ND sports roundup: Irish hoops, Lambeau Field in doubt, Justyn Ross out, football recruiting
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, June 8, 2020
Men’s basketball news and notes
Notre Dame head men’s basketball coach Mike Brey communicated with Tom Noie of ND Insider and the South Bend Tribune to discuss scheduling for the upcoming season. Firstly, according to Noie, Notre Dame will not make a return trip to Washington D.C. this season to take on Howard.
The Irish won the 2019 meeting as former Irish player and video coordinator Eric Atkins made his return to South Bend as an assistant with the Bison. The teams have made a deal for another contest in South Bend this season with a trip to the nation’s capital — a historic recruiting bed for Notre Dame as part of the “D.C. Pipeline” — in the 2021-22 season so they can play in front of a full crowd.
The Irish do still plan to play against Kentucky at Rupp Arena next season and compete in the Crossroads Classic against Purdue as well as the annual ACC/Big Ten challenge, though the announcement of the latter’s matchups have been delayed indefinitely due to COVID-19 concerns.
Although the situation is fluid and athletes may be able to return to Notre Dame’s campus in July, Brey also does not plan on holding an official preseason practice for the upcoming season until Aug. 11 after the fall semester begins.
Notre Dame vs Wisconsin at Lambeau possibly in doubt
As Notre Dame and Navy have made the announcement that their annual football contest will be moved from Dublin, Ireland, to Annapolis, Maryland, rumors are swirling that the Oct. 3 date between the Irish and Wisconsin will be moved to Notre Dame stadium.
Part of the Shamrock Series — wherein the Irish play a neutral site contest every other year at an exotic location — the matchup is to take place at Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Past contests in the Shamrock Series have included a 36-3 win over Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in New York in 2018, and a 44-6 win over Army at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The Shamrock Series is technically a Notre Dame home game they opt out of every other year, so should the teams still agree to play in the upcoming season, it would likely be moved to Notre Dame Stadium. The 2021 rematch, slated to take place at Soldier Field in Chicago, would then be played at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.
However, Wisconsin officials have denied that discussions over changing the venue have been taking place, and it is still scheduled for Green Bay. Even so, that was before the announcement of Notre Dame and Navy moving to Annapolis, so the question is still up in the air.
Relevant college football news: Justyn Ross out and Alabama/Auburn players sick
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross is expected to miss the entirety of the 2020 college football season. Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said the junior-to-be must undergo surgery on his spine to deal with a lifelong congenital fusion as well as a bulging disk. His playing career may also be in doubt due to this issue.
Ross led the Tigers in receptions in 2019 with 66 and was second in receiving yards and touchdowns to Tee Higgins — the first pick of the second round of this year’s NFL Draft — with 865 and eight, respectively. As a freshman, he recorded 46 receptions for 1,000 yards and nine scores.
Clemson and Notre Dame are scheduled to face each other on Nov. 7 in a rematch of the 2018 Cotton Bowl. In that contest, Ross led the Tigers and gashed Notre Dame’s defense for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-3 drubbing.
Ross would have been Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s most proven receiver through the air next season. With the departure of Higgins and fellow receiver Diondre Overton, Clemson’s leading returning pass catchers are seniors-to-be Travis Etienne and Amari Rodgers at running back and receiver, respectively.
In other news, five University of Alabama and three Auburn University football players have been diagnosed with COVID-19. How this news will affect the approach the NCAA, conferences or other teams take in returning to summer operations is yet to be seen.
Steve Vasturia and Martinas Geben reunite in Lithuania
Former Irish guard Steve Vasturia has signed with the Kaunas, Lithuania team BC Žalgiris of the EuroLeague. Vasturia made an immediate impact after joining the Irish in 2013, playing in 27 games and starting 12 while averaging 5.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
A model of consistency, he started every one of Notre Dame’s games his final three years and shot 85.3% from the free throw line and 36.5% from three for his career. He also improved his scoring output every season and averaged double figures in all but his first year.
He will now join former Notre Dame teammate and Lithuania native Martinas Geben. Geben and Vasturia played together for three seasons in South Bend, winning an ACC Tournament championship in 2015 and making two consecutive Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016.
Geben was a modest contributor his first three years at Notre Dame before exploding his production and being a stabilizing presence as a senior. He posted 11.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in his final year and appeared in every contest in 2017-18 as the Irish were decimated by injuries to forward Bonzie Colson and guards Matt Farrell and D.J. Harvey.
Irish football recruiting news
Notre Dame has signed 2021 cornerback Ryan “Bo” Barnes — a 6-foot-2, 180-pound product out of Gaithersburg, MD. The three-star recruit and No. 34 cornerback in the class per 247Sports.com made his announcement via Twitter and now makes for the second commit newly-minted cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens has locked down for 2021, joining four-star Philip Riley of Valrico, FL.
Also of note on the recruiting trail, rumors have swirled that Texas defensive end David Abiara may leave Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class after committing just over two months ago on Mar. 27. The Irish already lost four-star recruit Deion Colzie, 247Sports‘ No. 3-ranked wide receiver in the 2021 class on Mar. 20.
Abiara, a four-star composite player and the 22nd-ranked strongside defensive end per 247Sports, committed to the Irish without being able to take an official visit to Notre Dame’s campus. Notre Dame’s recent struggles on the recruiting trail have been partly attributed to their inability to bring recruits on campus because of COVID-19.
Losing Abiara would be yet another blow to a Notre Dame recruiting class feeling the loss of recruiting coordinator Chip Long, who brought in the No. 10, No. 16 and No. 17 recruiting classes nationally from 2018-2020, respectively. Oddly enough, however, the Irish still made Colzie’s newly released top-10 schools since reopening his commitment.
All this said, several players have been in the same boat and committed to schools without taking official visits. As such, a rash of decommitments nationally would not be unexpected as players may want to reopen their recruitments when schools once more allow visits.
Additionally, the Irish made the final five for Michigan four-star recruit Rocco Spindler — the No. 3-ranked offensive guard nationally per 247Sports.