No one expected Mike Brey to go this far with Notre Dame after Tim Abromaitis' injury. (Photo courtesy of New York Post)
Six games into the year, Notre Dame's future was thrown into severe limbo when senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who had just made his return two contests prior after a four-game suspension at the start of the season, tore his ACL and went down for the remainder of the season. Yet somehow, the Fighting Irish managed to rise above adversity yet again to secure the third-best record in the Big East under a head coach in Mike Brey who continually finds a way to not only do more with less, but do it better each time he has to.
This season may not have produced the Big East Player and Coach of the Year the way last year's 27-win campaign did, but Brey and the Irish still managed to surprise a lot of people with a roster that was a question mark when Abromaitis was still in the fold. With his youngest team in recent years taking the court in South Bend, Brey got three players to average ten or more points per game; including sophomore Jerian Grant, who managed twelve points per game and a 35 percent shooting clip from three-point range after not playing last year. Joining Grant in the backcourt was point guard Eric Atkins, whose twelve points and four assists per game complemented Grant while giving sharpshooting Scott Martin more of an opportunity to sit back and burn opponents from beyond the arc. Up front, Jack Cooley developed a physical style that is just as reminiscent of former Irish legend Luke Harangody as Cooley himself is physically, averaging 12.5 points and almost nine rebounds per game. Joining Cooley on the front line was swingman and two-sport star Pat Connaughton. The freshman, who also pitches on Notre Dame's baseball team, worked his way into a starting role late in the year after taking the spot from Alex Dragicevich, who has since transferred.
Notre Dame is trying to get a sixth year of eligibility for Scott Martin, who missed a year with a torn ACL after transferring from Purdue; and could even do the same with Abromaitis, although it is unknown whether or not the Irish will do that considering that Abromaitis will finish graduate school next month. The team also welcomes center Garrick Sherman to South Bend after he transferred from Michigan State this past season. Sherman, who has two remaining years of eligibility; brings experience and size to a program that has craved it since Luke Zeller and Rob Kurz graduated several years ago, and his participation in two Final Fours under Tom Izzo automatically upgrades the leadership in Notre Dame's interior. The Irish bring in three forwards for their incoming freshman class, a group headlined by Zach Auguste and Cameron Biedscheid; and with everyone coming back for at least another year aside from the still unknown futures of Martin and Abromaitis, the opportunities to cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame will be much greater in the coming season.