Believe it or not, College Basketball returns in just a little under a month. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off a disappointing season in 2018-19, but much of that was due to injuries and a huge youth movement. The Irish regularly played three freshman in Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin and Nate Leszewski, while Robby Carmody missed most of the year with an injury. After getting major minutes as freshmen, Mike Brey has a solid core with these four going forward. Expect to see progress from these four in their sophomore seasons.
Senior, Rex Pflueger suffered an ACL injury in December, but returns this season as the leader of the squad. He’s joined by TJ Gibbs, John Mooney and Juwan Durham as the veterans on the team. Gibbs, in particular, is the x-factor going into the season for the Irish. Gibbs figured to take a huge step forward after a stellar sophomore, but one would argue the exact opposite happened. His scoring dipped by almost 2 PPG, his FG% dropped by seven percent and his 3PT% dropped by a staggering nine percent. The Irish need will need a bounce back season from the senior this season.
Mooney was the only Irish player to garner any type of All-ACC recoginition last season, as he landed on the third team. Mooney led the ACC in rebounding last season at 11.4 RPG and was one of seven major conference players to average a double-double last season. He is ND’s best returning player.
The only departure from last year’s squad is DJ Harvey, a former top 50 recruit. Harvey decided to transfer to Vanderbilt, after underperforming in his two seasons in South Bend.
at North Carolina Tar Heels – November 6, 7 PM ET
- The ACC is moving to a 20-game schedule this season, so there will be two conference games before the New Year. The Irish get thrown to the wolves early with a trip to Chapel Hill.
at Maryland Terrapins – December 4, 7:15 ET
- The Irish drew Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This is an opportunity to pick up a huge non-conference road win, something that could be the difference between making and not making the NCAA Tournament.
vs. UCLA Bruins – December 14, 3 PM ET
- A rivalry is renewed this December, as the Bruins and Irish tangle in South Bend. The Irish lost a tough one out in Westwood last season. Again, another chance at a Power-5 non-conference victory.
vs. Indiana Hoosiers – December 21, 12 PM ET
- The Irish are 4-4 all-time in the Crossroads Classic, but only one of those wins have come against the Hoosiers. Last time these two met, the Irish inexplicably blew a second half lead and fell to IU. The Hoosiers look to be improved in Archie Miller’s third season in Bloomington.
at Syracuse Orange – January 4, 4 PM ET
vs. Louisville Cardinal – January 11, 2 PM ET
at Florida State Seminoles – January 25, 8 PM ET
at Virginia Cavaliers – February 11, 9 PM ET
- The Irish pay a visit to the reigning National Champions in mid-February. The Irish have only beaten the Cavs once since joining the ACC.
at Duke Blue Devils – February 15, 4 PM ET
- The second game in a lethal three-game stretch brings the Irish to Durham to play the Blue Devils.
vs. North Carolina Tar Heels – February 17, 4 PM ET
- This is one heckuva a three-game stretch for the Irish. If ND can come out with one win during this, consider that a success.
vs. Virginia Tech Hokies – March 7, TBA ET
- Rex Pfuelger’s and John Mooney’s last game at Purcell Pavillion.
I think this Notre Dame takes a major step forward this season. They have a nice mix of youth and experience. We know what we’re getting in their veterans, but it will be that group of sophomores that takes the next step and that is what will make this team that much better. The Irish get back to the NCAA Tournament this season.
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