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ACC Basketball Previews: Notre Dame

Last year was almost a lost season for the Irish. After a decent beginning to the season, they lost top player Jerian Grant to an academic suspension. Then, they beat Duke. And then, the wheels came off and they finished 13th in the ACC. Can Mike Brey get them back on track?

Jerian Grant returns after his suspension last season. Can he lead the Irish to the NCAAs?
Jerian Grant returns after his suspension last season. Can he lead the Irish to the NCAAs?
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last season: 15-17 (6-12), 13th in ACC, KenPom #69, RPI #136

Projected Starters:
Demetrius Jackson, PG - 6'1" 195, Sophomore
Jerian Grant, G - 6'5" 202, Senior
Pat Connaughton, F - 6'5" 214, Senior
V.J. Beachem, F - 6'8" 187, Sophomore
Zach Auguste, F - 6'10" 242, Sophomore

Other Contributors:
Steve Vasturia, G - 6'5" 207, Sophomore
Matt Farrell, G - 6'1" 170, Freshman
Bonzie Colson, F - 6'5" 225, Freshman
Martinas Geben, F - 6'9" 230, Freshman

Notre Dame started out last season with high hopes. Maybe they weren't going to contend for the ACC crown in the newly expanded ACC, but they were an NCAA tournament team that could make some noise come March. And then, in December, Jerian Grant was dismissed from the team because of academics. This began a downward spiral, culminating in losses in 7 of Notre Dame's last 10 games. They did manage to beat Duke at home to open ACC play. That game was likely the highlight of their season.

Notre Dame was deep enough offensively that their performance on that end was still not bad, finishing 45th in the nation. Their defense, however, was atrocious (204th). They also struggled to get to the line without Grant.

Grant is back now, and obviously he would like to put last season behind him. He is capable of leading this team back to great heights. He was averaging 19 points and over 6 assists per game last season. Other than Grant, the only returning players of note are Connaughton and Jackson. Connaughton was a 4th round draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles and played minor league baseball during the summer. He chose to come back for his senior season at Notre Dame though.

Between Grant and Connaughton, the Irish have 2 of the top 20ish players in the ACC. Behind them is a lot of question marks. Jackson was a McDonald's All American, but has looked hesitant thus far in his career. Auguste has shown potential in limiting playing time, and will now have to keep that up for 30 minutes per game. Of the freshmen, only Geben is really expected to contibute much this season.

Mike Brey is a very good coach, and he has one of the top players in the ACC in Jerian Grant. That should be enough to get Notre Dame into the NCAAs. They could win a game or two. But this team simply doesn't have the size or frontcourt depth to compete with the big boys in the new look ACC.