Notre Dame finished the 2016 season with a 26-10 record and a five seed in the NCAA tournament. Although they lost in just the second round, the season itself was a big success considering they entered the season unranked and finished the year ranked 14th. But how will the team fare in 2017? Let us preview Notre Dame’s 2017 season.
The Irish had only four players last season that averaged more than 10 points a game; Vasturia and Beachem were two of those four players. Vasturia played more minutes than any other Notre Dame player last year while contributing 13.1 points per game. Beachem was third on the team in minutes and second on the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game. Not only were these guys two of the top contributors last season, but they brought senior leadership and experience to the locker room. Vasturia and Beachem were both there for Notre Dame’s back-to-back elite eight appearances and they knew what it took to win big games. There is no question losing these two players is going to be a challenge for Notre Dame next season.
Bonzie Colson is returning for his senior year and Irish fans could not be more excited. The undersized center did not receive as much attention from NBA scouts that he deserved due to his size. He was all-ACC first team last season and a candidate for ACC player of the year. He was the heart and soul of this team in 2016 averaging 17.8 points per game and adding 10.1 rebounds a game. Look for Notre Dame to run the offense through their big man once again next season. In addition to Colson, Notre Dame is returning arguably their second most important player from last season; senior point guard Matt Farrell. Farrell averaged 14.1 points per game and 5.4 assists all while shooting 42% from downtown. The offense simply ran better and smoother with Farrell on the court last season. Expect Colson and Farrell to not only be one of the best duos in the ACC next season but the enitre nation as well.
Rex Pflueger and Temple Gibbs were two of Notre Dame’s top contributor off the bench last season and could see themselves with starting roles next season after the departure of Vasturia and Beachem. Pflueger averaged 21 minutes a game and shot nearly 40% from downtown last season. Mike Brey also showed a lot of trust in Pflueger by consistently playing him in crunch time last season. Temple Gibbs averaged 15 minutes a game last season as a freshman which is a lot considering Mike Brey as the coach. Brey has a history of small rotations and choosing experience over inexperience. Gibbs is likely to see a lot more playing time next season, but he must improve if he wants to stay on the floor. He struggled shooting the ball last year shooting just 37% from the field, but entering his second year on campus Gibbs will have a chance for a potential breakout season.
New Arrivals: D.J. Harvey Jr.
D.J. Harvey Jr. is an exciting 6’6 small forward recruit that is currently ranked in the top 50 in the nation and a top recruit in the state of Maryland. Mike Brey does have a history of not playing incoming freshman all that much, but that may change next season. With the departure of V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame is going to be looking for a replacement at the three. Harvey Jr. can be that answer. He is an aggressive scorer that can contribute immediately if given the opportunity. Temple Gibbs played 15 minutes a game last season as a freshman and I expect D.J. Harvey Jr. to get at least that much playing time if not more.
Expect a very similar Notre Dame team in 2017 that you saw last season. Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell are going to run the show and expect big contributions from Rex Pflueger and Temple Gibbs. They will likely enter the season under most people’s radar, but they are going to be a tough team to beat next season. Mike Brey is one of the best coaches in college basketball and has his Irish team poised for a big season next year.