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Notre Dame Basketball

Three Notre Dame Hoops Thoughts

November 2, 2023

Purcell Pavilion will officially enter into the Micah Shrewsberry era next Monday as Notre Dame opens the 2023-24 campaign against Niagara, but Wednesday night provided a small glimpse of a new style of basketball in South Bend. 

There were several noticeable changes in style of play, which included cutting and moving with intention without the ball on offense. 

But away from the ball, it was Shrewsberry who set a different tone on the court. Shrewsberry was active on the sidelines calling out plays, coaching his guys up and challenging his team. Purcell Pavilion was far from packed for the exhibition against Hanover College, but you could hear Shrewsberry from the press box. 

It’s a change from Mike Brey’s laid-back approach and especially over the last few years where the former Notre Dame coach would quietly sit on the bench and observe. Shrewsberry was involved and coaching his team like it was March. 

Yes, this team definitely needs an involved coach given the inexperience and new faces. Shrewsberry knows it, but that’s his style. It’s far from the in-your-face approach as you see with Eric Musselman, yet it was refreshing for many to see a coach invested in his team. 

There will be growing pains in the coming months, but if there is one takeaway from the exhibition win, it’s that Shrewsberry is going to coach and coach hard.

Notre Dame’s leading scorers on the night were its three freshmen guards. 

Markus Burton: 18 points, 7-of-10 from the field, 1-of-2 from three, 3-of-3 from the line
Braeden Shrewsberry: 14 points, 5-of-10 from the field, 4-of-8 from three
Logan Imes: 14 points, 5-of-6 from the field, 2-for-2 from three and 2-for-2 from the line 

Burton and Shrewsberry started the game, which was a surprise and yet not a surprise given the unknowns of the Irish roster. 

Shrewsberry is a shooter and he can find ways to pull from all areas of the floor. Is he going to consistently beat ACC opponents off the dribble this year? Probably not as his game is more in the mold of a spot-up shooter right now.  There’s confidence in his shot, which is something you didn’t necessarily see from Notre Dame’s veteran group a year ago. Obviously, the season has yet to get started, but Shrewsberry not hesitating to shoot is a positive. 

Imes has a little Dane Goodwin/Cormac Ryan in his game. The Indiana native isn’t going to be confused as the best athlete on the floor, but he showed a crafty and patient game. He got a few easy layups simply because he was patient and didn’t try to force a pass or take a bad shot. Sure, life will be coming at him much quicker in the coming weeks, but the control he plays with stood out.

Burton isn’t the biggest guy. In fact, if you were guessing he was a freshman in high school or college, you’d probably pick high school. Yet, Burton’s game is a big boy game. He attacks relentlessly and isn’t afraid to drive to the rim, which is what Notre Dame’s point guards didn’t do over the last few years. The midrange jumper has somewhat disappeared from the college game and Burton’s is pure. Burton’s aggressive style of play isn’t going anywhere, but it will be interesting to see if he wears down in ACC play as he needs to add another layer of armor muscle next offseason. 

Overall, yes, Notre Dame played a DIII program last night, but you didn’t see a ton of freshmen mistakes. And yes, those freshmen mistakes will come as is a long season and there will be several ups and downs over the next five months. 

The most significant change from taking one game was the movement on both ends of the floor. Notre Dame played defense and there was an effort to do so. The Irish are also much longer so it impacts passing lanes, but also they can challenge shots. When teams drive the lane, Notre Dame has the ability to impact plays at the rim. Now, they only had three blocks, but Hanover College was just 6-for-15 on layup opportunities. Sure, most teams Notre Dame will face this season aren’t going to be as small, but the athleticism and length are two things the Irish program hasn’t had recently. 

On the offensive end, it was about movement and aggressive movement. The days of standing and watching in 4-around-1 sets are long gone. Notre Dame’s players cut and cut hard. The movement without the ball is like watching a different sport compared to Brey’s offense at times. 

Notre Dame scored 50 points in the paint and just 11 came on fastbreaks. That’s very encouraging as the Irish got several easy buckets because of intentional cuts and drives to the bucket. 

It will be interesting to see how forward Kebba Njie develops over the year. Shrewsberry put him in some iso situations, similar to what he did at Penn State with Jalen Pickett. Njie is a different player than Pickett, but there was a clear intention to see what the sophomore big man could do in those situations. It was a mixed bag as Njie drew two quick fouls, but I’m not sure Shrewsberry saw what he wanted in terms of Njie passing out of those isos or being able to completely create his own shot outside of backing a smaller defender down. 

Shrewsberry also showed off a few out-of-bounds sets and plays on Wednesday night, which were drastically missing over the last 3-4 years. 

Overall, it was a good night for Notre Dame basketball as there were positive changes and developments that will be good long-term. 2023-24 will likely have more growing pains than highs, but the effort and willingness to compete was noticeable. The days of guys standing around hoping for someone else to score or get a stop are gone.

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