Top-50 team countdown: #47.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

LAHAINA, HI – NOVEMBER 22: Temple ‘T.J.’ Gibbs Jr. #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dribbles around Conner Frankamp #33 of the Wichita State Shockers during the first half at the Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 22, 2017 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

47.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2017-18 season outlook

Last year the Fighting Irish had an injury-filled season but they still managed to be one of the first teams out of the NCAA Tournament, having a 21-15 record on the season. The Irish started the season on a hot streak, winning their first five-game including a thriller against #6 Wichita State in the Maui Invitational Championship game. That win helped the Irish move to number five in the AP Poll. The Irish then played at Michigan State, where they lost 81-63, after beating St. Francis (NY), they lost to Ball State. The Irish also lost to Indiana in non-conference play and that loss dropped the Irish outside the AP poll for the first time all season. The Irish seemed to be in a position to make the tournament heading into ACC play but early on they received word that star player Bonzie Colson broke his foot and would be out eight weeks. Despite that news, the Irish still won their first three games in ACC play and their first two games without Colson. That didn’t last long as the Irish lost their next seven games to fall to 3-7 in ACC play, during that stretch senior guard Matt Farrell also had injury issues himself that made him miss games. The Irish were able to beat up on the bottom of the ACC and that helped them get a final conference record of 8-10. After eight weeks Bonzie Colson came back to help the Irish in the ACC tournament, in what he hoped would be a comeback that got them into the NCAA Tournament. In the first round they beat Pittsburgh 67-64, next they beat Virginia Tech 71-65, this made them one win away from seemingly locking up a tournament spot. Next up was Duke, the Irish kept it close early but ultimately the Blue Devils pulled away. On Selection Sunday the Irish ended up being one of the first four teams to miss the NCAA Tournament, earning them a spot in the NIT. In the NIT the Irish beat Hampton but lost to eventual NIT Champion Penn State. Overall the Irish had a few bad breaks injury-wise, otherwise, they likely would have made the NCAA Tournament.

Schedule breakdown

The Irish play a pretty easy schedule at the start, however, in December and heading into ACC play it should pick up with the Irish playing more tough games. The Irish start the season with seven straight home games against non-power six schools or Power-six teams picked to finish last in their league this season. The Irish finally leave home on December 4th when they play Oklahoma in the Jimmy V Classic. The Irish play at UCLA and then Purdue in the crossroads classic following that game. Just before ACC play, the Irish will play three buy games that should help them improve their record heading into ACC play. The Irish start ACC play January 1st when they play at Virginia Tech. The Irish will play an 18 game league schedule, where they will play Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Virginia twice in ACC play. They’ll play Duke once at home and North Carolina once on the road. The Irish finish league play with a road game at Pittsburgh on March 9th. The ACC Tournament begins the following week and if they make the NCAA Tournament that would begin on March 19th.

Player Expectations

The Irish lose two big players in Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell but the team left behind is still a decent one that could make the NCAA Tournament. The Irish will likely be led in scoring by Temple Gibbs, who put up good numbers while Colson and Farrell were injured last season. Rex Pflueger should be the second leading scorer while being a great glue piece for the Irish. DJ Harvey should take a step up in scoring this season, likely becoming a double-digit scorer this season. Elijah Burns and John Mooney both will probably start down low and both should be able to help out offensively and defensively. Nikola Djogo and Juwan Durham both should play a role for the Irish off the bench this season. The Irish this season have four four-star recruits, all of whom will have chances to prove their value to this team. Nate Laszewski will likely play the most minutes this season, as he could move into the starting rotation at the guard position. Robby Carmody, Prentiss Hubb, and Dane Goodwin all will play but will have to fight to earn more than 10-15 minutes per game. Overall this is a very young but talented team that has lots of options everywhere on the court.

What to expect

The Irish should get off to a good start this season, although when ACC play hits the Irish could find themselves being a middle of the road team in the tough ACC. The Irish should get off to a quick 8-0 start but they’ll likely fall in back to back games at UCLA and to Purdue. The Irish should enter ACC play at 11-2 and in position to make the NCAA Tournament. ACC play will likely be tough on the Irish but I do think they’ll probably go around 8-10 in conference play and have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The Irish will likely just need one or two wins in the ACC tournament to solidify another at-large bid. I think a likely outcome for the Irish is an appearance in the First Four, in which they could win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament. Moving forward the Irish should have a good team next season but this will likely be somewhat of a rebuilding year.

Projected Roster

PG: Temple Gibbs

SG: Rex Pflueger

SF: DJ Harvey

PF: Elijah Burns

C: John Mooney

Key Reserves: Nate Laszewski, Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin, Juwan Durham, Nikola Djogo, Robby Carmody

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