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Men’s Basketball: Brey explores different lineups

Mike Monaco | Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Irish head coach Mike Brey laid it out bluntly Sunday afternoon after Notre Dame’s 83-70 loss to Indiana State at Purcell Pavilion, the first home loss in November in Brey’s tenure.

“We played a lot of different guys tonight,” he said. “I think at times we’re still searching for the right combinations, especially on the frontline.”

So, with an admittedly small sample size – three games into the regular season – what can we glean from Brey’s lineup combinations?


More depth, more combinations

This Notre Dame team can and will go 10 deep. All 10 players – senior guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, graduate student forward Tom Knight, graduate student center Garrick Sherman, junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton, freshman guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia, freshman forward V.J. Beachem and sophomore forwards Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett – have logged a total of at least 16 minutes through the first three games. Last season, by comparison, only seven players had compiled as many minutes through the first three games. In two of those contests – against Evansville and St. Joseph’s – Brey only trotted out seven players.

Through the first three games this season, Brey has already used 28 different lineup combinations. Each lineup’s usage varies in total time played, from garbage-time lineups that have played 42 seconds to the starting lineup, which has played 33:23 together. Of the 28 different combinations, five have posted at least seven minutes together, with different degrees of success in terms of overall plus/minus:
Atkins, Connaughton
Grant, Knight, Sherman (33:23; +22)

Atkins, Burgett, Connaughton, Grant, Sherman (15:42; +9)

Auguste, Beachem, Burgett, Jackson, Vasturia (10:41; +9)

Atkins, Burgett, Connaughton, Grant, Knight (8:28; +13)

Atkins, Auguste, Connaughton, Grant, Jackson (7:17; -5)

Taken together, these five lineups account for 62.9 percent of Notre Dame’s total minutes played this year.


Finding the frontline

Brey mentioned the ongoing search for the right mix in the frontcourt, where he can choose from Knight, Sherman, Auguste and Burgett.

“In the midst of a tough loss, I think Austin Burgett gave us great stuff. And we need to keep developing him,” Brey said Sunday. “And I thought Zach Auguste gave us great energy. Those two guys were really good. Our veteran big guys had a tough night, but everybody’s going to get a chance again on Friday [against Santa Clara].”

Looking at those four players, Burgett leads with 63:02 played this season. Sherman has logged 59:02 and Knight and Auguste have played 51:30 and 40:47, respectively. It should be noted that Auguste was limited in the season opener against Miami (Ohio) as he continued to recover from a preseason wrist injury.

So, who has been the most effective, in terms of overall plus/minus, with the usual caveat of small sample sizes?

Burgett leads the entire team with a +29 mark (just ahead of Grant’s +28), while Sherman and Knight follow at +27 and +24, respectively. Auguste checks in at -1.

Burgett leads the frontcourt in playing time and overall plus/minus. That’s not a coincidence, Brey says.

“In every game, you’ve seen me sub him [in] quickly. I think I should have started him in hindsight in the second half; he got in there pretty quick,” Brey said. “He’s a key guy for us. In the midst of a tough day, I want him to feel very good about how he played when I talk to him tomorrow because he gives us something we don’t have. … 

“Austin’s a key because he’s that face-up four man as we’ve talked about in here. … I don’t want him hanging his head too much. I want him to think about starting on Friday night. That’s my objective over the next couple days.”

The Irish square off with Santa Clara on Friday at 9 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]