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 247sports.com 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.
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.