Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 6, 2021

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

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Page 54 of 63 NOV. 6, 2021 55 MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL N otre Dame men's basketball head coach Mike Brey has leaned into the expectations for his team this season. Make the NCAA Tournament — at minimum. He feels he has a team capable of do- ing it. So do many preseason projections and rankings. Notre Dame is the No. 27 team in the preseason KenPom ratings, higher than every ACC team except Duke (No. 10) and Florida State (No. 24). That's bol- stered by a projected No. 6 ranking in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency. The Irish also earned three votes in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, tied for seventh with Louisville among ACC members. Duke (No. 9), North Carolina (No. 19), Florida State (No. 20) and Virginia (No. 25) appeared in the poll, while Virginia Tech (25 points) and Syracuse (five) also garnered votes. The ACC's official preseason poll picked Notre Dame to finish eighth, behind Duke (first), Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Lou- isville and Syracuse. North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Wake Forest, Pitt and Boston College rounded out the poll. Senior point guard Prentiss Hubb was a second-team preseason All-ACC selection. He averaged a team-high 14.6 points and 5.8 assists per game last season. Elsewhere, CBS Sports' Matt Nor- lander ranked all 358 Division I college basketball teams and slotted Notre Dame at No. 50 as the eighth-highest ACC team. "Can this season mark the end of the worst four-year run of Mike Brey's ten- ure with the Irish?" Norlander wrote. "ND's average record in that span: 17-15. No NCAA Tournaments. Average Ken- Pom finish: 69th. Brey hopes 2021-22 provides improved dividends. "Why as high as No. 50? Prentiss Hubb is still here; he'll be invaluable, and maybe second team All-ACC. Big Nate Laszewski seems destined to be a more well-rounded player. And I love the addition of Paul Atkinson [Jr.], who was one of the best players in Yale his- tory and will toughen up the Fighting Irish's identity." The entire CBS staff's ACC predicted order of finish had Notre Dame one spot higher, at No. 7 and ahead of Syracuse. "Brey led the Irish to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in an eight- year span from 2010 to 2017," CBS' pre- view reads. "He made the Elite Eight twice. But Notre Dame hasn't been back to the field of 68 since [or even finished with a winning record in ACC games]. It's been a rough stretch. "But there's reason to believe Brey will turn things around this season con- sidering he's bringing back five of his top six scorers from a team that beat Florida State, Duke and Kentucky last season. Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski and Dane Goodwin are a veteran core that combined to average 39.7 points and 15.2 rebounds per game last season. If the Irish are back in the NCAA Tour- nament for the first time in five years, that trio will be the main reason." In line with the official ACC poll, Athlon Sports and Three Man Weave picked Notre Dame to finish eighth in their respective preseason ACC rank- ings. Sports Illustrated slotted Notre Dame ninth, with Miami at No. 8. "Mike Brey brings back four starters, including the perennially underrated Prentiss Hubb and potential all-league forward Nate Laszewski," Athlon's pre- view reads. "The Irish also added Ivy League Player of the Year Paul Atkin- son Jr." Notre Dame went 11-15 overall and 7-11 in the ACC last season. The Irish were 85th in the final KenPom rankings. Notre Dame's 2021-22 regular sea- son begins Nov. 13 at home against Cal State Northridge. It will play two home exhibitions against non-Division I opponents, with the first coming against Nazareth College Oct. 29. ✦ Irish Projected To Be An NCAA Tournament Contender Senior point guard Prentiss Hubb, who averaged a team-high 14.6 points and 5.8 assists per game in 2020-21, was a second-team preseason All-ACC selection. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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