With Jack Cooley having graduated after leading the team in both scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg), Notre Dame has a sizable hole to fill in its front court this season. One player expected to figure prominently in the Fighting Irish’s plans is sophomore Zach Auguste, who averaged 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in nearly 11 minutes of action per game as a freshman.
Those plans have hit a bump in the road however, as the school announced on Thursday that the 6-foot-10 power forward will be out anywhere from four to six weeks after suffering a broken left hand in practice.
“This is really unfortunate for Zach that he suffered this injury because he had such a great summer and preseason for us,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said in the release. “Zach is going to be a key for us on the frontline this season. I love the energy and passion he has brought to practice.
“Since the end of last season, he’s been really focused on improving all aspects of his game and he’s really matured. Zach knows and understands that he’s a big piece of the puzzle for us this year and that we are counting on him at both ends of the floor.”
Auguste’s most productive outing of the season came in a 72-64 loss at Marquette on March 2, in which he accounted for 15 points, five rebounds and three steals in 21 minutes of action. With veterans Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman back, and underclassmen Austin Burgett, Eric Katenda and Austin Torres also available, Notre Dame should have enough options to deal with Auguste’s absence. Katenda redshirted last season after suffering an eye injury during his senior year of high school that at one point was feared to be a career-ending injury.
Notre Dame’s perimeter play is the primary reason why more than a few think Mike Brey’s team can factor into the ACC in their first season in the conference. But if they’re to make good on those expectations the big men will need to contribute as well, and that’s where a player like Auguste comes into play.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.