Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #43
Conference Rank: #10 ACC
Notre Dame had a few struggles in the regular season, but they played great at the right time. The Fighting Irish knocked off Michigan, Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin before falling to North Carolina in the Elite Eight. Despite losing his top two scorers, Coach Mike Brey has talent at his disposal. Bonzie Colson may not be the team’s top scorer, although he is capable, but it is Colson who will be asked to step up in a variety of areas. Colson is just 6-5, but he has a huge wingspan and will need to be very effective on the glass this season. Colson averaged 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds last season and expect those numbers to continue to rise as Colson enters his junior year.
2015-16 Record: 24-12, 11-7
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Brey
Coach Record: 356-177 at Notre Dame, 455-229 overall
Colson needs to step up because Zach Auguste is gone. The 6-10 forward averaged 14.0 points and an impressive 10.7 rebounds. Even with Auguste, the Irish were not a very good rebounding team and that could be a continuing issue for this team. Another potential issue is at the point guard spot. Demetrius Jackson dished out 4.7 assists per game and was a huge reason why Notre Dame averaged just 10.0 turnovers per game. Jackson was also the team’s top scorer with 15.8 points per game. Losing those two is absolutely huge. Little used A.J. Burgett is the only other departure.
The newcomers in the frontcourt will all get an opportunity to replace Auguste. Elijah Burns missed last season with an injury and the 6-9, 234 pound forward brings a much needed physical presence to the paint. Incoming freshman John Mooney is a 6-9, 245 pound forward who can bang in the paint as well. However, on the offensive end of the floor he will be a stretch four and help open up space by knocking down outside shots. The Irish also picked up former football player Patrick Mazza to add more toughness in the frontcourt. The backcourt adds T.J. Gibbs and Nikola Djogo. Gibbs could play a big role at the point guard spot, but even if that does not happen, he will be a solid scorer off of the bench. Djogo is a long, athletic 6-7 wing who can shoot over most defenders.
Who to Watch:
Junior Matt Farrell will step into the starting point guard role. He played a much bigger role during Notre Dame’s NCAA Tournament run than he did during the regular season. On the year, Farrell averaged 2.6 points and 1.6 assists in 13.4 minutes per game. He is not going to score a ton, but Farrell can run the offense effectively. Much of the perimeter scoring will be left to 6-6 guard Steve Vasturia and 6-8 forward V.J. Beachem. Vasturia did not have a great junior year, but did average 11.4 points per game and is capable of shooting more than 34.4 percent from beyond the arc. Beachem was much more efficient from beyond the arc, connecting on 44.4 percent of his 198 three-point attempts. Rex Pflueger should see quite a bit of action on the wing this year. He is not a shooter like Vasturia or Beachem, but he can do a bit of everything else.
Matt Ryan is another big forward who can shoot the ball, but there will be a lot of pressure on Martinas Geben to help replace Auguste. Geben is a tough 6-10, 255 pound forward, but he barely saw the floor last season. The Irish expect him to do relatively big things this year, but replacing Auguste is not that easy and it will take a collective effort from Geben, Colson and the newcomers. As long as the frontcourt can do enough on the glass, Vasturia, Beachem and Colson can do enough scoring to get the Irish to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Matt Farrell, Junior, Guard, 2.6 points per game
Steve Vasturia, Senior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Bonzie Colson, Junior, Forward, 11.1 points per game
V.J. Beachem, Senior, Forward, 12.0 points per game
Martinas Geben, Junior, Forward, 1.4 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.1 (128th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.6 (144, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.6 (31, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.2 (155, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (145, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.4 (46, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.2 (34, 5)
Rebound Margin: 1.8 (130, 9)
Assists Per Game: 13.3 (171, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.0 (10, 3)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#51 V.J. Beachem
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#71 Temple Gibbs
#147 John Mooney