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Notre Dame Basketball

Three Notre Dame Hoops Thoughts

November 7, 2023

Notre Dame is a point guard school. 

Freshman Markus Burton broke the program record for points in a debut with 29 on Monday night, which came just hours after Hannah Hidalgo became the first Notre Dame freshman to eclipse 30 points since at least 1999. 

As it relates to Burton’s performance, the Irish program has lacked players who can create their own shot throughout the years. The list in recent years: Blake Wesley, Prentiss Hubb, JJ Starling and at times Cormac Ryan. 

It’s not a long one, but it’s very clear through just one regular season game that Burton can be added to the list as he scored from three, drove to the rim (and finished!) and also hit his buttery midrange jumper that put the fear of God into Indiana high school basketball opponents. 

If you watch warmups, Burton probably looks closer to a walk-on than someone who can give you 30, but once the ball is tipped, it doesn’t take long to see his fearless style of play. It is fair to question how long Burton can continue to take the beating at the rim as the 5-foot-11, 166-pounder has taken his fair share of hard falls through one exhibition and one regular season game. 

Burton running into Armando Bacot is going to hit differently than Notre Dame’s early-season opponents, so it’s something to watch as the season develops. 

As it relates to the big picture, Micah Shrewsberry knows he has a point guard who can attack downhill and get a shot when needed, but on Monday night, Burton’s offense was one of the few bright spots for the Irish offense. Niagara took away Notre Dame’s motion and cuts, which forced Notre Dame to play iso ball and that doesn’t favor this group. 

Forward Tae Davis was active on the boards, but he made several bad decisions on offense and didn’t show the ability to win on the block or take someone off the dribble. Freshman guard Braeden Shrewsberry is more of a shooter at this point in his career, but his game will develop through the season and over the next 3-4 years. 

Junior guard Julian Roper II is an interesting player as he has the ability to drive, but as of right now, we haven’t necessarily seen him finish consistently. It’s a small sample, so the jury is still out on him, but Roper does provide the ability to settle the team down and that’s important given the youth on the roster. 

Freshman guard Logan Imes has made some crafty moves to the rim, but it’s more of him taking advantage of the defense than him winning one-on-one. That’s not a bad thing, but he’s kind of got Dane Goodwin’s game where he can do a lot of jobs because he’s a well-rounded player, yet he’s not going to blow you away with athleticism or size.

Perhaps the x-factor here is freshman forward Carey Booth, who recorded 10 points and nine rebounds against Niagara. Booth hit one three and used his length and athleticism to get a couple of dunks. It doesn’t appear he is ready to break guys down on the dribble, but Booth did hit a three and he’s a threat moving to the bucket without the ball given his athletic gifts. 

Notre Dame will get a potential boost in Kebba Njie, who missed Monday’s game with a hand injury, but it’s still unknown what impact he will have on the offensive end. In the exhibition, Shrewsberry did try to iso him a few times and the results were a mixed bag. 

Overall, Burton was a high-volume shooter in high school and it appears Shrewsberry is OK letting his freshman go to work. Burton took 20 shots against Niagara and no other Irish player hit double-digits in shot attempts. 

If Notre Dame is one dimensional like they were on Monday, it could cause problems against better teams. Auburn will be Notre Dame’s first test on November 16th as the Tigers have athleticism, size and experience. 

It’s amazing what a little length and size can do for a team. No, Notre Dame didn’t set a record for blocks or steals, but the Irish can push teams off the perimeter similar to what Florida State has done throughout the years, while also simply contesting drives to the rim. The ability to contest a layup or opponent driving to the rim was something Notre Dame didn’t do well over the last five years and this team is going to do that.

Booth and Davis give Notre Dame length on the block the program hasn’t seen in years, while Matt Zona gives them a physical presence and Njie can give both when he returns to the court.

Notre Dame having length and size allows the guards to play more aggressively on the perimeter and take a few more chances as there is help behind them. The emphasis on defense is only going to make this program better long-term as the result might not show this season in the win-loss column. 

It also had to be refreshing for Notre Dame fans to hear Shrewsberry highlight Julian Roper II and Logan Imes as players who were asking to guard Niagara’s best player in the second half. That’s the mentality that has been missing from the program for years, but they also got stops.

Niagara picked on Shrewsberry at times as they put him in conflict off the dribble and took advantage of him recovering from rotations. I would expect teams to try to take advantage of him and Burton until they prove they can get stops. 

Notre Dame relying on Burton driving (and finishing) was due in part to the inability to shoot the three-ball. The Irish finished the night 3-for-17 from downtown and that included four players combining to go 0-for-8. 

In two viewings, Shrewsberry appears to be Notre Dame’s best three-point shooter and he has the green light from the head coach as he wasn’t scared to pull from deep, which led to a couple ill advised attempts. And as a freshman, Shrewsberry is going to have great nights and night’s like Monday as he grows into his game and finds consistency. 

Imes has a nice shot and I think Notre Dame will want him shooting more from deep as the season goes on. Burton isn’t necessarily a three-point shooter now as he took just two on the night. 

Three-point shooting will be important for the Irish as there is still an unknown with Njie and Davis in the post, especially as the competition ramps up. 

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