Notre Dame Basketball Season Preview: Mike Brey, Luke Harangody Seek Redemption

Dan Scofield@BleedingGoldAnalyst IOctober 9, 2009

DENVER - MARCH 20:  Luke Harangody #44 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is greeted by the team mastcot during introductions to the first round game of the East Regional against the George Mason Patriots as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Pepsi Center on March 20, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Fighting Irish defeated the Patriots 68-50.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Head Coach: Mike Brey

Previous Season: 21-16; lost to Penn St. in NIT semifinals

Departures: G Kyle McAlarney, F Luke Zeller, G/F Zach Hillesland, G Ryan Ayers

Additions: G Joey Brooks, F Jack Cooley, F Tom Knight, F Mike Broghammer

Coming of a disappointing year in which the Irish began the season ranked in the top 10, Mike Brey and Luke Harangody look to bring their program back to the tournament with some new products.

A year after which four seniors graduate from a program never seems to lead to optimistic thoughts in one's mind.

However, for Brey, a facelift and an influx of new bodies is exactly what he was looking for.

Projected Starting Lineup

PF Luke Harangody, Senior

If you don't know his name by now, you aren't a fan of college basketball.

The preseason All-American looks to improve on yet another year of elite production (23.3 ppg, 11.9 rpg). If he can get help on the boards and step up his defensive skills, the Player of the Year award is his to lose.

Harangody is stronger and leaner than ever coming into this season, so expect him to see the court for almost the entirety of games. Now a senior, he knows this team goes as he goes.

Expect another huge year from the bruiser with somewhere around 25 and 12.

PG Tory Jackson, Senior

Jackson has been inconsistently great in his first three seasons wearing an Irish uniform.

After strong underclassman years, Jackson (10.6 ppg, 4.9 apg) didn't take a big step in his improvement during his junior campaign. Working hard in the offseason, reports say that his jump shot is looking more fluent than ever and is ready for a very solid final year.

He will be a valuable piece of this year's team, but will need to improve his free throw shooting and decision-making, as his wrongdoings can no longer be called underclassman mistakes.

G Ben Hansbrough, Junior

The second coming of "Psycho-T" finds a home in South Bend after transferring from Mississippi State two years ago.

Sitting out last year, Hansbrough has received great praise from Brey on his work ethic and love for the game. In hindsight, he is a perfect fit for Brey's program.

The transfer will provide much-needed scoring after the departure of Kyle McAlarney from last year's squad. Hansbrough provides also provides solid defense along with a multi-dimensional game—something McAlarney lacked.

F Tyrone Nash, Junior

Irish fans were calling for Brey's head last season when Nash saw limited playing time after displaying the kind of game last year's team was missing.

This season, Nash's role increases heavily. He now holds the title as the wingman to superman himself, Luke Harangody. Scoring will not be demanded of him in large quantity, but rebounds will.

Post defense is another thing Nash needs to bring to this team. It has been a weakness, and with the graduation of Luke Zeller and Zach Hillesland, there aren't many proven bodies down low.

Nash's success will play a big factor in Notre Dame's overall success.

G Tim Abromaitis, RS-Junior/Carleton Scott, Junior

Last week, Brey got the devastating news that his super-transfer Scott Martin would miss the upcoming season with an ACL injury.

Brey now will look to his bench in order to fill the void left by the injured lefty. Two unproven, yet talented, lengthy guards will get the first chance.

Abromaitis was a two-star recruit coming out of high school but was a year younger than the rest of his class. He has opened eyes in practice with his scoring skills, but it is questionable whether he will be able to guard opposing guards.

Scott is an above-the-rim player that is blessed with freakish athleticism. A fan favorite, he is still unproven as a complete basketball player. He will finally get his chance this season.

Projected Contributors

G Jon Peoples, Senior

Peoples has been a solid bench player in his time in the program, and it is being reported as being in the best shape of his career this fall.

He will see meaningful minutes this season as the third guard in the backcourt behind the starters. Look for him to also see minutes in three-guard sets.

A scrappy and full effort player, Peoples could do some nice things for this team.

G Joey Brooks, Freshman

The big, athletic guard that Brey has struggled to lure in has finally arrived in the form of this Texan.

Brooks is a winner, as evidenced by his high school career. He is a complete player that can put the ball in the basket either inside or out and isn't afraid to take an opponent one-on-one.

Another thing to like about this newcomer is his defensive mentality—something that many players on the roster seem to lack. Expect Brooks to see early time this season, getting his feet wet before a breakout sophomore campaign.

F Jack Cooley, Freshman

Once you get a glimpse of Cooley, your immediate reaction will be, "I thought Harangody wore No. 44?"

Cooley not only looks like the All-American, but his game is very similar as well. A bruiser and another full effort-type guy, he will give the Irish some needed depth in the frontcourt. The question for Cooley is whether or not he will be able to adjust to the Big East style early enough in his career in order to contribute this season.

F Tom Knight, Freshman

Another big body brought in Brey, Knight has opened some eyes in preseason scrimmages.

The freshman from Maine was the most likely candidate to redshirt this year (along with Mike Broghammer), but his recent performance has made Brey think twice about that decision. He will most likely be kept towards the end of the bench, but if called upon, he will be ready to get rebounds and hit some outside jumpers.

Key Games

Dec. 19 UCLA: Revenge will be on Harangody's mind after the Irish took a beating last season on the road.

Jan. 2 @ Connecticut: Irish face a tough test in their first road game.

Jan. 9 West Virginia: The revamped arena will be shaking when the Irish face a top-10 opponent in the Mountaineers.

Feb. 17 @ Louisville: Another Wednesday night game on ESPN will bring back memories for Brey. Will he finally get his win?

Mar. 3 Connecticut: The Irish drew the Huskies twice this season. This late season, in-conference matchup could mean the difference between a middle-of-the-pack and a top four finish.

Season Outlook

Notre Dame's November and December slates look fairly easy, and they should be undefeated going into their first true test against UCLA at home.

After that contest, Big East conference play starts up, and the season truly begins. The Irish drew Connecticut, South Florida, and Cincinnati twice this year and don't seem to have an extended streak of games against elite opponents like last year's team.

The Irish face their roughest stretch in their last five games (@ Louisville, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Georgetown, vs. Connecticut, and vs. Marquette). If they can come out of murderer's row with two or three wins, they will most likely have the record suitable for the committee (depending on earlier season success).

If Brey can lead his team to a top six finish in the Big East this year, the Irish will most likely find themselves in the dance once again. With the scoring threats of Harangody, Jackson, and Hansbrough, there is no reason for this team not to make the tournament again.


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