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ACC Preview #13: Notre Dame

Mike Brey is going to earn his money this year

North Carolina v Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IN - FEBRUARY 17: Head coach Mike Brey of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Purcell Pavilion on February 17, 2020 in South Bend, Indiana.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

If you look back over the years, we’ve been big fans of Mike Brey. We loved what he did at Delaware and we thought that he’d be a great success at Notre Dame, and he has been.

His career record in South Bend is 437-233 and he’s been a consistent post-season presence, peaking when Notre Dame came within one play of knocking off undefeated Kentucky in the 2014-15 Elite Eight.

Since joining the ACC, Brey’s Irish have had some success, notably against Duke early on, but things have been more up and down than they were in the Big East.

He’s had two losing seasons in the ACC, both of which are understandable. In Notre Dame’s first ACC season, Jerami Grant was suspended for the year and the Irish finished just 15-17 (the following season was the great run to the Elite Eight and the near upset of Kentucky) and in 2018-19, Notre Dame had multiple injuries. There’s not much you can do about that.

Overall though, the Irish have done well and Brey’s offensive system has at times been just dazzling.

This year though he may run into a fundamental problem. In the age of one-and-done, Brey has consistently seasoned his young players and moved them into the rotation when they are ready.

The problem?

Brey just doesn’t have that many players in the development pipeline right now and talent, compared to his best teams and even last year, appears to be down too.

He loses John Mooney, T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger. All three developed into very solid players for Brey, and Mooney, like former UNC star Luke May, dramatically overachieved. Gibbs was a fine point guard while Pflueger was an outstanding defender and team leader.

They all developed in the way we’ve come to expect at Notre Dame, in what used to happen in all of college basketball: they matured and waited for their time to come.

Returnees And Transfers:

Notre Dame has two redshirt seniors - 6-11/231 Juwan Durham and 6-8/230 Nikola Djogo.

Durham is an outstanding shot blocker but the rest of his game is fairly pedestrian and Djogo barely scratched statistically. He’s not likely to explode this late in his career.

The junior class boasts 6-3/175 Prentiss Hubb, 6-5/195 Cormac Ryan, 6-11/227 Nate Laszewski, 6-6/200 Dane Goodwin and 6-4/215 Robby Carmody.

Not available yet: 6-5/183 Trey Wertz, a Santa Clara transfer who will sit out this year,

Hubb and Goodwin should start, but Hubb has been erratic and is the most likely candidate for point guard. He averaged 12.1 ppg last season and 5.1 assists.

Goodwin had a solid sophomore season and, barring something weird, will surely start. We’d expect Laszewski to start as well. We’ve seen him play very well at times but not consistently. Notre Dame will need him to really step up this year.

Carmody has been injured for most of his career and that continues as he has already had surgery for a broken kneecap and is out through December.

We don’t know what to expect out of Stanford transfer Ryan although Brey was effusive when he made his first public comments, saying that “Cormac is the consummate all-around guard. He is the total package you look for in a player in terms of skills, basketball IQ and competitiveness. I am very excited to have him in our program and he will play a key role in our team’s development as a practice player this season.”

So he might be a real impact player and certainly he’ll get opportunities to prove that he is.

Carmody has been injured for most of his career and that continues as he has already had surgery for a broken kneecap a week ago and is out through December. In his first two seasons, Carmody has played just 16 games.

Carmody’s injury leaves Brey with just nine available scholarship players heading into the official start of practice (Oct. 14). Wertz can help in practice but, unless he gets a waiver, he’ll have to watch from the bench.

And that’s about it. Brey’s development pipeline has no sophomores at all and skips straight to the freshman class.

Fortunately there is some talent there but the Irish will need them to step up quickly, even if only for defense and depth.


  • Tony Sanders, 6-7/202
  • Elijah Taylor, 6-8, 231
  • Matt Zona, 6-9, 243

Sanders is seen as a three-star recruit, and he’s pretty athletic. He's said to be able to play either forward spot which should help depth.

As a high schooler, Sanders got a rap for inconsistent effort. He’ll have to address that at Notre Dame.

Hughes is a big, solid young player who may be able to help out at center, which could free up Laszewski, a potentially great shooter, to roam around more. Like Sanders, he has already bulked up. Sanders went from 190 last year to 202 while Taylor has moved from 215 to 231.

Zona is the classic Brey recruit. He’s not hugely athletic but he’s a savvy player and good enough to win Player of the Year in New Jersey, a state which, year in and year out, produces tremendous talent.

He’s said to have good footwork and excellent fundamentals and he’s said to shoot well. He could follow in the general Mooney model.

In a typical year, we’re sure Brey would prefer to season him, and the other two freshmen, in his usual manner.

But he can’t.

It’s going to be very difficult to replace Mooney, who averaged a double-double and gave Notre Dame tremendous stability, much less Gibbs and Pflueger.

Hubb and Goodwin are the best offensive performers returning and while they’re good, neither is likely to have the impact that Gibbs had last season, much less Mooney.

Durham is primarily a defensive player. We love Laszewski’s potential but he hasn't gotten there yet.

After that?

The bench, with Carmody out, returns 1.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.1 apg and 0.2 spg.

Notre Dame has one other really critical potential problem that could seriously screw this team and that’s point guard.

Hubb has been erratic but he’s the only natural point guard on the roster. After him it’s either Goodwin or Ryan and that’s it. Hubb has to be up to the job and has to stay out of foul trouble too and an injury might be catastrophic.

Right now, there are more questions than answers for this team and if Brey doesn’t find them, it could be a long year for the Irish.