Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

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

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Page 30 of 39 FEBRUARY 2021 31 MEN'S BASKETBALL 2020-21 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Nov. 28 at Michigan State L, 80-70 Dec. 6 Detroit Mercy W, 78-70 Dec. 8 Ohio State# L, 90-85 Dec. 12 at Kentucky W, 64-63 Dec. 16 Duke* L, 75-65 Dec. 19 vs. Purdue^ L, 88-78 Dec. 23 Bellarmine W, 81-70 Dec. 30 Virginia* L, 66-57 Jan. 2 at North Carolina* L, 66-65 Jan. 10 at Virginia Tech* L, 77-63 Jan. 13 at Virginia* L, 80-68 Jan. 16 Boston College* W, 80-70 Jan. 24 at Miami* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Jan. 27 Virginia Tech* (RSN) 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at Pittsburgh* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 2 Wake Forest* (ACCN) 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Georgia Tech* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at Duke* (ESPN/2) 9 p.m. Feb. 14 Miami* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Feb. 17 Clemson* (RSN) 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Syracuse* (ACCN) 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at Louisville* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at Boston College* (ACCN) 2 p.m. Mar. 3 NC State* (ACCN) 7 p.m. Mar. 6 Florida State* (ESPN/2) TBA Mar. 9-13 ACC Tournament$ # ACC/Big Ten Challenge; * ACC game; ^ Cross- roads Classic at Indianapolis; $ at Greensboro, N.C. gest factor. I had pretty good options. It just came down to where I wanted to go, and Notre Dame tugged at me. It's the place I felt the pull toward." Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey saw the clear fit when he noticed At- kinson's name in the portal. Brey and assistant Ryan Humphrey reached out, made their pitch and built a re- lationship before long. The vibe from Notre Dame's staff struck him, par- ticularly his interactions with Brey. "He was the No. 1 guy I talked to," Atkinson said. "I talked to Coach Humphrey a lot, but Coach Brey was reaching out and showing his enthu- siasm for having me on the team, really just emphasizing how much he wanted to use me and what he saw me doing next year. "They have a good group of guards. Losing [starting center Ju- wan] Durham, I'm hoping to go in and try to fill his spot." Atkinson will arrive on campus this summer with that role firmly in his sights. Notre Dame's in-house options to replace Durham, who is not ex- pected back for a sixth year, are cur- rent freshmen Matt Zona and Elijah Taylor. The former is averaging 5.3 minutes per game. The latter won't play this year due to an ankle in- jury. Atkinson's experience and track record of production make him the logical choice for the job. On paper and on film, Atkinson appears more than capable. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native averaged 17.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 30 games as a ju- nior last season. He shot 63.0 percent from the field, which ranked seventh nationally. The breakout followed two years of contributions as a complementary piece, the first as a result of an injury to then-sophomore forward Jordan Bruner (who now plays at Alabama). Atkinson stepped into Bruner's start- ing spot and averaged 9.3 points in 24.2 minutes per game as a freshman in 2017-18. He came off the bench as a sopho- more, averaging 9.1 points on 69.7 percent shooting (a school record). Yale was 19-9 in Ivy League play his first two years, with an NCAA Tour- nament appearance in 2018-19. As a junior, Atkinson slid back into the starting lineup, next to Bruner, and helped Yale go 23-7 and 11-3 in the Ivy. The Bulldogs were regular- season league champions and the fa- vorite to win the conference tourna- ment before it was canceled. "I had two years of experience, a lot of confidence built up and I was ready to show I was the next guy up," Atkinson said. As an Ivy League to ACC gradu- ate transfer, he next has to prove he can play up a level. The sample size against power-conference opponents indicates a bump in competition is manageable for him. In Yale's win over Clemson on Dec. 22, 2019, Atkinson scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and had four rebounds and four assists. Eight days later, he had 10 points and seven rebounds in a 70-67 loss at North Carolina. He posted 12 points and seven rebounds with two blocks against Penn State in a 58-56 loss in November 2019. In 2018, Atkinson scored 17 points off the bench in a win over Miami. As a freshman, he averaged 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds on 52.0-percent shooting in four games against high- major opponents. "I didn't play against anyone who I thought, 'Wow, I don't belong on the court with them,'" Atkinson said. Atkinson has split his senior year between New Haven, Conn., and Florida, taking all his classes online. He will graduate with a degree in economics in May and plans to pur- sue his master 's in finance or busi- ness analytics. With Atkinson in the fold, Notre Dame has 12 scholarship players for next season. As of now, Atkinson will be one of three newcomers slated to join the 2021-22 team, joining high school signees and South Bend prod- ucts Blake Wesley (a four-star guard and Rivals' No. 92 overall player na- tionally) and JR Konieczny (a three- star small forward and the No. 127 overall prospect in the country). ✦ Three-Point Play 1. Lots Of Triples Through six conference games (1-5), Notre Dame ranked second in the ACC in three-point volume. The Fighting Irish were taking 47.0 percent of their field goal attempts (147 of 313) from three-point range, but ranked just eighth in the 15-team ACC in deep accuracy (34.0 percent, 50 of 147) in league play. 2. Turnovers A Rarity Notre Dame, as it often does, ranked in the top 30 nationally in lowest turnover rate — turning the ball over on 15.7 percent of its pos- sessions, which was 28th. On defense, though, it ranked dead last in the country in forcing them, with a 12.6 opponent percent turnover rate. 3. Schedule Eases Up Nine of Notre Dame's first 11 games were against opponents ranked among the top 40 nationally by as of Jan. 17. The Irish went 1-8 against them. But starting with the 80-70 win over Boston College Jan. 16, five of the next eight are against teams outside the top 50. — Patrick Engel "It just came down to where I wanted to go, and Notre Dame tugged at me. It's the place I felt the pull toward." ATKINSON

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