Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Rank: #30
Conference Rank: #6 Big East
2006-07: 24-8, 11-5, 4th
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
When Kyle McAlarney was suspended for the spring semester, it paved the way for Tory Jackson to step into the point guard role at Notre Dame. And he only led the team to the NCAA Tournament as a freshman. Now both of them are back and Coach Mike Brey is expected to run a two point guard backcourt. McAlarney put up better numbers than Jackson, but do not be fooled by the numbers; McAlarney was only around for the first 12 games of the season, which was the easy part of the schedule. It will not really matter to the team and both players can run the show depending on the situation, but Jackson is a better drive and dish guy while McAlarney is a more prolific shooter, so on paper, look for Jackson at the point and McAlarney at the two.
The problem the dual point guard backcourt causes is lack of size, which will be bad for a defense that was already pretty dismal. With the absence of Russell Carter and Colin Falls, the team’s two leading scorers, the Irish have a big hole to fill on the wings. The duo combined for 32.4 points and nearly six three-pointers per contest. If you are looking for the rare good news in the ‘who’s out’ section, it is the fact that Carter and Falls were occasionally long ball happy. If the outside shot was not falling, Notre Dame was not winning. This year, the Irish will have to look to other, more dependable, options. Joe Harden rarely saw minutes his freshman year and has opted to transfer and Kieran Piller has wrapped up his collegiate career.
The Irish are likely to redshirt a player or two from this list. Ty Proffitt is a quality scoring point guard. At 6-4 and with two point guards already on the floor, Proffitt could see some minutes at the shooting guard spot. Small forward Tim Abromaitis will need some time to develop his skills, but has plenty of potential to be a solid contributor in the coming years. Tyrone Nash’s versatility should help out the Irish right away. He is listed at 6-8 and 221 pounds and has the ability to fill up the stat sheet in just about every column. Nash can play anywhere from the two to the four spot and will see time this year due to his defensive skills. Carlton Scott is a long athletic power forward and, with a bevy of talent returning to the frontcourt, the 6-8 San Antonio, Texas product will provide another body off the bench.
Who to Watch:
Notre Dame has four quality big guys who will handle the four and five spots. Luke Harangody and Rob Kurz are the experienced scorers of the group. Kurz is a solid shooter and will occasionally step out and hit the three-pointer. Kurz is also the toughest rebounder and averaged 8.0 per game last season. Harangody had a great freshman campaign, averaging 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller were part-time starters last year and will battle for playing time this year. It would be helpful if somebody could be an effective small forward so the team can have three of the big guys on the floor at the same time, but they are all natural fours and fives. That means somebody will be playing out of position or the Irish frontcourt will be really deep and underutilized.
If you are keeping track at home, we have talked about six quality returning players. However, none of them are between 6-2 and 6-7. That is a small lineup in the backcourt and a slow lineup in the frontcourt. At 6-8, Ryan Ayers does not quite fit into that size range, but he does fit the bill of a wing. Ayers has developed a decent looking shot and could fight for a starting spot if working the top six players into the lineup becomes troublesome on the defensive end. Notre Dame has more than enough talent to reach the NCAA Tournament, but if the defense and size become a big problem, they will find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Tory Jackson, Sophomore, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Kyle McAlarney, Junior, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Rob Kurz, Senior, Forward, 12.6 points per game
Luke Harangody, Sophomore, Forward, 11.2 points per game
Luke Zeller, Junior, Center, 3.8 points per game