The Great Eight?

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey employed an eight-man rotation -- by choice -- in Wednesday's overtime win vs. DePaul. Can each of the eight continue to develop through the season's final six games and into tournament play?

A breakdown of the team's newfound (and admittedly, potentially fleeting) eight-man rotation for those that missed Notre Dame's run to a program-record seventh straight 20-win season. Judging by the attendance at Wednesday's DePaul game, that'd be most...

Center Jack Cooley

Doubtless the team's best player over the last two seasons, Cooley has produced eight straight games with 10 or more boards and reached double figures scoring in 23 of 25 this season…He's likewise 26 of 35 from the free throw line during Notre Dame's last six games of which they've won five, while ripping down a remarkable 78 rebounds in that six-game span…

Along with Tom Knight, Cooley's defensive improvement defending and trapping ball screens has helped produce key stops in both of the team's previous outings, both overtime wins…Cooley has hit on 30 of his last 53 field goal attempts and hasn't committed more than two turnovers in any of his last seven outings.

Power Forward Tom Knight

Mired in a bit of a shooting slump of late after hitting 15 of his first 19 shots as a starter over an initial two-game span…The previously seldom-used senior hasn't hit for more than six points in any of his last four outings, missing 21 of 27 field goal attempts -- mostly jump shots -- in the last four games, a rate that must change significantly as the Irish take on ranked road teams and embark on tournament play…

Knight has 44 boards and a team-best 11 blocks in the last six games (all starts), while committing just five turnovers in nearly 180 minutes of game action…Like Cooley, has shown well (literally and figuratively) defending the high ball screen, a previous weakness of Notre Dame's team defense. That coupled with his weak side help at the rim and overall length make him a valuable contributor to an improved defensive effort.

Swingman Pat Connaughton

Has struggled over the last five contests from long range, converting just 3 of 20 three-point attempts though his lone make (in two attempts) during Wednesday's overtime win vs. DePaul was one of the contest's biggest field goals…The sophomore swingman produced one of the best poor shooting games in recent memory in the five overtime win vs. Louisville, ripping down 14 boards in addition to 16 points while adding seven assists and crucial plays on the defensive end over 56 grueling minutes, more than 30 of which he played on a sprained ankle…

Connaughton was nonetheless just 4 for 13 from the field vs. the Cardinals; that on the heels of 0-5, 3-7, and 2-6 shooting efforts in previous games…Has drawn the game's most difficult defensive assignment often, following a team's top shooter in most instances but also being asked to guard 6'11" center Gorgui Deng in the win over Louisville…He's hit 14 of his last 14 free throw attempts but hit for double figures scoring in just four of eight and one of the last five games.

Combo Guard Jerian Grant

The best player in the history of the sport for a 29-second span last weekend, Grant has struggled to maintain a consistently high level of play in this, his second season as a contributor and starter…The team's best creator of offense off the dribble, Grant has 40 pints and 15 assists over his last two outings, key to the combined efforts is 16 free throws (21 attempts) as the junior has focused more on finishing his forays to the bucket rather than always looking to pass as he had earlier this season...

Grant has hit 7 of his last 15 and 14 of his last 30 three-point shot attempts, three of the buckets of spectacular variety to send Notre Dame to overtime vs. Louisville last week….Grant leads the team with 19 turnovers over the last six games, a by-product of his increased half-court efforts off the dribble. Nevertheless, the Irish are 5-1 in that span with Grant dishing out 43 assists and producing 39 free throw attempts.

Point Guard Eric Atkins

Has played 183 of the team's 195 potential game minutes over the last four contests, an unfortunate run that might result in tired legs on the team's two-game road swing this weekend…Atkins has hit on just 20 of his last 58 field goal attempts (the Irish are 4-1 in that span) and his 24 turnovers over the last four outings is uncharacteristically high, though the junior captain does have 20 assists in that span…

The biggest concern for Atkins down the stretch is his regression at the free throw line, just 8 of his last 19. Atkins has also shot 13 three-pointers over the last two games (102 minutes), too high a total for a point guard with sporadic accuracy…

Notre Dame can't win three of its final six if their leader doesn't regain his mid-season form, though a refreshed Atkins at tournament time is far more important than a strong regular season finish.

Swingman Cam Biedscheid

His presence and contribution at present is that of an additional outside shooter but the Irish likely need that label to change to "scorer" if they're to advance past tournament norms of the Big East semi-finals and first round of the NCAA Tournament…The true 6'7" true freshman 53 points over his last five outings, crucial in that he broke out of a six-game slump in which he scored just 19 points on 3 of 23 shooting, including 2 of 21 from beyond the arc…

The team's best free throw shooter, Biedscheid has knocked down 17 of 19 in league play and better the 87 percent for the season…Remains a bit of a defensive liability at present, his 186-pound frame not doing him favors vs. experienced guards and swingmen of the Big East.

Center Garrick Sherman

Attained folk hero status among casual Irish fans thanks to his extra sessions effort vs. Louisville, scoring 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting with 6 rebounds in 22 minutes -- all post-regulation…Sherman had previously played a combined three minutes over the last three games and did not appear in four of six by coach's decision -- a decision made due to Sherman's decided lack of intensity in the paint on either side of the court…

The senior transfer from Michigan State has nevertheless reemerged, playing 36 combined minutes in the last two games and making 10 of 15 shots with 10 rebounds vs. the Cardinals and DePaul…Sherman had played just 42 combined minutes in Notre Dame's last nine games…

Though defensive inefficiencies remain (Sherman isn't exactly Hakeem Olajuwon in his presence), the 6'10" 245-pounder is a highly skilled post player capable of finishing with both hands and can be a valuable asset to the team's often stagnant half court offense going forward.

Power Forward Zach Auguste

The true freshman athlete has played 70 minutes in his last four outings, four more than he played in his first 21 career games combined…Auguste has 24 points on just 19 field goal attempts since joining the rotation, adding 10 rebounds -- a low number considering his minutes played, and alarming in that just two have been from the defensive glass. Should that total not increase, Auguste will cede time to Sherman and Knight in the coming weeks.

The key to maintaining his newfound rotation spot is better court awareness -- he's good for one out-of-control charge (dunk attempt) per game, but is likewise the only Irish big that can finish with two-handed power on one dribble and finish at the rim. Auguste is progressing at the right time; if he stagnates, so too will the Irish, a team that otherwise plays far below the rim and as a result has too many layups negated by athletic, flying defenders.


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