Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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Page 53 of 63

54 MAY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T hroughout Mike Brey's 18 sea- sons at Notre Dame, there have been at least two primary, con- sistent themes about his basket- ball program. First, when the preseason expecta- tions are high — top 20 or even top 10 rankings — the Irish often have faltered for one reason or another. This past year injuries could be pointed to as a legitimate culprit. In previous years there was also a sense of entitlement (17-12 in Chris Thomas' senior year in 2004-05) or maybe discomfort with the high ranking (21-15 in 2008-09 despite the presence of a four-man senior class and junior All-American Luke Harangody). Part II of this equation is that when the Irish are unheralded in the pre- season and deemed a reach to make the NCAA Tournament, Brey and Co., have a history of prospering. A recent example was following the 15-17 season in 2013-14 (6-12 de- but in the ACC) Notre Dame the next year won the conference crown and advanced to the program's first Elite Eight in 36 years while posting a 32-6 ledger. From that perspective, it bodes well for the 2018-19 Fighting Irish, who will be making their greatest roster turnover from one season to the next in the Brey era. It is the first time Brey will wel- come as many as five freshmen into the fold — four of them ranked be- tween No. 53 and No. 107 by Rivals — plus seven-foot (with shoes) Con- necticut transfer Juwan Durham, who sat out this season per NCAA rules and has three years of eligibility remaining. "We will come completely off the radar, which is a good thing proba- bly for this group," Brey said shortly after the second-round NIT loss to Penn State March 17. "Never have we had so many new faces when you add Juwan, too." TAKING SOME LUMPS IN 2018-19 Around his sixth year with the Irish, Brey accepted the reality that Notre Dame was never going to be a Duke, Kentucky or North Caro- lina when it came to attracting elite, lottery-pick talent. Thus, the modus operandi was to "stay old" by implementing a four- or five-year program in which player development combined with high basketball IQ to make the Irish a competitive operation. And therein lies the dilemma of the 2018-19 Notre Dame season. On one hand, the incoming class is the highest ranked in the Brey era. Combined with Durham and cur- rent freshman D.J. Harvey, who was sidelined the final two months this past year, seven of the 12 scholar- ship players on the roster will have a minimum of three years of eligibility, a record amount of youth on a Brey roster. "It's going to be some young colts," Brey said. "We're going to throw the ball up into the band a couple of times as we grow this group." The good news is Notre Dame will be making its annual foreign tour this summer, which the NCAA per- mits once every four years. The Irish will play an exhibition tour in the Bahamas this August that will give them 10 extra practices to help as- similate the new with the old. Back in the summer of 2014, the Irish took that tour through Italy af- ter the 15-17 campaign, and it was AN AGE-OLD STORY Mike Brey will have his most youth and turnover on the roster next season Junior point guard T.J. Gibbs (No. 10) and senior guard Rex Pflueger (No. 0) will assume the leadership mantle in 2018-19 for what will be the youngest team in the Brey era. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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