The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball team, and presumably head coach Mike Brey, is having a rough go of it to not only start the season in sluggish fashion before ACC competition begins but with the slew of injuries to key players to start the year.
Whether it was Bonzie Colson last year or redshirt guard Robby Carmody who decided to sit out the year with a torn labrum, the injuries for the inexperienced Irish just keep piling up. Now, the Irish have confirmed that senior Rex Pflueger tore his ACL during the 88-80 win over Purdue on Saturday.
Deja vu indeed.
Pflueger, a 6-foot-6, 209-pound senior, was looking to build off an impressive 2017-18 campaign, which saw the senior grasp consecutive ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had gotten off to a hot start to the young season, compiling just a little over 10 points a game, 4.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds. In his expeditious start to the new season, he averaged shooting over 57 percent from the field while shooting about 39 percent from deep.
Seven points and 10 assists in (a career high for him) during a battle against Purdue in Saturday’s Crossroads Classic in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the senior had to be assisted off the court with 5:30 remaining in the second half to sympathetic applause from Irish and sportsmanship-showing Boilermaker fans alike. He was able to play 30 minutes, according to the box score, but at the cost of his entire season.
This injury comes at a tough time where experience is needed. Thankfully, the Irish may have some compensation to fill the chasm that Pflueger’s injury creates. Some good news for Irish fans: freshman reserve Dane Goodwin was able to collect a career-high 12 points and snag 4 boards while filling in for his backcourt cohort. Potential certainly lies ahead for the freshman out of Hamilton, Ohio who is averaging 5.8 points per game.
And while the injury may show its significance when the time comes for Notre Dame to face its in-conference foes Virginia Tech on New Year’s Day, Mike Brey may not have much of an issue when it comes to configuring experienced backcourt rotations. He is deep in that sense, as he has Canadian 6-foot-7 junior guard Nikola Djogo as well, who averaged over 16 minutes a game last year and has played intermittently this season.
The sudden and abrupt ending to Pflueger’s year signifies a lengthy case of bad luck (pun not intended) for the Irish as they enter the year and ACC competition with their conference championship and national title hopes surely dampened.
Pflueger, now aware of his season-ending injury, is optimistic of his comeback next year and recently tweeted his praise for fans who wished him a speedy recovery. The senior will have a fifth year of eligibility.
When Notre Dame lost its best player, Bonzie Colson, to a broken foot during the regular season last year, Mike Brey and the Irish missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years. The last thing that Irish fans want is a repeat of last year’s misfortune. With their lack of profound experience, notable with how their young core handled back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and UCLA, Brey’s Irish are still experiencing growing pains while going through their “rebuilding phase.”
Though Notre Dame has undergone what has felt like a rocky start to the year, they still sit at .500. Irish fans can only hope that the potential of the now-starting freshman guard Dane Goodwin, as well as the rest of Brey’s backcourt reserves, can show itself rather sooner than later. Reasonably so, they do not want to suffer the same disappointment of losing their best player for the regular season and not hearing their names called on Selection Sunday for two straight years.