Preps Talk

Cutting down on mistakes keys turnaround for Irish

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Cutting down on mistakes keys turnaround for Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Ask any Notre Dame defensive player about Alabama's offense, and the words "mistake-free" will pop up somewhere in their answer. The Tide have one of the best turnover margins in college football at 1 per game, keyed by A.J. McCarron only throwing three interceptions all year.
Notre Dame has a painful firsthand knowledge of how turnovers can torpedo a season. The Irish coughed the ball up 10 times in losses to South Florida and Michigan to open the 2011 season, setting the tone for a sloppy 8-5 year marred by 29 turnovers, the 10th-highest total among FBS teams.
There's some part of turning the ball over that involves luck. For Notre Dame, there was plenty of it last year, and coupled with poor decisions and the so-frequently-mentioned need to improve the team's "attention to detail" it cost the Irish a season.
That's why going in to spring practice, the emphasis on Notre Dame's quarterback battle was on keeping hold of the football. Everett Golson didn't have a turnover in the team's spring game, while Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix both did. And while there was plenty about Golson's game that was frustrating for coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, his ability to hold on to the football was a big point in his favor.
Four months later, it's telling that Golson didn't field any questions about turning the ball over from the throngs of media assembled around him at Monday's media day. In 2011, that's all anyone could talk about -- how was Notre Dame going to stop turning the ball over so much?
The answer hasn't just been inserting Golson in as the team's starting quarterback. He's still turned the ball over, throwing five interceptions and losing four fumbles. But it's also telling that, after Golson quarterbacked Notre Dame to a road win over Michigan State this year, the freshman was universally praised -- by everyone outside the team, that is.
"Michigan State, (the media) applauded him -- but if you really broke down what he did against Michigan State, he ran around a little bit, he scrambled and threw an ESPN play of the day, and that kind of overshadowed the rest of the game," Martin said. "Where in his mind, he knew he didnt play great at Michigan State.
" Michigan State game, I almost pulled him away from you guys and said you stink,'" Martin added.
But consider this: the worst turnover margin among the last five national champions was Auburn's 0.36, good for 33rd nationally in 2010. Notre Dame was at -1.15 in 2011, third-worst among 120 FBS schools. In 2012, the Irish are 0.75, ranking 23rd nationally.
Couple that with a defense that's gone from good to great, and Notre Dame is going from the Champs Sports Bowl to the BCS Championship.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”