Notre Dame looks to try to build on last season’s NCAA run
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Mike Brey wants the Fighting Irish approaching the season as though they are coming off a losing season, not that they’re the defending Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champions.
”One of our themes has been to be poor again, to be hungry,” Brey said at media day Tuesday. ”We’re doing the same breakdown drills when we were really poor a year ago coming off a 15-17 season. I’ve made that a point every day.”
Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton led the Fighting Irish to a 32-6 record and their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament round of eight since 1979. Those two have graduated, but Notre Dame returns starters Demetrius Jacskon (11.3 points a game, 3.1 assists), Steve Vasturia (9.6 ppg) and Zach Auguste (11.3 ppg, 6.5 rebounds) and key contributors Bonzie Colson and V.J. Beachem.
Brey said the Irish are eager to show they can have similar success this season.
”They want to show they’re pretty good even though everybody talks about it may be almost impossible to replace Grant and Connaughton,” Brey said. ”They’d like to do that March thing again.”
The Irish came within a last-second shot of beating Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, leading much of the second half before losing 68-66 when Grant missed on a 3-pointer. Brey said he believes Notre Dame gained respect in the ACC last season after finishing 6-12 in its first year in the league.
Brey expects Jackson to lead the Irish offensively, defensively and being the voice on the floor.
”No question, it’s Demetrius Jackson’s team, it’s his voice,” Brey said. ”He loves it, he welcomes it and I’m thrilled he’s so confident in that position.”
Jackson said the Irish believe they can be better.
”We have our nucleus back, so we kind of have the recipe. We know what it feels like,” he said. ”Now we just want to take it to the next level.”
Brey said Notre Dame knew early last year what kind of team they would be because of Grant and Connaughton. This year the Irish will be developing throughout the year, Brey said. He said he doesn’t yet know who the sixth and seventh players are.
”But certainly we have a lot of candidates,” he said.
The Irish know that this season will be tougher because of expectations, Auguste said.
”Last year seemed kind of easy. We didn’t have any expectations. Everybody thought we were going to be a regular team. Now, coming in this year, we have a target on our backs,” he said. ”We’re looking to be as good or even better.”