The Notre Dame men’s basketball team got some terrible news on Tuesday. Star center Bonzie Colson will miss the next 8 weeks with a fracture in his foot that took place in practice. The Irish lose their superstar just as ACC play is getting started. The Irish kicked off ACC play on Saturday with a win over Georgia Tech but face NC State and Syracuse this week before really getting into the meat of the ACC schedule.
Obviously this news is awful for Notre Dame and could make a NCAA tournament bid questionable now. The Irish sit at 11-3 currently with NC State coming to Purcell Pavilion tomorrow night. With Colson, there were dreams of another deep run in the NCAA Tournament even with Notre Dame’s December missteps to Ball State and Indiana. Without him, Notre Dame is going to have to patch together a lineup that gets them enough wins to give Colson a chance to finish his senior season in march, not on the injured list.
An 8 week recovery time puts Colson back right at the end of February with a couple games to play in the regular season to get ready for the ACC Tournament. Between now and then Notre Dame has 15 conference games to play without the heart and soul of their team. Six of those games come against teams currently in the top 25 including two against North Carolina.
Before this injury, Colson was averaging 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds a game to go along with 2.0 steals and 2.4 blocks a contest. Stats aside, Colson was Notre Dame basketball this year. This was supposed to be his year. He came back for a senior season in order to make one more run into March with the Irish. That is all in doubt now.
Notre Dame’s bench isn’t exactly the deepest in the front court this season so the Irish will be turning to some players who haven’t played a whole lot of minutes. Sophomore John Mooney has gotten the most playing time among Notre Dame’s reserve forwards with just over 10 minutes a game. Elijah Burns is clocking just 8.2 minutes game, Nikola Djogo 4.9, and senior Austin Torres 6.0. The four are averaging a combined 7.2 points a game.
Mike Brey could decide to turn to Torres for more minutes given his experience but he hasn’t been turning to him much so far this year to this point. He could also decide to go with a smaller, guard heavy lineup at times with Matt Farrell, TJ Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, and freshman DJ Harvey all on the floor at the same time with Martinas Geben.
Whatever Mike Brey decides to do, getting to the NCAA Tournament this year will now take one of his best coaching jobs to date which is in a way ironically fitting. Brey is on the cusp of breaking Digger Phelps’s all-time record for wins with his next victory. Whenever that victory happens, it will certainly be a well earned one at this one point.
While a Tournament bid is in doubt, this team still has some firepower with Farrell, Pflueger, and TJ Gibbs. How many open looks they get without Colson drawing so much attention, however, will be something to watch over the next eight weeks.
Notre Dame was in a similar position four years ago when they lost Jerian Grant as an academic casualty at the start of ACC play. Things didn’t go so well for the Irish that time with Notre Dame falling hard in ACC play and missing the postseason play all together while posting a losing record. Hopefully this time around the Irish fare differently not only for the players who will be in the lineup the next eight weeks, but also for Colson who deserves to go out with one more dance in March after all he’s done for the program.
Notre Dame will play its first game without Colson tomorrow night at 9:00 with the game available on the ACC Digital Network.