Two senior leaders, a junior poised to take over the program and a top 15 recruiting class. Things were supposed to be rough at times for Notre Dame, but never like this.
It would have been fair to predict some growing pain coming into this season. With the loss of Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell along with the addition of a big freshman class, it’s reasonable to expect a few setbacks.
So how did we get here? A point where Notre Dame, barring something spectacular, will miss the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons and will go unranked all year for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
It all starts with a young team who ironically became younger as the season went along.
The Irish started the season off with two scholarship seniors and almost too much talent to go around. The result was a log jammed roster and Elijah Burns in search of minutes elsewhere.
Burns became one of the few players to transfer out of Brey’s system and headed to Siena.
That left one senior to lead the Irish, Rex Pflueger. December 15th, only ten games into the season, a torn ACL would sideline him for the rest of the year. Just like that, Notre Dame lost its two seniors and leaders.
No seniors, only two juniors playing more than 15-minutes per game and five new freshmen. It would be easy for a roster like that to lose its way. But this is looking at the issue at a surface level.
Last season Notre Dame was hit maybe harder than any other team in the country with injuries. Colson and Farrell both went down and the Irish never bounced back.
This season it’s been Pflueger and Robby Carmody who will have to wait until next season to see the court again. Juwan Durham, Nikola Djogo and Temple Gibbs all add to the list of players that have sat time out this season due to injuries.
The body count has been piling up. But, we have to wonder how much the Irish are still limping from last season.
Things get even more difficult when you look at what these players are bouncing back from.
D.J. Harvey had microfracture knee surgery that prevented him from five-on-five action until October 1st. He began playing the season with a leg sleeve on that knee before feeling confident enough to ditch it a few weeks later.
Juwan Durham has had a number of injuries in his basketball career, including tearing his ACL his junior year at Tampa Prep. In 2015, after committing to UConn, he tore the other ACL.
Prentiss Hubb, Notre Dame’s top recruit from this freshman class, was sidelined last year for his senior season at Gonzaga for an ACL surgery as well.
Not only are all of these injuries that are hard to bounce back from, but they are also injuries that can completely derail careers. The fact that these players have come this far from these setbacks leaves promise for their futures.
Notre Dame is not where they want to be. But considering what they are dealing with, from injuries to rotation changes, the Irish are right where they should be – if not ahead of schedule.