Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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46 AUGUST 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T he confidence that is flowing in the Notre Dame men's basketball program these days under 18th-year head coach Mike Brey is palpable. • The seven NCAA Tournament vic- tories the past three years are the most in school history in that length of time. • The Fighting Irish nearly won their second ACC Tournament cham- pionship in three years last March before a late surge by Duke. • The 12-man roster remains old with five seniors, including former walk-on Matt Gregory now placed on scholarship. • The recruiting has developed the best momentum ever under Brey. The Irish currently have three top-100 pros- pects in at least three of the four major recruiting services committed in the class of 2018, a first since 2005 when Luke Zeller, Kyle McAlarney and cur- rent assistant Ryan Ayers came aboard. Plus, sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs was the No. 62 player on Rivals' board, while freshman forward D.J. Harvey was No. 48 and sophomore Connecti- cut transfer Juwan Durham, all 6-11 of him, was No. 47. One has to go back about 30 years to find such a high vol- ume of individual ratings on the team. • Next summer the Irish are pro- jected to be working out on their new practice facility courts. This program used to be more about having an underdog mentality while overachieving. Now it's about staying hungry to accomplish even more than it has the past three years. Brey put his troops on display to the media during an open practice July 6. "The biggest challenge for me is keeping them loose when we have disappointment, we don't play well, we lose," Brey said. "This is a group that is really hard on themselves, so I have to hopefully help them think the big picture. "We have a lot of high-strung guys. Now, I don't want to take anybody's edge away. V.J. [Beachem] and Steve [Vasturia] last year were sometimes the settling forces. We've got a lot of guys playing [high strung] all the time, and 90 percent of that is good, but I wonder who's going to be our smooth-it-out guy. Maybe I have to do that." Duke's rally from an eight-point second-half deficit in the ACC Tour- nament title contest, plus forward Bonzie Colson's ankle injury late in the game where he had 29 points and nine rebounds, drained the Irish, who were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by West Virginia after barely edging Princeton in the first round. "We left a lot on the court that night," Brey said of the ACC title game. "We played our best basket- ball in Brooklyn. We couldn't recreate that the next weekend. Our Princeton win was a great win because we were playing on fumes and Bonzie really wasn't back [with the gimpy ankle]. "When I was walking to the locker after the Duke game, I was thinking to myself, 'It's going to be really hard to get us back to this level.' … We used a lot there — and we should have because we were trying to win a championship. They're going to be re- ally hard on themselves. I'm going to have to pace us through it mentally." Like Jerian Grant and Pat Con- naughton in 2014-15, Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson in 2015-16, and Vasturia and Beachem last year, Brey is leaning on the senior tandem of 2017 third-team Associated Press All- American forward Colson and point guard Matt Farrell to set the tone now. Colson averaged team highs of 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while Farrell — one of the nation's most-improved players — was third in scoring (14.1) and handed out a team-high 196 assists (5.4 per contest). Joining them as probable starters are 6-6 junior wing Rex Pflueger and 6-3 guard Gibbs. Where the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth players will fit in will evolve as practices and the season evolves. SCORING OPTIONS SOUGHT In each of the past three seasons, Notre Dame has had at least four players average double-figure scor- ing, and in 2015-16 it had five for only the second time in its history. Who can consistently augment the scoring of seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell in 2017-18 will be a main Momentum Escalates For The Irish 2017-18 SCHOLARSHIP CHART Handlers Matt Farrell, 6-1, 178, Sr. T.J. Gibbs, 6-3, 190, So. Forwards/Wings Bonzie Colson, 6-5, 225, Sr. Rex Pflueger, 6-6, 202, Jr. Nikola Djogo, 6-7, 203, So. Matt Gregory 6-8, 201, Sr. D.J. Harvey, 6-5, 220, Fr. Note: Pflueger and Djogo also could be contin- gency options as handlers, while Colson could downshift to the post when the Irish go small. Bigs Martin Geben, 6-10, 255, Sr. Austin Torres, 6-7, 241, 5th-Sr. John Mooney, 6-9, 245, So. Elijah Burns, 6-8, 235, Jr. Juwan Durham, 6-11, 218, So.* * Must sit out 2017-18 after transferring from UConn Freshman forward D.J. Harvey, the No. 48 over- all prospect in the class of 2017 according to Rivals, will be counted on to provide the Irish with scoring from the get-go. PHOTO COREY BODDEN

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