Notre Dame Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2013-14 Irish
Mike Brey has built a consistent force in South Bend, as the Irish made their sixth NCAA tournament appearance in seven seasons in March of 2013. This year's squad should continue the March Madness streak, with four returning starters and a trio of 4-star recruits.
The Fighting Irish lost their Luke Harangody clone, Jack Cooley, to graduation. Nonetheless, their starting lineup could very well consist of four seniors and a junior. Add in that talented youth and the Irish could experience their deepest NCAA tournament run under Brey.
The Irish will be newcomers in the Atlantic Coast Conference, after leaving the former Big East Conference. Notre Dame will see familiar faces like Syracuse and Pittsburgh, but must prepare for the likes of Duke, North Carolina and Virginia as well.
This article will highlight ND's roster, projected rotation, key returning players, key newcomers, X-factors, scenarios for how the season will play out and of course it will also offer a final prediction on the 2013-14 campaign.
Demetrius Jackson- According to Rivals, Mike Brey was able to snag the 38th-best player in the 2013 class, as Jackson chose Notre Dame over John Groce's Illinois Fighting Illini. Jackson won't be thrown right into a primary ball-handling role, as he will have plenty of experienced guards to learn from.
On paper, Jackson will be the team's backup point guard behind Eric Atkins. An exciting lineup could contain Jackson playing the point, while Atkins and Jerian Grant play the wings in a small lineup. The 6'1" Jackson, from nearby Mishawaka, is the point guard of the future and will be a key contributor for years to come.
V.J. Beachem- Another state of Indiana native, Beachem finished 86th in the 2013 Rivals rankings. Beachem is a 6'8" forward, though he needs to build upon his slim 187-pound frame. Beachem's frame is similar to that of ND sophomore Cameron Biedscheid, with plenty of room to fill out still.
Beachem should see spot minutes as a true freshman, likely behind the more experienced Biedscheid and Pat Connaughton on the depth chart. Beacham should still be a steady player off Brey's bench as a freshman and will come up big when the Irish big men get into foul trouble.
Steve Vasturia- The third and final of Notre Dame's three 4-star recruits in 2013 is Vasturia, who hails from Philadelphia. Vasturia is a 6'6" guard, who will spread the court as a deep shooting threat and was an 89 percent free-throw shooter during his prep career.
Vasturia, like Beacham, should see minutes off Brey's bench immediately, though that playing time may be inconsistent from game to game. Vasturia is praised as having a high basketball IQ and is a perfect fit for a Brey-coached squad.
Jerian Grant- Though listed as a senior, Grant is actually a redshirt junior, so this will hopefully not be his last season wearing that snazzy Irish uniform. In Grant's two seasons, he has been nothing short of spectacular, averaging 12.8 points, 5.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.3 minutes per game.
Grant scored in double figures in all but seven games a year ago and carried Notre Dame down the stretch of an improbable five overtime win over Louisville. Grant is a complete player who will once again be tough for Coach Brey to take off the floor.
Eric Atkins- Almost mirroring Grant's numbers, Atkins averaged 11.2 points, 5.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals as a junior. Incredibly, Atkins was on the court even more than Grant, at a 38.3-minute-a-game clip. Both players come from Maryland and have formed a top backcourt over the past three years.
Atkins connected on 42 percent of his three-point looks last season, but only made 65 percent of his free throws. Atkins played the backup point guard role as a freshman, as Jackson will this year, but will now start his third and final season running the show.
Pat Connaughton- Though basketball may not be his first sport, Connaughton is a pretty darn good player. Connaughton, who is a star pitcher on the Notre Dame baseball team, has a future as a professional in that sport. For now though, Brey is happy to have him on his squad.
Connaughton averaged 8.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season, as a sophomore. He also saw heavy minutes, playing just over 32 per night. Connaughton is lauded for his toughness and hustle, while he also provides the Irish with another three-point option along the perimeter.
Roster and Projected Rotation
0 Eric Atkins G 6'2" 182 SR Columbia, MD
1 Cameron Biedscheid F 6'7" 186 SO St. Louis, MO
3 V.J. Beachem F 6'8" 187 FR Fort Wayne, IN
4 Patrick Crowley G 6'3" 201 SR Los Gatos, CA
11 Garrick Sherman C 6'11" 255 SR Kenton, OH
15 Eric Katenda F 6'9" 230 SO Paris, France
20 Austin Burgett F 6'9" 227 SO Avon, IN
22 Jerian Grant G 6'5" 203 SR Bowie, MD
23 Demetrius Jackson G 6'1" 195 FR Mishawaka, IN
24 Pat Connaughton G-F 6'5" 214 JR Arlington, MA
25 Tom Knight F 6'10" 258 SR Dixfield, ME
30 Zach Auguste F 6'10" 242 SO Marlborough, MA
32 Steve Vasturia G 6'6" 207 FR Medford, NJ
35 Austin Torres F 6'7" 218 FR Mishawaka, IN
C- Garrick Sherman
Others: V.J. Beachem, Steve Vasturia, Austin Burgett
Bench: Patrick Crowley, Eric Katenda, Austin Torres
Cameron Biedscheid- Coming out of St. Louis, Missouri in 2012, Biedscheid ended up being the 28th-rated player, according to Rivals. As a true freshman, he chipped in 6.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and one assist per game in 17.4 minutes off the bench. Biedscheid scored in double figures six times during his first season.
Over the last five games of his freshman campaign however, Biedscheid only connected on one of 19 shot attempts, 15 of which came from behind the arc. Look for a more aggressive Biedscheid off the ND bench as a sophomore, as he certainly has the physical tools to be a big time player in the ACC.
Garrick Sherman- Luke Harangody's collegiate career seemed to last forever. After Harangody left, Brey slotted Harangody's lookalike, Jack Cooley, in as the starting center. Both Harangody and Cooley were double-double machines, leaving big shoes to fill for former Michigan State player Sherman.
Sherman averaged 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.6 minutes as a redshirt junior, well surpassing the numbers he put up at MSU. Sherman is likely to enter the starting lineup now, unless Brey decides to play small. Sherman was a hero in that classic five overtime win over Louisville in February, scoring 17 points.
Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios
Best-Case Scenario: Sweet 16
As much as I want to believe in the Fighting Irish come March, I just can't. Notre Dame will absolutely finish in the top half of the ACC and be a lock on Selection Sunday. The Irish will range anywhere from a four to nine seed after yet another successful regular season.
But that just may be where the success runs out. Only once in Brey's 13 years have the Irish reached the Sweet Sixteen, which was back in 2003. While my gut instinct says they will lose in the round of 32, I could see them reaching the Sweet 16 with a favorable matchup, though no further.
Worst-Case Scenario: NIT Bid
While the former Big East Conference was one of the nation's toughest, it was in some ways top heavy. This year's ACC may be similar, though bottom-tier teams that Notre Dame beats up on will have different names across their jerseys, such as Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, instead of DePaul and Rutgers.
Unfamiliarity with their opponents, as well as having an X on your back as a league newcomer, could cause ND to lose games they shouldn't. The margin for error is so thin in college basketball, that plenty of good squads have found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. Still, I don't see that being the case for Notre Dame.
Prediction: 24-11 (11-7), At-Large Bid, NCAA Tournament Third Round
With plenty of cupcakes to go around, Notre Dame should get hot to end 2013. The team's only tough matchups come against a trio of Big Ten squads: Iowa, Indiana and Ohio State.
In league play, Notre Dame will be tough to beat at home, as usual. However, traveling to the Carrier Dome or Chapel Hill may not be so kind. The Irish may also drop a few games to inferior competition on the road, as protecting home court is precious in college hoops.
On Selection Sunday, I expect Notre Dame's name to be called out with a No. 7 seed. The Irish will then win their first NCAA tournament game since 2011, before bowing out in the round of 32 to a second-seeded opponent who is simply the better team, thus ending their 2013-14 campaign.