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NCAA countdown: No. 30 Notre Dame
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 30, 2013 @ 4:00 pm In NCAA,Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey concedes preparing his team for Atlantic Coast Conference action stirs up a weird, familiar feeling.
“It feels like I just took a new coaching job,” said Brey, a former Duke assistant.
That’s because the Fighting Irish will be hosting Duke and North Carolina this season — a reality that has the players and fan base ecstatic.
Brey’s Notre Dame squad lost top big man Jack Cooley but returns the veteran-laden backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Watkins, and welcomes highly rated recruit Demetrius Jackson, another electric guard.
Grant and Watkins, fifth-year seniors, will help ease the transition to a new league. They both logged more than 35 minutes a game last season, and they’ll be relied on just as heavily as the Irish try to challenge in the country’s newly structured power conference.
2012-13 in review: 25-10 overall (11-7 Big East), lost in NCAA tournament second round.
Tournament projection: At-large bid, No. 8 seed.
Coach’s corner: “The ACC is going to morph into the old Big East as far as getting 7, 8 or 9 NCAA tournament bids consistently. It will become THE league in the next couple of years. It will be the best in it’s first season, even before Louisville gets here.” — Brey, now in his 14th season at Notre Dame.
Star watch: Grant (13.3 ppg) and Watkins (11.2 ppg) spearhead Notre Dame’s offense. Grant doesn’t have the best shooting percentages, but he can score at will — pouring in 12 points in 47 seconds vs. Louisville last season. Top reserve Pat Connaughton (8.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg) returns after leading the team in three-pointers last season.
X-Factor: Jackson, a local product from South Bend, Ind., is a McDonald’s All-American who should see plenty of playing time early. He’s a point guard, so he won’t have full floor general duties with Watkins initiating the offense.
Team strength/weakness: This will be a perimeter-oriented offense that will excel when outside shots are falling. With Cooley gone, rebounding could be a huge concern. Not one player’s going to record his 10 boards … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 30 Notre Dame, click here.]
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