Monday, May 07, 2007


May 7, 2007

Head Coach: Mike Brey
2006-2007 Record: 24-8 (11-5 Big East) NCAA Tournament 1st Round

Returning Players:
Rob Kurz, Senior (Power Forward)
Zach Hillesland, Junior (Forward)
Luke Zeller, Junior (Big Forward)
Ryan Ayers, Junior (Small Forward)
Jonathan Peoples, Sophomore (Guard)
Joe Harden, Sophomore (Guard/Forward)
Luke Harangody, Sophomore (Forward/Center)
Tory Jackson, Sophomore (Point Guard)

Incoming Players:
Carlton Scott (Forward)
Tyrone Nash (Forward)
Ty Proffitt (Guard)
Tim Ambromaitis (Forward)

Graduated Players:
Russell Carter
Colin Falls

Open Items/Issues:
After a successful 2006-2007 season the Irish administration rewarded Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey with a contract extension that ties him up through the 2012-2013 season in South Bend. The Irish returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four seasons under Brey and he was honored as the Big East Coach of the Year by his peers.

Kyle McAlarney was suspended from the school for his arrest of marijuana possession last winter. He is expected to return to the school and the team for his junior season. With the graduation of Russell Carter and Colin Falls, McAlarney's ability to score from the perimeter is a much needed shot in the arm for the Irish next season.

We obviously missed badly on the Irish last year, picking them to finish outside of the 12-team Big East Tournament field. Not only did the Irish prove us to be wrong, but they earned they fourth 1st round bye of the conference tournament.

The Irish used a balanced team where everyone did their part from one night to the next. Even when they lost Kyle McAlarney to a suspension just prior to Big Easy play, Tory Jackson stepped up and took over as the team's point guard. Jackson's quickness and fellow freshman Luke Harangody's bulk inside was a new dimension that the Irish lacked the previous few seasons which led to disappointing finishes.

Starting with Jackson and Harangody the Irish have two impressive pieces to build with for the future. With McAlarney fully expected back in the mix and senior Rob Kurz playing the role of do-it-all forward, the Irish have an excellent nucleus. Now, for them to equal last season's success, one of their three other returning juniors (Luke Zeller, Zach Hillesland or Ryan Ayers) will have to lift their game up to be a consistent scoring threat on the wing or the perimeter. My guess is that Ayers will get the strongest look for the role because of his sweet-shooting stroke and the desire to give him the confidence needed to play that role. Zeller and Hillesland both look to be complimentary forwards that will give the Irish a burst of energy (Hillesland) and some offensive match-up problems (Zeller's perimeter skill) in their roles, that should continue, but finding a wing scoring threat to help ease the losses of Russell Carter and Colin Falls is what the Irish will need.

I have a little trouble placing this Irish team looking forward to next season. Will their chemistry be clicking just as well as the past year? Carter and Falls are the only players they lose, but they accounted for 40% of their scoring and each offered a skill set that was essential in the pieces falling together last season.

At this point, I expect the Irish to be in the NCAA hunt all season long. They will probably be on the bubble throughout the season and seeing how their junior class steps up and how things shake out around them will be very interesting to how their season finishes.


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