Monthly Predictions: Notre Dame Men’s Basketball in November
By Julio Salazar | Staff Writer
October 21, 2015
NOTRE DAME, IN- After a dream season led by seniors Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant was capped off by an unlikely ACC Championship and an improbable run to the Elite Eight, Coach Mike Brey of the preseason #18 Fighting Irish Basketball team is left with a tough task of repeating. However, there is hope on the Notre Dame campus-hope that Irish Basketball has made the transition into big-time college basketball. With major contributors returning such as impact senior Zach Auguste and star Demetrius Jackson, the Irish hope to defend their title. Make no mistake about it; this is now Jackson’s team. After a phenomenal season, this hometown product looks to lead the Irish-on and off the court.
The University of Notre Dame Athletic Department released the Men’s Basketball Schedule earlier this month. Find it here. This monthly post will look ahead at the Irish schedule and make predictions. We start with November (and one October exhibition).
October 30, 2015 vs. St. Francis (IL): This exhibition game at Purcell Pavilion will be the first opportunity to see Mike Brey’s 16th Irish squad in action. With expected starters Demetrius Jackson, Zach Auguste, Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem, and Bonzie Colson, look for offense to be this team’s strength. Expect the starting five to get solid minutes and work, but also bank on seeing lots of other guys on the court. However, I predict this game will be close for the first half. The Fighting Saints of St. Francis are coming off a spectacular 23-10 season in which they shared of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season title and earned an at-large berth to the NAIA Division II National Tournament – USF’s first in 19 years. St. Francis also claims an NAIA Division II All-American in Ilya Ilyayev. Led by the 2015 CCAC Coach of the Year and 2015 Jack Bennett Award winner Ryan Marks, this team will come out prepared and fighting. Despite this, Irish win.
November 5, 2015 vs. Caldwell: The second and final exhibition game for Notre Dame, this matchup between the Cougars and the Irish will wrap up a long preseason. Again, expect most of Brey’s guys to see some playing time. This Caldwell team, which finished 15-13 in 2014, will not have the same level of competition as St. Francis. However, expect senior forward Michael Balkovic-All-Met Division II first team for the second year in a row, to have a good game. Easy pick, Irish win.
November 13, 2015 vs. St. Francis (PA): Notre Dame’s second game against a St. Francis team and its first non-exhibition game of the season-this one counts. Let’s be clear, St. Francis is a great team. 2015-2015 was the most successful Red Flash season in a decade. With signature wins over Navy, Rutgers, and Albany and a 3 point loss to Bowling Green in the post-season, this 15-14 team proved it could hang with big time basketball. However, CBS Sports’ 243rd ranked team loses Earl Brown, who will be difficult to replace. Young talent in Ronnie Drinnon and Greg Brown will not be enough to overcome the Irish team. ND wins.
November 17, 2015 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee: A team that posted a 14-16 record in 2014-15 seems unimpressive. Yet, this team had a winning record in a conference that boasts Valparaiso, who went to the big dance last season. Expect the Panthers to be much smoother on offense this season. Rob Jeter’s team is the dark horse choice to steal the auto bid in the Horizon from Valpo. This cannot get the job done, though. Irish win.
November 21, 2015 vs. UMass-Lowell: An unimpressive 12-17 record. #346 in CBS Sports’ Rankings. Bottom of the American East. A 2-0 Notre Dame Team. Unfortunately, Pat Duquette will need a few more years to get the River Hawks out of the cellar of their conference. This one could get ugly quick. Irish improve to 3-0.
*At this point in the season, the Notre Dame Basketball team will travel to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL to compete in the Advocare Invitational.*
November 26, 2015 vs. Monmouth: The Hawks of Monmouth posted an 18-15 record and earned a #4 seed in the MAAC. This year, the Hawks are the preseason #2 in the Metro Atlantic and have former Oklahoma player Je’lon Hornbeak. A good game to watch, but the Irish should get another W and move on to the Advocare Invitational Final against the winner of Dayton/Iowa.
November 29, 2015 vs. winner of Dayton/Iowa: In the Advocare Invitational Finals, Notre Dame will face its first true test of the season, whether in the Flyers of Dayton or the Iowa Hawkeyes. Both teams have lost major contributors (Aaron White-Iowa in graduation and Dyshawn Pierre-Dayton in suspension) and will need to look to younger players for more work. Dayton still has bigger playmakers. I’ll take Notre Dame over Dayton and an undefeated November.
Look for Monthly Predictions: December later in November, as Notre Dame participates in the Big 10/ACC Challenge.
Sources: CBSSports.com, und.com, gofightingsaints.com, caldwellathletics.com, Getty Images