Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey will look to lead Notre Dame back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017 this season. The Irish have an experienced roster and some scoring punch, but will it be enough?
It feels like Mike Brey and Notre Dame have been “down” forever. In truth, things were going swimmingly until December of 2017. That was when star forward Bonzie Colson went down with a foot injury. Shortly after Colson was lost, Matt Farrell suffered an injury that lingered through the remainder of the season. The Irish were 11-3 at that point in the season and looked to be well one their way to their fourth consecutive trip to the dance. Instead, that foot injury seemed to not only derail a season, but an entire program.
The Irish went 14-19 the following season, their worst mark since 1995-96 when they went 9-18. These results were somewhat surprising given the breakout of big man John Mooney and experience of TJ Gibbs along with a talented group of freshmen.
In 2019-20, the Irish seemingly recovered with a record of 20-12. However, half of those victories came against teams ranked 140th or worse in the Pomeroy rankings. Their best win came against Syracuse which finished 51st that season. Coach Brey’s group was able to log a victory in the ACC tournament but the event was cut short due to the onset of the Covid pandemic. That team was firmly on the bubble but most likely an NIT participant.
Last season, despite an experienced roster, the Irish managed just an 11-15 record. Despite wins against a talented (yet underwhelming) Kentucky team early in the season and a very good Florida State team to close out the season, Notre Dame once again underachieved.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, prognosticators are once again cautiously optimistic. While everyone loves Mike Brey, support has begun to waver outside of the program. There is no denying he is a fantastic head coach but sometimes you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
That same talented freshman class that 14-19 in 2018-19 are all fourth year players now. Prentiss Hubb is the obvious catalyst of the group having led the team in scoring and assists last season. His backcourt mates Dane Goodwin and Cormac Ryan provide both experience and shooting ability but are fairly inconsistent. For his career, Goodwin has logged 43 double digit scoring efforts, Notre Dame has won 27 of those games.
Also returning is talented forward Nate Laszewski. The 6’10 senior was ranked 61st in the 2018 recruiting rankings but had really struggled with his efficiency heading into his junior season. However, as we know, good things come to those that wait and big Nate broke out last season averaging 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting over 43% from behind the arc.
Also returning this season is talented yet injury prone forward Robby Carmody and guard Trey Wertz.
Coach Brey also logged some success in free agency this offseason, landing talented big man Paul Atkinson. Atkinson, a 6-10 forward, comes to South Bend by way of Yale where he was the Ivy League’s Player of the Year in 2019-20. He averaged 12 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. He will try to fill the hole created by the departure of Juwan Durham.
It won’t take us long to determine what this group of seniors will accomplish this season. Mike Brey has seemingly decided to challenge his seniors and scheduled aggressively. The Irish will played St. Marys, Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana during the out of conference portion of their schedule. All of those games save Kentucky will take place outside of South Bend.