Notre Dame won its latest tune up game on Thursday night 105-66 over Chicago State to improve to 3-0 on the season.  The Irish were led by TJ Gibbs’s career high 23 points and Bonzie Colson came up just one rebound shy of his third straight double-double to start the season.  He finished with 15 points and 9 boards.  Freshman DJ Harvey came off the bench to score a career high 16 points in 22 minutes of game action.  Matt Farrell chipped in 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Notre Dame returns to action Monday night to face Chaminade in the Maui Invitational.  Game tips at 9:00 PM ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Bonzie Colson - Notre Dame PF

After three exhibition tuneups that simply allowed Irish players to get comfortable under game conditions again, Notre Dame men’s basketball officially began their season with a pair of victories. As always, attempting to gauge exactly where the team is so early in the campaign is a foolish exercise, though Mike Brey’s squad used the first half of each contest to lay the groundwork for greater success after the break.

Coming off a season which saw them reach the Round of 32, the Irish need to replace the presence of V.J. Beacham and Steve Vasturia. That duo accounted for just under 28 points per game and eight rebounds, so newcomers to the starting rotation like Martinas Geben and T.J. Gibbs will have to step up their game in order for Notre Dame to have any thoughts of surpassing last year’s effort.

Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review

Depending on what poll was checked, the Irish began the year somewhere in the lower portions of the Top 15. Traveling to face the DePaul Blue Devils on Saturday, Notre Dame managed to hold a four-point halftime lead at 29-25, with DePaul connecting on their outside shot at the meager rate of 26 percent during those first 20 minutes.

After the break, the Irish used their prowess from long range to seal the victory by hitting on 9-of-12 in the area of three-pointers. A trio of threes in the span of just over a minute gave Notre Dame a 60-47 advantage with 7:47 left and effectively served as the true kill shots in the 72-58 win.

Two nights later, the home opener against Mount St. Mary’s pretty much went as expected in an 88-62 rout, with Rex Pflueger one of two players to collect a double-double on the evening. Leading 42-30 at the half, the Irish used their domination in the paint to eliminate any thoughts of a comeback. Notre Dame outscored their opponents 26-8 in this category, one reason they were able to end that half with 62 percent field goal shooting.

Standouts of the Week

Bonzie Colson

Seeing Bonzie Colson’s name in this section has become commonplace and the 2017-18 season isn’t likely to change that situation. The senior managed to collect double-doubles in each of the two games, beginning with with 18 points and 13 rebounds against DePaul, adding five assists along the way. Against Mount St. Mary’s, he tossed in 27 points and hauled down 11 boards. Like Pflueger, Colson took advantage of the disparity in the paint, hitting on 11-of-15 from the field.

Matt Farrell

Handling things from the point, Matt Farrell got off to a strong start with a 15-point effort against DePaul. All of his points came from downtown and helped fuel the second half surge that got the season started off on the right note. Facing Mt. St. Mary’s, Farrell managed to dish out five assists and score 23 points, though only two of his baskets on the night were from beyond the three-point line.

T.J. Gibbs

The sophomore gave a pretty good indication that his offseason weight loss was a wise decision with a 21-point performance in the season opener at DePaul. He moved quickly and managed to put in 38 minutes on the court. Facing Mt. St. Mary’s, TJ Gibbs only managed to tally nine points, yet the blowout component of the contest played a partial role in those reduced numbers.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

A relatively quiet week lies ahead with a home game on Thursday against Chicago State State on tap. Like the Mt. St. Mary’s clash, this contest shouldn’t serve as much of a challenge, though it can help benefit the bench players who figure to end up seeing plenty of time. That expected rest for the starters will come in handy with three games in three days in next week’s Chaminade Tournament in Hawaii getting underway on Sunday.

Notre Dame doesn’t have to concern itself with ACC play until December 30, when they host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Outside of a Hawaii matchup against either Michigan or LSU, the biggest challenge that the Irish will face before then will be the November 30 trip to face Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. Amazingly, that game will mark the first visit to East Lansing for a Notre Dame squad since the 1973-74 campaign.

The 13th ranked Notre Dame men’s basketball team won its second game of the season on Monday night with a strong second half powering past Mount St. Mary’s 88-62.  Bonzie Colson had a team high 27 points to go along with 11 rebounds and Rex Pflueger recorded the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 rebounds.  Senior guard Matt Farrell had another 13 points and highly touted freshman DJ Harvey played 24 minutes of the bench while contributing 6 points.

Notre Dame will be back in action on Thursday with what should be a tune up game against Chicago State at 7:00 PM.  The game can be seen on the ACC Digital Network.

Even though most Notre Dame fans are focused on the school’s football season that gets underway in a couple of months, the men’s basketball team is trying to make sure that they’re not forgotten as they look able to maintain their recent run of success. Doing that will require filling holes left by the departures of V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia.

The Irish Family Jewels

Yes,  Notre Dame does have Bonzie Colson returning at forward after the senior produced at a level that garnered him a spot on the All-America third team. Colson’s consistent presence on the court was a key reason for the accolade, averaging a double-double last season for head coach Mike Brey.

Colson’s ankle injury in the ACC conference championship game turned out to be deadly for Notre Dame’s title hopes. The ensuing NCAA tournament saw them struggle to get past pesky Princeton before watching their season end against West Virginia.

The 6-5 Colson is the centerpiece for whatever success Brey and the team achieves. He’ll be joined by four other seniors on this year’s roster, with the key player of that remaining group being point guard Matt Farrell.

Taking giant leaps forward might be an apt description of Farrell’s 2016-17 season, since he evolved from an enigma into a leader over the course of the campaign. He led the team in assists with 196 and was also able to contribute on the scoring end, adding over 14 points per game to the Irish offense.

Players to Watch

Yet focusing on those two assets neglects the contributions that will be required of the remainder of the team. Unless circumstances change between now and November, that likely means that Rex Pflueger and sophomore Temple Gibbs will be two of those key players.

The 6-6 Pflueger gives Brey a gritty competitor who averaged over 21 minutes per game and gave the team a solid defender. That number is poised to go up, but that also has to correspond with more production on the scoresheet. Last year, Pflueger averaged just 4.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

Gibbs matched that scoring production last season and appears to understand the magnitude of his role for the 2017-18 season. During these July practices, he appears to be moving much more freely, the byproduct of what Gibbs said was his effort to rid himself of excess poundage.

Gibbs proceeded to both build up his strength and drop the estimated 15 pounds off his 6-3 frame. The hope is that Gibbs’ already-strong effort on defense will be supplemented by more offense to round out his overall game.

It may be asking a lot, but the contributions that 6-6 freshman swingman D.J. Harvey provides for Notre Dame could help the team immensely. A four-star recruit, Harvey will presumably spend most of his time in the front court and hopefully capitalize on his scoring potential.

The Veterans

Senior Martinas Geben gives the team a shot-blocking presence in the paint while also allowing Colson to catch a breather. The two players actually started together for most of last season until Brey found that Geben was more effective coming off the bench.

Fellow senior Austin Torres will be used in a reserve capacity at power forward. His production numbers won’t grab anyone’s attention, but Notre Dame needs him for short bursts of action that can include some crucial moments.

The Allure of Potential

Sophomore John Mooney could help Brey stretch the court, given the 6-9 Mooney’s skill at knocking down the three-pointer from the power forward slot. That didn’t occur much during his freshman season, with Mooney averaging less than four minutes per game. He can also give the team an aggressive presence in the paint if he starts living up to his potential.

Junior Elijah Burns really had no impact last season, averaging just four minutes per contest, and may once again be relegated to limited playing time if he isn’t able to progress.

Another freshman has actually been around for a year, having redshirted last season. Nikola Djogo will likely be used more for defensive purposes this coming season, with the hope that his offensive game begins to develop.

Senior Matt Gregory is a former walk-on who’s shown Brey enough that he was finally placed on scholarship. Expectations are modest at best in Gregory’s case, though the potential of forward Juwan Durham excites all Irish fans. The only problem with Durham is that he’s a redshirt after transferring from Connecticut.

The Early Outlook

Despite two key losses, Brey has shown a knack for getting the most out of his teams. It’s four months before the first tip-off, but right now, there’s no reason to think that Notre Dame is due for a downturn in their fortunes.