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Notre Dame Basketball Season Preview (Round 2)

This is the second in a 3 part series where the OFD basketball writers address 5 major questions leading up to the launch of the Irish basketball season. In part 1, we looked at ND's schedule and the potential effect of the changes in officiating this season. Today, in part 2, we'll examine the roster and try to identify some key players to watch. Friday, in part 3, we'll share our predictions for the season.

CW's Mad Scientist
CW's Mad Scientist
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

How deep do you think Mike Brey's bench goes this year? Who do you see in the regular rotation, and what's your crunch-time 5?

4pointshooter: With the surprise redshirt move from Biedscheid (I'm sure it hasn't sunk in yet for CB train conductor CW), the Irish are likely going to start Sherman-Knight-Connaughton-Grant-Atkins with Auguste and Jackson being the first two off the bench. The 8th spot is up for grabs between Burgett, Vasturia and Beachem. I've been impressed with Burgett's play as a stretch 4 in the two long stretches (see what I did there?) he played last week and obviously the two freshmen have impressed in their play as well. Beachem theoretically has an opening at the 3, but I think if we see the Grant-Atkins-Jackson trio playing at the same time, whatever minutes for the silky smooth (obligated adjective) Indiana native will be diminished. Regardless I think we'll have games where we literally play 9 guys. When was the last time that happened? When Jonathan Peoples was your third guard? What's my crunch time 5? Easy. Auguste-Connaughton-Grant-Atkins-Jackson. Why yes, that IS the correct answer.

alstein: There are 7 automatic guys: Atkins, Grant, Jackson, Connaughton, Knight, Sherman, and Auguste. I think Vasturia is "ready", but I don't think the minutes are there for him if Grant and Atkins play 30+ minutes a game (hint: they will). Jackson will take all the minutes that one of those guys is not on the floor and then some when Brey wants all three of them. Vasturia is an odd man out of this rotation. I remain skeptical on Burgett, and while I think he will play, I don't think he will be a regular. I think Beachem will, however, as without Biedscheid, he brings some slashing ability and athleticism to the wing position that few others have. So with Beachem, I think it is an 8 man regular rotation with some occasional Burgett to make it 9, particularly early on. Mike Brey's crunch time 5 changes regularly, but generally I think it will be Atkins, Grant, Jackson, Connaughton, and the best of the big 3 on that given day.

CW: As 4pointshooter pointed out, the Biedscheid news has hit me hard, but I'm okay with it. Why? Because the new toy syndrome of VJ Beachem, baby! He's everything we imagined Cam to be, a lanky, silky smooth, in-control frosh who can score the ball. That said, he is not in the crunch-time rotation, which should be Atkins-Jackson-Grant-Connaughton-Auguste. If the opponent is bigger, you can put Knight in there for Connaughton, but I'd rather spread the floor and let Auguste handle the big man duties. Brey will use Burgett, Beachem, Sherman and probably Vasturia in addition to that five, although I imagine Vasturia ends up getting the fewest minutes.

JoeSchu: If you put too much stake in the preseason, you'd say 9. If you put too much stake in history, you'd say 7. This could really be the first year we see Brey go a full 9 deep. Atkins, Jackson, and Grant are all rock solid, and every indicator is that Vasturia is ready. Obviously, Auguste, Knight, and Sherman are the front court, and Pat Connaughton is ready to hold down that swing 3/4 role. Brey had Burgett starting in the preseason and has spoke glowingly about the sophomore. He can also play the swing 3/4 role. Right there, you're at 9, and you haven't mentioned Beachem or Biedscheid. We'll know for sure shortly, but I think Cam's red shirt is a done deal. I'll be curious if they preserve Beachem too - his athleticism is hard to keep seated on the bench all season. I think our best 5 is Atkins, Jackson, Grant, Connaughton and Auguste, but it is highly situational. If you need to go bigger, sliding Burgett or Knight in for Jackson works too. It is crazy to think how much depth exists on this team. I can't remember the last time we had this "problem."

Which one player intrigues you the most this season, and why?

4pointshooter: Zach Auguste. He's size and athleticism combination alone can give the Irish an edge down low on most nights and I love that he's been openly embracing the role of defending and rebounding - a big void that Jack Cooley leaves behind. At the end of the day, Brey has never had a big man who can block a shot then run the floor ahead of everyone else and finish a lob to the rim like Auguste can. I expect him to force his way into the starting line up and 30 minutes a night by mid January.

alstein: I would have said Cam Biedschied, and maybe he still is to see what happens off the court, but the answer for me is Eric Atkins. He is garnering a lot of attention for his improved leadership and really taking over this team, but will he do that with the ball actually in his hands in crunch time? Or will he continue to play second fiddle to Jerian Grant? I think it is absolutely necessary for Atkins to assert himself and become "the guy" on the offensive end of the court, otherwise I am envisioning the extreme hot and cold offense at key stretches in close games that we had to live through last season. You need the guy with the steady hand to actually have the ball to maintain order and consistency when the going gets tough, and hopefully the senior point guard can step up and take charge.

CW: I am fascinated with Jerian Grant. I have a theory that he is basically a mad scientist on the basketball court, and all of the stuff we deem dumb is just an experiment by him to test the limits of the game. You can't call a guy with the assist totals and creative passing abilities of Grant a ball hog, yet he's happy to jack up terrible shots from time-to-time. Sometimes he is disinterested. Sometimes he goes nuclear in the last minute of the game and beats the national champions. If Grant puts it together for 30 minutes a game with the talent he possesses, this team could reach another level.

JoeSchu: Garrick Sherman. As Mike Brey pointed out, there have been guys like Rob Kurz who have had monster senior years and it would be great to see the MSU transfer step forward. A few of these ACC matchups are going to give Sherman a very different look than the bruising 4's and 5's he saw in the BigEast. There are still plenty of teams on ND's schedule that will bounce him around a bit, but he does look a bit stronger. Let's hope he's past that tendency to fade a bit when things get physical. He's still very much a finesse post man, but unlike Luke Zeller, Sherman is able to go on the block. He also has shown a really nice passing touch from the high post. If he can find a way to set some better screens and hit the offensive boards, he could be a valuable asset.

What do you think OFD?  Does Brey go deep this year, or does the bench remain pretty short?  Who are you watching for come Friday?  Let us know, and look for part 3 on Friday.