There are lots of conclusions to draw from Notre Dame's thorough thrashing of Villanova in South Bend Monday night.
The first is that Villanova seems to be at legitimate risk of suffering from the same late-season fade that ultimately marred its 2009-10 season. The Wildcats have now lost three in a row and eight of their last 13. Their defense isn't capable of stopping top opponents at home or on the road, and their offense, if anything, has only played worse in recent weeks. What's more, it's hard for Nova to blame this recent rough patch on "just another year in the Big East," because it has even struggled against the Big East's worst -- with losses to Rutgers and Providence and near-losses to Seton Hall and DePaul -- in this stretch.
The second is that Notre Dame's offense -- led by unlikely Big East player of the year candidate Ben Hansbrough -- can be very, very good. This is nothing new; the Irish have been efficient offensively for most of the season. But rarely has it been on such display as Monday night. Among the crazy numbers Mike Brey's team put up against the Wildcats:
The Irish scored 93 points on 64 possessions, or 1.45 points per trip.
The Irish shot 32 3-point field goals. They made 20 of them. Twenty!
Of those 20 made 3s, Tim Abromaitis made nine. (Nine!) Hansbrough made seven. (Seven!) Combined, the two were 16-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Thanks in large part to those long-range efforts, Notre Dame posted an effective field goal percentage of 75.0, the highest of any Notre Dame team since Nov. 22, 2000, according to Toby Petitpas and Nathan Salinas of ESPN Stats & Information.
Both Hansbrough and Abromaitis scored 30 points. I'm trying to figure out whether that's some sort of record or not. Either way, it's crazy impressive.
The Irish shot 20 free throws and made 15. Villanova shot nine and made five. And, yes, that had less to do with the referees than it did with both teams.
In short, what Notre Dame did to Villanova last night was insane. It's also entirely unsustainable; no offense is going to keep up shooting percentages like this. But on senior night in South Bend, it was the perfect way to prematurely punctuate this veteran team's surprisingly brilliant, consistently efficient, arguably underrated regular season. Notre Dame didn't surprise us and then go away. There are no smoke and mirrors surrounding this 24-5 team with its gaudy 13-4 Big East record. No, the Irish are just really, really good at offensive basketball. We saw that, and not for the first time, Monday night.