“Reinvented” Notre Dame Is Not Done Yet

Posted by WCarey on January 5th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report following Saturday afternoon’s game in South Bend between Duke and Notre Dame.

In the preseason, expectations were fairly high for Notre Dame as it began its first campaign as a member of the ACC. While there were questions about the team’s frontcourt depth, the Irish returned three key starters in the backcourt in seniors Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and junior Pat Connaughton. Unfortunately, the Irish quickly showed that they have some glaring weaknesses by suffering four losses in the first two months of the season. The first setback came on November 17 when Mike Brey experienced his first November defeat at the Joyce Center versus Indiana State. While Notre Dame then notched easy wins over Santa Clara, Army, and Cornell, its defensive shortcomings became more evident during its subsequent trip to Iowa City where Iowa handed them a 98-93 defeat. A week later, the Irish were stunned again on their home court in a game that North Dakota State controlled from start to finish. After regrouping to score an impressive victory over Indiana in the Crossroads Classic on December 14, the Irish then went to Madison Square Garden and choked away an eight-point lead with 51 seconds remaining in a defeat by Ohio State.

Notre Dame's First ACC Game Went Swimmingly in South Bend (USAT)

Notre Dame’s First ACC Game Went Swimmingly in South Bend (USAT)

The four setbacks on the court were not the only losses Notre Dame suffered in the 2013 portion of the season. A day after the Ohio State loss, news broke that Grant – the team’s leading scorer – would not be enrolled at the university for the remainder of the season due to an academic matter. The team also lost sophomore Cameron Biedscheid – who was already redshirting this season – a few days after Christmas when he announced his intention to transfer.

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Assessing the Impact of Jerian Grant’s Dismissal From Notre Dame

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 23rd, 2013

Notre Dame’s already diminishing ACC chances took an even greater hit over the weekend when star guard Jerian Grant was dismissed for the remainder of the season for academic reasons. Grant was averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.2 APG for the 8-4 Fighting Irish and was largely considered one of the best guards in the ACC and the country. The 6’5″ senior was shooting 51.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from three, and was clearly a major cog in coach Mike Brey’s attack. Grant, in conjunction with Notre Dame, put out a brief news release Sunday regarding his dismissal. He was apologetic and mature in addressing the public, taking full responsibility for his actions and saying he hopes to be back in an Irish uniform next season. In the release he said, “I take full responsibility for my lack of good judgment and the poor decision that I made. I have no one to blame but myself for the situation.”

ND's Jerian Grant (Photo: US Presswire / Richard Mackson)

Jerian Grant Is Done For the Season (Richard Mackson/ US Presswire)

Notre Dame has had some struggles out of the gate, losing an uncharacteristic November game for the first time in Brey’s tenure and most recently blowing an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play versus Ohio State on Saturday. The loss of a team leader in Grant will set the Irish back even further with ACC play rapidly approaching. Look for McDonald’s All-American and freshman combo guard Demetrius Jackson to start playing heavier minutes and establishing himself more often on the offensive end. Senior guard Eric Atkins will likewise need to be more aggressive in looking for his shot and take on more responsibility in Grant’s absence. Don’t be surprised to also see the continued ascent of fan favorite Garrick Sherman shouldering a more extensive burden of the offense.

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Ohio State’s Keys to Beating Notre Dame Tonight

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 21st, 2013

One of four battles between Big Ten teams and probable NCAA Tournament teams from power conferences will take place in Brooklyn on Saturday when Ohio State (11-0) takes on Notre Dame (8-3). After a disappointing loss to North Dakota State, the Irish righted their ship by knocking off Indiana last Saturday at the Crossroads Classic. Meanwhile, Ohio State is ranked as the #3 team in the country, but hasn’t really played anyone of merit since they bested Maryland about three weeks ago. This one will be highlighted by guard play, but here are a few other things to look for if you’re tuning in this evening after a day of Christmas shopping (7:30 PM EST, ESPN2).

Shannon Scott will be tested by the Notre Dame guards on Saturday night.

Shannon Scott will be tested by the Notre Dame guards on Saturday night.

  • Guard Play will be a key: The best of the individual battles will be in the form of Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins taking on Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott. The Craft and Scott duo will look to do what they do against everyone — pressure and harass. Craft (2.5 SPG) and Scott (2.3 SPG) are first and second, respectively, among Big Ten players in steals per game, but Grant and Atkins are the keys to the Irish protecting the ball at the 18th best rate in the country (14.5 turnovers per 100 possessions). Experience playing under pressure like this might unhinge freshman and sophomore perimeter players, but the Notre Dame duo has been through it before. If Craft and Scott can force a steady diet of turnovers from these veterans — no easy task whatsoever — they can set the tone for an uglier game that eliminates some of the clean looks Notre Dame got against Indiana.

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Notre Dame Needs Its Frontcourt to Emerge

Posted by Walker Carey on November 25th, 2013

Notre Dame entered the 2013-14 season with a strong and experienced backcourt that will be vital to the Irish as they make the transition from the Big East to the ACC. Seniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant and junior Pat Connaughton were mainstays in the starting lineup of last year’s Irish and had developed a reputation as one of the most reliable perimeter groups in the country. Atkins is a true floor general who can hit timely shots and has been a strong leader for several seasons — he is the only player in Notre Dame basketball history to become a three-time captain. Grant is the scorer of the group and has the ability to get as hot as any player in the country. Connaughton, who also excels for Notre Dame baseball as a starting pitcher, is a true glue guy who does a little bit of everything.

Eric Atkins ( AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Eric Atkins Anchors a Stellar Irish Backcourt ( AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

While the Irish have a proven backcourt that will certainly aid in winning a lot of games, the team’s frontcourt is still a bit of an unknown commodity. Replacing the production of graduated All-Big East forward Jack Cooley looms as a tall task. The most experienced forward in Mike Brey’s arsenal is fifth-year senior Tom Knight. After being sparingly used for much of his career, Knight took on a big role for the Irish during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign, as he was in the starting lineup for the final 16 games of the season. Fellow senior forward Garrick Sherman also brings a solid amount of experience to the fold, as he entered the 2013-14 season with 31 career starts (from both his time at Notre Dame and Michigan State). However, in his first season on the court with the Irish, Sherman battled through some consistency issues. While his season is probably best remembered for his 17-point performance in the five overtime win over Louisville, it also must be noted that he had fallen completely out of Notre Dame’s rotation in the four games prior to that epic contest.

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ACC M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 23rd, 2013


  1. Miami Herald: The biggest news out of ACC country yesterday was the conclusion of the NCAA’s investigation into Miami. We will have more on that later today, but Michelle Kaufman has an interesting perspective. Rather than looking at the punishments, she asks, “Where are they now?” The answers are damning to say the least: Nevin Shapiro is in prison, two lead NCAA investigators moved on, and Frank Haith and Cecil Hurtt are still in coaching positions. It’s not hard to figure out why the NCAA didn’t hammer the Hurricanes.
  2. Wilmington Star News: It’s no secret Roy Williams’s system develops elite college point guards. The Tar Heels have three of the ten Bob Cousy Award trophies on campus. This year Marcus Paige joins fellow ACC floor generals Quinn Cook, Devon Bookert (an interesting choice), Eric Atkins, and Tyler Ennis on the preseason Cousy Award watch list. None are considered the favorites for the award (ahem, Marcus Smart), but all are point guards to watch in ACC play.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: While Mark Turgeon didn’t seem concerned about recruiting to Maryland once he moves to the Big Ten, Mike Brey is. Brey is considering scheduling Georgetown in the future to keep his in with the DMV. On a side note I think Laura Keeley underestimates the difference in media money between Big Ten and ACC schools. It is true that it is only a few million this year, but the ACC just renegotiated its deal. Also Maryland’s athletic department was facing fiscal crisis, which made the money that much more important.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Speaking of Maryland, some tough news out of College Park yesterday, as Terrapin assistant Dalonte Hill started a leave of absence following his third DUI charge in the last five years. Hill’s importance to Maryland recruiting cannot be overstated, as he has close ties to the premier AAU team from the area.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: You want a dark horse rookie of the year candidate? Look no further than Tyler Ennis, who is Jim Boeheim’s only point guard this season. That means Ennis will have a large role for Syracuse this year, potentially a more integral role than Duke’s Jabari Parker who will have his playing time eaten into by a roster chock full of athletic wings.
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ACC Team Preview: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Matt Patton on October 21st, 2013

For the next few weeks leading up to the first games, we’ll be releasing ACC team previews. First we will look at the new additions to the conference, starting today with Notre Dame.

Strangely enough, the new additions to the ACC should bring great stability along with it. Where only Mike Krzyzewski, Leonard Hamilton and Roy Williams are coaching veterans at their schools, Mike Brey, Jamie Dixon and Jim Boeheim all have over a decade of experience (counting Dixon’s days as an assistant) at their current schools. Brey will immediately become the third-longest tenured coach in the league after Boeheim and his mentor Krzyzewski.


What will be interesting is to see how Brey changes this team. Looking at his coaching resume on KenPom, one thing that immediately sticks out is that three of his best four years at Notre Dame came when he was playing quickly. Obviously, a lot of that is due to his personnel. But the last four years the Fighting Irish have played very slowly, and that should change this year. The last four years the Irish have been led by very good, but not super-athletic players. The last two years Jack Cooley played a huge role in the offense, whereas three years ago it was Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis and the year before that was Luke Harangody’s farewell campaign. Brey’s strength during those four years was Notre Dame’s gritty defense, generally strong three-point shooting, and the tendency to favor inside-out play (except for the guard-dominated season).

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Season in Review: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Will Tucker on May 2nd, 2013

The Fighting Irish had an auspicious start to a season that was expected to represent a major step forward for Mike Brey’s program. But a slow start and sputtering finish to conference play, coupled with frustrations experienced against the Big East’s top teams, prevented the Irish from matching last year’s top three finish. Despite fielding one of the league’s most talented starting fives, a lack of depth hampered the Irish late in the season and contributed to yet another early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Preseason Expectations

We ranked Notre Dame third heading into 2012-13, as did the coaches at Big East media day. Mike Brey’s roster returned its top five scorers from 2011-12 and was loaded with talented upperclassmen, namely preseason all-Big East center Jack Cooley, versatile super-senior Scott Martin and the backcourt scoring tandem of juniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

Jack Cooley,Mike Brey

Mike Brey must adjust to a life without Cooley in 2013-14 (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

The Good

The Irish raced out to a blistering start, winning 12 in a row for the first time since 2006-07. By early January, they’d blown out #8 Kentucky at home, edged #21 Cincinnati on the road, won their first two Big East games and earned a #16 Coaches Poll ranking alongside their 14-1 record. Cooley (13.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG) lived up to his first team all-Big East billing as he shot 58% from the field and led the Big East in literally every rebounding category. Deep reserve big men Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman filled the void left by Scott Martin’s absence, and keyed huge victories over the likes of Louisville, Marquette and Villanova. The highlight of the season was, unquestionably, enduring five overtimes against the eventual National Champions after Jerian Grant scored 12 points in the last 45 seconds of regulation. Brey’s program claimed its sixth NCAA Tournament bid in seven years, and has averaged almost 13 Big East wins in each of the last three regular seasons –– a figure surpassed only by Syracuse.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 18th, 2013


Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: #2 Ohio State (26-7, 16-5 Big Ten). Not to take anything away from Gonzaga, a team and a program that should be very pleased with itself for the excellent season it has had, but the Buckeyes get the nod by an eyelash. While the Zags have been coasting through WCC play for the past couple months, Thad Matta’s club has dealt with the gauntlet of the Big Ten and emerged with an eight-game winning streak, boasting wins over teams like Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State (twice). Aaron Craft, a veteran guard with plenty of great basketball in his past, is probably playing the best ball of his distinguished career. And guys like LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith are tossing in just enough offense to aid big-time scorer Deshaun Thomas. Throw in the nation’s sixth-best team in defensive efficiency and let’s make the battle-tested Buckeyes a slight favorite to repeat as a Final Four team.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Should They Falter: #1 Gonzaga (31-2, 18-0 WCC). It would be easy to play the contrarian here and offer up plenty of backlash to the Bulldogs’ first-ever #1 seed and name New Mexico – a pretty darn good team in their own right – as the next best team in this region. But make no mistake, Gonzaga can ball. With Kelly Olynyk, a first-team All-American favorite, the Zags have the third-most efficient offense in the nation and Mark Few’s best offensive team in his time in Spokane. And while there are some concerns about the Zags’ ability to match up defensively with big and athletic guards, this is a team that is also Few’s most efficient defensive team ever – by far. While there are plenty of potential stumbling blocks (regardless of who they face in the Round of 32, that looks like a serious rumble, for instance), the Zags definitely have the ability to reach an Elite Eight. Or better. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013


  1. C.L. Brown at the Courier-Journal (KY) took a tour of Russ Smith Sr.’s barbershop in Harlem, and the short video is worth a watch. The elder Smith, known simply as “Big Russ,” has appointed his shop from wall to wall with memorabilia, photos and mementos spanning the Louisville junior’s career. He tells Brown that his favorite souvenir is a framed photograph of him with his son following Louisville’s Big East 2012 championship –– in his own high school playing days, Big Russ says, his teams always lost before they could reach a Madison Square Garden tournament. The father’s pride in that particular accomplishment; the way it resonated with a personal and cultural icon of his own youth, is a somber reminder of what made the Big East Tournament such a special institution.
  2. Speculation that Jamie Dixon is USC’s top choice to replace Kevin O’Neill ramped up on Tuesday when The Big Lead reported that Pittsburgh resident and Dixon acquaintance Jed Hughes is the consultant taking point at USC’s search firm. It seems like the kind of attenuated connection that has spawned many a premature proclamation of “done deal” during coaching searches (has Dixon bought a house in LA yet?), but it’s certainly plausible. Dixon is a California native, a Ben Howland protégé, and probably anxious that Pitt’s move to the ACC could jeopardize the recruiting pipelines Dixon has built in Big East country. As Cardiac Hill points out, the coach’s vague statement after the USC job opened up “generally amounts to a ‘no comment.’”
  3. Notre Dame outlasted a persistent challenge from Rutgers in last night’s Big East Tournament nightcap, carried by Pat Connaughton’s 21 points and six three-pointers. This ran counter to Notre Dame’s game plan, which Brian Hamilton points out had emphasized getting Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley going. But the 39 combined points from Connaughton and former reserve Tom Knight were all separated the Irish from a second-round loss, as Grant and Cooley went 4-of-16 from the field. With their first game jitters behind them and some reassurance that they can win without prolific scoring from their stars, Notre Dame can bring some newfound confidence to its third-round game with Marquette tomorrow night, as they strive to avenge an early March loss in Milwaukee.
  4. Seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche found their offense yesterday, and lifted Syracuse in explosive spurts over Seton Hall, 75-63, to advance to face No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in today’s BET semifinals. After shooting 15-of-52 over his last five games, Triche scored 17 on an efficient 6-of-9 field goal attempts against the Pirates, while Southerland led the way with 20 points and six threes. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams didn’t turn the ball over once and tied a Big East Tournament record with 14 assists. This comes just days after Boeheim said his seniors would have to play better if they had any chance at becoming a good NCAA Tournament team.
  5. USF blog Voodoo Five described the Bulls’ overtime loss to Seton Hall in the first round as “a horrid, unwatchable mess that would be hard to distinguish from the dozens of other horrid, unwatchable messes USF basketball presented us for most of the last eight seasons. Except that this time they wore Mello Yello uniforms.” Ouch. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss concluded a season of thorough regression. More importantly, the author questioned whether USF basketball has made any appreciable advances in their time in the Big East, or if the culture of the Big East had any positive impact on the neglected Tampa basketball program. It has struggled to capture the interest of its community even after last year’s Cinderella season and a beautiful Sun Dome renovation, which begs the question: “When are [students and locals] ever going to buy in again? When they’re playing Tulane and East Carolina and Memphis and Houston all over again?” It’s a bleak prospect right now.
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Three Thoughts as Notre Dame Dominated Cincinnati

Posted by WCarey on February 24th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s game between Cincinnati and Notre Dame. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey

Entering Sunday’s game, both Cincinnati and Notre Dame had a lot to play for in-terms of the Big East standings. The Bearcats sat at an even 7-7 in league play, but that record was a bit misleading as all but one of those conference losses was by single digits. Mick Cronin’s squad had been limited offensively since senior point guard Cashmere Wright suffered a knee injury last month and has yet to fully recover. The Irish came into the game following a win at Pittsburgh in what was one of the more peculiar games of the season. After falling behind 19-3 while shooting just 1-of-19 from the field, Notre Dame recovered to notch an important 51-42 road victory to bring its conference record to 9-5. Following the win over the Panthers, the Irish were beneficiaries of five very important off days as the team had just finished a stretch where it had played three games and six overtime periods in just nine days. Notre Dame looked like a rested team Sunday when the Irish were able to thoroughly stymie the Cincinnati offense en route to a 62-41 victory. The following are three thoughts from Sunday afternoon’s action:

  1. Cincinnati Is Not Playing Good Basketball Right Now. The Bearcats entered Sunday’s game as losers of four of their last five and that losing trend continued in embarrassing fashion against the Irish. On Sunday, the Bearcats were pretty much dominated from the opening tip and struggled to get anything going offensively as they managed to score just 41 points (only 15 in the first half) and shoot just 31.5% from the field. A lot of the Bearcats’ offensive issues can be traced to the health of Cashmere Wright, who is still struggling with a knee issue. In 23 minutes Sunday, Wright was held scoreless and only attempted two shots. Another area that give Cincinnati trouble Sunday was rebounding. The Bearcats were out-rebounded 43-27 and that advantage undoubtedly aided the Irish in transition. With five losses in six games, Cincinnati is looking further away from being a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid. If the Bearcats do not improve offensively and on the rebounding glass, they could be a team that is mentioned frequently in the bubble discussion.
  2. Notre Dame’s Defense and Rebounding Have Been Excellent Over The Past Two Games. The Irish held Pittsburgh to just 42 points on 34.8% shooting in Monday’s victory. Mike Brey’s squad also out-rebounded the Panthers by a 36-22 margin. After giving up 78 points to DePaul and 71 points to Providence in the two games prior, it was reasonable to see Monday’s performance as a bit of a fluke. The Irish were out to prove Sunday that Monday’s performance was not a stroke of luck and they succeeded by playing suffocating defense and crashing the glass with great vigor all afternoon. The 41 points scored by Cincinnati on Sunday were the fewest Notre Dame has ever given up in a Big East game. With two strong defensive and rebounding efforts under their belts, the Irish should start to be viewed as one of the premier defensive teams in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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