Bulls

Irish improve to 10-0 with win over Boston College

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Irish improve to 10-0 with win over Boston College

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Notre Dame's national title hopes gained steam Saturday, and it had far more to do with the proceedings in Tuscaloosa, Ala., than what happened just outside Boston's city limits.

Texas A&M's stunning 29-24 win over No. 1 Alabama dropped the Tide from the ranks of college football's unbeatens, meaning Notre Dame will move up to at least No. 3 in tomorrow's BCS standings, pending the outcome of Oregon's contest against Cal. No. 2 K-State beat TCU 23-10 and will likely be No. 1 on Sunday.

Oh, and Notre Dame beat Boston College 21-6 to improve to 10-0.

"We heard it before the game," cornerback Bennett Jackson said of Alabama's loss. "There were a few guys that had it on their phone. But we had our minds focused on what we had to get done, and we weren't really too concerned about it."

Among the things Notre Dame could control, Everett Golson completed 16 of 24 passes for 200 yards, rushed 11 times for 39 more yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) while Theo Riddick rushed for 104 yards as Notre Dame once again managed an easy win away from South Bend.

Notre Dame set the tone early, with Golson engineering a 95-yard drive -- the longest of the season for Notre Dame -- that ended when he rushed two yards for a touchdown. That was key, given how Notre Dame's first drive against Pittsburgh petered out into a field goal, setting the stage for poor offensive play until the fourth quarter.

"Everett Golson played the way he needs to play, especially in the red zone," coach Brian Kelly said. "I think we said once he starts playing at the level that we need him in the red zone, we'll start scoring touchdowns and not just field goals."

The Irish tacked on a second touchdown at the end of the first half, with Golson leading the Irish on an eight and a half-minute drive to increase Notre Dame's lead to 11 after 30 minutes. The third quarter saw Notre Dame again march downfield with ease, and Golson found a wide-open John Goodman to put the Irish up by 18. All Boston College could muster was another field goal the rest of the way.

The game was another step in the right direction for Golson, who was efficient but not flashy running the Irish offense. Notre Dame's three scoring drives totaled 18:25, with the Irish wearing down a BC defense that couldn't get itself off the field. Those long drives -- Notre Dame converted its first 10 third down tries -- wound up helping the team's defense, which put together a fantastic effort after allowing a season-high 26 points last weekend.

"It definitely helps us physically and helps us get the corrections we need from (defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) and the rest of the defensive coaches," linebacker Manti Te'o, who recorded his sixth interception of the season in the fourth quarter, said. "A lot of instruction. None of the defensive players are watching the game going on. We're all getting instruction, getting the corrections needed for the next drive."

That instruction paid off, as Chase Rettig and the Boston College offense threw the kitchen sink at the Irish.

"You thought you were at Disney World," Te'o said. "There's Mickey Mouse plays everywhere, just reverses, screens -- that was the most screens I've ever defended in one game. But our guys came out, they flew to the ball and when something happened, somebody was there. I'm just proud of our guys."

The only blemishes on Notre Dame's stat line were a pair of fumbles, one by George Atkinson and the other by Riddick. A week after being pushed to the brink by Pittsburgh, the Irish were able to cruise to a much less heart-pounding victory.

"I thought or kids understood that we have to play really hard, and we did," Kelly said. "We played physical, we ran hard. Like I said, the only thing I'm not happy with is the turnovers. We have to take better care of the football, but they played hard and they played physical for four quarters."

Still, Notre Dame's win wasn't stylish, and those two fumbles curbed the Irish's margin of victory. But at this point, all Notre Dame needs to do is win and hope for attrition.

Both those things happened Saturday, and because of it Notre Dame is one step closer to playing for a championship -- even if they aren't paying attention to that goal as a team.

"You can't really look forward to anything like that, or you'll kind of drop the ball and not stay to the course," Golson said. "My head is down, just sticking on just trying to get prepared and trying to get the next win."

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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