This will also be the first year of the post-Chris Thomas era. The graduated guard had an up-and-down career with Notre Dame but the Irish must replace his scoring and leadership. The focus for this team is one step and at a time and Brey insists getting back the Big Dance is not on his mind.
"Right now we are a little bit off the radar screen and probably with this specific group that's not a bad thing," Brey said. "We're certainly not getting the preseason publicity we did the past two seasons and not on anybody's radar.
"On thing I've talked to them about is not getting ahead of themselves. We're not going to worry about Bracketology or Selection Sunday. With this team this year, I just want just to get a little bit better every day in practice -- that should be our goal."
Brey selected seniors Chris Quinn and Torin Francis as the captains of this team. These two seniors join Rick Cornett and Chris Murphy as the veteran core of the squad. With Thomas gone, Brey has complete confidence in Quinn being the leader on the floor.
"I don't think anybody lost any sleep in the spring thinking about Chris Quinn handling the ball this season," Brey said. "He's been a natural leader for us and is one of the most underrated players in the Big East and in the country. It's not like we are handing the ball this season to a freshman. I have a great deal of confidence in Chris Quinn."
The other captain, Francis, is coming off a 2004 campaign that saw him average fewer points and rebounds than his career 11.2 PPG and 8.3 RPG totals. Francis tested the NBA Draft waters in the off-season but decided to come back to South Bend for an extra year of maturing. Francis said this group would try to be all about each other.
"We're looking for more of a team identity and putting everything together," Francis said. "Sometimes last year we were inconsistent. You can't do that if you want to be successful. You need to get rid of that and get consistent. You have to be ready to play every game.
"I think I've experienced everything in my career through making it to the tournament and making it to the Sweet 16 and going to the NIT and having an injury and sitting out. I've been through it all. Now, this is my last year along with Chris and Rick. Everyone is ready. We are the only ones who have been to the tournament. I know these guys want to know what it's like."
Quinn and Francis's scoring totals expect to go up with the departure of Thomas. Another player who will have to shine in order for Notre Dame to obtain some success is Colin Falls. The junior sharpshooter averaged 12 points a game in 2004 and was one of the best three point shooters in the Big East. Falls primarily stayed outside the arc and worked in the off-season on taking the ball to the bucket.
"Strength and quickness were the big things I worked on," Falls said. "I got to be able to put the ball on the floor because guys are going to be coming out and flying out at me."
The team is comprised of four seniors, three juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen. One of these freshmen is 6-11 Luke Zeller, who many people remember hit a half court shot at the buzzer to give his Indiana high school team a state championship. Brey admits that Zeller has responded well to the physical nature of the college game.
"He's further along than I thought he would be at this point," Brey said. "He's willing to bang inside with the bigger and more physical bodies. In the preseason practices that we have had we (our coaching staff) have been surprised how he has been able to handle himself inside.
"One thing that stands about Luke is how well he passes the ball. He is a real unselfish player who has a great instinct to get the ball to his teammates."Zeller was one of Brey's prized recruits of the 2005 class. There are a few differences between what he saw in high school and playing pickup games with his new Irish teammates.
"The speed of the game and the physical ness of the game" Zeller said about the new changes. "Getting use to that and playing day in and day out against guys who are that big and that strong and that quick is an adjustment. If you did that everyday, it would make you a better player."
The opening game is set for Sunday, November 20th against Lafayette at home in the Joyce ACC. Big East play starts at the beginning of January after 11 non-conference games.