The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were better-than-advertised heading into the 2010-2011 Big East campaign. They managed to finish second in the Big East and earn a number-two seed in the NCAA Tournament. What does this season hold for them?
Despite the loss of Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott, and
Tyrone Nash (three of the team’s top five scorers), the NCAA Basketball odds makers at 5dimes are still giving Notre Dame some respect, making the Fighting
Irish a 45/1 play to cut down the nets in April. Could this future have the
luck of the Irish backing it?
Eric Atkins (5.8 ppg, 3.2 apg) will have the unenviable task
of replacing Hansbrough in the starting lineup. The 6’2” sophomore demonstrated
a great deal of promise during his freshman year, and Brey is confident that he
will continue to develop as a player.
Scott Martin (9.7 ppg) gives the Irish an experienced player
on the perimeter The fifth-year senior will need to improve his shooting,
particularly from three-point range, if Notre Dame is to experience success in
2011. At 6’8”, Martin is listed at guard, though he is more than capable of
contributing in the frontcourt.
Redshirt freshman Jerian Grant is expected to supply scoring
punch in the backcourt after missing last season due to a stress reaction. The
son of Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace Grant has the potential to be an
explosive scorer in the Big East, but he is an unproven commodity at this
point. Brey, though, believes that he can handle the pressure.
Joey Brooks (1.6 ppg) and Alex Dragicevich (1.4 ppg) will
round out the rotation. Brooks will mainly used as a defensive stopper, while
Dragicevich will be called upon when a shooter is needed. Much like Grant,
Dragicevich is an unknown, only appearing in 14 games last season and shooting
Tim Abromaitis (15.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is Notre Dame’s top
returning player, and the Irish will look to the fifth-year senior for scoring,
toughness, and leadership. He will be the first scoring option when the ball
goes into the paint. It will be critical for him to stay out of foul trouble,
as the rest of the interior rotation is very questionable.
Jack Cooley (3.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg) will need to play a much
larger role in 2011. Brey hopes that Cooley’s conditioning will allow him to
play 20-25 minutes per game, up from 10 last season.
Juniors Mike Broghammer and Tom Knight are also expected to
contribute, but Brey is not sure exactly what he has in these players due to lingering
injury issues during the 2010-2011 season. Brey has stated that he will be
watching both players closely during the preseason.
Recruits Pat Connaughton (St. John’s Prep, MA) and Eric
Katenda (Sunrise Christian Academy, KS) could also be in the mix. Connaughton
is a perfect fit for Brey’s system, as he is a physical player who works hard
on both ends of the court. Katenda is a big man who can score from any spot on
Notre Dame had an outstanding season last year, but I
believe they will take a step backwards in 2011-2012. Abromaitis and Martin
will provide leadership and scoring, but there are just too many question marks
surrounding the rest of the roster. If Grant develops as a big time scorer and
Notre Dame can find help for Abromaitis in the frontcout, the Irish could have
a decent season. As it is, I view them as a bubble team for the field of 68 due
to the uncertainty.
At first glance, a NCAA Basketball betting play at 45/1 seems like a good
value based on Notre Dame’s success in 2010-2011. This, however, is the
2011-2012 season, with a very different cast of characters. Basketball bettors not throw your
money away on this longshot.