Every Notre Dame Basketball fan wants to know how far the Irish will go in the tournament this year. Are they built for a run in the tournament? Do they have the right players to lead them into the sweet sixteen or beyond? The last three years when everyone said that the Irish were going to make a run in the tournament they were out in the first round twice and the second round once. Let’s break down the Irish and see if they are a different team than the previous 3 years. The last time Notre Dame made it to the sweet sixteen? That would have been 2003, a decade ago.
C-Like Luke Harangody many people think Jack Cooley is almost a clone of him in looks and during play. Luke averaged a double double twice in his career and in those years averaged over 20 points, while Jack averages a double double this season, which is the only time in his career. I would say those are very similar.
PF-Then you go to the power forward position and you have Tom Knight, who is a decent floor spacer and can also bang with the big boys inside, which reminds me of a little of Tim Abromaitis, but not as good at knocking down the three pointer.
SF-Pat Connaughton is the small forward and one of the three point threats for the Irish in 2013. He isn’t really comparable to anyone the Irish have had in the last 3 seasons. I think he is a great shooter, decent rebounder, but needs to attack the basket more so he can get more open looks from 3. Notre Dame has always had a guy that shoots and he can be compared to so many, but he adds a little more than that.
SG-The starting shooting guard for the Irish this season is Jerian Grant, who recently went Reggie Miller on Louisville in a 5 overtime victory. Grant is a great combination of shooter and slasher, but not only that he is an above average passer and when Atkins is on the bench he runs the point. I think that Jerian has great potential that we don’t all the time, but mostly glimpses of greatness.
PG-Eric Atkins the point guard, floor general, and other than Jack Cooley the leader of this team. He rarely is on the bench and if he is it’s a blowout or it’s for a quick 2 minute breather. Atkins averages 38.4 minutes a game a team high and makes the Irish go. There is one very similar point guard from the past in Tory Jackson, who like Atkins was a great passer and a decent shooter.
Bench-Then you get into the bench, which Notre Dame hasn’t had great bench play in years past. This year is different with the great freshmen Cameron Biedscheid and Zach Auguste coming off the bench this season. Biedsheid is a great shooter and at 6’7’’ it is hard to get a hand in his face on the perimeter. If he can complete his game and become better at attacking the basket then look for the Irish to go far. Zach Auguste can jump out of the gym and is a great shot blocker. He needs to refine some of his offensive skills and play smarter at times. Garrick Sherman is the other guy that is now once again coming off the bench because of his play against Louisville. He is a very good scorer when his back is to the basket, but not a great defender or rebounder.
Jerian Grant, Cameron Biedscheid, and Zach Auguste are guys that Coach Brey hasn’t had in the past and they will be the reasons the Irish make 2013 their year to prove something. The difference in the bench play of this year’s team and in the past will be the reason Notre Dame will make it to the sweet sixteen for the first time in 10 years and might even make it to the elite eight. They do tend to play down to the level of some teams, but they have some really good wins this season and are only a half game back of first place in the Big East. It’s way too early to tell but this season so far has given fans optimism for March.