The Notre Dame basketball season opener against the University of Illinois-Chicago is just a few days away, and the Irish have an interesting squad set to step on the court.
Notre Dame basketball has been trending up for several years since joining the ACC in 2013. After a rough go of things during their inaugural season, the Irish went on to win the conference tournament in year two while making it to the Elite 8 in back-to-back years as well. It was an impressive feat that caught the attention of college basketball recruits, fans and media alike. It was another reminder to everyone that Notre Dame is much more than just a football school.
However, last year put somewhat of a damper on things and a pause in the development of the program to a certain extent. Bonzie Colson — one of the best players in the program’s history –was back for his senior season and Matt Farrell was set to lead the offense at point guard. After a tremendous start to the season that saw the Irish knock off Wichita State in the final of the Maui Invitational, it seemed as though Notre Dame was primed for another successful NCAA tournament run.
That’s when things started to unhinge.
Colson broke his foot two games into conference play and Farrell dealt with nagging injuries all season. Star freshman D.J. Harvey also went down with a season-ending knee injury halfway through the year, putting into question his availability for 2018-2019.
Notre Dame would finish the year with a 21-15 record, literally missing the tournament by inches and later falling in the second round of the NIT to Penn State.
After an offseason full of questions, the Irish will embark on another underdog driven season to gain back the respect of the college basketball world. Mike Brey is no stranger to this, and some of his best teams have come when nothing was expected of them. It’s a young team with unproven talent expected to step into primary roles, which has never been an ideal scenario for Brey.
There are still several question marks heading into the season opener on November 6th at Purcell Pavilion. Let’s walk through the keys to a successful men’s basketball season.