Mike Brey continues to produce results as the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. With pretty much everybody back from last year, Notre Dame will once again be a major player in what figures to be the school's final year as members of the Big East Conference.
What the Fighting Irish does on the court with its burn offense is by no means sexy, but it has certainly been efficient the past couple of seasons. Returning in the backcourt for Brey is the junior combo of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Due to a lack of guard depth, the duo logged heavy minutes for the team last season and that will likely be the case again this year.
Joey Brooks was used as a reserve guard last season, but will sit out this season to preserve his final year of eligibility. That will further limit Notre Dame's already thin backcourt since he was the lone true guard coming off the bench. In fact, it seems likely that Brooks might end up transferring and playing elsewhere for his senior season.
As expected, Tim Abromaitis was not granted a sixth-year medical hardship waiver by the NCAA, meaning his college career has ended. Scott Martin on the other hand was awarded a sixth year, and his versatility is a major asset for Brey since he can play multiple positions. Martin will start on the wing next to scrappy sophomore Pat Connaughton, who can quickly catch a hot hand and light it up from deep but needs to show more consistency with that outside shot.
The Irish lost key reserve Alex Dragicevich to transfer, but have a freshman capable of replacing his minutes and production. Cameron Bedscheid has performed well in the preseason and is a capable shooter off the bench. His versatility also allows him to play some two guard, which will be needed even though Connaughton and Martin can play the two also.
Perhaps the biggest revelation for the Fighting Irish last season was the growth of big-man Jack Cooley. He went from being an energy role-player primarily used for his body to a reliable low post option who attacks the glass with force. Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman becomes eligible after sitting out last season and provides some size off the bench.
Brey's bench is typically short in terms of his regular rotation and that figures to be the case again this year with only seven guys expected to play every night. Senior post Mike Broghammer continues to battle nagging knee injuries, and his collegiate career is likely over because of that. Thomas Knight could see spot minutes while freshmen Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett will likely wait their turn with one of them possibly even redshirting.
Honestly, watching Notre Dame basketball tends to put me to sleep. I'm not questioning the fundamentals or how well the team plays together or how hard it play on defense, but waiting until the shot clock hits ten to initiate your offense tends to be a bore. Brey has that style working for the Fighting Irish though, and his squad should once again be a notch below the elite teams in the league; this year, Louisville and Syracuse.
Player to Watch: Jack Cooley, PF/C
Since Luke Harangody is the captain of my All "Anti-Boy" Team and Cooley is a dead ringer for Harangody, I can't help but hate Cooley, too. With that being said, he made incredible strides during his junior year and should once again be a force in the paint for Notre Dame.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/16 vs. St. Joseph's (Coaches vs. Cancer in Brooklyn)
11/17 vs. Florida State/BYU(Coaches vs. Cancer in Brooklyn)
11/29 vs. Kentucky (Big East/SEC Challenge)
12/15 vs. Purdue (Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis)
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