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ND Basketball: Senior laden roster will serve Irish well

Eric Prister | Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One thing became apparent as the Irish won three games over the weekend to take the trophy at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. — the best player on the team is anyone’s guess. And there is nothing more exciting about this team than that.

Coming into the season, it was clear this senior-dominated Notre Dame squad had the potential to be incredibly diverse, which certainly will be a pleasant change of pace from the Luke Harangody-dominated teams of the past three or four years. The Old Spice Classic affirmed that possibility as a reality.

The Irish are undefeated through seven games, tied for the best start in Mike Brey’s tenure as head coach, and they have done it collectively. No one player has stood out above the rest as the de facto star of the team, and that’s just what Notre Dame needs. While it’s nice to have a dominant player who can be counted on for 25 points per game, it is also relatively easy to game plan against. This Irish squad is far from being easily defended.

That is not to say that particular players haven’t given star performances, only that it has not been the same player every night. Ben Hansbrough led Notre Dame in scoring in each of the first three games and looked to be their go-to guy. But when his hot hand suddenly went cold in Orlando, players like Tim Abromaitis, Carlton Scott and Tyrone Nash picked up the slack. Four Irish players are averaging double digits, which makes them infinitely harder to defend.

Hansbrough was particularly cold in the first round of the Old Spice Classic against Georgia, and Scott Martin looked timid. Because of their diversity, though, Brey was able to give the ball-handling responsibility to Eric Atkins, and Martin sat down the stretch. But when Nash struggled to get into the flow of the game in the championship against Wisconsin, he sat and Martin contributed when the game was on the line.

With so many talented players, Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t stall because of one man’s off-night. If Hansbrough isn’t shooting well, Abromaitis will. If the defense is over-playing the perimeter, Nash can score in the paint. Atkins can handle the ball and slow the pace, or Hansbrough can speed things up and put pressure on defenses.

The most important aspect of this team, though, is not their diversity; it is that they are comfortable utilizing it. Starting five seniors who know how to play together, who know each other’s strengths and weaknesses is invaluable. They know not only how to put themselves in good spots, but how to put each other in those spots as well. And they have fun doing it.

Notre Dame is only seven games in, and hasn’t faced a single Big East opponent, but this team is showing signs of life. They give everything they have on the floor, and that effort is paying off. Fortunately, they are talented too, and those two strengths go a long way in the making of a successful season.

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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu