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New league will bring new challenges for Irish

Tony Krausz

Associated Press

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey will have a veteran club when the Irish begin ACC play next season.

Notre Dame
Coach: Mike Brey

2012-13 record: 25-10 (11-7 Big East, tied for fifth)

Postseason: Big East tournament (2-1, lost 69-57 to Louisville in semifinals); NCAA tournament (0-1, lost 76-58 to Iowa State in second round)

Lost starters (1): F Jack Cooley (13.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg)

Returning starters (4): G Jerian Grant (13.3 ppg, 5.5 apg), G Eric Atkins (11.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), Pat Connaughton (8.9 ppg, 2.1 apg) F Garrick Sherman (7 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

Outlook: Notre Dame will need to adjust to a new league when it begins play in the Atlantic Coast Conference next year after 18 years in the Big East. And after settling into the ACC, the Irish will try to figure out how to turn regular-season success into NCAA tournament success after being eliminated in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in their last six appearances.

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team has more to sort out than just its struggles in the NCAA tournament.

The Irish were one-and-done in the tournament for a second straight year and third time in four years as No. 7 seed Notre Dame (25-10) fell 76-58 to No. 10 seed Iowa State (23-11) on Friday in University of Dayton Arena.

Notre Dame hasn’t won a game in the tournament since defeating Akron in the second round in 2011 and hasn’t made it past the first weekend since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003.

But before coach Mike Brey can figure out how to get his program to make deep NCAA runs, he must figure out how to get the Irish back into the dance next year.

The Irish, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will leave the Big East and join the Atlantic Coast Conference. And the new league brings new challenges to Brey, who has brought Notre Dame to the NCAA tournament nine times in 13 seasons but has gone 6-9 in the tourney.

“What will take my mind off the NCAA tournament is trying to figure out who we are in the ACC, and that’s probably a good thing,” Brey said Friday. “We had this earning a bid out of the Big East down to a science. We haven’t advanced, that’s a whole other issue. But how do we earn a bid out of the ACC, that’s going to be the interesting thing next year. … If you look at the strength of the Big East, we’ve always been able to play our way in through the strength of the Big East. The ACC has not had that power. You may not have as many shots at good wins as you had in the Big East, so what do you do with your non-league? Those are all things we’ve been talking about as a staff, and I think we really got to think about it.”

Notre Dame should be well equipped for the move to the ACC with a veteran team.

The Irish lose forward Jack Cooley, who was named to the All-Big East first team after averaging 13.1 points and 10.1 rebounds.

But they return four starters: guards Jerian Grant (13.3 points, 5.5 assists per game), Eric Atkins (11.2 points, 5.5 assists) and Pat Connaughton (8.9 points) along with forward Tom Knight (5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds).

The Irish also have reserve forwards Garrick Sherman (7 points, 3.4 rebounds) and Cameron Biedsheid (6.2 points, 1.4 rebounds) returning.

Notre Dame also brings in a talented freshmen class with New Haven’s V.J. Beachem, a four-star prospect, along with Mishawaka Marian’s Demetrius Jackson, a five-star prospect; St. Joseph’s Prep’s Steve Vasturia, a four-star prospect; and Penn’s Austin Torres joining the program.

The class was ranked No. 10 by Scout.com and No. 14 by Rivals.com when the players signed Nov. 14.

“I love what we have coming back,” Brey said.

“I like that I’m going into a new league with this team and older guys as we try and figure out how to earn a bid out of the ACC.”


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