Notre Dame Could Be A Legitimate Threat In The ACC


Throw out last year’s inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. To an extent, it wasn’t even a Notre Dame team. And surely not a Mike Brey team. The ACC didn’t even get a chance to see Jerian Grant as he left the team due to an academic matter prior to the start of league play. The Irish rarely have one atypical center on the floor, more or less two like they did last season in Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight. This year Brey has the type of players he needs, and there won’t be any of the infamous “burn” offense to be found.

Coach Brey knows the ACC. From 1987-1995 he was an assistant coach at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski before taking the head coaching job at Delaware. He’s familiar with the speed of the conference, and knows what it will take for his team to compete. So to help his team, he took them to Italy for a tour of exhibition games. Before the season even began, this team was beginning to gel.

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The Irish have started the season 10-1 and are back in the top 25. Granted, the schedule hasn’t been daunting, and it’s been home-heavy to say the least. But Brey wanted to build confidence early after last year’s struggles, and so far it’s proven effective. The only blemish on the schedule is a one-point loss to Providence. The most notable victory came in the form of a one-point victory over then ranked Michigan State. It’s not likely that they’ll get complete respect until they get into conference play in January. But one of the best ways to compete in the ACC ? Score. And do a lot of it.

Notre Dame is getting it done on offense. The Irish currently rank 8th in scoring offense (84.9PPG), 1st in FG percentage (55.7%), and are 26th in three-point FG percentage (40.9%). Grant’s 18.9 PPG ranks him 34th in the nation in scoring, but tops in the ACC. Zach Auguste, who is having a breakout junior year is 6th in FG percentage at 65.3.

And while the offense gets the most press, the Irish defense is much improved. Point guard Demetrius Jackson, who replaced three-year starter Eric Atkins has blossomed into a great player in his sophomore season. The local product out of Mishawaka struggled to find his place last year, but in no way has that been the case this year. Jackson has become the orchestrator of this offense, and has shown off some incredible ball-handling skills along the way.

Now, in the last two games Steve Vasturia and Auguste have emerged as offensive threats as well. When Brey has the ability to implement his system, with the right players, his teams can be outright dangerous. This could be that year for Notre Dame.

The Irish came over from the Big East as it was being “dismantled”, but for several years it was the best conference in basketball, and they competed in it. Now as part of the ACC, which had six teams ranked in this weeks Top 25 (Irish at No. 21), they’re once again in the middle of the toughest conference in the nation. But my thoughts are they won’t be in the middle of it, but more likely near the top.