Notre Dame Basketball: How the Fighting Irish Will Fill Empty Roles

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IMay 23, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20:  Head coach Mike Brey of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts in the game against the Florida State Seminoles during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Florida State won 71-57 in regulation.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Three major happenings at the University of Notre Dame in the last two weeks have profoundly affected the school's basketball team.

Those events are graduation, the early departure of junior forward Carleton Scott to the NBA, and Mike Brey remaining head coach despite a head coaching job open at the University of Maryland.

Graduation resulted in the exhaustion of eligibility for star players Tyrone Nash and 2010-11 Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough.

Carleton Scott had one year of eligibility remaining at Notre Dame, but chose to officially declare for the 2011 NBA Draft.

Those losses leave the basketball program void of leadership. Gone are the top three players from last season's second-place Big East team.

"Where do we go from here?" seems to be the common question asked at the end of each season, but the Irish have always found ways to achieve success following losses of great players.

Take last season for example. 2008 Big East Player of the Year and the heart and soul of the program, Luke Harangody, graduated. Many wondered how Notre Dame would recover from the loss of such a tremendous player.

The team began the season unranked and picked by Big East coaches to finish 8th in the league.

Boy, were those other coaches wrong.

The Irish finished the regular season with a 26-6 record and ranked 4th in the nation in both major polls. Why shouldn't they do it again?

Notre Dame has a few key players returning for the 2011-12 season. Perhaps the most experienced of those players is senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who has been a starter during the last two seasons. The other experienced players returning are sophomore point guard Eric Atkins, junior forward Jack Cooley, and senior forward Scott Martin.

Other players who are expected to make major contributions in 2011-12 are redshirt freshman guard Jerian Grant, junior guard Joey Brooks, and junior forward Tom Knight.

The script always seems to be the same heading into every basketball season for Mike Brey. His roster is typically filled with lightly recruited, yet hard-working players who find a way to win games.

However, the coaching staff hasn't experienced this many significant losses in one off-season before.

There's a reason he has been named Big East Coach of the Year three times, though.

Irish fans will have to wait and see if he can work his magic once again.