Notes: Notre Dame set to tweak starting lineup again

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

NEW YORK – Change again is coming to the Notre Dame men’s basketball starting lineup.

Or is it?

Earlier this week, while back on campus following Sunday’s NCAA Tournament selection show, coach Mike Brey hinted that the Irish would open with a different look than the one that took the court the previous week in Washington for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Brey paused when asked just how many different lineup combinations he was pondering. Give him the week, he joked, he’d see if he could mess up his team with so much time between games.

On Thursday at Barclays Center, Brey dodged the question of a possible lineup change for Friday’s first-round game against No. 11 seed Michigan like a tourist lost amongst the traffic patterns of Times Square.

“Not sure,” Brey said when asked about a lineup change. “We’ll make a decision (Thursday night).”

And if a change does indeed come, what would be the reason behind it? To get sophomore power forward Bonzie Colson back in his “junkyard dog” mode, which he brought off the bench for 31 points and 11 rebounds in the mid-January win at Duke? To get another guard on the floor to help starters Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia, each of whom struggled at the ACC Tournament?

“Just to change it up,” Brey said. “Next question.”

In other words, Brey’s likely planning to throw a possible curve with a new-look starting lineup, but he’s not ready to deliver it.

He could start freshman Matt Ryan, a New York native. He could start fellow freshman Rex Pflueger. Or he might pick Door No. 3 and give sophomore Matt Farrell, who spent a good deal of time early in the Thursday open practice in a white (starter’s) jersey, his first career start.

“I’m just going to go out there and play game, do what I always do, don’t think about anything else,” said Farrell, a native of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. “We’ve just got to play our basketball.”

The Irish have fielded four different starting lineups this season.

Dream scene

Having watched the NCAA Tournament on television for as long as he could remember, Pflueger has one memory of one game and one moment that stands out above all others.

Pflueger really came to understand what the madness of March and the tournament means in 2010, when Butler came within a Gordon Hayward halfcourt shot at the buzzer of upsetting Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Every kid in America tried that shot thinking, ‘I would have hit that,’ ” Pflueger said. “Just the thrill of him almost hitting that, that’s the most excitement I’ve ever felt just watching a game.

“To be a part of this, it’s honestly a dream.”

Tune time

The tournament officially started just after noon Thursday with Basketball Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley crooning his version of “One Shining Moment” — the song that annually closes the curtain on it — before the day’s first game between Duke and North Carolina Wilmington.

The video featured three Irish — Zach Auguste, V.J. Beachem, Colson — and Brey each singing a line to the song. The four taped the segment during last week’s ACC Tournament. A producer for CBS gave the line to each of the players, then asked them to sing it back to her.

So who did it best?

“I’m the best singer,” Beachem said. “They’re just my backup artists.”

That was news to Colson.

“I’m the best singer, hands down,” Colson said. “It was fun to do. I knew the chorus, then had the lady sing a couple verses for me so I know. It was two solid takes.”

Barclays bits

• Michigan’s 737 charter flight didn’t land in the New York metropolitan area until 2:48 a.m., Thursday following its win Wednesday over Tulsa in Dayton, Ohio. That game ended at 11:20 p.m., Eastern time.

• The Wolverines didn’t check into their hotel rooms until 4 a.m., then had a noon wake-up call Thursday. They also had the latest practice/media availability times of the eight teams in this sub-regional.

• Michigan’s only two seniors — guards Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert — each saw their collegiate careers end early because of injury. Albrecht retired in mid-December with a hip injury. LeVert was ruled out for the rest of the season in early March with what was described only as a “lower left leg” injury.

• Sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins played for the same New Hampshire prep school (New Hampton) as Auguste. Dawkins is the son of former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins.

• No Wolverine finished the regular season ranked among the top 25 scorers or top 20 rebounders in the Big Ten.

• Michigan ranked 13th — second to last — in the league for rebounding offense (32.0) and blocked shots (2.2).

• Michigan and Notre Dame shared five common opponents this season — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina State and Youngstown State. Both teams won their lone games against Illinois, North Carolina State and Youngstown State. Michigan went 1-1 against Indiana and 0-2 against Iowa. Notre Dame lost to Indiana and beat Iowa.

• Notre Dame is in the NCAA Tournament’s East Region for the first time since 2008, when it beat George Mason and lost to Washington State in Denver.

• The first two years the Irish participated in the NCAA Tournament — 1953 and 1954 — they did so in the East Region with first-round games in Fort Wayne, Ind.

• This is the fourth time in the last five NCAA appearances that Notre Dame opens tournament play on a Friday. The only time that didn’t happen was last year, when the Irish played one of the first games on Thursday in beating Northeastern in Pittsburgh.

• Notre Dame is the last of the seven ACC schools that earned NCAA bids to play its first-round game.

• The Irish are 1-3 as a No. 6 seed in NCAA tournament play under Brey. The win was in Notre Dame’s first tournament trip in 11 years — 2001 —over Xavier.

• Tickets on StubHub to Friday’s second session at Barclays Center, which includes the Notre Dame game, could be had late Thursday from anywhere between $145 and $975 per ticket.

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Twitter: @tnoieNDI