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November 7, 2012

Brey likes 7-man rotation

Eric Katenda will sit another year as he continues his adjustment following a serious eye injury. Freshman Austin Burgett likely will preserve a year of eligibility as he adds strength. Joey Brooks will save his final season and perhaps play elsewhere in his fifth year. Mike Broghammer’s knees just won’t respond.

What looked like one of the deepest teams in the Mike Brey era has been trimmed back, which, quite frankly, is the way Brey has always preferred it.

“I think we feel pretty good about seven right now,” said Brey Tuesday in anticipation of Saturday’s season/home-opener against Evansville. “The starters are the starters, and Cam (Biedscheid) and Garrick (Sherman) have emerged as key guys.”

Last year’s starters - sixth-year senior Scott Martin, senior Jack Cooley, junior Eric Atkins, red-shirt junior Jerian Grant and sophomore Pat Connaughton - are this year’s starters. No sense messing with success. It was that nucleus that spurred the Irish to nine straight Big East victories and a No. 3 finish in the conference.

After that, red-shirt senior Garrick Sherman and freshman Cameron Biedscheid will be the first ones off the bench. That’s about all Brey is certain of at this time.

“Where we go after that is still to be determined,” Brey said. “If somebody goes down in the seven, (freshman) Zach Auguste has been impressive the last couple days and we have (red-shirt senior) Tom Knight, who at the end of last season gave us good minutes off the bench. Those are the first two guys that come to mind after the seven who have established themselves.”

Brey’s conservative estimate of full-time participants is buoyed by the versatility of those seven players who offer length, athleticism, rebounding prowess, defensive ability, and an improved scoring output.

“When you deal with just those seven, you’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts there,” Brey said. “We can put Garrick Sherman in for Eric Atkins. We can sub a center for a point guard and adjust accordingly with Jerian (Grant) handling the ball and Scott Martin sliding out a little bit. There’s an example of the flexibility that we have, and within those seven, we can play a lot of different ways.”

Brey, never one to focus on bench scoring, has taken a different stance on the issue, particularly after last season when the Irish were frequently offensively challenged. Sherman and Biedscheid have the ability to change that.

“When you look at our nucleus last year, and look at what we averaged scoring - 66 points a game - sometimes I look back at our team stats and say, ‘How the heck did we win 22 games?’” Brey said. “Every game was close, we really guarded, and we controlled tempo. But we weren’t just scorching people and putting 85 on the board.

“So to have two guys who can put the ball in the bucket (off the bench), it takes a little pressure off that (starting) nucleus. You feel one of them at least is going to score every night, and when we get two of them scoring, it really helps. I like that about us.”

Brey, who has always taken heat from Irish faithful for having such a short bench, doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about debunking the rap.

“Those seven play well together,” Brey said. “I can mix and match and we look like we’re supposed to look. Eight is still a tough one for me. Is it Tom? Is it Zach? Is it Austin? And how do we do that? That’s something I’m still trying to figure out.

“I’ll say this, I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep (over) it. I’m going to think more about the seven, and the assistants can think about eight, nine and 10.”

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