Player Previews: X-Factors

Irisheyes.com concludes its trio of personnel previews for the Big East Tournament with a look at the strengths, weaknesses, and performances this season of swingmen Pat Connaughton and Alex Dragicevich, one of whom must play well each night for the Irish to advance in both the Big East and NCAA Tournament.

Click here for a review of the Irish back court tandem of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, and here for a look at center Jack Cooley and forward Scott Martin as the Irish prepare for action in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals tonight against South Florida.

Tip-off is after 9 PM (ET) on ESPN.

Freshman Guard/Forward Pat Connaughton

Hasn't scored in double digits since hitting for 21 points (on 7 three-point baskets) in a February 18 comeback win at Villanova…Scored 0, 7, 6, and 2, respectively, against West Virginia, St. John's, Georgetown, and Providence, a quartet of games that included two Irish defeats…Tied his career-high with 11 rebounds in loss to the Hoyas…Scored 23 points with 11 boards in a home blowout of #2 seed Marquette in early February, hitting 9 of 12 shots in the process…Is just 1 for 13 from long range since the aforementioned Villanova explosion…Hit 35 percent of his three-point attempts in his first season.

At his best: Crashing the weak side defensive glass and corralling rebounds no other Irish player – sans maybe center Jack Cooley – can reach…Aggressive board work opens up his offensive game as well and the true freshman has found a home on the baseline as a long range threat…A tremendous vertical athlete that needs to rediscover his love for mixing it up on, and en route to the bucket…Will be a better one-on-one defender in the future but is a fine help-side defender as a freshman.

Can struggle when… He roams 20-feet, 9-inches from the bucket…Connaughton has tremendous lift on his jump shot, but Big East athletes can contest his release as a stationary player. With his quickness and leaping ability, Connaughton can finish at the rim and with aggression; he chooses not to far too often after showing a fearless nature earlier in the season. In short – he's fallen in love with the arc…Hasn't shot a free throw in seven of his last eight games and attempted two or fewer in all 18 Big East contests, failing to make a trip to the line in 14 league games.

Sophomore Forward/Guard Alex Dragicevich

Started and ended the conference season with a bang, scoring a career-high 22 points in an upset win vs. Pittsburgh for Notre Dame's first league win and later added 12 despite just five field goal attempts vs. Providence; did not score in double figures the remain 16 league games…Added five boards vs. the Friars on Senior Night...Hit 10 of his last 12 free throws to conclude the season.

At his best: When he plays extended minutes: Drago played more than 20 minutes in 12 of 18 league contests and shot just over 40 percent in those games; shot just 26 percent in the remaining six games, each of which he played fewer than 20 minutes…Drilled a wing three to help subdue a Providence comeback bid in the regular season finale…Hit three straight 3s to open the game vs. Indiana in mid-December but didn't score again in nine-point Irish defeat…Better zone defender than in man-to-man situations and his height/length (6'8") as a second guard helps the Irish rebound from the top of their 2-3 zone…Helps facilitate the half-court offense and is better off the ball than with it, allowing him to play simultaneously and to compliment guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant…Shoots well from both wings and rarely takes a bad shot…Not a strong finisher at the rim but tends to get open layups thanks to his movement without the ball.

Can struggle when… Matched vs. a quicker athlete defensively…Dragicevich's feet aren't yet Big East worthy on the defensive end, a reality that affects his performance on both sides of the court…Considered a shooter, but he's yet to consistently show he can knock down the open, or big shot vs. elite competition, though he does seem more confident pulling the trigger on kick out passes than he did at the conference season's outset…Miscast as a backup point guard in non-conference play…Hit just 10 of 45 field goal attempts in nine Big East road games.


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