ACC Burning Questions, Part 2: Boston College, Notre Dame & Louisville

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 30th, 2018

As we head into another exciting ACC season that tips off in next week, we will be reviewing the key question for each of the league’s 15 squads. Next up,  Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) keeps things rolling with a look at Boston College, Notre Dame and Louisville.

Boston College Burning Question: Will Jerome Robinson’s departure doom the Eagles to another year near the bottom of the ACC?

Ky Bowman Has a Lot on His Plate This Year (USA Today Images)

Everything appeared to be lining up perfectly for Boston College head coach Jim Christian before star shooting guard Jerome Robinson decided to leave school early as a lottery pick — now, somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly, this season looks much murkier in Chestnut Hill. Robinson’s running-mate in the backcourt, Ky Bowman, is back, however, and although he can do it all, he’ll need to improve his offensive efficiency (104.5 ORtg) this season if the Eagles hope to climb from 12th place in the ACC standings. Jordan Chatman (39.5% 3FG) played third banana in the Boston College backcourt last year and will also be counted on to replace some of the scoring punch lost with Robinson’s departure.

While Bowman and Chatman should be able to provide considerable offensive firepower in the backcourt, Christian’s team will only be successful if its frontcourt can contribute more regularly than last season. Sophomore Steffon Mitchell (8.3 RPG) looks like he has the potential to become an effective ACC big man and junior Nik Popovic significantly improved his offensive output a  season ago (from a dreadful 95.5 ORtg to a respectable 107.9). The most exciting piece among the front line, however, is freshman Jairus Hamilton, a top 100 recruit who spurned the likes of NC State and Duke to head north. They certainly can’t count on Hamilton to fill the shoes of Robinson immediately, but he is the type of player that Boston College needs to compete in the talent-rich ACC.

Notre Dame Burning Question: Is Mike Brey actually a wizard?

Mike Brey Seems to Make Surprising Everyone His Annual Task (USA Today Images)

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey might actually be some kind of wizard. It seems as if the Irish lose a player or two every year that they simply cannot afford to lose. Analysts over the summer then decide that Notre Dame’s run of sustained success is over. Brey just simply gets back to work; a player or two nobody thought much of turn into better versions of themselves; and the Irish are dancing come March. Last year it took two crippling injuries to Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell to keep Notre Dame out of the NCAA Tournament, and they were still the first team out! That pair is now gone, but if that makes you think Brey’s club is headed for bad times, so be it. I’m not falling into that trap.

Junior guard T.J. Gibbs (117.3 ORtg) is back to lead the offense and, given that he played 93.0 percent of the available minutes last season, he should be up to the task. Senior wing Rex Pflueger’s three-point shooting dropped from 39.7 percent as a sophomore to 31.7 percent last year, so Brey needs to figure out how to resuscitate his sniper from long-range. D.J. Harvey, a top 50 recruit, battled injuries most of last year but he’s now feeling great, according to Tom Noie of NDInsider. Junior big man John Mooney (41.1% 3FG) could be ready for a breakout season as a poor man’s Colson. Add this to what could be Brey’s best recruiting class in South Bend, which is loaded with four top-100 recruits including stretch big Nate Laszewski and long-range shooter Robby Carmody.

On paper, none of this year’s Irish look like certain all-ACC performers or even someone NBA scouts want to see. Mike Brey doesn’t care. He will wave his magic wand, cast a spell, and have his team back in the Top 25 while everyone who doubted him is left scratching their heads.

Louisville Burning Question: Can Chris Mack turn Pitino’s leftovers into an immediate winner?

Chris Mack Might be a Year Away From Rebuilding Louisville (USA Today Images)

Let’s get this out of the way first: New Louisville head coach Chris Mack is, without question, going to be a massive success. His work at Xavier (eight NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons) speaks for itself, and his 2019 recruiting class already looks like one of the best in the country. That doesn’t mean we are ready to believe in this year’s Cardinals.

After losing most of last year’s production, Mack recruited graduate transfers Khwan Fore (Richmond) and Christen Cunningham (Samford) for an influx of talent to join returnee Darius Perry in the backcourt. While Fore and Cunningham are fine as one-year stopgap players, it’s difficult to envision either as a difference-maker in the ACC this season. In limited minutes, Perry was shaky during his freshman season, turning the ball over at an unacceptable rate (24.8%) and shooting just 32.9 percent from three-point range. Without a dynamic point guard on the roster, Mack will seek breakout seasons from his two talented wings, junior V.J. King and sophomore Jordan Nwora. King was everyone’s selection to break out on this roster a season ago and it just never happened — in fact, he regressed in nearly every facet of his game. Nwora played more limited minutes but was fantastic on the offensive end (57.6% eFG and 43.9% 3FG) when he did play, often showing flashes of brilliance.

Can Mack figure out a way to fashion an effective point guard from his roster? Can he finally harness and enable the talent of King? Can he figure out how to unleash Nwora? If the answer to all of these questions is yes, let the Mack coronation at Louisville begin. If not, it could be a rough first year for the talented head coach at the Yum! Center before he gets it rolling.

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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