Notre Dame Basketball: Laying Foundation for Future

It’s been a long season of injuries and struggles for Notre Dame Basketball. After the departure of Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, the Irish lacked experience heading into the 2018-19 Basketball season. After the transfer of Elijah Burns and season-ending injury to Rex Pflueger, the Irish have been without senior leadership. Mike Brey has a plethora of young talent and this season will be about building towards a bright future.


Single-Digit losses. Coach Brey and the Irish have been in most games this season. Early in the year, the Irish lost primetime games against Oklahoma (5 points) and UCLA (3 points). The Sooners and Bruins aren’t having their best seasons, but it was a great effort nevertheless by a young Irish team. Losing tight contest has continued to plague the Irish throughout the rest of the season.

Trip to Dean Smith Center. Just a few weeks ago Notre Dame traveled to Chapel Hill and almost pulled off the upset against the #13 Tar Heels. Later that week, the Irish lost a heartbreaker to #17 N.C. State at home. Their next game was against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the road, where they lost another close game by 2-points.

Yes, this is Notre Dame Basketball and there are not supposed to be moral victories. However, realistically this team is full of underclassmen. Freshmen are getting a lot of action this year and expect to see them develop over the course of these next few seasons. Unlike talented freshmen at Duke, Kentucky, and elsewhere, these players will be here to stay.

Bright Spots in 2018. Notre Dame is 2-0 against the Big Ten Conference. Illinois came to South Bend for the Big Ten/ ACC Challenge in November and the Irish pulled out a 2-point victory. Later, over Christmas break the Irish traveled to Indianapolis to face the Purdue Boilermakers in the Crossroads Classic. Mike Brey’s squad controlled the entire game, over a Purdue team that is in the top-tier of the Big Ten.


For the second straight season, the Irish have been devastated by injuries. Last year it was Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, just to name a few. This year’s Notre Dame Basketball team lost their only senior, Rex Pflueger, for the entire season. Rex was having one of the best games of his career in the Crossroads Classic with 7 points and 10 assists. Pflueger has already announced that he will be returning for a 5th year.

Robby Carmody out for year. Carmody suffered a season ending injury back in December and would certainly be getting a lot of minutes if he were available now. Even transfer Juwan Durham has missed several games recently since the Irish have started ACC play. He is a dominant force in the paint and is already one of the best shot blockers of the Mike Brey Era.

Freshmen have been forced to play more than they ever have under Mike Brey. Typical Brey led teams feature 2 seniors in the starting lineup with a mixture of juniors and sophomores. It will be exciting to see where this team is at next year and the following years with all the talent and experience they have returning.

Irish loaded with 4-Star Recruits

According to Recruiting

  • 2015: Rex Pflueger (116th overall, 4 Star)
  • 2016: T.J. Gibbs (88th overall, 4 Star), Juwan Durham *Transfer (50th overall, 4 Star)
  • 2017: D.J. Harvey (49th overall, 4 Star)
  • 2018: Nate Laszewski (65th overall, 4 Star), Robby Carmody (86th overall, 4 Star), Prentiss Hubb (87th overall, 4 Star), Dane Goodwin (100th overall, 4 Star)

Irish talent overlooked. I hear all the time how Notre Dame doesn’t have the talent as the other schools. Maybe the Irish don’t get 5-Star recruits like Duke and North Carolina, but they have consistently received commitments from Top 100 players. The Irish have a total of eight 4-Star recruits on their roster.

Recruiting doesn’t equal success. For instance, Kentucky has had limitless 5-Star recruits under John Calipari and he has won only 1 national championship. On the other hand, Butler University went to back-to-back final fours with almost 0 highly ranked recruits, besides Gordon Hayward for their first Final Four run.

Mike Brey started 5-1 against Coach Krzyzewski when the Irish joined the ACC. Due to the recent struggles and injuries the past few years, that number has dropped to 5-8 overall, but still impressive. Coach Brey is the only assistant coach to beat Mike Krzyzewski.

Entire Roster Returns Next Season

The great news about Notre Dame Basketball is the entire roster will return for next season, aside from Senior Liam Nelligan, who has only seen a few minutes of game action.  Not only will Mike Brey bring back his whole team, most of the team is full of underclassmen. It’s been a tough past few seasons for the Irish, but if Notre Dame can remain healthy next year, expect them to be ranked throughout the season.

Tournament Success

Just as a reference, Notre Dame went 15-17 (6-12 ACC) the year before they went to Back-to-Back Elite 8’s.

2014-15 Season: 32-6, 14-4 in ACC, ACC Tournament Champions, Elite 8

2015-16 Season: 24-12, 11-7 in ACC, Elite 8

2016-17 Season: 26-10, 12-6 in ACC, ACC Tournament Runner-Up, Round of 32

Can Mike Brey get back to the Sweet 16?

Absolutely the Irish can. Mike Brey was only 1 win away from making it to the Final Four in 2015 and 2016. When the Irish went up against the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats in 2015, they went right down to the wire with a team full of NBA players. Anyone who watched that game knows that game could’ve went either way in the final minutes. The Irish were loaded with NBA talent themselves via Demetrius Jackson, Pat Connaughton, and Jerian Grant.

I fully expect Notre Dame to be ranked consistently next season and get back into the NCAA Tournament. A few years ago, the expectations for this program were the Sweet 16 or bust. The Irish must get back into the NCAA Tournament before they can start eyeing the Sweet 16 and potentially the Final Four. This may be the most talented roster that Mike Brey has ever had. In order to take the next step and even think about making it to his first Final four, the Irish and Coach Brey have a lot of growing to do.

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  1. The Irish this year are very streaky. They go on nice runs but then go ice cold for stretches. They need to work on their consistency. But Michael is right, there is reason for hope.

    The injuries are concerning. It’s something the football team was suffering with for a while. Their conditioning program seemed to have helped with that as there were a lot less significant injuries to the football team the last 2 seasons (not saying there weren’t any, but it didn’t seem as devastating as they were the prior few years). I wonder if there’s anything the BB team can do to help on that front. Some injuries are going to happen, no matter what you do. But can they be doing more? I think it’s something they should look at.

    But after this bump, if the team can develop and learn from this year the future looks bright. I think Brey should consider doing what they did prior to the 2014-2015 season when they spent some time together as a team. That was a great season, one of their best. I don’t think you can overestimate the impact that can have on a team sport like BB (or FB even).

    And it was a heartbreaking season in one way because they were one play away from beating UK. And I believe had they won that game, they may very well have been on their way to their first men’s BB national championship. We were so close–how sweet would that have been. Sometimes I feel like one of the lone ND Basketball fan, particularly where I live. Around here ND fans are almost totally ND Football fans–frankly I don’t know anyone in my area that’s a ND BB fan (some of them barely even know we have a BB team). For a time that had changed. It was nice to be able to talk about the BB team for once.

  2. The combined record of the seven teams that ND has lost to in the ACC is 43 – 18. The combined record of their next 9 games is 35 – 43. When you remove Virginia and Louisville from that list the combined record is 20 – 40. Their ACC schedule was front loaded to say the least. A 5-4, 6-3, or 7-2 finish is not unreasonable to expect. ND has been waiting for Djogo to step up and he did at BC. If Djogo can continue to contribute they should finish strong. Mooney has been consistent and Gibbs was becoming consistent before he missed two games due to illness …. hopefully he’s found it again. Hubb and Goodwin have been improving. Durham was playing well before his injury. He needs to get back into the swing of things. Harvey and Lasewski have been wildly inconsistent. An NIT birth is probable and a deep run will set them up for next year

  3. I have not seen much of them, but most of what I saw was OK (at least) except the shot percentage. It was appalling. Most misses were decent to good shots, but hit the rim. Again and again, often with a second or third shot due to offensive rebounds, but they still hit that rim…”a lid on it” we used to say. But granted, I’ve only watched two games and part of a third. Just sayin.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  4. It is pretty basic. If you do not score more points than your opponent, you cannot win. It is maddening that Brey has no answers for this.

  5. In business you are only as good as your last sale. So is true with sports, you are only as good as your last win.

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