Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 47 of 55

48 NOV. 27, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL M ike Brey at least gave fair warning. Asked in his first Zoom press conference of the preseason about loading up the non-conference schedule with five high-major teams, Notre Dame's head coach hinted that the early sea- son slate had more challenges to come. As if that was somehow possible. Michigan State (road), Kentucky (road), Ohio State (home), Tennessee (home) and Purdue (neutral) were al- ready on tap in the first month. That's four teams in the preseason Associ- ated Press poll and three in the top 15. "It's an aggressive December sched- ule," Brey said. "When you see the two league games that will plug in … you'll know I've lost my mind completely." The first? None other than a home game against No. 9 Duke. Then a trip to Syracuse. Then hosting No. 4 Virginia to end December. The first month already was a gauntlet. Now, it feels like college basketball's version of the Hunger Games. All told, eight of the first nine games are against teams in the KenPom preseason top 30. Brey went big in part because of inevitable cancellations. He also feels his group is up to the task of surviv- ing and thriving. "You don't throw these kinds of games on the board non-league un- less you think you have a group you can have some fun with," Brey said. And Brey has made clear his out- look. Notre Dame expects to be an NCAA Tournament team. Never mind that the Irish were picked 12th out of 15 teams in the ACC preseason poll. The Irish will start a lineup of five up- perclassmen — juniors Prentiss Hubb, Cormac Ryan, Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski, and fifth-year senior Juwan Durham. All but Ryan started or played 15-plus minutes per game each of the last two years. Ryan was a freshman starter at Stanford in 2018-19. The offseason theme Brey leans into is continuing the multi-year progres- sion from taking expected punches 2018-19 while playing a bunch of freshmen, to signs of growth last year, to tournament contenders this season. A 3-15 ACC record two years ago came first. Last year's 10-10 con- ference mark and 20-12 overall record indicated progress was being made. "I was really proud when we were 2-6 [in the ACC] coming out of Tal- lahassee [after a loss Jan. 25] that we went 9-4 down the stretch," Brey said. "Nobody wants to miss the NCAA Tournament. Certainly not us. We've been in it a lot since I've been here. But there was a build-back opportunity there, or phase we had to go through." What has to happen to get back there? Filling the void automatic dou- ble-double John Mooney left is a start. Taking a defensive leap would help. Better shot selection should raise a two- point field goal percentage that ranked 180th nationally a year ago. A breakout year from Laszewski and major impact from Ryan feel like ceiling-raisers. Notre Dame will need a tourna- ment-worthy résumé too. The sched- ule is loaded with opportunities. Here's a look at all 27 games, grouped into must-wins, "bubbles" and steals for building a tournament profile. MUST-HAVES Non-conference (two): Western Michigan (13-19 last season) and at Howard (4-29) Junior forward Nate Laszewski will be tasked with taking John Mooney's starting spot in the lineup and filling some of his production. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Must-Haves, BuBBles and steals Notre Dame wants to be an NCAA Tournament team, and the schedule is packed with opportunities to build a worthy case 2020-21 NOTRE DAME MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent Nov. 28 at Michigan State Dec. 2 Western Michigan Dec. 4 Tennessee Dec. 8 Ohio State& Dec. 12 at Kentucky Dec. 16 Duke* Dec. 19 vs. Purdue^ Dec. 22 at Syracuse* Dec. 29 or 30 Virginia* Jan. 2 at Pittsburgh* Jan. 5/6 Georgia Tech* Jan. 10 at Virginia Tech* Jan. 12 or13 at Virginia* Jan. 16 Boston College* Jan. 18 at Howard Jan. 24 at Miami* Jan. 26 or 27 Virginia Tech* Jan. 30 at North Carolina* Feb. 2/3 Wake Forest* Feb. 6 at Georgia Tech* Feb. 9 or 10 at Duke* Feb. 14 Miami* Feb. 16 or 17 Clemson* Feb. 23 or 24 at Louisville* Feb. 27 at Boston College* March 2 or 3 North Carolina State* March 6 Florida State* March 9-13 ACC Tournament$ ^ Crossroads Classic at Indianapolis; & ACC/Big Ten Challenge; * ACC game; $ at Washington, D.C.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Nov. 27, 2020