Coach: Mike Brey (188-101 at Notre Dame, 287-153 overall)
No team in the country was more disappointing than Notre Dame during the 2008-2009 campaign. Many tabbed the Irish as a top ten team heading into the season, but the tough Big East got the best of them and they ended up in the NIT. Superstar Luke Harangody opted to return for his senior season, which gives the Irish hope, but there are a lot of key players that need to be replaced.
Key Losses: G Ryan Ayers, F Zach Hillesland, G Kyle McAlarney, C Luke Zeller
Harangody is not the only returning starter. Tory Jackson dished out 4.9 assists per game and developed into a solid scorer as well. He is not a great outside shooter, but Jackson will use his quickness to get to the basket and finish or find one of his teammates. With the addition of Martin and Hansbrough, Jackson will not need to improve his outside shooting since those two will attempt to pick up where the now departed Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers left off as far as outside shooting is concerned. Jonathan Peoples only averaged 14.1 minutes per game as the backup point guard, but he could see his role increase this year, especially in situations when Notre Dame needs another ball handler on the floor.
Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller ate up space in the paint for Harangody last year and now both of them are gone. Tyrone Nash, much like Martin, is a tall wing and Carleton Scott barely played last year and those are the only two returning options to start up front beside Harangody. Nash is the likely option to start unless one of the newcomers can take his place. Nash is a versatile 6-8, 228 pound wing and fits well in the system, but it will be different without a big guy next to Harangody. Scott is a lanky 6-7 forward who is best suited to attack off the wing and there will be times when Harangody is all alone under the basket.
Who’s In for Notre Dame:
Fortunately for Coach Mike Brey a couple of experienced transfers will help out immediately. Scott Martin averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds for Purdue as a freshman and the 6-8 guard will give the Irish some much needed size. Ben Hansbrough, a transfer from Mississippi State, does not have the size, but he has the toughness to hit the glass effectively and is even a capable scorer and ball handler. Notre Dame has had better groups of incoming freshmen, but Joey Brooks is a decent wing who will battle for minutes and big men Mike Broghammer, Jack Cooley and Thomas Knight will have to contribute on a team that lacks depth in the paint.
However, Harangody has proven that it really does not matter what the opposition tries to do…they just cannot stop him. Last year the 6-8, 255 pound Schereville, Indiana product averaged an incredible 23.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Even if he is surrounded by wings, albeit 6-8 wings, Harangody will create offense on his own. Notre Dame does not need a true low post scorer and Harangody is not even a traditional low post scorer. Like Coach Brey prefers, Harangody can step outside and hit the long ball and battle in the paint.
Final 2009-2010 Notre Dame Projection:
On paper it sounds like the Irish might have trouble on the glass. However, Martin and Nash are both 6-8 and Hansbrough is a surprisingly good rebounder for a 6-3 guard. Just like last year, this team will play big on the wings and be able to do damage on the offensive end in a variety of ways. And just like last year, the difference between the NCAA and the NIT will be consistency.