Notre Dame had a disappointing end to its 2016-2017 with a 2nd round loss to West Virginia two weekends ago, but with a solid nucleus slated to return, expectations for next year were high. Those expectations took a hit on Tuesday with the news that rising junior and likely starting forward Matt Ryan has been granted his release to transfer.
Notre Dame announced Ryan’s departure via an official release:
Sophomore Matt Ryan has been granted a release for other schools to contact him from University of Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey. It is the first step toward Ryan transferring out of the basketball program and finishing his career at a different institution.
“We wish Matt nothing but the best in his career moving forward,” Brey said.
“He was a part of two great teams at Notre Dame and we fully support his decision to pursue his career in a different program.”
Some interesting wording in their from Brey. It’s normal for a coach to grant a player his release but to “fully support” Ryan pursuing his career with another program is a bit interesting. Ryan showed a lot of promise as a freshman in 2015-2016 but saw his role diminish once ACC play started this past season. Ryan, perhaps the best three point shooter on the team, was relegated into a very limited role.
Part o the reason in Ryan’s reduced role were some deficiencies on the defensive end of the court. Those liabilities, however, might not have been the entire story. Some reports and rumors over the the last few weeks suggested that the lack of playing time wasn’t just a decision by head coach Mike Brey to play small ball but that he may have also fallen out of favor with the head coach as well.
Considering the painful struggles of VJ Beachem in the NCAA Tournament and Ryan’s miniscule minutes against both Princeton and West Virginia, it’s very easy to put some faith in those reports.
Even as Ryan struggled to get minutes this season, he was a deadly three point shooter when he got on the floor. Ryan connected on 43% of the three point attempts this year and 83 of his 99 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc. Those 99 field attempts, however, were 45 fewer than Ryan attempted as a true freshman a year ago. Ryan’s minutes plummeted as well from 14.5 to 7.9 this season.
With Notre Dame losing both Beachem and Vasturia to exhausted eligibility this year, Ryan was expected to assume a much larger role assuming he proved himself to be a better defender. In fact, it would be hard to imagine Ryan being anything other than a starter next year – especially if Bonzie Colson were to leave early for the NBA.
Instead, Ryan won’t be starting anywhere this fall. While he has two years of eligibility remaining, he will have to sit out the 2017-18 season per normal transfer rules and per ACC rules, he will not be able to attend another ACC school to continue his career.
Were Does Notre Dame Go From Here?
Assuming Notre Dame returns Colson, they will build their lineup around him and Matt Farrell. Rex Pflueger’s spot in the lineup seems pretty secure as well but the Irish still need to replace Vasturia and Beachem without one of their best shooters.
With the personnel he will have at his disposal, Mike Brey could choose to go back to a more traditional lineup next year with Martin Geben as the starting center and Colson at the PF position. That would allow rising sophomore Nikola Djogo and incoming freshman DJ Harvey to battle it out for the start small forward spot. Neither has a minute of playing time to their name but both are intriguing prospects.
Notre Dame could also go with a three guard attack with TJ Gibbs joining Farrell and Pflueger in the lineup and a front court of Colson and Geben or Colson and 5th year senior Austin Torres. Notre Dame would need both Pflueger and Gibbs to improve their outside shooting, however, to feature all three of those guards in the starting lineup.
Ryan’s departure leaves Notre Dame with just 10 players on scholarship next season. With the season over for most teams at this point, there will be some “free agents” (graduate transfers) available soon that will be immediately available to play, but it doesn’t appear as though there’s anything imminent on that end.