Notre Dame basketball typically schedules aggressively, but how will this young team handle a tough OOC slate on top of the ACC schedule?
The ACC has released its official schedule for the 2018-19 basketball season, and as usual, Notre Dame basketball has a challenging season ahead of them.
Coach Brey typically schedules aggressively, which is reflected by his average strength of schedule over the last five seasons being in the top 50 — No. 42 to be exact. Those numbers are obviously aided by being a member of the ACC as well as the ACC/B1G challenge but hey, who’s complaining?
The concern for this years team is obviously the youth that will be depended upon for key productivity. That transition should be mitigated by the team playing its first eight games at the Joyce Center. This will provide time to work out any butterflies that may exist.
Notable matchups in the first eight games are:
- Duquesne, Nov. 20 – Don’t sleep on this 16-16 team from last year. The Dukes are led by guards Mike Lewis II and Eric Williams Jr. who both averaged over 14 points a game last season and shot over 36 percent from deep. Also, Keith Dambrot will be in his second season at the Pittsburgh school and he is an excellent coach.
- Depaul, Nov. 24 – I know what you’re thinking. “DePaul? Really?” Yeah, really. Max Strus is a player and Eli Cain is no slouch. Also of note, Jalen Coleman-Lands will be joining the Blue Demons this season. He is a former top-100 guard who averaged nine points per game in two seasons with Illinois and shoots it at 40 percent from deep.
- Illinois, Nov. 27 – Notre Dame’s match-up for the annual ACC/B1G challenge is a pretty favorable one. Brad Underwood is a great coach with two very good guards in Tate Frazier and 5-star Ayo Dosunmu, but Notre Dame should get this game at home pretty easily.
Things escalate quickly from here. The Irish play their first road game in NYC at Madison Square Garden against Oklahoma before hopping a jet to Los Angeles to play UCLA four days later. They will then get a week off before playing Purdue in Indianapolis. That is a rough stretch for any team, much less one with as little experience as this squad.
After a few tune up games we get into the real meat grinder — ACC play.
The first thing that needs to be recognized is the ridiculous Saturday/Monday turns that the ACC continues to put on teams. Notre Dame will experience a couple of them. The first occurs in late January when Notre Dame will host Virginia on Saturday the 26th and Duke on Monday the 28th.
The second is Saturday, February 23rd when the Irish host a very good Virginia Tech team and then travel to Tallahassee, which is one of the toughest road games in the conference, for a Monday game with Florida State.
Also, whose brilliant idea was it to schedule college kids to play a game on New Years day? That’s asking for trouble. The Irish play at Virginia Tech on New Years Day.
Moving on, the Irish have a pretty brutal ACC road schedule. Coach Brey will be taking his team to Virginia Tech, UNC, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami, UVA, FSU, Louisville and Pitt.
Of those games listed, Notre Dame will be favored in probably two, those being Pitt and Georgia Tech. It should be noted, Notre Dame has not won in Atlanta since 2015 and Georgia Tech is formidable at home — taking down four ranked opponents at McCamish the last two seasons.
The Irish will be playing Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Boston College twice each, which is fortunate. It could be A LOT worse.
Overall, this is a tough schedule for a young team, but certainly not one that makes me think the Irish won’t make the dance. There is potential for some quality out of conference wins (UCLA, Purdue and possibly Duquesne), but with a team like this, you worry about the bad losses (Jacksonville, Pitt) more than anything.
If guys like Laszewski, Hubb and possibly Goodwin get comfortable early, this Notre Dame team should be dancing — but it could be a little bubbly.