Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

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

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Page 48 of 55 NOV. 27, 2020 49 MEN'S BASKETBALL ACC (eight): Wake Forest (13-18), Boston College (13-19), at Boston Col- lege, at Pittsburgh (16-17), Clemson (16-15), North Carolina State (20-12), Virginia Tech (16-16) and Georgia Tech (17-14) Notre Dame likely would be star- ing at an NCAA Quadrant 3 or 4 loss on its team sheet if it falters against the two mid-majors or Wake Forest and Boston College. These games don't add to a résumé, but a loss here can subtract from one. Wake Forest just hired a coach. Bos- ton College could make a change this spring. It's hard to imagine Jeff Ca- pel's project at Pitt producing year three relevance, but at least it's a road game that will likely be in Quadrant 2. Everyone else, like Notre Dame, is part of the crowded quagmire in the lower middle of the ACC. If the Irish want to reach the NCAA Tour- nament, they'll need to emerge from it, or at least be on top of it. And to do that, beating all those other teams at least once is necessary. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are repeat opponents. Have to split those, at worst. Clemson and North Carolina State aren't, but both are home games. Home-court advantage probably won't be worth as much this year, but the Irish need both of those. BUBBLES Non-conference (two): vs. Purdue (16-15) and Ohio State (21-10) ACC (seven): at Syracuse (18-14), at Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, Mi- ami (15-16), at Miami (15-16), at Lou- isville (24-7) and Florida State (26-5) The goal is to have a winning record in these nine games. Purdue and Ohio State are going to be well-coached and tough on defense, but aren't loaded with individual stars. Syracuse is an- other middle of the pack resident. Mi- ami is the popular breakout pick, but the ceiling feels short of ACC title con- tention. Louisville has a talented roster, but one light on proven high-major commodities after losing its top four scorers (and the fifth to injury). Each of these opponents has exploitable flaws. Florida State feels like the toughest one. The Seminoles may not have the firepower to win the regular-season title like they did last year, but they're still a back-end top-25 team with a proven system. They're difficult to beat. But last year's Notre Dame team was, of course, close to knocking them off twice. If this Irish team is tournament bound, it ought to beat them once. STEALS Non-conference (three): at Michi- gan State (22-9), at Kentucky (25-6) and Tennessee (17-14) ACC (five): Duke (25-6), at Duke, Virginia (23-7), at Virginia and at North Carolina (14-19) These are all likely Quadrant 1 opportunities. Losing most of them won't ruin a résumé. Losing all of them won't either, but also won't in- spire confidence. Winning just one or two, though, will lead a résumé. The most favorable chance feels like North Carolina, which should be much improved from last year's de- railment but still has questions sur- rounding its backcourt. There is precedent for getting into the NCAA Tournament with a poor non-conference record that comes against a stout schedule. In 2017, Vanderbilt went 1-6 against top-75 RPI teams on its non-conference slate, but the seven opportunities carried weight. A top-50 RPI of their own and six over- all top-50 RPI wins were enough to make the tournament at 19-15. ✦ Notre Dame Signs Local Product JR Konieczny Notre Dame has its lone 2021 commit officially in the fold. JR Konieczny, a three-star recruit from South Bend St. Joseph, signed his letter of intent to play for Notre Dame Nov. 11. The 6-7, 195-pound wing committed to the Irish in August 2019, less than a month after he picked up the offer following an impressive performance at the NCAA College Basketball Academy in Champaign, Ill. "That was special. I remember it like it was yesterday," Konieczny said. "I got out of one of the games … I remember walking up to my dad and showing him the phone, I was like, 'I think Coach [Mike] Brey just offered me. It was a special moment between me and him for sure." Konieczny is currently the lone signee in Notre Dame's 2021 class, though his friend and fellow South Bend native Blake Wesley is the top remaining target. The four-star guard from South Bend Riley High School is the No. 96 overall player in the 2021 Rivals150. Konieczny is doing his part to get him in the fold. Wesley indicated he will announce on Nov. 21, and has had him forecasted for the Irish. "I've been on his butt since I committed," Konieczny said. "It's been a thing in the back of our minds. What if the two hometown kids committed to the hometown school?" Ranking And Awards Rivals: Three-star recruit, No. 32 small forward and No. 136 overall player nationally Awards: 2020 IndyStar third-team All-State, 2020 IndyStar Indiana Junior All-Star team, 2020 Indiana Basketball Coaches Association "Supreme 15" Underclass Team Selection and 2020 Northern Indiana Conference first team Recruitment And Background Offers: Bradley, Butler, Creighton, Iowa, Miami (Ohio) and Valparaiso Konieczny came on a more personal recruiting visit to spend time with the coaches and see the facili- ties shortly after adding the offer. If he was merely intrigued upon getting the offer, the visit put Notre Dame in a favorable spot to land him quickly. The desire to play for his hometown school and in the ACC led him to a rapid commitment. "It definitely changed my whole perspective on everything for sure," Konieczny said. "I have my family here, friends, relatives around this area. It definitely changed things for me to stay close to all of them. They can come out to support at some games and I can stay and watch my little brother [Chase] as he grows up." During his junior year, Konieczny continued to drop by whenever he could for home games. He averaged more than 20 points per game as a junior, helping St. Joseph finish 17-6. He played AAU the last two sum- mers for Indiana Elite. His jump shot is the highlight of his game, with range that extends out to near the NBA three-point line. He projects as a multi-positional wing player with his athleticism and skill at his size. "When I was on my visit there, Coach Brey showed me some film of [former Notre Dame guards] Pat Con- naughton and Steve Vasturia," Konieczny said. "He thought I could fill one of those kinds of roles. I'll fill in wher- ever they want me to. He likes how I can shoot the ball from the outside, but attack and create a shot for myself. I know I have to work on defense and get stronger for sure. But the main thing I'm going off is my jump shot." Coach's Take "JR is just a very skilled kid. I know some doubt that a guy who is 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 would have guard skills, but he really has guard skills. He can shoot it well, and he also is a good ball handler who moves his feet well. Notre Dame is going to have a player that fits in really well with what they like to do." — Indiana Elite coach Mike Adams — Patrick Engel KONIECZNY

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