Notre Dame is almost the opposite example of Marquette. They finished second in the Big East, had the BE Player of the Year, had the Coach of the Year (and this time he actually deserved it), and amassed a 25-5 record 14-4 in BE play, earning a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Then they flamed out losing to tenth seeded Florida State in the second round. As fans we tend to put a huge emphasis on post-season play, so despite an excellent regular season many Irish view last year as a disappointment.
Will Notre Dame be able to redeem themselves and return to last years regular season form?
Graduating: Tyrone Nash (9.5pts, 5.9rbds, 2.6asts), Ben Hansborough (18.4pts, 4.3asts, 3.9rbds)
Early Entry: Carleton Scott (11.2pts, 7.4rbds, 2.1asts)
Seniors: Tim Abromaitis (15.4pts 6.1rbds)(6th year senior), Scott Martin (9.7pts, 4.8rbds) (5th year senior who will still have a year of eligibility left if he so chooses) Oddly enough, they will have no normal seniors
Pat Connaughton 6'5" SF #96 Scout # 128 Rivals NR ESPN
Eric Katenda 6'8" PF NR Scout #118 Rivals NR ESPN
Notre Dame, despite starting five seniors last year, manages to retain two starters from last year's team as Abromaitis and Martin will continue to use their remaining eligibility. That being said ND loses quite a lot including:
- 52.8 percent of their scoring,
- 47.3 percent of their rebounding,
- 54.7 percent of their assists,
- 46 percent of their steals, and
- 65 percent of their blocks.
They lose the Big East Player of the Year in Ben Hansborough who was their leading scorer, leading assist man, led them in steals and their best three point shooter. They lose Carleton Scott to the NBA who was their leader in blocks and rebounds as well as their best FT shooter. Finally they lose Tyrone Nash who was their best at drawing fouls and grabbing offensive rebounds, and was third in assists, fifth in scoring and third in rebounding.
That being said the cupboard is not bare in South Bend. Second leading scorer and rebounder Tim Abromitis returns as does Purdue transfer Scott Martin who was fourth in scoring and fourth in rebounding. Eric Atkins returns for a sophomore campaign and will replace Hansborough's at point guard, but will struggle to fill his role as a three point threat and scorer. The fourth major returning player is Luke Harangody look-a-like Jack Cooley. He had the highest field goal percentage on the team and showed a lot of potential last year and will be a candidate for most improved player next year.
Mike Brey's teams rely on experience. As a result players often don't get a lot of time in their first two years and then emerge as legit players in the Big East for their junior campaigns. ND red shirts a lot of players without injuries - something rare in college basketball. This results in very experienced teams. ND's bread and butter will always be their offense and last years unique makeup and length made them a matchup nightmare for many teams. It was Florida State's ability to match that length that allowed them to pull the upset. ND will still be long, starting at least three players over 6'8" The 5th starting spot is up for grabs and it will be interesting to see if Brey goes for a smaller player like Joey Brooks or goes big like Tom Knight.
The Irish bring in a two person recruiting class. Freshman often don't get a lot of playing time, but with the substantial loses to last years team their could be an opening for a freshman to make their mark.
- Pat Connaughton is exactly what you would imagine a typical ND recruit would look like. For starters, he's white and he's an excellent three point shooter. He's a scrappy wing who rebounds well. He needs to work on his handle and mid-range game to become a fully rounded player. But looks to become another in a long line of Irish bombers.
- Eric Katenda was a former Hoya target that we passed on. He's a project at this point; lots of potential, but not ready to contribute right away. He's athletic but a bit soft and prefers the perimeter and face up game to banging on the blocks. Most likely will get minimal time and could be a candidate for a red shirt.
The bottom line is that the Irish will be down a bit from last year, but perhaps not as down as opponents might hope. They still have veteran leadership and length and will still put the ball in the basket at a high rate. Notre Dame looks to fall into the middle of the pack of the Big East. It's very hard to distinguish between teams in this area as the Irish will fall some where between 6th and 10th next year.