Expect basketball expectations to be high for Notre Dame in 2017-18

IRISH STEW

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Something strange, something not often seen around these parts until deeper into the calendar, will accompany the Notre Dame men’s basketball team into the 2017-18 season.

Expectations.

Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons, and often did so by coming from somewhere in the middle of the college basketball pack. Only once over the previous three years was Notre Dame ranked to start. Coming off a 32-6 finish the previous year, Notre Dame was No. 19 in the first Associated Press poll of 2015-16.

Irish coach Mike Brey prefers not to have everyone talk about his team through November and often December as they figure everything out. That likely won’t be possible when it all gets going seven months from now.

Notre Dame is expected to be good. Really good.

Sneaking up on everyone in the country, and especially in the Atlantic Coast Conference, may not be an option.

Hours after North Carolina beat Gonzaga in Monday’s national championship game, the all-too-early national polls for the 2017-18 started surfacing. Notre Dame, which finished 26-10 and in a three-way tie for second in the ACC at 12-6 this season, opened at No. 22 according to NBCSports.com, No. 18 at ESPN.com, No. 14 at CBS.com and No. 12 at SI.com.

The 2017-18 Irish are expected to return three starters and feature a pair of All-ACC candidates in power forward Bonzie Colson, potentially the conference’s preseason player of the year, and point guard Matt Farrell.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the Associated Press poll to start the season four times over the last 10 seasons. The highest the Irish have been was No. 9 in 2008-09.

The Irish also have been installed by Las Vegas oddsmakers at 80-1 to win their first national championship. Notre Dame is one of nine teams, along with the likes of Cincinnati, Wisconsin and Xavier, to open at 80-1.

Freshman guard T.J. Gibbs is part of a returning core for Notre Dame that will have to deal with expectations from the start of the 2017-18 season. (AP File Photo/BILL WIPPERT)