Notre Dame Hoops: Back to School Update

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.

Schedule Announcements

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.

Recruiting Update

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.

Practice Facility

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.

Summer Hype

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.

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.

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.

By |2018-05-09T22:26:02+00:00August 26th, 2017|Basketball|9 Comments

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RDU IrishMikeyBJoe SchuellerCubfansince1957More Noise Recent comment authors
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More Noise
More Noise

Absolutely super wrapup. Merci beaucoup!

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

Not since the 70’s do I recall being this optimistic about Notre Dame basketball. I confess to being disillusioned about Mike Brey about 5-6 years ago. I now confess to being disillusioned about my disillusionment!

Joe Schueller

So I’m half with you on this.

I’m hopeful, but worried about this season. There is talent there, and the ceiling is really high, but the schedule is unforgiving. I’m going to work up a post when it gets closer to preseason about the offense. My suspicion is that this is one of the worst returning 3FG shooting teams Brey has brought in to a season in a long time. So much of the offensive efficiency over this golden era has been driven by spacing, and nothing opens the floor like having three high-volume, +40% 3FG shooters on the floor. I’m cautiously optimistic Brey will find other ways to give Bonz space to work, but it is still TBD. More to come on that topic.

The half I’m right with you on is Brey. When I originally joined the old place it was to vent my frustrations that Brey was never going to win in March (much less April). I was pretty convinced that his non-offense offense and inability to coach/recruit defense would result in a lifetime of post-season failure. In particular, getting beat by X in 2012 stood out as a “why we’ll always suck in tournaments” moment.

Never have I been so happy to be so wrong.

Alstein wrote wonderfully on the topic here: https://www.onefootdown.com/2016/4/2/11335096/mike-brey-and-never-overstaying-ones-welcome I shared my feelings on the matter in the comments.

Besides spacing, the other worry for this year is intensity. Is this team wound a little too tightly? Brey is wound tightly himself, and he’s been fortunate to have guys like Connaughton, Beachem, and Vasturia the last few years to keep things calm in the storm. I love the Loosest Coach act, and I hope he’s faked it long/well enough now to carry it through on his own, because this roster runs a little hot. Best case scenario, it means they can crank up the defense to Final Four contender levels. Worst case, they lose a lot of late ball games like that old Chris Quinn team back in the day.

MikeyB
MikeyB

I don’t think you’re wrong to be nervous about the next 2 years. If TJ Gibbs doesn’t turn into a major weapon at the 2 this year (and next year as the only true PG on the roster), there could be struggles. That being said, Bonzie and Farrell should be enough to get this year’s squad to the Tournament on their own (I’ll consider any season that ends in an NCAA tournament appearance to be a success, even if an 8th place ACC finish would feel disappointing).

Next year, at least 1 of the freshmen will need to make a major impact right away. This year, I don’t think Harvey needs to be better than TJ was last year, as long as TJ takes a step forward.

tl;dr Matt Ryan you dummy, why did you leave?

Joe Schueller

If Ryan was willing to defend 4’s and rebound, he’d be playing in the perfect situation. You have to double Bonzie. He could shoot well over 250 attempts (Pat C took 220 and Vasturia 146 in the ACC Championship season) in big minutes with guys who like to pass the ball. His calculus makes zero sense to me, but if he didn’t want to be here, better he’s gone.

Bonzie is necessarily a better player and bigger threat when teams have to keep 3+ guys hugged up on spacers. You can’t leave Farrell, but I’d happily leave anyone else on the roster to ensure Bonzie can’t torch me with his 55.5% eFG from last year.

I shouldn’t put the whole post here.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Nobody will sag off Farrell (or they’ll obviously pay in a big way). I think Gibbs, with a year of college conditioning, will prove within 10 games that teams shouldn’t sag off on him. So who is that 3rd guy going to be?

Mooney: This would really be ideal. Another big who can bring some length on the boards. If he proves to be capable of knocking down 3s consistently, he’s going to get a ton of run this year (in, essentially, the role I would have expected for Matt Ryan).
Harvey: Everything I’ve read is that it’s still taking him some time to wrap his head around the offense (as happens with many Freshmen in Brey’s system). By ACC play, will he be able to run within the flow of the offense (so much of Brey’s system requires having the right feel for where you need to be, and having played with the same guys over and over). And even then, will he be able to knock down 3s at the rate needed?
Rex: This is where my money is. The spotlight isn’t going to get to him, he’s proven that. But, can he continue to shoot at high percentage when the volume increases? Can he pull the trigger, rather than putting up his (not particularly effective) pump fake over and over? I think he can, and will, be money from the outside this year.

1 completely different possibility: Geben has played well in his international tournament. He’s been consistently putting up double doubles. If he proves that he can be an efficient scorer inside, you have a completely different look available for about 20 minutes per game (the number of minutes I’d give Geben if he’s playing well). All of a sudden, you can let Bonzie spend a ton of time on the perimeter, dragging 4s out of the paint because his 3 point stroke is so good (which Brey has mentioned he wants to emphasize this year). Imagine trying to gameplan for ND when 20 minutes per game, Bonzie is raining 3s in your face, and 15 minutes per game, he’s ripping you apart with his junk shots in the paint. Obviously that requires a big leap from Geben over last year, but boy that would be fun.

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

I have little doubt in Rex’s ability to draw a defender by shooting +35% from deep if not over 40% – he made 27/68 last year for a smidge under 40%. He has been patiently waiting his turn and I think Brey won’t have to ask him twice to dial it up offensively. Kid is a straight up winner and really looking forward to seeing him in a more prominent role.

Gibbs shooting 32% from three last year is more concerning. He needs to get over 35% on more volume to not just spread the court but open up his drive game. No sophomore slump please!

Bonzie quietly shot 42% from three on 26/60 shooting (if Bonzie can do anything quietly). 0.001% behind Ryan for the full season best 3PT%. However I can’t imagine our advanced stats on offensive rebounding with Bonzie shooting 3s is anything less than horrifying.

VJ and SV shot around 36% to still be considered dangerous (big step back from VJ’s 44% the year previous). 40% is deadly but +35% is plenty to give people fits and draw the D out. Gibbs should get there, Bonzie, Matt and Rex are there already and Mooney looks like a good bet to make that mark too.

MikeyB
MikeyB

I wouldn’t worry too much about Gibbs. Brey and he both admitted that his conditioning was a problem last year. He ended the season shooting 1-15 from 3. That’s a clear sign to me that he had just hit that freshman wall. Up until that point he was shooting 42% (only a small sample of only 38 shots, but still impressive). I have faith in TJ!

Joe Schueller

If you’re < 100 attempts on the season, you're not threatening a defense, you just made a few. Stretching a defense is +35% on +120 attempts. I agree, if Rex and/or Bonz can maintain those numbers cranking up the volume, defenses will have to react. Big if.