"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Notre Dame Preview 2023-24

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

December 9th, 2023, Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Micah Shrewsberry (37-31 overall, 0-0 at Notre Dame)

Three-Year NET Average: 109.0

Three-Year kenpom Average: 96.3

Projected 2023-24 T-Rank: 228

Projected Starters: PG Markus Burton (5'10" Fr), SG Julian Roper (6'3" Jr), SF Tae Davis (6'9" So), PF Carey Booth (6'10" Fr), C Kebba Nije (6'10" So)

Micah Shrewsberry takes over for Mike Brey in South Bend

Photo by USATSI

Mike Brey's final season in South Bend was one to forget. His team finished #166 in kenpom, the lowest rank of his career, and that includes four seasons at Delaware. The Irish managed to not finish last in the ACC, but only because the even more inept Louisville shared the league with them. Their 11-21 record represented the fewest wins and most losses in a single season in Brey's career. Making matters worse, every player that averaged double-digit minutes is gone. The leading returning scorer is reserve big man Matt Zona, who scored 34 points the entire season.

That makes this a complete rebuild for new coach Micah Shrewsberry, who took Penn State to their first NCAA appearance since 2011 and first win since 2001. His team will be led by youth, as freshman Markus Burton will likely get the first crack at the point. He was the last holdover recruit from Brey and was Indiana's Mr. Basketball last year. Julian Roper joins from Northwestern, where he showed promise for two years before having last season cut short by injury. Tae Davis might be familiar to Marquette fans as he transferred in from Seton Hall. He played a reserve role for the Pirates but has three years eligibility left. Carey Booth originally committed to Shrewsberry at Penn State, picking the Nittany Lions over Marquette, and is the prize of the recruiting class as 247's composite ranking has him #60 in the Class of 2023. Booth is a long, athletic wing that needs to add strength but has a lot of upside. Kebba Nije came along with Shrewsberry from Penn State, and like Davis has three years eligibility. He appeared in all 37 games for PSU, starting 26. He is a space-eater and is effective on the glass. Zona is joined by the coach's son Braeden Shrewsberry and Logan Imes on the bench, both of whom are top-200 composite freshmen.

At Penn State, Shrewsberry ran an inverted offense. He liked to put point guard Jalen Pickett on the interior, where he was an effective offensive weapon in the post but also a lethal passer in redistributing the ball to the wings. The Nittany Lions were top-10 in both three point attempt rate and three point field goal percentage, a lethal combination for a team that ranked #320 in tempo. With a younger squad, expect him to teach concepts and Shrewsberry has said he will tailor the offense to his personnel. That likely means offense will be a work in progress. Before last year, Shrewsberry was known as a defensive coach first. He describes his style as "gritty, not pretty" and the main focus seems to be on limiting second shots. They don't try to force turnovers, instead slowing the tempo and relentlessly crashing the glass. But again, with a young team, expect there to be some bumps on that road.

On paper, T-Rank has Notre Dame as the worst high-major team by a landslide. The next lowest team to their #228 is #174 Oregon State, more than 50 spots better. With four freshmen and two sophomores in the rotation, and only one player having played for this coach before, it will be an uphill slog. This is one of the least experienced rosters in the country, and the player with the highest D1 scoring average last year was Roper at 4.4 ppg. Shrewsberry showed a lot of promise as a coach at Penn State, but he walked into a much better situation than he inherited in South Bend. It will take time, recruiting, and development. This is an opponent Marquette should defeat handily.

Marquette Connection: No team has beaten Marquette more often than Notre Dame. 81 times the Irish have come away with the W against Marquette. But when the rivalry renewed on December 11, 2022, that was not the case. Notre Dame was competitive early and had a 28-25 lead before a 16-1 run spanning the half put Marquette ahead for good in South Bend. After not playing Notre Dame for close to a decade, this was an important game not only as a high-major road opponent but because of the import the rivalry has to the fanbase. "I want you guys to know, this game was very, very meaningful to a whole lot of people," Smart told his team after the victory, "Every game is meaningful to us, but this game means a lot. We came in here and made a lot of people happy because you guys played the right way."

No comments: