Get excited! The first game of the basketball season approaches faster than a speeding bullet! Something that is typically NOT faster than a speeding bullet? Notre Dame's offense. For those who didn't know, I'm not a huge fan of "The Burn," but as it turns out, there's hope.
When the Irish had its own media day a week before heading down to Charlotte for the ACC's festivities, head coach Mike Brey had this to say:
You've got three quick guards who can...run the floor - get out in transition.
Hang on. Did he say running? Great Scott! I know, this is heavy.
We'll have to wait to see just how much Brey pushes the tempo on offense, but I like where this is going. For a look at some less-familiar foes, check out previews of Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, and NC State.
2012-2013 Record: 25-10 (11-7), Big East
Conference Ranking: T-5th, Big East
Historical Notes: The Orange has the edge over the Irish in this series, 25-19. I refuse to dwell, so let's not talk about that Fab-less loss. You know the one. Instead, let's revisit this glorious block by Jerami Grant from last year's game.
What they're known for: Before "The Burn," there was Digger. Digger Phelps, that is, who coached Notre Dame for 20 years. He led them to the Final Four in 1978, but aside from that, the Irish has struggled a bit in the post-season. Since 2001, they've only made it to the NCAA's Sweet 16 once.
Season Summary: At one point, Notre Dame decided that playing 40 minutes of basketball wasn't enough. How else could you explain a 4-game stretch where three of the games went into overtime? And not just a little overtime. They needed 5 extra sessions to beat Louisville. The other two overtime games? Against DePaul and...DePaul. Yea, I didn't get it, either.
The Irish and the Cards met again, in the semifinals of the Big East tourney. No one needed extra time with this one, though; the Irish didn't advance. In the NCAA Tournament, they were the 7 in a 7-10 match-up, but No. 10 Iowa State shot the lights out and sent the Irish home, one-and-done style.
Jerian Grant (13.3 PPG/2.9 RPG/5.5 APG/1.3 SPG). Grant is extremely skilled, but can make silly mistakes that veterans shouldn't make. Expect that to stop. The 6-5 guard is eyeing the 2014 NBA Draft and knows what he needs to do to get there. I'd say that's pretty good motivation.
Pat Connaughton (8.9 PPG/4.7 RPG/2.1 APG). He hit 37% from deep last year, but the Irish need the 6-5 guard/forward/combo-ish to do more than score now. When Brey goes with a smaller lineup, he moves under the basket, which means rebounding his face off. He's versatile enough to also play baseball for the Irish, so I think he can handle this.
Demitrius Jackson (6-1, guard). The shiny new freshman is a McDonald's All-American, but this team already has talented guards. His biggest impact will be providing energy on offense. Remember the "three quick guards" Brey mentioned? He's the third. He attacks and is unafraid of the 1-on-1 drive, so expect him to get significant minutes.
Personnel Changes: You know how Duke has had a Plumlee since, like, 1994? I feel the same way about a Notre Dame guy I like to call "Juke Harancooley," who, somehow, played for the better part of a decade. Finally,
Luke Harangody Jack Cooley he graduated, ending the season with some nice numbers (13.1 PPG/10.3 RPG/1.2 BPG). The other graduating seniors were Scott Martin (7.9 PG/5.9 RPG/1.3 APG), Joey Brooks (2.3 PPG/1.2 RPG, career), and Mike Broghammer.
The only incoming players are the freshmen: VJ Beachem (6-8, forward), Steve Vasturia (6-6, guard), Austin Torres (6-7, forward), and Demetrius Jackson.
2013-2014 Potential: Good guards win championships, and Jackson will only add to this stellar veteran backcourt. However, the front court is questionable, now that Jack Cooley's gone. The post players will have to make up for his production by committee because no one can replace him alone. They have size, but they lack the experience banging around under the basket.
Interestingly, that might not make a huge difference in the ACC where there isn't as much physical play in the post. In the "normal" Big East, the Irish would have taken a step back; but in the ACC, it won't be a problem.
Orange Match-Up: Let's get this out of the way - Lazy Announcer Bingo will be off the charts. Aside from "Jerian and Jerami are brothers," expect more about Clemson and the Grant family legacy. Yes, Clemson talk will happen during Cuse-ND games. It's the ACC.
In any event, this is not foreign territory, my friends. Even with Jack Cooley (and without James Southerland), Syracuse didn't struggle to score against the Irish last year. Not only that, but the Orange returns its three key post players, while Notre Dame is in flux.
At first blush, it appears the battle will be at the guard/wing spots, but a closer look shows otherwise. The returning players for both teams have (presumably) improved, but with all due respect to this familiar opponent, Syracuse had the edge there before. They'll have it again. As for new guys, Notre Dame's got a great recruiting class, but I'll take Syracuse's. Add Silent G in there, and I dig how this one's shaping up.