Notre Dame is expected to begin next season ranked among the country’s top teams.
The Irish are 18th in ESPN’s “way too early” 2017-18 preseason basketball rankings released Tuesday, one day after the end of the 2016-17 season.
“First things first: The Fighting Irish are losing two key seniors, Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem, both of whom stretched the floor and slashed to the rim and key reasons why Notre Dame’s four-out offense worked so well all season. Thing is? Notre Dame always loses key seniors. Two years ago, it was Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton; last year, it was Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson. Mike Brey keeps putting really good teams on the floor. Most important, Bonzie Colson — a revelation as a 6-foot-5, long-armed, small-ball ‘center’ who does a quality poor man's Draymond Green impression — was only a junior. He’ll be back, and any offense built around him — and engineered by Brey — is bound to put points on the board.”
Brey said Colson might enter his name in the NBA Draft without hiring an agent, the same thing Beachem did last year. The odds are heavily in favor of Colson — an ACC first-teamer who finished third in the Player of the Year voting — returning for one more season in South Bend.
The writeup by ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan does not mention returning senior point guard Matt Farrell, who was a revelation this past season. Farrell will run the show, surrounded by Colson, junior guard Rex Pflueger and sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs.
Defending national champion North Carolina is No. 2. Louisville is No. 3, followed by Duke at No. 7, Virginia at No. 14 and Miami at No. 21. The ACC should again be the country’s best basketball conference.
Early national title odds for next season have Notre Dame at 80/1 to win it all.
Sports Illustrated is more bullish on the Irish, picking them 12th in its “way too early” poll.
“Bonzie Colson could be the ACC’s preseason player of the year, and tough-as-nails point guard Matt Farrell will be back for his senior season,” writes SI’s Seth Davis. “Mike Brey expects incoming guard D.J. Harvey, a DeMatha grad, to play heavy minutes.”
USA Today and CBS Sports have the Irish 14th.
USA Today: “Odds are Charles Barkley clone Bonzie Colson returns to South Bend for one more season and he’ll be a national player of the year candidate if he doesn’t go to the NBA. He averaged 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds a game last season. Also returning is point guard Matt Farrell (14.1 ppg, 5.4 apg), who coach Mike Brey said is better than Bobby Hurley. Those two will make the Irish dangerous.”
CBS Sports: “Mike Brey has built Notre Dame into a consistent winner. So the losses of V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia will hurt. But Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson comprise one of the top returning inside-outside duos in the country.”
Yahoo Sports slots Notre Dame 18th entering next season.
“The Irish won’t have too much depth, but Mike Brey has favored a short rotation in recent years anyway. With Farrell and Colson (likely) back and Gibbs hopefully evolving into a 25-minute-per-game player or something more, the core is strong. Also at Brey’s disposal will be Harvey, Notre Dame’s highest-rated recruit since Demetrius Jackson.”
FOX Sports is one of the only major publications to not have Brey’s team ranked right now.