#35 Notre Dame Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #35
Conference Rank: #6 ACC

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Notre Dame was so close to knocking off Kentucky in the Elite Eight and making the Final Four. The rest of the NCAA Tournament was a bit nervy for the Irish though. In the second round they barely slipped past Northeastern 69-65. With a berth to the Sweet Sixteen on the line, it took overtime before the Irish surpassed Butler 67-64. But wins are wins, especially in March and that capped off a great season in which Coach Mike Brey led his team to a third place finish in the ACC and 32 wins.

2014-15 Record: 32-6, 14-4
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Brey
Coach Record: 332-165 at Notre Dame, 431-217overall

Who’s Out:
Reaching that type of success in 2015-2016 seems unlikely without Jerian Grant. The senior point guard averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 assists and 1.7 steals during his senior campaign. Grant, who was drafted 19th overall in the NBA Draft, did everything for the Fighting Irish. Maybe his scoring can be replaced and there are players on this team who can handle the ball, but Grant’s leadership will not be seen for quite some time. Pat Connaughton, a 6-5 forward, was also a regular starter. Connaughton knocked down 42.3 percent of his attempts from long range and that is where most of his 12.5 points per game came from. However, he was always very tough on the glass and averaged a team high 7.4 rebounds per contest. The only other departure is little used walk-on Eric Katenda.

Who’s In:
Power forward Elijah Burns, small forward Matt Ryan and shooting guard Rex Pflueger will get a shot at cracking the regular rotation as freshmen. Burns is a strong player, but will still likely need some time to develop his body and game. Ryan is a big 6-8 forward who can shoot the ball extremely well from long range. Pflueger, a 6-6 shooting guard, could make the biggest impact of them all in large part due to the questions regarding perimeter depth. Pflueger is a smart player and he also has the ability to provide a nice offensive spark off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
Two starters are gone, but the three that are back are pretty good too. Zach Auguste has All-American talent and is coming off of a great performance in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-10 senior is a bruiser in the paint and is brimming with potential offensively. After averaging 12.9 points per game last season, do not be surprised if Auguste comes closer to 20 this time around. Demetrius Jackson will be the new star of the backcourt. Last year he was basically a shooting guard and a secondary ball handler to Grant. This year he will need to develop into the leader. He is not Grant, but Jackson averaged 12.4 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals as a sophomore and his athleticism and shooting ability will turn him into a great point guard for Notre Dame. Wing Steve Vasturia is also back after starting all 38 games in 2014-2015. Vasturia was playing his best basketball during the NCAA Tournament. He is still mostly an outside shooter, but he can come off screens and either knock down a shot or a look for an open teammate. After averaging 10.1 points per game last season, the expectations are even higher for Vasturia for his junior year.

Final Projection:
Bonzie Colson and V.J. Beachem will have the pressure of stepping into the starting lineup this year. Colson, a sophomore forward, is a tough player who, even at 6-5, can do some of the dirty work in the paint. Beachem could be the best shooter on the team now that Connaughton is gone. Beachem knocked down 41.6 percent of his 101 three-point attempts last season and he will get every opportunity to boost his 5.9 points per game average. This is a team with plenty of experience in the probable starting five, but depth could be a concern, especially if there is an unfortunate injury or two. Notre Dame may not be where they were last season, at least not yet, but they will make some noise in the ACC and be a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament too.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Demetrius Jackson, Junior, Guard, 12.4 points per game
Steve Vasturia, Junior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Bonzie Colson, Sophomore, Forward, 5.6 points per game
V.J. Beachem, Junior, Forward, 5.9 points per game
Zach Auguste, Senior, Forward, 12.9 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.0 (13th in nation, 2th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.8 (147, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 50.9 (2, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.7 (163, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.9 (35, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.0 (24, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.2 (27, 2)
Rebound Margin: -0.3 (200, 13)
Assists Per Game: 15.2 (29, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.4 (5, 2)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#51 Zach Auguste
#60 Demetrius Jackson

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#107 Rex Pflueger
#122 Matt Ryan


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