Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2014-15 record: 32-6, 14-4 in the ACC (Elite Eight)
Head coach: Mike Brey
Tenure at Notre Dame: 16th season
Career coaching record: 431-217
Home court: Edmund P. Joyce Center
Starters: G Demetrius Jackson, G Steve Vasturia, F Zach Auguste, F Bonzie Colson, F V.J. Beachem
Bench: Rex Pflueger
Overview: Head coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish are coming off of a breakout season in many respects. Notre Dame finished 32-6 and beat Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC tournament in just its second year in the league. For the first time since 1979, the Fighting Irish advanced to the NCAA tournament Elite Eight before falling in the final seconds to then-undefeated and top-seeded Kentucky. But in the offseason, Notre Dame lost two of its most important contributors in Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, who combined for 29.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game last season.
Brey will look to junior point guard Demetrius Jackson to lead the team defensively and pull his weight as a playmaker in the backcourt. More importantly, though, the Mishawaka, Ind., native will be expected to fill the leadership void left after the departures of Grant and Connaughton. Jackson averaged 12.4 points in 34.7 minutes per game last season, making him the fourth scoring option in the Fighting Irish’s spread offense, which emphasizes crisp passing and 3-point shooting. Notre Dame also returns 6-foot-10 forward Zach Auguste, who trailed only Grant with 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest last season. He and sophomore Bonzie Colson are expected to play alongside one another in the post. Junior Steve Vasturia, who averaged 10.1 points per game last season, rounds out the returning starters for the Fighting Irish.
There is no doubt that Notre Dame will suffer from the loss of Grant and Connaughton—what remains uncertain is how Brey and the returning players will adjust to pick up the slack. The Fighting Irish have all of the pieces to be an impact team in a loaded ACC, but whether or not they can rise to the occasion on both ends of the court remains to be seen.
One thing that needs to go right: Jackson shoulders the added pressure from defenses who no longer have to guard Grant and Connaughton, setting up teammates for open perimeter looks and driving the lane.
One thing that could go wrong: Auguste is really the only established big man on the Fighting Irish's roster. Colson will have to adjust to a new skill set if Brey sticks him out on the perimeter; if he cannot, Notre Dame will struggle on the boards and in its halfcourt offense.
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