A New Era of Notre Dame Basketball

fightingirish.com
fightingirish.com

A new season of college basketball is upon us and along with that comes a new era of Notre Dame men’s basketball. With Mike Brey’s departure at the end of last season, the Irish have welcomed many new faces to the program, most notably new head coach Micah Shrewsberry. The team has remade its roster with transfers, freshmen and only one returning starter.

While Coach Shrewsberry is new to Notre Dame, he is not new to South Bend. Before his coaching career took off as an assistant coach with college programs at Butler and Purdue, in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and as the head coach at Penn State, Shrewsberry was the head men’s coach at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB). He brings coaching expertise from different levels of basketball to Purcell Pavilion. Shrewsberry was vital in the success of Penn State’s basketball team last year, which saw them make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. This is something he hopes he can repeat at Notre Dame, which has not made it past the second round of the tournament since their Elite Eight run in 2016. The Irish also failed to make the tournament three times in that span, excluding 2020 when there was no tournament due to the pandemic. 

This year the Irish have a great opportunity to make a statement in Coach Shrewsberry’s first year, but it will be a great challenge as the team at its core is very young. While Notre Dame has an important veteran presence in senior Matt Zona and with junior transfer Julian Roper II, the roster has a heavy dose of freshman and sophomores. Guards like freshman hometown hero Markus Burton from Penn High School and sophomore Tae Davis, a transfer from Seton Hall, will have to step up this season to help the Irish succeed. 

The Irish came out strong, getting a big first win for Coach Shrewsberry at Purcell Pavilion against Niagara 70-63 before struggling and losing to Western Carolina 71-61. They then faced a tough test against SEC opponent Auburn at the Barclays Center in New York where they ultimately lost 83-59. The Irish then bounced back the next day, picking up a win in overtime against Oklahoma State 66-64. The Irish now look to another tough ACC/SEC challenge as they head to the Palmetto state to play the South Carolina Gamecocks. This will be a huge test for the Irish, as they are facing their second SEC opponent in four games. South Carolina currently boasts an intimidating  5-0 record, but this big-road game may be just what the team needs to get rolling. After their first ACC/SEC challenge against Auburn, the team should be more prepared to face the style of play that an SEC team brings to the court. 

With the new coaching staff at Notre Dame, the recruiting effort is another factor that has benefited. Sir Muhammed, a class of 2024 recruit and four-star shooting guard, signed his national letter of intent earlier this month. At 6’5”, Muhammad will certainly be a beneficial addition to the team, as the Irish have historically lacked a physical height advantage compared to other elite schools. . The Irish have also signed Cole Certa, a four-star 6’4” shooting guard from Bloomington, IN. The last November signee was Garrett Sundra, a three star 6 ’10” power forward from Fairfax, VA. Although Notre Dame signed only three players so far for next year, we will not see the full impact of the new coach in the recruiting cycle for a couple of seasons. 

Looking ahead at the upcoming ACC regular season, the Irish will face some tough competition, including having to play Virginia and Duke in a one-week span on December 30 and January 6. While both of the games will be played at home, they will be a tough assignment for the Irish. At the end of January, the Irish will then have to go on the road to face both teams again with Virginia on January 31 and then Duke on February 7. These will be four critical games for the Irish as winning a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium and John Paul Jones Arena is a tall order. Another tough road game will come March 5 when the Irish head to Chapel Hill, NC to take on the Tar Heels, a team that is always a threat. While the Irish were projected to finish last in the ACC, picking up big wins against any of the above-mentioned opponents could really help their record and propel them to the upper half of the ACC standings. Wins against Virginia, Duke or UNC would also help them create their case to make it into the NCAA tournament this year. While this season may be slated to be a tough one for the Irish, they have a great opportunity to turn the page in Notre Dame basketball history while also flipping the script on what was predicted to be a disappointing outcome to the season. 

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