Notre Dame Basketball Preview: Can the Irish make the NCAA Tournament?

Mike Brey and the Irish Men’s Basketball team kick off the season this week in Chapel Hill with an unusual start against North Carolina. Nevertheless, Notre Dame will have an early chance to knock-off the Tar Heels. These past two seasons have been plagued with injuries, is this the year Mike Brey gets back to the NCAA Tournament and 20-win norm?

North Carolina Matchup

  • Game Time: November 6th at 7:00 p.m. ET on the ACC Network
  • Location: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Preseason Ranking: North Carolina #9 AP Poll/ #11 Coaches Poll

Projected Starters

  • Prentiss Hubb: Sophomore, 8.1 ppg, 4.0 assists, 3.1 rebounds
  • T.J. Gibbs: Senior, 13.4 ppg, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals
  • Rex Pflueger: 5th Year senior, 8.1 ppg, 4.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds
  • John Mooney: Senior, 14.1 ppg, 11.2 rebounds, 0.8 blocks
  • Juwan Durham: Senior, 5.7 ppg, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks


  • Nate Laszewski: Sophomore, 6.9 ppg, 3.9 rebounds, 0.4 Blocks
  • Dane Goodwin: Sophomore, 6.4 ppg, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists
  • Robby Carmody: Sophomore, 3.7 ppg, 1.7 rebounds, 0.4 steals
  • Nikola Djogo: Senior, 2.7 ppg, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists
  • Chris Doherty: Sophomore, 0.8 ppg, 0.9 rebounds, 0.1 assists
  • Elijah Morgan: N/A Walk-On
  • Ryan Cormac: Stanford Transfer; Not Eligible this season

Last 5 Seasons:

  • 2014/2015 Season: 32-6 (14-4) NCAA Tournament Elite 8
  • 2015/2016 Season24-12 (11-7) NCAA Tournament Elite 8
  • 2016/2017 Season26-10 (12-6) NCAA Tournament Round of 32
  • 2017/2018 Season21-15 (8-10) NIT
  • 2018/2019 Season14-19 (3-15) No Tournament Appearance

Key Games this Season:

December 4th Maryland (A) (Big Ten/ ACC Challenge)

  • The Irish have won almost every game in the Big Ten/ ACC Challenge to date. They will be tested early-on in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball.
  • Currently, Maryland is a preseason top 10 team. This will be the first of two annual events each season where the Irish play Big Ten opponents (2nd being the Crossroads Classic).

December 14th UCLA (H)

  • Many fans are familiar with the Notre Dame USC Football Rivalry across the country, but the ND UCLA Basketball matchup has a history of its own, just ask Digger Phelps. Believe it or not, the two programs have meet 49 times, with the Irish winning 20 of those matchups. An impressive statistic considering John Wooden was coaching for many of those contests.
  • Last fall the Irish fell to the Bruins at the buzzer, 65-62. Subsequently, the Irish lost to a Hoosier via Head Coach Steve Alford. This matchup is great for college basketball fans and will hopefully continue in the upcoming seasons.

December 21st Indiana (Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis)

  • The Crossroads Classic has been peculiar for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has won 3 out of 4 matchups against the Purdue Boilermakers, but only 1 versus the Indiana Hoosiers. Mike Brey and the Irish have struggled late against the Hoosiers in recent history.
  • Two years ago, 2 missed free throws with seconds left, cost the Irish a win late in regulation. In 2015, Notre Dame gave Tom Crean the biggest comeback in his coaching career at Indiana by surrendering a 16-point lead. Mike Brey will look to get his first win over the Hoosiers since 2013 this December. 

January 11th Louisville (H)

  • The Louisville Cardinals have been a longtime opponent for the Irish since their days in the Big East. Chris Mack has the Cardinals in the preseason Top 5 for both the AP and Coaches Poll. 
  • Notre Dame vs. Louisville is always a great battle, who can forget the 5-overtime win by the Irish in 2013? The Cardinals went undefeated the rest of that season and won a national title under Rick Pitino, now long removed from the program.

February 15th Duke (A)

  • Let’s never forget that Mike Brey started his time in the ACC with a 5-1 record against Coach K. Since then, the Blue Devils have run past the Irish in the past several seasons. 
  • Cameron Indoor Stadium may be one of the hardest places to play in the entire country, but the Irish were able to escape with a victory back in 2016. 

February 17th North Carolina (H)

  • Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels will visit South Bend in mid-February. This will be their second meeting of the season. If Notre Dame wants to get back to being one of the top programs in the ACC, they will have to win marquee matchups like this in South Bend.

Will the Irish end their tournament drought?

It has been a rocky past two seasons for Notre Dame Basketball. However, the past decade for the program overall has been tremendous. Mike Brey has been quite successful since the Irish have joined the ACC. He has tallied countless wins over Duke and North Carolina. 

This season it is time for the Irish to get back to playing high-level college basketball. Injuries and youth have been the story for the Irish recently. But now Mike Brey once again has senior leadership in his lineup. In 2015, when the Irish had perhaps the best team in program history, that Notre Dame squad was coming off a 15-17 season prior.

I’m not saying that will happen again this year, but quick turnarounds are possible in college basketball. This year, I expect Mike Brey to get Notre Dame back into the NCAA Tournament this March. Since the Irish are in the ACC, they will have countless opportunities to build a tournament resume. How far will the Irish go in the tournament? That will be dictated by the senior-filled lineup.

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One Comment

  1. I’m cautiously optimistic about this years BB team. Overall I think it’s best to forget last year. The only player that seemed to do well last year was Mooney. I’ve seen flashes by Gibbs and Durham came with a lot of promise. If those three get going, along with some great defense by Pfleuger (and Hubb has shown some potential as well), I think we can have a great year…perhaps, dare I say, like 2014/15 when we had Connaughton and Grant (that year still kills me—if Grant sinks that last 3 pointer at the end of the UK game in the Elite 8 I really think ND had a real shot at their first NC–they were that good and had beaten eventual champion Duke 3 times already that year).

    One think I hoped they left in the rearview mirror from last year was those huge scoring droughts they had during games. They would score a bunch of points then they couldn’t hit the basket if it were 3 feet off the ground for long periods of times. IIRC they also had issues with FT shooting as well–something that is not usually a problem for Brey’s teams.

    One think that aggravates me about the upcoming game—it’s on the new ESPN/ACC Network. That’s great except I don’t get the new ACC network. I think like 10 people do right now. Hopefully that gets rectified soon. If the Irish do go on a tear I’ll miss like a 1/3 of the games because I don’t get the channel. Boo.

    Go Irish!

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