Exhibition season is officially over for Notre Dame basketball and The Fighting Irish are anxiously awaiting their trip to Chicago to play the Demon Deacons of DePaul University on Saturday. Notre Dame checks in at #14 in the preseason AP Poll and Senior Captain Bonzie Colson has made many preseason All-American lists. Notre Dame basketball is respected more now than ever, and this group has all the tools needed to provide Irish fans with something to cheer about. Final Four and Atlantic Coast Conference Champions are phrases thrown around the college basketball world. Let’s take a look at the 2017-2018 Notre Dame Basketball Team.
Notre Dame’s roster is as deep as it’s ever been under Mike Brey. He is comfortable running out 10 different players at any given time, but the question remains if he will. The starting five to start the season will be Matt Farrell, T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben. This does not come as a surprise, and this lineup has started every exhibition game. Mike Brey stated that Elijah Burns will be the team’s sixth man, but it is safe to assume freshman D.J. Harvey will serve as co-sixth man. If the first two games are any indication sophomore John Mooney will be the next man off the bench, followed by red-shirt freshman Nikola Djogo. Fifth year senior and team captain, Austin Torres, will serve his usual role as the energizer bunny. This roster is rich in experience, depth and talent.
LEAN ON ME
There are a variety of rotations Mike Brey and his staff can play with, but most will include Colson, Farrell and Pflueger in the lineup. These are the players the coaching staff trusts the most and can handle big minutes. The offense runs through Colson and Farrell, and Pflueger can play elite defense at two positions. This is where Mike Brey reverts back to his roots and limits the playing time for some of his depth. It will be difficult to take these three off the court in crucial situations.
The interesting part about the Irish roster is the positional flexibility the coaching staff has at its disposal. Gibbs can play both guard spots, Pflueger can play both the two and the three, Harvey and Djogo have the length to play the four in a smaller lineup, and Colson, Burns, and Mooney can all play either four or five. The Irish coaching staff will have their work cut out for them finding all these guys playing time, but don’t mistake that for a problem.
THE FRESHMAN WILL PLAY
D.J. Harvey arrived on Notre Dame’s campus as Notre Dame’s highest rated recruit since Demetrius Jackson. The coaching staff only signed one player in the 2017 class, and this was the top player on the board. Expect Harvey to provide quality minutes off the bench as a capable shooter and promising defender. He will be an impact player during his time in South Bend, and that should show in spurts this season. It might take a few games for him to become accumulated to the college game from a mental standpoint, but his body and abilities are game day ready. He will be fun to watch.
THE “3 BALL” IS NOT A CONCERN
With Matt Ryan gone, the three ball has been a main topic of discussion on message boards and social media among Notre Dame fans. I am here to quiet those concerns. Beachem and Vasturia had disappointing senior seasons from deep, and many of the returners outperformed them from behind the arc. Farrell held one of the top three-point percentages in the ACC (42.5%), and Pflueger improved drastically from his freshman season (39.7%). It also helps when you have the best big man in the country that can hurt you from deep (39.6%). Notre Dame has established shooters on the roster and a plethora of young guys with that ability as well.
Mike Brey continues to prove why he is one of the best coaches in America. Recruiting is on the uptick and the program is consistently ranked in the top 20. The national exposure is finally catching up, and this year’s Notre Dame squad is ready to meet and exceed expectations.