Anytime a team loses its' best player mid season, it's a lot to ask to keep pace.
Add to the fact it's your first season in a new and powerful conference, and it is doubly obstructive.
Last season when Mike Brey's squad lost Jerian Grant after 12 games to academic issues, it sealed their fate and they struggled to a 15-17 (6-12 ACC) finish.
This year, Grant is back. The Irish hope his return and the emergence of another potential star, will lead them up the ladder in the ACC and perhaps secure a postseason berth.
The 6'5 Grant was averaging 19 ppg before being forced to sit last season. He can light it up on any given night. Demetrius Jackson is a very talented PG, who also missed some time last year due to suspension. The hope for Notre Dame is that he combines with Grant to give ND one of the better back courts in the conference. Pat Connaughton is a 6'5 G/F with a nice shooting stroke and a versatile all-around game. He should be a nice compliment to the explosive back court on the wing. Steve Vasturia is another good shooter that the Irish can bring off the bench, and Bonzie Colson is a freshman wing who could also see some burn. The front court, however, has far less appeal. The very productive Garrick Sherman is gone. 6'10 Zach Auguste will try to fill the void. 6'9 frosh Martin Geben will see plenty of action as well. Look for a lot of four guard looks from the Irish this season.
G Jerian Grant - 6'5 202 Sr.
G/F Pat Connaughton - 6'5 214 Sr.
G Demetrius Jackson - 6'1 195 So.
F Zach Auguste - 6'10 242 Jr.
What to Expect in 2014-15:
Notre Dame should be very strong in the ball handling and shooting categories. Grant could emerge an an All Conference type performer as well. They will better than last year on the strength of his presence alone. But down low they might get man handled by the bigger teams in the conference. Auguste's production will be a key factor all season.
How they match-up with the 'Canes:
When Miami and Notre Dame match-up you could see as many as 8 guards on the floor for lengthy stretches. Sheldon McClellan and Grant should be a real nice individual battle. Whichever team makes more shots and gets the most of their "trash men" will probably come out on top when they meet on 1/17.
Stay tuned for more ACC Team previews as we count down to Tip Off