Notre Dame was on the wrong side of conference realignment last season. After finishing 25-10 (11-7), good for fifth in the Big East last year, the Fighting Irish regressed to a subpar 15-17 (6-12) record on their way to a 12th place finish in the ACC.
The season began with some promise, winning nine of their first 13 and playing ranked opponents tough, but the team hit a tailspin once their star guard, Jerian Grant, was dismissed from the team due to academic violations. Notre Dame lacked where Grant excelled from that point on. Grant shot a 52/41/87 clip while also locking down the opponent’s best guard on defense; the rest of the team shot 45.5% from the field, 103rd nationally, scored just 72 PPG, 142nd nationally, and ranked behind more than 200 programs in every defensive category.
Next year, with Grant (hopefully) on the floor for a full season and a few power forward recruits coming in to bolster the team’s interior presence, Notre Dame should be a much improved team. By no means will they leap up the ACC ladder, but with improved rebounding and a consistent scoring threat, coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish can certainly climb a few rungs.
-Eric Atkins, PG (13.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.9 APG)
Atkins, a four year contributor out of Columbia, MD, was a cornerstone for Coach Brey and the Notre Dame Basketball program. With a career A/TO ratio of 2.3, he is a proven ball handler who could run the offense efficiently and also get his shot from behind the arc. Atkins will not be easy to replace, but I anticipate that Jerian Grant, should he remain eligible throughout the season, will shoulder some of the slack.
-Jerian Grant, G (19.5 PPG, 6.2 APG, 2.0 SPG)
Although he was dismissed from the program last December due to academic issues, Grant will be rejoining the team this fall with a chip on his shoulder. Through 12 games last season, he was by far the most productive member of the Fighting Irish, disrupting passing lanes and being the spark plug that makes their offense go. If he can remain eligible and lead the team like he previously has, look for Notre Dame to improve both offensively and defensively in the coming year.
-Bonzie Colson, Jr, PF
There are scouts who claim that Colson, Jr. is too small to play power forward at the college level, but they were probably saying the same thing when Charles Barkley first got to Auburn. Colson has a high basketball IQ and, although he is just 6’6, he can get the ball to just about any spot on the floor with his post game and soft passing touch. His game may not be exciting, but Bonzie is an efficient player who knows how to get buckets.