Tag: Notre Dame


Mike Brey in ‘familiar territory’ as Notre Dame enters Year 2 in the ACC

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BOSTON — Notre Dame’s debut in the ACC did not go as planned. Rare home losses to Indiana State and North Dakota State set an ominous tone early in the season. It got worse before conference play even began when Jerian Grant, who was averaging 19.0 points and 6.2 assists per game, withdrew from the university. That all resulted in the Fighting Irish failing to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years.

Head coach Mike Brey, who is entering his 15th season, is turning to past experiences as the Fighting Irish enter Year 2 as members of arguably the best conference in college basketball. When Brey was hired at Notre Dame in 2000, he was inheriting a team that had a 35-53 record in the Big East, not once having a record above .500.

“We were fighting for an identity [in the Big East],” Brey told NBCSports.com on June 28 at The Basketball Tournament championship game at Boston University. “We’re in familiar territory right now, fighting for an identity in this ACC. I don’t know if I have the answers for what it is yet, but I got a little better feel than the first year.

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“The league is only going to get better, it’s getting deeper. You’re trying to get a feel for teams. When you’re in the Big East as long as we were, you had a book on how Georgetown played. A book on how Syracuse played. Now you’re flying blind. I think we have a little better feel for systems and styles of play. I think that’s going to benefit us in Year 2.”

In conference, Notre Dame had only one win over an NCAA tournament bound opponent with a 79-77 upset win over Duke. It won’t get easier next season with Duke, North Carolina and Virginia projected to be in the preseason top 10. That doesn’t include the conference’s newest member, Louisville, which figures to contend immediately.

Brey should have plenty of intel on the Cardinals, including a thrilling five overtime win back on Feb. 9, 2013. Though, Louisville would defeat Notre Dame two times later in the season, en route to a national championship.

The biggest advantage the Fighting Irish have heading into the 2014-2015 season is the return of its back court, Grant and Pat Connaughton. The Balitmore Orioles drafted Connaughton in the fourth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, but will allow him to finish is playing career on the hardwood. Grant was readmitted in May. The Irish will also benefit from rising sophomore guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia both seeing more than 22 minutes per game as freshmen.

MORE: Chris Collins still optimistic about Northwestern’s future

Notre Dame has the pieces to finish in the top half of the ACC standings. If Notre Dame was still a member of the old Big East, Brey would be optimistic this summer, instead it’s a bit of a precarious feeling as the ACC only received six tournament bids last March. Brey’s suggestion has been for the ACC to play 20 conference games. The old Big East was the first to go to 18 games in 2008, which helped improve the RPI for bubble teams in search of an at-large bid.

“I hope we can get this thing to eight and nine bids because that’s what earmarked the Big East as the best,” he said.

Notre Dame finished 15-17 (6-12 ACC) last season, but are ranked as the seventh-best team, according to College Basketball Talk’s early conference power rankings.

What role have injuries played in college basketball this season?

Grant Gibbs, Kameron Rooks, David Kravish
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Dan Hanner, who crunches numbers over at RealGM.com, puts out one of my favorite columns of the year when he breaks down the offensive and defensive efficiencies of teams that suffer serious injuries throughout the season.

You can read it here and here. It’s worth your time.

Some of the most interesting numbers that Hanner produced:

  • Offensively, Kansas State is significantly better with Jevon Thomas in the lineup even though Thomas has been utterly atrocious shooting and scoring the ball. The reason for this is Thomas’ ability to create offense for others. Case in point: he was 1-for-6 from the floor in the win over West Virginia, but he had eight assists and no turnovers and took the pressure to create off of guys like Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster.
  • On paper, it looks like Creighton is significantly worse defensively and significantly better offensively without Grant Gibbs in the lineup. Those numbers are a bit skewed because of a blowout win over Butler at home and a blowout loss to Providence on the road. There’s an argument to be made that Creighton is better offensively with Devin Brooks getting more minutes, but where the Bluejays miss Gibbs is with his toughness and his leadership. He’s a presence. He’s not going to be intimidated going on the road to play Providence or Villanova or Marquette, and he’s not going to let his teammates be intimidated, either.
  • “Notre Dame has been playing like the 109th best team in the nation with [Jerian] Grant out,” Hanner wrote. Yikes.

Broken left hand to sideline Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste 4-6 weeks

Iowa State v Notre Dame
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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.