March Madness: 3 reasons why Notre Dame fell short of the Sweet 16

Tom Noie
ND Insider

SAN DIEGO - A few more days in California beckoned. 

Why go all the way back to campus if the Notre Dame men’s basketball team would have to just turn around and head back to the Golden State to continue play in the NCAA Tournament West Region? 

If sacrificing a couple more days of missed class was the consequence, so be it. 

Notre Dame looked headed up to San Francisco, but couldn't hold a late lead and lost 59-53 to No. 3 seed Texas Tech in the second round of the West Region.

Here are three reasons why Sunday happened the way it happened at Viejas Arena. 

Mar 20, 2022; San Diego, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey reacts in the first half against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Viejas Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

-A fourth time wasn’t the charm 

First it was Florida State in 2011. Then Iowa State in 2013. Then it was West Virginia in 2018. Whatever school seems to be the hottest defensive outfit in the country, it seems Notre Dame draws that matchup in the NCAA Tournament. 

The Irish didn’t have answers the first three times, and looked way out of their league in each of those games. The other teams were just too big and old and athletic and better. Same story against Texas Tech, which made it really hard for Notre Dame to do anything. The Irish shot 25 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3 in the first half. They also had more turnovers (five) than assists (four), a sure sign that the Irish weren’t comfortable doing anything they wanted to do. 

Seven Irish played in the first half. Each one finished the half with exactly one basket. 

Maybe one of these days Notre Dame will get one of these. The Irish had this one. 

NCAA Tournament:Notre Dame men's basketball loses to Texas Tech in Round 2

-Kevin Obanor happened 

Obanor is the ultimate glue guy for Texas Tech, a guy who averages just under 10 points (9.9) and five rebounds a game. He grabbed five rebounds and had 11 points to lead everyone in the first half. Texas Tech seemed like a team that couldn’t shoot straight. The Red Raiders had plenty of shots and chances in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize. 

Obanor did. He was a problem that Notre Dame never did solve. 

His rebound follow early in the second half was a crusher. The Irish had the stop and had a chance to tie it with a good possession. Instead, Obanor put the Red Raiders up by four. 

Obanor then came up with the game’s biggest rebound – on the offensive end – was fouled and hit two free throws to put the Red Raiders up one with 70 seconds remaining. 

-Nobody followed Cormac Ryan’s magic 

Ryan broke loose for a career-high 29 points two days earlier against Alabama. He was ridiculously good hitting shots and defending and grabbing rebounds and just willing that team to a win. 

But you knew after he garnered all the attention with the headlines and the CBS interviews that he would be atop the Red Raiders’ scouting report. Take away Ryan, it probably said, and see if anyone else could beat them. 

Nobody did. 

Dane Goodwin took – and made – one shot in the first half. Blake Wesley missed his first eight before finally getting something to fall just before half. Paul Atkinson had a dunk early in the first half and that was it. 

No Irish could duplicate what Ryan did, which is why they’re headed home. 

March Madness 2022:Cormac Ryan gets a career high for Notre Dame basketball

-What’s next for Notre Dame? 

-An offseason of a lot of questions, mainly, who comes back? Does Goodwin? Does a Trey Wertz? What will Wesley do? Heck, what will Mike Brey decide to do? Will he say that it’s time for a professional reboot after 22 seasons at Notre Dame? 

After a season like this, there should be more answers than questions. The opposite might be true. Change likely will happen, but to what extent, remains a mystery. There’s good karma around the program again after four years of frustration. 

But is it the start of something, or just one of those years where everything broke right? 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI