• Game 1: St. Francis (Pa.) (0-0) @ Notre Dame (0-0)
• Date: Nov. 13, 2015
• Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
• Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN3
• Opponent Nickname: Red Flash
• Head coach: Rob Krimmel
• Conference: Northeast Conference
• Location: Loretto, Pa.
• 2014-15 record: 16-16 (9-9 in NEC)
Notre Dame opens the 16th season under head coach Mike Brey Friday night at Purcell Pavilion when the Irish take on St. Francis (Pa.), a member of the Northeast Conference that finished fifth in the 10-team league in 2014-15.
Most of Notre Dame’s success during its 32-6 season as the Irish won the ACC championship and narrowly missed knocking off No. 1 Kentucky en route to the Final Four revolved around veterans Jerian Grant, a first-round draft choice of the New York Knicks, and Pat Connaughton, a second-round pick by the Portland Trailblazers.
Now it’s up to last year’s supporting cast to take the reins with all three playing starring roles in the tournament runs.
Senior Zach Auguste (12.9 ppg., 6.5) emerged as a force up front during Notre Dame’s ACC championship/NCAA tournament run. Juniors Demetrius Jackson (12.4 ppg., 3.1 apg.) and Steve Vasturia (10.1 ppg.) also played lead roles in the tournament success. Now they must provide the leadership offered by Connaughton and Grant.
NUMBERS FOUR AND FIVE
Moving into the starting lineup – at least as the season opens -- are junior V.J. Beachem (6-8, 200) and sophomore Bonzie Colson (6-5, 226).
Beachem (5.9 ppg.) has the best pure jump shot among returning players. The Irish need him to help compensate for the combined 29 points per game lost with the departure of Grant and Connaughton.
Colson (5.6 ppg., 2.7 rpg.) emerged during ACC regular-season play as a bull around the basket. He must replace the muscle that Connaughton (7.4 rpg.) provided on the backboards.
POINT GUARD COMPLEMENT
Demetrius Jackson is expected to have a dynamic junior season, which likely will lead to a high projection in the NBA draft and the likelihood of the 6-foot-1, 198-pounder, who averaged 12.4 points per game as a sophomore, testing the waters.
Coming on strong to complement Jackson this year and then join forces with incoming freshman Temple (T.J.) Gibbs next season at point guard is sophomore Matt Farrell.
“He’s been much better with the ball,” said Brey of Farrell. “His assist-to-turnover is much better. He turned the ball over too much last year to be the point guard and quarterback.
“He’s made great progress. He’s become more of a lead guard, talking, setting things up, getting guys in position and calling sets. He doesn’t miss many open shots. He’s a shot maker when it’s a good shot.”
BREY ON ST. FRANCIS
“They’ve got really good guards. This is a good matchup for two of the best defensive guards in the country in my two guys – Jackson and Vasturia.
“These are older guys, they’re city guys – one from New York (Malik Harmon) and one from Baltimore (Greg Brown) – and their four-man (Ronnie Drinnon) is a kid that started here as a freshman and banged against Jack Cooley.
“They’re coming off their best season. They won at Rutgers and Duquesne last year. Their program is feeling good about themselves. One of my themes (to the team) is: expect a hard game and embrace a hard game. Let’s see how we react in this setting.”