Happy Easter, first of all.
Looking at next season, there are several positives. 4 starters return, four rising sophomores enter the equation, and both the Big East Coach of the Year and Player of the Year will be back.
Projected Starting Lineup-
PG- Tory Jackson
SG- Kyle McAlarney
SF- Tyrone Nash
PF- Zach Hillesland
PF- Luke Harangody
Sixth Man- Ryan Ayers
Question Mark- Carleton Scott
Tory and Kyle return with the same roles. Tory will run the offense while K-Mac looks to shoot three pointers. Jonathan Peoples will again see about 10 minutes a game backing up both guards. Ty Proffitt may get some playing time as another backup, but is currently at the back of the depth chart.
Zach Hillesland played the 3 for most of the season this year, but I am looking for him to take the most responsibility for Rob Kurz's role next season. In Zach's absence, there are plenty of options. Ryan Ayers will certainly get a look. He started the first half of the year and can provide an extra deep threat. However, Notre Dame lacked a good penetrator from the perimeter this year. With a good shooter in McAlarney and an inside threat with Luke Harangody, I see Ayers playing the same sixth man role that he held at the end of the season.
Who will provide that needed athleticism? Tyrone Nash is the first choice, a former three-star recruit from Queens. His 6-8 frame will provide a needed mismatch against three guard lineups with the ability to get to the rim. Redshirt Carleton Scott should be in the mix, but his broken foot will keep him out of summer practice. If he keeps the muscle added during this season, Scott could be ready for serious minutes off the bench at the beginning of the year. Tim Abromaitis has shown athleticism in practice and could be a Zach Hillesland clone. If one of the three is ready to start, the Irish will be in good shape.
Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody returns. He still has plenty of room for improvement and may visit a big man camp in the summer. With some added post moves and a more polished attack, the post will be fine. Zach Hillesland looks to make up for Rob Kurz's departure. He can pass well out of the high post and perimeter and can drive against slower forwards. Time will tell if he can be a post scorer with Harangody on the bench or in foul trouble.
Luke Zeller will also get a look for a starting position on next year's team. He is the obvious choice for a power forward at 6'10", 239. However, he has never shown the ability to be an inside scorer and lacks the physicality to defend the big guys in the Big East. He could be a Pittsnogle type who blossoms in his senior year with limited rebounding and a strong three-point stroke, but will have to improve his defense to deserve the playing time.
Overall, I think we look strong for next season. Most of the top players return and there are a lot of unknown talents entering the rotation. If at least one of them turns out before October, this team could be even better.
Finally, thanks to everyone who read and contributed to the blog over the past several months. It has always been a great experience writing these posts and I look forward for next season.
Special thanks to Bryan, Lucid, Luke, Golden Monkey, Sebastian, Craig, and everyone else who contributed over the course of the year (I'm sure I left out plenty of you, so leave a comment to remind me). Knowing I'll be ripped to shreds for some of my comments is great for keeping this blog fresh.
So I'll be on hiatus until October unless anything comes up before then (a coaching change, surprise recuit, etc). If you have any important news or tidbits to add, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again, and have a great offseason!