Monday night marked the exhibition debut of one of the most highly anticipated freshman classes in ND history, but a story that broke before the game may have caused more of a rumble than the game itself. News that sophomore forward, Cam Biedscheid may sit this year to preserve eligibility for a five year program hit as a surprise to a lot of ND fans. Mike Brey mentioned that Cam, his family, and the coaching staff are weight a 5 year program in his pre-game radio comments. While no final decision has been made, Brey learned his lesson about the baffoonery around the NCAA offices with respect to managing basketball eligibility and held Biedscheid out of the Irish exhibition game vs. the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds. Only first-year players can see exhibition action and still preserve eligibility. This will be an interesting story to follow in coming days, as Brey said in his post-game comments that a final decision would be reached by the end of next week.
Speaking of first-year players, Monday marked the beginning of the Demetrius Jackson era. With about 5 minutes gone in the first half, Jackson made his debut on the Purcell Pavillion floor, wearing number 23 for the Irish. While he didn't step out in to a triple-double, the young guard flashed an incredibly quick first step, and the athleticism that has Irish fans excited. Jackson clearly has another gear, and while he made a couple of early freshman mistakes, his level of play rose with every minute he spent on the floor.
Not to be overshadowed by his classmate, Steve Vasturia hit the floor in the first half, and had an immediate impact on the game. With the Greyhounds hanging around the lead and the Irish looking a tad flat, Vasturia came in and immediately splashed a three from the wing that made you stand up and take notice. He drained his second 3 point attempt and his 3rd was in and out. Early reports from practice were that Vasturia has been making everything he puts up, and it is great to see that hot shooting translate into the game. Hopefully, the freshman's legs hold up and the Irish can see a deep threat that we haven't consistently had since Colin Falls. Vasturia is listed at a solid 6'6", 207lbs. His play could be the primary reason the 6'7", 186lbs Biedscheid is looking at the 5 year option.
V.J. Beachem also looked impressive in his debut, scoring 4, pulling down 2 boards, and recording 4 assists in 15 minutes of work. The 6'8" freshman from Fort Wayne looked very comfortable on the floor and had a very athletic finish at the rim in his highlight reel. Austin Torres saw just 7 minutes of action. In his post game comments, Brey indicated he was pleased with the effort from the Irish youth movement:
I was nervous for our young guys because they were the only subs we had. Were they going to be able to come in and play how we played? One thing about those young guys; they played a lot together against the older veteran perimeter and they gave us a great lift.
On a night where both Tom Knight and Zach Auguste were on the shelf nursing injuries, Garrick Sherman and Austin Burgett filled out the starting front court. The absence of the presumptive starting front court showed up in the stat lines as Notre dame gave up 16 offensive boards and were out rebounded 40-36 vs. a division two school. Facing a squad that features 2 guys at 6'9", the Irish did little to assuage concerns about missing Jack Cooley's rebounding prowess. (Cooley's tweeting about the game featured in "Screamin'" Jack Nolan's play-by play)
I think you have to grade this rebounding performance as incomplete. The Irish were trotting out lineups that haven't played together in practice before, and missing the 2 key rebounders from the lineup makes it difficult to get too worried about things, but rebounding remains an area to keep an eye on.
One thing that jumped off my iPad screen watching the excellent streaming coverage from FIDM was how much bigger guys looked. In particular, it was clear that Austin Burgett looked considerably bigger and stronger than last season. I'm not sure if the basketball team gets access to a training table like their football counterparts, or if Austin was invited to Camp Longo, but he definitely looks bulked up at a solid 227lbs. Pat Connaughton also looked stronger, and despite going only 1-6 from behind the arc, his stroke looks great and he played with a ton of confidence and athleticism.
Two other items of note. First, this was one of two games that will be streamed via WatchND.tv. Every other ND basketball contest this season will be aired on either a major network or regional ACC coverage (which can typically be streamed via WatchESPN). For fans like me, that's an incredible statement vs. where the program was 10-15 years ago. Also of note was the way this game was officiated. It may deserve a future article of its own, but the changes to how the NCAA expects games to be officiated this year will be profound. There were 38 total fouls called in the game and both coaches commented on how their players must adjust to the new NCAA "mandates" that the ball handler must not be hand checked or bumped whatsoever. The game was far less physical and it is clear to me that ND stands poised to take great advantage of this shift in officiating. Like Mike Brey, I'm a fan of it and hope it sticks. Brey shared his thoughts in his post game press conference:
I like the rule. It's better for us. We're a smart team, we're a smart program. We can play defense and keep our hands off for the most part. I think a thing that got us a lot of breathing room was that we got to the bonus quick and the foul line was a weapon for us.
Overall, this was a great start for Notre Dame. Ten guys saw the floor and all four freshmen looked very comfortable and effective in their debuts. Any game that lets you get four freshmen on the floor and you manage 29 assists on 35 FGM with only 7 turn-overs, you're going to have success, and Monday night's 95-69 final was a strong indicator of that success.
So OFD community, what did you think:
- What did you think of the freshmen?
- Are you worried about the rebounding?
- Can Sherman put together the kind of "rock solid" senior season Brey is hoping for?
- Should Cam take this year off? How does that leave the roster moving forward?
- How do you like this officiating? It does extend the game and there are more whistles, but a lot less of the Louisville 94-feet-of-fouling "defense."
Mike Brey Post-Game Press Conference