Monday, October 08, 2007


October 8, 2007


Official Website of Notre Dame Basketball

2007-2008 Official Notre Dame Roster & Bios

Meet Coach Mike Brey

Edmund P. Joyce Center

2007-2008 Notre Dame Basketball Schedule


Mike Brey gets ready to enter his 8th season as the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and expectations are high after a surprising run in 2006-2007 to the NCAA Tournament. In the 16-team Big East conference, it is hard to believe that only Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Tim Welsh and Tom Crean are longer tenured in their current positions on Big East sidelines. Brey led the Irish to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in his tenure last season, breaking a string of missing the Big Dane for three consecutive seasons.

There might have been a little bit of heat on the Irish coach heading into the 2006-2007 season, but you would never know it as the classy Brey continued to be positive and his team responded by coming together and greatly exceeding expectation. The Irish return a solid core of players as they try to return to the NCAA Tournament in back to back seasons which has only been done in the 2001-2002-2003 seasons and 1989-1990 in recent history.

Brey is the definition of a players coach and the relationship he enjoys with his players is clear. Sometimes, nice guys do not always win in this cutthroat profession, so it was nice to see the Irish surprise many, including myself, with a strong season last year which included a 1st round bye in the Big East Tournament. With a football team struggling this fall, the attention on the basketball team will be intense with expectations of continued success.

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THE 2006-2007 SEASON:

After three seasons of disappointments, the Irish raced up the Big East standings by posting an 11-5 conference record which included five straight Big East wins to close out conference play and secure a 1st round bye in the conference tournament. Wins over Maryland and Alabama in their out of conference portion of their schedule spring boarded the Irish to their success in the Big East.

Of course, there were some questions on how good the Irish were. While other Big East bye teams like Pittsburgh and Georgetown were playing each other twice as well as Marquette, Louisville, etc. The Irish had home and home series with USF, DePaul and Villanova and did not even have Pitt on their schedule. However, there is no such thing as a light Big East schedule and the Irish got things down, especially down the stretch.

Their trip to the NCAA Tournament was not as successful, however, as Notre Dame fell in the 1st round for the first time under Brey as they were upset 74-64 by Winthrop. The Irish trailed big early and made a stunning rally, only to watch Winthrop dominate down the stretch and finish their season.

To duplicate the success of last season, the Irish will have to find a way to replace their two leading scorers, Colin Falls and Russell Carter. The senior duo accounted for 40% of the Irish offense and will be difficult to replace. One possible source added production could be junior guard Kyle McAlarney who was suspended for the last 20 games of the season. He has been reinstated and will look to pick up a large portion of the slack for the Irish on the perimeter.


When the news hit that Kyle McAlarney had been suspended from Notre Dame in December, a huge question mark was attached to the Irish. McAlarney was the only experienced ball handler on the Irish squad and freshman Tory Jackson was thrust into the pressure cooker as the Irish lead guard. Jackson responded magnificently with a very impressive freshman season leading the Irish through Big East play. His pass-first mentality seemed to bring everything together for the Irish that had been missing the previous three seasons. He was lightning quick with the ball and a nuisance on the defensive end. He distributed the ball amongst the best in the league and showed some toughness that the Irish had lacked previously. With the added experience he received, it makes this season even more promising as he can now combine with Kyle McAlarney in the Irish backcourt. The Staten Island native plays with a spunky confidence that makes him a tough competitor in this conference. Not afraid to mix it up, McAlarney also has that trademark Irish touch from beyond the arc and should fit in well. The Irish backcourt is a little thin, but back-up guard Jonathan Peoples showed promise last season as the back-up point guard as he also was pushed into a more prominent role when McAlarney was suspended. Freshman Ty Proffitt addes a little depth to the position. The Irish are really small in the backcourt, so that is an area to keep an eye on this season.

At the wing, the Irish have the biggest question mark. Junior Ryan Ayers will get a long look at the position. The 6’7 Ayers, son of NBA coach Randy Ayers, is a silky-smooth perimeter shooter, but still lacks strength and experience, as he has been used very sparingly in his first two years. He is definitely the player under the microscope for the Irish who really are not deep enough to go with three guards. The other combo forwards are still much more comfortable playing more inside than outside, so the Irish need Ayers to be effective on both ends of the floor on the wing.


The strength of this Irish squad should definitely land in their frontcourt. Senior Rob Kurz and sophomore Luke Harangody return to anchor the frontline while back-ups Zach Hillesland and Like Zeller have also shown to be capable Big East players. Kurz is a solid performer who can handle, pass, shoot and rebound at the ‘4’ position. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and plays within in limitations. Harangody might not be the biggest post player, but he is more athletic than you would believe, plus he has the best footwork of any post player in the conference. Harangody can score going to his left or right in the post and his physical stature makes him difficult to guard. Others might have more athleticism or length, but Harangody can operate with fundamental precision in the post.

Zeller came to Notre Dame with a big reputation, but he has yet to realize the promise that was heaped upon him during his recruitment. A finesse 6’11 big man, Zeller has never really found the comfort zone shooting the ball from the perimeter, where he spends most of his time. If the Irish can get Zeller to find a comfort zone, their frontcourt could excel. Hillesland is Mr. Hustle, running up and down the court, setting picks, diving for loose balls and doing the little things on both ends of the floor that wins games. He will bring the effort every night and show some impressive skills when forgotten about by the opposition.

Three freshman also join the mix this season: Tyrone Nash, Carleton Scott and Tim Abromaitis. Nash is probably the most Big East-ready to go as a freshman. He is a combo forward who is developing more skills away from the basket, but still has the strength and ability to play inside. Scott is one of the most athletic to enter the Irish program in a while, but he has a ways to go physically to be ready to make a pronounced impact in the Big East. Abromaitis is a skilled forward who adds depth and could develop into a serviceable forward similar to Hillesland.

2007-2008 PREDICTION:

Notre Dame is a very tough team to put a firm finger on going into this season. They have some pieces I am very excited about, like Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney in the backcourt and Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody up front. However, it is the depth that I wonder about. They have the numbers, especially in the frontcourt, but only two of them are likely to play at a time and the increasing direction of college is towards a perimeter, guard-oriented game. On the surface, they return quite a bit from their 11-5 team from a year ago, however, I think some of the competition will improve a little quicker this year than the Irish. They have some solid newcomers, but lack the impact newcomer to help cover the loss of Falls and Carter. The shooting threat of Falls helped open up the floor for the athletic Carter, I just do not feel that Ayers and McAlarney will give the Irish the same impact. This is a solid team, all around, but I think the potential to ratchet up their game might come a little short this year. I expect them to beat everyone they should beat, home and away, but the deeper Big East and tougher conference schedule this season with two games against Marquette, Connecticut and DePaul will make it tough for the Irish to match last season’s conference win total.



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