Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Last Year: 27-7, 14-4 in Big East)
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
F/C: Jack Cooley (Jr)/Mike Broghammer (Jr)
F: Tim Abromaitis (Sr)/Thomas Knight (Jr)
G/F: Scott Martin (Sr)/Alex Dragicevich (So)/Pat Connaughton (Fr)
SG: Joey Brooks (Jr)/Jerian Grant (So)
PG: Eric Atkins (So)
Gone: G-Ben Hansbrough, F/C-Tyrone Nash, F-Carleton Scott
In losing Luke Harangody, expectations were lower for Notre Dame last season. However, their veteran lineup rose to the challenge, finishing with the second best record in the Big East and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With three starters gone from a year ago, the Fighting Irish are again flying under the radar heading into the 2011-2012 season.
The senior duo of Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin will be the go-to players for the Irish this season. Abromaitis is a nightmare matchup due to his ability to stroke it from deep and use his size to back down defenders in the post. Martin is in the same mold but just doesn't possess the talent that Abromaitis does. The lefty struggled from distance last season but if he can become a better shooter, should take over the second banana role.
With Ben Hansbrough graduating, Eric Atkins becomes the full-time point guard. He was the team's sixth man a year ago as a freshman and showed the potential to be a solid scorer and distributor. As the only true point guard on the roster, he will probably play heavy minutes.
Harangody look-alike Jack Cooley takes over in the middle. He plays extremely hard, using his physicality and will to be a factor on the glass. Juniors Mike Broghammer and Thomas Knight played sparingly a year ago but must provide depth off the bench.
Notre Dame suffered a blow to their frontcourt depth this summer when top-100 recruit Eric Katenda suffered a freak injury that has left him blind in one eye. There is a possibility that he could suit up for the Irish at some point but it is unlikely that will happen this season.
Mike Brey also picked up an addition who will help them for the future when center Garrick Sherman transferred in from Michigan State. He will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules but is allowed to practice with the team.
Joey Brooks figures to be the fifth starter this season. He is not much of a scorer but is a solid wing defender and will likely run the point when Atkins needs a breather. The depth on the wing is rather inexperienced. Alex Dragicevich only appeared in fourteen games last season while Jerian Grant redshirted. Grant is a gifted athlete who could work his way into the rotation and possibly steal minutes from Brooks. Freshman Pat Connaughton could be an immediate contributor due to his sharpshooting ability.
Brey has shown an ability to make the most of the talent he is coaching. If the role players can step up to the challenge, Notre Dame may once again be a sleeper in the Big East.
Player to Watch: Tim Abromaitis, F
I think Abro could potentially be a 20-point per night scorer and Big East Player of the Year candidate if he can once again shoot higher than 40% from three. He has been suspended for the first four games of the season due to a rules misinterpretation by Brey that occurred during the 2008-2009 season. Still, Abro should get more scoring opportunities due to the losses of Hansbrough, Nash, and Scott.