Originally written on College Chalktalk  |  Last updated 10/30/12
It’s not like Notre Dame has to “Wake Up the Echoes” in Mike Brey’s 13th year with the Fighting Irish.  He returns a veteran squad that features nine juniors and seniors fashioned around the return of five major starters that took the Irish into NCAA play last year. “Let’s compare to two years ago, when we had Ben (Hansbrough) and that group,” he analyzed, “The big difference is that I thought that team, 30 minutes into the first practice, was a finished product, and it was a really good product.  This group, where it’s experienced, I really believe they can improve, and they really believe they can improve.” (Credit: Matt Cashore) Senior Jack Cooley, an actual Luke Harangody understudy, looks like he might be the catalyst from the paint. Though the return of Jerian Grant, Scott Martin, and Eric Atkins is capable of surrounding the three-point line and giving Cooley the perfect complement to help the Fighting Irish make a run at Louisville and Syracuse in the Big East.  That mix has led to those types of expectations in most of the preseason annuals as Brey has adpoted the slogan “Work to Deliver” for the 2012-13 edition.”Work to deliver on those expectations , but those expectations are our expectations,” said Brey, “We’re honored by some of the things people say about us, but we lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, we didn’t get to the Big East championship game, and we didn’t win the Big East regular season title.” With the emergence of size and physicality in the paint though, the Irish steroetype of playing four guards around one big man could readily change to throwing two men in the paint whenever Coach Mike Brey deems it necessary. Cooley led the Irish with 12.5 ppg., 8.9 boards and 52 blocks.  Brey likes the opportunity to put Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman in the middle with Cooley.  Sherman’s 6-10, 246-lb. frame joining Cooley gives Brey the opportunity to put two bigs on the floor and battle fervently from a physical standpoint.  Adding in the 6-10, 258-lb. Tom Knight and 6-10, 230-lb. freshman Zach Auguste also picks up Notre Dame’s versatility across the boards. “I don’t know if we want to be a three around two team, but I like having two big guys in there, and I think our big guys, whoever they are, if will help us with our efficiency because our big guys are good with the ball,” Brey assessed. Sherman thinks that Cooley’s all-around game will help him step up and be an asset right away. “Jack has great hands; he catches everything; he finishes everything,” Sherman explained, “I didn’t realize how skilled he was when I transferred in.  He has helped me learn how important it is to stay focused  and try to improve my game every day. We have had some good battle in practice and it has been a treat to play against him each day.” Not to forget the potential of the Notre Dame guard play, Brey noted that he’s looking for more consistency and confidence from those guards. He said that with their youth, Atkins and Grant played above their age throughout the regular season last year, but played their age in the tournaments as the atmosphere and the urgency of the situations changed. “I think both of them had a little chip on their shoulder to want to get off to a good start because they weren’t happy with the postseason,” Brey noted. Overall, Brey has the luxury of mixing and matching bodies in such a rugged league that will see Syracuse and Pitt as well as possibly Notre Dame slide away to the ACC for more stability next year.  With some improvement in efficiency, the Irish can make a major move this season, going forward. “I think I am always concerned if we can be solid defensively, which we became last year,” Brey explained, “I’m always concerned with our offensive efficiency which has been excellent.” - Ken Cross   Related Posts:Fighting Irish look to continue momentumSo we finally danceGet that stuff outta here: Shot-blockers of the Big EastCronin makes valid point in Big East assessment7 Big East newcomers who will make a difference
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