It’s now a few hours before the Notre Dame basketball programs version of back to back games take place. The women’s team will look to rebound against Florida State, the men will look to get back in the “win” column against Georgia Tech. Though the two teams are in different directions, there has been criticism made against both teams. Both teams have an absolutely fantastic leaders at the helm, The question is, “what is going on with both programs?
Men’s Team: Departures, Injuries and Youth
Coach Brey and his coaching staff are pretty darn good when it comes to recruiting. According to a press release back on August 6, 2018, “Notre Dame will be breaking in one of its most inexperienced rosters of the Mike Brey era.”
“The Irish return just two full-time starters (Pflueger, Gibbs) for the first time since 2009-10 (Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson)” Six new memebers joined the squad, “junior Juwhan Durham (sat out the 2017-18 season after transferring from Connecticut) and freshmen Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin, Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski and Chris Doherty.”
On November 20, 2018 the news broke ” senior forward Elijah Burns has left the University of Notre Dame men’s basketball team effective immediately and will seek a transfer at the end of the semester. There is nothing a coach can do that can predict this.
Injuries are part of the game. The only thing that can be done is to manage a players health the best you can. Strength and conditioning programs, good pregame warm-up, and keeping the student-athletes well hydrated. On December 15, 2018, Captain Rex Pflueger went down in the game against Purdue. The Injury to Pflueger went on to be classified as a torn ACL in his left knee.
Freshman guard Robby Carmody also went down with an injury. He suffered a torn Labrum that ended his Freshman campaign. Both Pflueger and Carmody are expected to return to play in the 2019-2020 season.
As stated earlier, the squad introduced five new freshmen. Technically that’s four after the loss of Carmody. Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin, and Nate Laszewski have all seen quality minutes in their freshman year. Hubb leads all Freshmen in games started (19) and total minutes played (728). Hubb’s playing minutes is second behind T.J. Gibbs who has 735 total minutes.
Coming into the season there was knowledge that the 2018-2019 was going to have some challenges. Those challenges were being worked out until the unforeseen departure of Elijah Burns, the injuries to both Pflueger and Carmody. All Coach Brey can do is try and bring his team along and work with what he has. The freshmen are getting quality experience against the teams in the ACC. The high school game moves at a different speed as they do in all sports. It’s my opinion that the future of ND Men’s Basketball is bright. The program must walk a path of adjustment and learn from each game whether it’s a win or a loss.
Women’s Team: Injuries and Patience
Being a defending national champion is not an easy task. Repeating as national champion is even harder. There are expectations from the coaching staff and the fans. Dealing with all the accolades is another difficult task. Guest appearances, red carpets, award ceremonies all cloud a student-athletes ability to focus. All of these actvities must be managed in a way not to lose focus.
Like the men’s team, the women’s once again is playing with a short bench. Katlyn Gilbert, was injured on November 29th against Iowa. Coach McGraw was looking for Gilbert to be a key freshman on the team’s roster. Gilbert’s injury is a the result of a shoulder separation.
Last year, while en-route to what would be a national championship season, the women’s team played with patience. They played the game with a sense that they were not going to lose. They had a resolve to themselves that with the short bench they had to play at another level in order to survive. Ball control in the form of turnovers has plagued the team all season. Forcing the ball at times where another decision could be made. This combination is has been the topic of many post game press conference’s this season.
Not all is lost for this team. The Fighting Irish are still in position where they can make a run in March and April. The road may be a little bit rougher, but this team on paper has the talent to make it make to the Final Four and ultimately into the championship game. The question that remains is “will the team be able to sort out the ball control issues and ultimately defend their championship of 2018?”