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 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, 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

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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.

2014 power forward Martin Geben verbally commits to Notre Dame

Iowa State v Notre Dame
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With Jack Cooley having graduated and Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman both being seniors, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey could have used a win on the recruiting trail when it comes to adding to the front court rotation. The Fighting Irish heard the news they were hoping for on Friday, as 6-9 power forward Martin Geben has verbally committed to attend Notre Dame.

The news was first reported by Jeff Borzello of Geben’s decision to commit to Notre Dame comes one week after he took his official visit to the school, and he’s their first commitment in the 2014 class.

Originally a native of Lithuania, Geben attends St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown, Md. In addition to playing with the Team Takeover AAU program this summer Geben represented his native country in the FIBA Under-19 World Championships, posting averages of 5.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game (53.2% FG) on a Lithuanian squad that won the bronze medal.

In 2014 Notre Dame will have, in addition to Geben, Zach Auguste, Austin Burgett (both sophomores this season), current redshirt freshman Eric Katenda and current true freshman Austin Torres in the front court. Notre Dame has a few more spots to fill, with Knight, Sherman and point guard Eric Atkins out of eligibility after the 2013-14 season. The school lists guard Jerian Grant as a senior, but he does have another season of eligibility remaining due to the fact that he redshirted in 2010-11.

Peyton Siva delivers, Louisville advances to Big East final

Peyton Siva
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NEW YORK, N.Y.– Peyton Siva’s play down the stretch last season was one of the major reasons Louisville made a run to the Final Four in New Orleans. His run of strong outings began in the 2012 Big East. After No. 4 Louisville’s win Friday night over Notre Dame, we have to ask ourselves if we’re seeing the same thing happen again.

Siva had 12 points, seven steals, and six assists while turning the ball over just two times in Louisville’s 69-57 win over the Irish in the Big East tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The win eliminates Notre Dame and sends Louisville on to face Syracuse for the conference championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Siva’s steal and layup with 6:05 to play pushed the lead to nine points, 50-41, and spelled the beginning of the end for Notre Dame. If he didn’t make a steal, he was integral to Louisville’s ability to defend against the strong Notre Dame backcourt of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

“We were out of place a couple times and Peyton Siva just kept bailing us out with one rotation after another,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “He’s just an incredible player. I sometimes just don’t give him too much of a break because I have so much confidence in him in every phase of the game.”

Siva became the all-time leader in steals at Louisville Friday evening and Pitino compared him to another notable guard that he has coached.

“The two greatest people I’ve ever coached in my life were Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva, just as people,” Pitino said. “Then you match the fact that they were both great point guards. I’ve been very very lucky…”

Siva was half of the backcourt that will likely decide how far Louisville goes this March. Russ Smith complemented Siva with 20 points and six assists. If those two play at this level throughout March, it is not out of the question that Louisville could go on another postseason. A strong backcourt, plus the increased versatility of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, and the Cardinals are in business.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 11 Preview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

If you thought yesterday was crazy, which it was, make sure you to strap your self in tight and hide all the sharp objects. This is one of those “Skip work and watch college basketball all day” types of occasion.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Friday.

Game of the Night: Big East Semifinals
Whatever your plans were for tonight, make sure to change them immediately. The stage has been set for a truly magical set of semifinals at the final Big East tournament before the realignment shift. One semifinal showcases a rematch of the longest game of the season, a five-overtime classic between Louisville and Notre Dame. the second semifinal pits the conference’s greatest rivals against each other for the final time. Bonus fact: three of the four semifinalists are soon-to-be-former-members, and the fourth is the keystone of the new basketball order. Friday night at The Garden. Ain’t nothing better than that.

– Watch this too: Iowa State vs. Kansas
The Jayhawks won both regular season match-ups but needed magic, luck and bad officiating to get the sweep. Iowa State had the first game won until Ben McLemore banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime. Kansas squeaked by in the second match-up thanks to two horribly bad officiating blunders and Elijah Johnson’s 35-point masterpiece. A win over the Jayhawks would cement their place in the field of 68.

– Watch this too: Kent State vs. Akron
Once the hottest team in the country, the Akron Zips have lost two of their last three games, including a loss to the Golden Flashes in the regular season finale. These two bitter rivals have produced many memorable postseason clashes, including a brawl at the end of overtime in the 2011 MAC Championship game.

Player to Watch: Russ Smith, Louisville
Notre Dame has been kryptonite to Russ Smith this season, so it’s fitting that the Irish will be wearing their hideous neon green Adidas uniforms against the Cardinals today. Whether it was Smith’s 5-point performance in the regular season finale, or his numerous mental gaffes during the late stages of their fiver-overtime epic in South Bend, Smith has not had his best stuff against the Irish. Smith needs to follow up his 28-point performance against Villanova with a strong showing against Notre Dame.

He’s good too: Dez Wells, Maryland
The dynamic guard is the Terrapins most talented player, and he will need to have his best game of the season against Duke today if the Terrapins want to keep their postseason hopes alive. Wells is coming off a 21-point performance against Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament and had two good showing against Duke during the regular season.

He’s good too: Cannon Burrage, UT-San Antonio
Awesome name, better game. The senior guard has fueled the Roadrunner’s surprise run out of the No. 9-seed in the WAC tournament with a 20-point performance against San Jose State and a 26-point, 13-rebound performance in their shocking upset over heavily favored Louisiana Tech.

Miscellaneous Madness:
Friday is day-2 of the March Madness dry-run. By the end of today, 95 elimination games will have been played since Thursday morning. That’s more games than the entire first weekend of the NCAA tournament. If you want to be ready for next week, I suggest you take the day off today and get acclimated to the madness.

Friday’s Schedule:

Atlantic Coast Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Boston College (8) vs. Miami (1)
2 p.m. – North Carolina State (5) vs. Virginia (4)
7 p.m. – Maryland (7) vs. Duke (2)
9 p.m. – Florida State (6) vs. North Carolina (3)

Atlantic 10 Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Charlotte (9) vs. Saint Louis (1)
2:30 p.m. – Butler (5) vs. La Salle (4)
6:30 p.m. – St. Joseph’s (10) vs. VCU (2)
9 p.m. – UMass (6) vs. Temple (3)

Big 12 Conference Semifinals
7:30 p.m. – Iowa State (5) vs. Kansas (1)
10 p.m. – Oklahoma State (3) vs. Kansas State (2)

Big East Conference Semifinals
7 p.m. – Syracuse (5) vs. Georgetown (1)
9:30 p.m. – Notre Dame (6) vs. Louisville (2)

Big Sky Conference Semifinals
7:30 p.m. – North Dakota (3) vs. Weber State (2)
10 p.m. – Northern Colorado (5) vs. Montana (1)

Big Ten Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Illinois (8) vs. Indiana (1)
2:30 p.m. – Michigan (5) vs. Wisconsin (4)
6:30 p.m. – Nebraska (10) vs. Ohio State (2)
9 p.m. – Iowa (6) vs. Michigan State (3)

Big West Conference Semifinals
9:30 p.m. – Cal-Irvine (4) vs. Long Beach State (1)

Conference-USA Semifinals
4 p.m. – UTEP (3) vs. Southern Mississippi (2)
6:30 p.m. – Tulsa (5) vs. Memphis (1)

Great West Conference Semifinals
6 p.m. – Houston Baptist (4) vs. NJIT (1)
8:30 p.m. – Chicago State (3) vs. UT-Pan America (2)

Mid-American Conference Semifinals
6:30 p.m. – Kent State (4) vs. Akron (1)
9 p.m. – Western Michigan (3) vs. Ohio (2)

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Semifinals
6 p.m. – Bethune-Cookman (8) vs. Morgan State (5)
8 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (7) vs. Delaware State (6)

Mountain West Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – South Dakota State (4) vs. New Mexico (1)
11:30 p.m. – UNLV (3) vs. Colorado State (2)

Pac-12 Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – Arizona (4) vs. UCLA (1)
11:30 p.m. – Utah (10) vs. Oregon (3)

Southeastern Conference Quarterfinals
1 p.m. – LSU (9) vs. Florida (1)
3:30 p.m. – Tennessee (5) vs. Alabama (4)
7:30 p.m. – Vanderbilt (10) vs. Kentucky (2)
10 p.m. – Missouri (6) vs. Mississippi (3)

Southland Conference Semifinals
6 p.m. – Southeastern Louisiana (4) vs. Stephen F. Austin (1)
8:30 p.m. – Sam Houston State (6) vs. Northwestern State (2)

Southwestern Athletic Conference Semifinals
3:30 p.m. – Prairie View A&M (4) vs. Jackson State (2)
9 p.m. – Alabama A&M (6) vs. Southern (1)

Western Athletic Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – Texas State (7) vs. New Mexico State (3)
11:30 p.m. – UT-San Antonio (9) vs. UT-Arlington (4)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir