback to earn the 84-76 victory.
This will be the 29th all-time meeting between the two programs and the Irish have won eight straight vs. the Eagles.
Although their position in the standings has not changed, BC is a much-improved team from a year ago. The Eagles have defeated Syracuse and pushed UNC to the brink this season, but they are different team away from Conte Forum and have yet to win a road game this season.
Jerome Robinson leads BC with 19.4 ppg, but Ky Bowman is the Eagles’ potent threat from the perimeter. The freshman averages 14.5 ppg., shoots 44% from three, and tallied 29 points vs. the Irish in the previous matchup.
Notre Dame’s positioning in the ACC Tournament is still up in the air. If Florida State had beaten Duke Tuesday, the Irish would have clinched a double-bye with a victory over BC. Instead, the Irish can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the final ACC standings.
If ND wins their final two games and UNC loses to Duke Saturday, the Irish would finish in a tie for the regular season championship (UNC owns the tiebreaker). However, there are still too many moving parts to accurately forecast where the Irish will finish.
Wednesday’s game is pretty simple, if the Irish show up focused, they will cruise. In the first half of first matchup, ND put forth their worst half of the season and still managed to win on the road.
Between the big game vs. Louisville this weekend and Wednesday being the home finale, there a plenty of potential distractions, but this team has too much experience to allow that to effect their performance.
While the Irish will be focused on defeating BC and taking another step towards and top-four ACC finish, the senior night festivities honoring V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia will encompass much of the pregame focus.
Quite frankly, as a fan, honoring their legacy and importance to the program supersedes Wednesday’s game.
Coming out high school, most of the attention to the 2013 recruiting class was directed towards McDonald’s All-American Demetrious Jackson, and rightfully so. However, Beachem and Vasturia will go down as some of the best players in ND history and stabilizing forces as ND entered the unchartered waters of the ACC.
Vasturia and Beachem’s freshman year was the worst season of Mike Brey’s coaching career. Star guard Jerian Grant’s suspension at the end of the first semester commenced a tailspin resulting in a 13-15 record and a disastrous 6-12 conference mark. Not quite the ACC debut anybody had in mind.
Because of Grant’s departure, Beachem and Vasturia received more playing time than either expected during their freshman year. Their inexperience showed and they took plenty of punches from the ACC gauntlet, but neither backed down.
That tumultuous first season in the ACC created doubt regarding ND’s potential in the new conference. It was the leadership and quiet confidence of players like Beachem and Vasturia that has led the Irish from the ACC basement to an ACC Championship and back-to-back Elite Eights.
Better players have come through the Notre Dame basketball program, but I’m not sure if there have been better winners than Beachem and Vasturia. The duo has been apart of a school-record 78 wins (and counting) over a three year stretch and show no signs of slowing down as we enter March.
Both Vasturia and Beachem have hit a plethora of clutch shots in big time games during their career.
Vasturia’s corner three vs. Duke in 2015, his game-winners vs. Pitt and Miami this year, his emphatic dunk vs. Florida State, Beachem’s flawless shooting stroke, his game-winner vs. Virgina Tech, and his unbelievable postseason run last season are just some of the duo’s on-court legacy, but their influence on Notre Dame does not end there.
Their quiet confidence led Notre Dame back to national prominence and permeates the entire team today. That confidence is there in big games, it’s present in hostile environments on the road, and it always emerges in tight games – and therein lies the legacy of V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia.
Notre Dame now expects to win close games and expects to win big games in March. It is a foundation laid by Grant and Connaughton and built upon by Jackson, Vasturia, and Beachem.
This attitude is why the Irish have won so many games in the final minutes, it is why they are in position to earn their third straight ACC double-bye, and it is why nobody wants to face the Irish in March.