This is the final part of our 18Stripes basketball round table. Part one was focused on hot topics from the offseason and the stellar Irish recruiting class. In part two, we covered the Irish roster from top to bottom. The last portion will take a look at the schedule and overall outlook for the season.
Despite a well earned reputation for easing into the season, this year’s team opens with quite a non-conference slate. Which early game intrigues you.
Inspired by the mosaic inside the rotunda of the Administration Building.
The Golden Dome Uniform debuts tomorrow… pic.twitter.com/7FcGvmOfur
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) November 10, 2017
Joe: Going to #2 MSU in the ACC/B10 Challenge is interesting, but as a kid who grew up in Milwaukee and watched a lot of old MCC games, opening DePaul’s new gym intrigues me the most. My first memories of the sport or going to Marquette games in that great era of Marquette, DePaul and ND playing winning basketball. It is remarkable to me how badly the post-Meyer experience has been for DePaul, and I’d be happy to see this new building give them a shot in the arm. That said, I want to see us beat them by 20.
Eric: The two games in Maui after Chaminade stand out to me. Assuming we handle DePaul and are undefeated going into the tournament, the games after Chaminade really make or break the non-conference. ND should be better than the rest of the Maui field outside of maybe Wichita State, but actually winning the games would be huge for early season confidence. It would also make the ACC-Big Ten games against Sparty a massive game on the national stage.
Dan: I’m excited for #2 MSU. MSU has a history of dropping games early in the year as the gel as a team, so I like the idea of beating them early and then watching them round into form and run through the B1G and the Irish being able to benefit from that win with the selection committee.
Simon (4PS): Obviously the game at East Lansing will be epic but I’m pretty excited about playing DePaul at DePaul because I’ll likely be attending!
Paddy: That Michigan St matchup has me drooling. I am immediately reminded of the 2014 thriller in which Jerian Grant outdueled future teammate Denzel Valentine for an overtime Notre Dame victory. That was the moment I thought, “Wow, this team might be really good.” This year’s Michigan St team looks even tougher, and this game will be on the road, so the November 30th matchup has the potential to be a similar statement win.
We here at 18 Stripes love Coach Brey’s “18 Holes” analogy for the ACC season. The front nine this year is: GT, NC State, at Syracuse, at GT, UNC, Louisville, at Clemson, VT, and at Duke. Where’s “par” for that front side?
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) October 26, 2017
Joe: I think Kevin Keatts will make NC State better and put a style of play in that might cause ND trouble in the future, but in the future. I’m also not thrilled about seeing Ben Lammers twice that quickly, but if Bonzie wants to be PoY, he needs to do to Lammers what he’s done to other ACC bigs and out play him. I see six very winnable games there. I also think we can take one of the UNC, Louisville, or Duke games, but the odds of that are about equal to slipping up in the Orange Dome or in Atlanta. I’ll leave par at 6 wins and hope we make the turn ahead of that pace.
Eric: I always like the “blocks of six” approach myself. Anyway, there’s three “easy” wins at home, three winnable road games, two tough home games, and one rough road game. 6-3 is probably “par,” and I think we have a shot to win seven.
Dan: Most years, I would agree with Joe/Eric on par being hung at 6-3 for the first half of this schedule, but given the good vibes around the program and the #14 preseason ranking, I’m going to bump it up by a win to 7-2. Not that 6-3 will be very dissapointing or portend major trouble ahead, but I do think that if we’re going to make a jump to a legitimate contender this year, the bar has to be raised a little bit. Two of the three tough ones are at home and we don’t know anything about what state Louisville’s program will be in. There’s a few tossup games in there as well, but a legitimate top 15 team will take care of business at home and and survive on the road enough to make it through this stretch 7-2.
Simon (4PS): 6-3 will be a touch disappointing but it would be par. If we look good at the Carrier Dome, I may move the goalposts a bit and say that 7-2 is a must going into the back half.
Paddy: I’ll stick with going 6-3 as a par front 9 this season. Despite a relatively unimpressive last few seasons for Syracuse, the Irish have yet to win an ACC game in the Carrier Dome. The matchup at Duke will likely be the single toughest game we have all season, and UNC and Louisville back-to-back feels like a 1-1 split. While it’s not a devastating front 9, it’s hard for me to envision the Irish escaping without a couple setbacks.
The back nine has: at NC State, BC, FSU, at UNC, at BC, Miami, at Wake, Pitt, and at Virginia.
Joe: Like many great courses, the 9th and 18th end with a bang. I really like the NC State, BC, FSU run after that Big Monday game at Duke. It lets us get our heads right after a tough one or keeps us rolling if we grab that game in Durham. UNC will be a great chance for me to head down to the Dean Dome and spend the night making fake class jokes, but that’s a team that matches up against us very well. Since we have two swings at BC on this side, it has to rate a little easier than the front. Seven wins is a high bar, but with the kind of aspirations this team has, you have to be thinking 13 wins and double bye in Brooklyn.
Eric: There are only a couple gimmies in this stretch, and a lot of tossups. I think if we keep the road dog mentality from previous years and the games at Wake, BC, and NC State should all be wins. Win the easy home games (BC and Pitt), and you’re already at five wins. At that point, split the tough ones, and you’re 7-2. I think par is probably six again, but there’s every chance to get to a big win total in the league and another top-4 finish.
Dan: I would probably set par here at 6-3 because of the two tough road games at UNC and at Virginia. Drop those two and one of the other tossup games and ND is likely just fine, but the potential for better is there. How we play in the back 9 likely has a lot to do with prior results and motivations for the team. If they’re in a tight race for the top of the ACC, par easily moves up to 7-2 as we’ll get a focused Irish team. On the other hand, if we drop a few on the front 9 and are going to be easily in the tournament but not an especially high seed, you might see a few sleepwalk performances in this stretch like our road game to BC between UNC and Miami.
Simon (4PS): Yeah, I’m with the group here, 7-2 here. Making par either a 13-5 or 14-4 season. Jeezus how great is this – we’re setting our acceptable over/under at 13.5 wins in the ACC season. We’re a freaking powerhouse.
Paddy: Par has to be a 7-win performance on this back 9 for me. Our rotation should be more or less settled by this point, and I think we will have the talent to be favored in every single one of these matchups barring the trip to the Dean Dome. That being said, there are no “easy” road games in the ACC, so I have to give us a 1-game trap game buffer.
The last three seasons of Notre Dame basketball have been historically great. What’s your key to extending that run to a fourth in a row.
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) November 9, 2017
Joe: With the benefit of 2 exhibitions before submitting this, I think it is the play of T.J. Gibbs. He’s got an unbelievable motor and a very good head for the game. Just like he started last year, he’s knocking down shots and being disruptive on the other end. He could provide a very unique blend of space-creating shooting mixed with a good enough handle to make teams pay if they close out too aggressively. If Matt and Bonz can’t do the things we need them to do, the Irish won’t even be good. I’m counting on those two seniors to get it done. With them alone, this is a very good team. To be a great team, T.J. Gibbs needs to turn some heads. His defense gets him on the floor. If he can be the consistent 3rd scorer and get 15+ a night, this team has a shot at being special.
Eric: Based on the early looks at the team, it looks like the floor of the team is pretty high. Strong seasons by Bonz and Matt should probably be enough for a top half ACC finish, and a bid to the dance. If a couple guys like Rex, TJ or Geben step up, we could be looking at another top-4 finish and trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. If some of the bench guys become solid contributors to the rotation, a historic season for the program could happen. They’ll need to avoid getting too hot with so many fiery leaders, but that’s where the “loosest coach in America” can go to work. It’s not hard to envision this team becoming something special, and I can’t wait to watch it play out.
Dan: The biggest keys for me in finding another year of Irish success are Matt Farrell playing under control, evolving as a team leader and finding a guy or two to step up off the bench, and these two things may be related. After the poor season, everyone heard the whispers that Ben Hansbrough’s competitiveness may have been more of a detriment than an asset for the 2009-2010 Irish squad, and it’s not too difficult to see comparisons being made to that year’s squad. On the flip side, if we get Farrell the leader, who is under control on the court and works to bring the young guys along, there is no limit to what this team can do. Let’s get to tipoff!
Paddy: The potency of the Farrell/Colson duo combined with the general good vibes that have surrounded this program makes it pretty difficult for me to be find reasons to be pessimistic going into this season. While last year was in many ways successful, it did lack a definitive high point like an ACC banner or an emotional NCAA tournament win (no, I am not counting the Princeton win). Much of this was owed to some key players being banged up or exhausted down the stretch. I just hope this team is healthy and firing on all cylinders come March, and we can grab some type of banner accomplishment to end Farrell and Colson’s careers.
Simon (4PS): It’s going to be whether we get the kind of night-in night-out reliability from Rex and TJ then making sure at least one of DJ-Marty-Burns is having a good night as well. I think I may be a bit overconfident on TJ being a reliable 3rd scorer and that Rex will shoot well and continue to defend at a high level but if those two guys can look like future pros by the time the calendar turns to 2018, look for this team to be a serious contender for San Antonio.