Battered Irish Prepare to take on Syracuse

(Robert Franklin/Associated Press)

On a night that was meant to honor Mike Brey as the all-time winningest coach in Notre Dame men’s basketball history, the injuries to his Irish team ended up making headlines.

Roughly 24 hours prior to tip-off against NC State, it was announced via the official Notre Dame men’s basketball Twitter account (@ndmbb), that “Senior All-American Bonzie Colson to miss 8 weeks after suffering a left-foot fracture in practice this week.” It came as a shock to everyone in and around Notre Dame basketball.

Can Irish cope without Colson?

As fans began to pack the stands of Purcell Pavilion prior to Notre Dame’s Wednesday evening match-up with NC State, one question seemed to be on their minds: “Can Notre Dame cope without Bonzie?”. Colson represents everything that is Notre Dame. Not to mention, he is everything for this team. Named a pre-season All-American and almost a unanimous candidate for ACC Player of the Year, this was supposed to be Colson’s year to truly shine.

It all came crashing down this week, and it could not have come at a worse time for Colson or his team. On top of the Colson injury came an injury to arguably Notre Dame’s next best player, Matt Farrell late in the first half. Farrell looked to have severely hurt his left ankle as he hobbled off the court. Thankfully, it turned out to be just a sprain and he is now listed as day-to-day.

However things are starting to get real for the Irish, and quickly. Notre Dame is beginning to get into the “meat” of its grueling ACC schedule, with upcoming games against powerhouses such as #12 North Carolina, #25 Clemson, and #2 Duke. The fact of the matter is that the ACC is absolutely loaded this year with many of its teams boasting Top-25 rankings. Outside of the 3 already mentioned, there is #8 Virginia, #15 Miami (FL), and #24 Florida State. Very intimidating for the Irish who were projected to struggle with the strength of their schedule this season even with a healthy Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.

Who is gonna step up?

Another question that will be rattling in the brains of Mike Brey, and Notre Dame fans alike is: Who is gonna step up and fill Bonzie’s shoes? The answer to that is not a simple one, as Colson is one of the most unique players that Notre Dame basketball has ever seen. Standing at only 6’5, Colson still manages to play great defense down low, and is consistently a top rebounder in the ACC with his 7’0 wingspan.

A popular answer, and the answer Brey went with Wednesday night was slotting highly-touted guard D.J. Harvey into the Irish starting 5. Harvey impressed in his first start for Notre Dame, playing a season-high 30 minutes and scored 17 points. 15 of Harvey’s points came in a record-setting half for the Irish who put up 48 points in the first period of play. The 6’6 forward was ranked as a Top-50 recruit by 247 Sports coming out of DeMatha Catholic, and was easily Notre Dame’s top recruit in the 2017 class. If DeMatha sounds familiar, it should, as Notre Dame’s last star forward came from DeMatha, Jerian Grant.

Another possible option for Mike Brey and his coaching staff to ponder is putting a like-for-like replacement in for Colson with junior forward Elijah Burns. Burns is not nearly the scoring threat that Colson is, however he does rebound the ball very well. Notre Dame will most likely struggle on the glass more than it already does in Colson’s absence, and Burns can help with that.

How will the Irish look against Syracuse?

Notre Dame (12-3, 2-0) squares off with Syracuse (12-3, 1-1) on Saturday, January 6th. Tip-off is set for 3:15 PM in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Going into a game with a storied program such as Syracuse without his two best players was not exactly how Mike Brey planned it. With the Irish expected to be missing both Colson and Farrell, Saturday’s starting 5 will look a bit different. Expect the Irish to line-up with something similar to this: PG- T.J. Gibbs, SG- Rex Pflueger, SF- D.J. Harvey, F- John Mooney, C- Martinas Geben. While this makeshift starting 5 certainly offers size and rebounding ability, it lacks the consistent scoring threats that Colson and Farrell present. This looks to be an entertaining game, and it should be interesting to see how the Irish play with a battered team.


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