With Irish eyes focused on the start of the football season, it’s probably not the best time for a state of the program post about Mike Brey’s hoops squad. Still, with classes back in session on campus and preseason previews starting to trickle out, it’s as good a time as ever for a quick recap of what’s happened in the program since the team’s second round exit in the NCAA Tournament. For the most part, the news has been positive. Three four star commits joined the fold. The school released plans for a new practice facility. The team also released schedule information, program alums picked up NBA deals, and members of the 2017/18 squad had big summers around the country (and globe). In case you’ve been focused on football since the end of March, here’s your chance to get caught up to speed.
In a surprising move, ND plays three true road games in their non-conference schedule. The Irish will travel to Chicago to open DePaul’s new arena their first game of the regular season (although the exhibition against Bethel is interesting). For the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, ND heads north to East Lansing to play Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Notre Dame will also travel to Delaware to face former Brey assistant Martin Inglesby’s Blue Hens squad. The three true road games is huge change for the Irish. It will be the first time ND travels to a non-conference opponent’s campus more than once in the last ten years.
As has been the case in recent years, the Irish will still play their normal slate of fun neutral site games. The Maui Invitational is the highlight, although the field isn’t quite as exciting as usual. ND opens against host team Chaminade, and will face LSU or Michigan in their second game. Marquette, Wichita State, VCU, and Cal are possible opponents for the final game. Lastly, the Irish face Indiana in the annual Crossroads Classic. While the road and neutral site games are solid for a Mike Brey non-con schedule, it would be nice for the home fans to get at least on high-major opponent on the schedule. Of the home mid and low majors, Ball State (180 kenpom) and Northeast Conference Champions Mount St. Mary’s (209) are probably the “best” two games at the JACC.
In ACC play, Mike Brey’s squad hosts Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Pitt. The Irish travel to Clemson, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia, and Syracuse. Their home-and-home opponents are Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and NC State. The dates for these games have yet to be announced, but should be publicized soon. Looking ahead to 2018/19, the Irish just announced a home and home with UCLA. The Bruins will travel to the Bend next season, and the Irish go west the following year to give Rex Pflueger a trip home during his senior year. Expect multiple interviews with Digger about how he ended UCLA’s winning streak.
Mike Brey has been killing it on the recruiting trail this summer. The Irish currently sit in the top-10 of most recruiting rankings. 18 Stripes’s own Alstein wrote commitment posts for most of the future Irish hoopers. Washington DC combo guard Prentiss Hubb is the crown jewel of the class with top-50 composite ranking. Pittsburgh shooting guard Robby Carmody, the “worst” player in the class, isn’t far behind him with a 102 composite ranking. Lastly, Brey poached Columbus sharpshooter Dane Goodwin from Ohio State following the “resignation” of Thad Matta. Goodwin sits just inside the composite top-100. Brey also scooped up UConn transfer Juwan Durham. Although he struggled with injury last season, Durham was the composite 51st best player in the class of 2016.
Brey is targeting a couple bigs to finish up the class. He’s been going hard after Nate Laszewski. The entire staff was in attendance at his most recent AAU tournament where he played great in front of Brey and co. The top-100, 6’10” PF from Massachusetts plans to visit campus in a few weeks for the Georgia football game. An exciting win under the lights would go a long way toward securing his commitment. Front runners for Nate include the Irish, Wisconsin, and Wake Forest. Lastly, the Irish were included in the 5-star Simisola Shittu’s top-10. While most expect him to end up at a blue blood program like Kentucky, he would look great in blue and gold.
Irish in the NBA
The Irish in the NBA had a mixed summer. 2017 alum VJ Beachem went undrafted and struggled in Summer League with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He recently received a training camp contract with the LA Lakers, but isn’t expected to make the team. The Boston Celtics cut Demetrius Jackson to open cap space for Gordon Heyward. He didn’t have to wait long for a new team, however, as the Houston Rockets quickly signed him to one of the new “two-way” contracts. He’ll split time between Houston and the Rockets D-League G-League team. Jack Cooley is back in the league on a two-way contract of his own. He impressed the Kings playing with their in Summer League team, and picked up contract from Sacramento. Jerian Grant had a quiet summer not playing with Chicago’s Summer League team. He’ll be back with the Bulls next season. Pat Connaughton played a bit in Summer League, but mostly did so out of position at point guard. He injured his hamstring and only played a couple games in Vegas. August 31st is the magic date for Pat since his contract becomes guaranteed next Thursday. In other news, Pat was recently honored by his high school when they named the court after him. No word yet on if the pitcher’s mound will be named after Pat as well.
— Pat Connaughton (@PlanetPat5) August 23, 2017
As a side effect of the Campus Crossroads project, the Irish hoops programs are getting a new home. Although not an official part of Crossroads, Brey and Muffett McGraw both confirmed that Rolf’s will be converted into a practice facility for the basketball teams. The Duncan Student Center (the west building of the stadium) will open in January and house exercise facilities for current students. Once Duncan opens, work will begin on the Rolf’s conversion. The practice facility which will house offices, a players lounge, a weight room, and practice courts, should open in time for the 2018/2019 season. A 21st century practice facility is an overdue upgrade for the two programs. The new building is already paying dividends as many of the new commits mentioned the new practice facility when discussing their reasons for choosing ND.
Quite a few Irish ballers received preseason honors from national publications. At the top of the list is Bonzie Colson whose play drew rave reviews on the summer camp circuit. Depending on which publication you’ve read, he’s somewhere in the top-10 of college basketball players to watch this season. At a camp in Philadelphia featuring some of the country’s best players, he stood out as the top offensive player on the court. Fellow senior Matt Farrell, while not getting the same level of hype as Colson, is on a number of point guard watch lists. The Big Lead has Farrell as the 18th best player in the country coming into the season (Colson is 7th). Both have a chance at preseason All-ACC and All-American honors.
Ethan Happ is one of the best defenders in America and he has no answers for Bonzie Colson, who has the entire arsenal working today.
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) July 21, 2017
A couple Irish players earned some international experience this summer. Martinas Geben is currently playing with the Lithuanian team at the World University Games. He recorded double-doubles in their games against Israel, Australia, and Russia. The Lithuanian squad finished 4-1 in pool play, and will face Argentina in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Rex Pflueger and Austin Torres both played with the East Coast Select team for a tour in Spain. Rex made the play of the trip hitting a buzzer beating three to knock off a Madrid team comprised of Spanish professionals.
— Alan Wasielewski (@NDmbbSID) August 10, 2017
For the team as a whole, early projections look nice for the 2017/18 Irish. ESPN’s BPI ranking has the Irish at 4th in the country with the nation’s number one offense. That said, the projection seems to favor teams with lots of returning talent while underrating one-and-dones. Lastly, Joe Lunardi’s way too early Bracketology slots the Irish into the three line. While none of this really matters at this point of the season, it’s a nice reminder that the program is in a good place. Enjoy the next few months of football, but remember that the future is bright for the Brey’s basketball team.
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) August 21, 2017