Can Notre Dame replace Pat Connaughton’s rebounding?
Pat Connaughton was a leader in every facet of the game for the Irish in the 2014-15 season. He played 35 minutes per game, assisted, defended, and led the team in both blocked shots and 3-pointers. But where Connaughton’s impact will be missed the most will be on the glass. Although he stands just 6’5”, Connaughton led the Irish in rebounding (7.4 per game) and was often tasked with checking opposing teams’ best rebounder. The Irish were the 3rd worst rebounding team in the ACC last year and grabbed just 27.5% of its offensive rebound opportunities, and losing their most effective and hardest working rebounder will certainly hurt. They often struggled against inferior teams that possessed good size in the frontcourt, such as Georgia Tech, who used a plus-14 offensive rebounding margin to take the Irish to double overtime, and Northeastern, who outrebounded Notre Dame by 16 in a narrow 69-65 first round loss in the NCAA tournament.
In order for the Irish to make another run in the NCAA tournament without the playmaking of Connaughton and fellow NBA-bound star Jerian Grant, other players must step up on the boards. Zach Auguste, at 6’10”, will need to improve on his 6.5 rebounds per game and anchor the Irish on the glass. Coach Brey will look for development from some of his younger players as well, including 6’9” Lithuanian giant Martinas Geben and spark plug Bonzie Colson, both entering their sophomore seasons.
If Notre Dame can garner some physicality from its younger players on the defensive glass, they can look forward to building on the success of last season. If not, it could be a brief exit for the Irish in March.
Nick Courtney ’18