With the 06-07 season now in the rearview mirror, how will the team perform next season? Obviously seniors Carter and Falls will be missed. However, with four starters returning (including Kyle McAlarney) and three others with starting experience (Zeller, Ayers, and Hillesland) there is plenty of experience left on the Irish team. As it stands, here is how the lineup should turn out.
PG- Kyle McAlarney
SG- Tory Jackson
SF- Zach Hillesland
PF- Luke Harangody
PF- Rob Kurz
Key Reserves- Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller
K-Mac returns to find his job in serious jeopardy. Tory Jackson impressed in Big East play and makes a good argument for the starting PG spot. However, the team loses two shooting guards in Falls and Carter, leaving an opportunity to play both Jackson and McAlarney together in the backcourt. Jonathan Peoples will fill the backup point guard role again next year. However, he will struggle to find playing time as both Mac and Jackson can play 40 minutes. The last guard listed on the current Irish roster is Joe Harden. The infrequently used sub is known more for his curvy hair and surfer dude looks than his jump shot. However, Sunshine poses a great matchup threat at 6-7 and can play small forward. Look for him to make great strides next season.
The lone backcourt recuit for the Irish is Kentucky point guard Ty Proffitt. A two-star recruit on Scout.com, Proffitt received some interest from Tubby Smith. However, the prevailing theory regarding Proffitt's recruiting is that the London, KY native was not expected to be an integral part of the Wildcat team. Expect Proffitt to see very little action off the bench next season (a la Peoples pre-McAlarney suspension).
The small forward position is very open in the Mike Brey scheme. Zach Hillesland may have the inside track as a tall athletic forward, but Ryan Ayers should also challenge as a good three-point shooter. For now, Hillesland gets the final starting spot following a great season off the bench. Ayers can play 2 or 3 with a sweet stroke and great wingspan. He also doubles as one of the best post defenders on the team. Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody have locked up both post positions. There is very little difference between the 4 and 5, as neither is taller than 6'9". Luke Zeller is the only true center on the roster at almost seven feet, but lacks the strength to play the post. He will be needed to give the starters rest and help if either gets in foul trouble.
Notre Dame recruited 3 forwards for next year's freshman class. Unfortunately, none is taller than 6'8". The star of the class is Tyrone Nash. Either a small forward or power forward, Notre Dame beat out 5 Big East teams plus IU and Kentucky to get him. When he signed his LOI, Nash said "The books and the ball, that's what it was all about for me." Good for him. He won't be needed as much as Harangody was this year, but anything will help. Next is 3 star recruit Carlton Scott. He is smallish at 200 pounds, but has great athleticism and a solid perimeter shot. Tim Abromaitis rounds out the freshman class. A very intelligent small forward, Abromaitis was pursued by Penn, Princeton, and Yale. He can also play some ball, averaging 26 points and 10 boards as junior.
Mike Brey secured his job for another season or two with a great year. Winning the Big East Coach of the Year award, Brey performed far above expectations. However, the Winthrop loss leaves some to be desired. Assistant Gene Cross will be in a lot of head coaching job searches this summer. I would hate tosee him go. Cross was always the first guy off the bench and had a lot to do with keeping emotional players like Carter and Jackson in check. If Coach Cross does leave for a much deserved head coaching slot, a name that will pop up is Tommy Amaker. A fellow assistant with Mike Brey at Duke, Amaker was fired after a disappointing tenure at Michigan. We will end up at another school soon, but to use his defensive knowledge for a year would be very beneficial.
That's it. Should be interesting to see how the team plays next season. The Paradise Jam will be an early test next season. We could very well end up facing a rematch with Winthrop.
Thanks to everyone for reading this blog. I hope you enjoyed it. It was a blast writing for you all. There will be a few updates on the NCAA Tournament the next two weekends, but for the most part today begins the offseason. If anything big pops up before the start of practice, I will comment on it. Other than that, enjoy the hockey and baseball seasons. Until next time, goodbye.
-Black and Green