Noie: What's missing piece to Notre Dame hoops puzzle?

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Imagine if the NCAA would allow teams buried near the bottom of their respective college basketball conferences some roster relief.

A day, say the first of February, when programs struggling to sustain any semblance of consistent competitiveness could immediately add one player for the rest of the regular season.

As this one enters its final full month, Notre Dame (11-10; 1-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) has myriad holes it might fill in what remains a patchwork rotation/roster. Like adding a healthy senior captain who could offer additional leadership during trying times or someone who can consistently make a perimeter shot. Or a guy who could probe the defense with drives to the basket and kickouts to shooters. Maybe someone who can go get 20 points every night. Or that proverbial glue guy who does a little of everything well but not anything great.

Think Notre Dame could use guys like that and that and that? Of course the NCAA never would allow it, but it’s intriguing to imagine for this group this season. Rather than ask the same guys the same question — when are they going to start making shots — how about this one: If the Irish could add any type of player to the current roster, what would they add?

“That is a bit wacky,” said freshman guard Dane Goodwin. “I’m not really sure. We need a guy that brings a little bit of everything to the table.”

“Nobody,” insisted junior captain T .J. Gibbs. “I think we have a good team now. This is a great squad. We’re going to get it done.”

“To be honest, nothing, man,” said fellow junior captain John Mooney. “We have all the pieces to be a great team, to be special.”

Leave it to coach Mike Brey to put a specific point on the hypothetical question posed earlier this week as Notre Dame stepped out of the deep freeze and back onto the practice courts of Rolfs Hall in advance of Saturday’s rematch at Boston College.

What would you add now if you could?

“We have a little bit of a problem going and getting a bucket off our dribble when we don’t get anything off our movement,” Brey said. “Somebody that can just go and get a shot. That’s been a problem for us.”

Seldom was in the past, even as far back as Brey’s first few seasons when he had Chris Thomas and Chris Quinn and then Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney. Even recently, when he could lean on Jerian Grant, considered during his latter days in South Bend by Brey as the ultimate creator/closer. Or Demetrius Jackson, whose quick feet and explosiveness put defenses on skates. Last year’s starting point guard, Matt Farrell, constantly was probing and getting where he needed to go.

That’s the type of guy these Irish don’t have now. So when? Next year? The following years?

There are two answers to those questions — one that Brey can’t talk about (high school senior Cole Anthony, a top-five prospect still considering Notre Dame) and one that he can.

Brey believes that Goodwin and fellow freshman guard Prentiss Hubb are guys that can grow into guys like Grant and Jackson and Farrell.

“If they want to go ahead and do it like in February,” he said, “that would be OK.”

Both have shown why they were considered key recruits. There have been games where they’ve looked the part. But they’ve also looked like freshmen. That’s understandable. In an otherwise forgettable two-game home swing against No. 3 Virginia and No. 2 Duke, Hubb quietly took a step in that direction. He piggy-backed a seven-point, five assist effort against Virginia with 13 points and four assists two night later against Duke. For a freshman, that’s a pretty solid step against the best teams the Irish will face this season.

“I want him to build on that,” Brey said. “He’s not afraid.”

Goodwin continues to figure out how he best fits. As a starter or reserve? Slasher or spot-up guy? Even this deep into the season, the search continues. Goodwin believes he can be that guy this offense is missing, someone who just can go get something when nothing seems there.

“I’m still working toward that,” he said. “Just having that aggressive mindset that you’re going to get by your guy or you’re going to make that shot. I’ve got to take that next step and find that extra gear.”

Any roster maneuvers will have to wait until the offseason, but the conversations already have taken place in staff meetings. Don’t be surprised if every option — additions, subtractions, staying young, getting older, growing up — will be on the table for a program expected to return all 11 scholarship players with two scholarships to offer current high school seniors, potential transfers or graduate transfers.

One way or another, this roster likely will be different next season. But that’s next season.

Knowing that they can’t add anyone, the Irish understand they’ve got to identify that extra something from someone and do it now if they’re to snap a five-game league losing streak. If they’re going to win a game for the first time in three weeks.

“We’ve got to find where that’s coming from,” Goodwin said. “Soon.”

Notre Dame freshman guard Prentiss Hubb has the skill set to offer the Irish something they currently lack — someone who can go and get a bucket when they really need one.

WHO: Notre Dame (11-10; 1-7 ACC) vs. Boston College (11-8; 2-5).

WHERE: Conte Forum (8,606), Chestnut Hill, Mass.

WHEN: Saturday at 2 p.m.

TV: RSN. The game can be seen locally only on Comcast Channel 101.

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM/96.1 FM).

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI

MEN’S BASKETBALL

NOTING: Guards Ky Bowman and Jordan Chatman each scored 21 points and played 40 minutes in Wednesday’s 77-71 home loss to Syracuse. The Eagles shot 87 percent (20-of-23) from the foul line. … Boston College carries 18 players on its roster with eight averaging at least 15 minutes. … Bowman is one of three ACC players (Duke’s Zion Williamson, Louisville’s Jordan Nwora) in the top five for scoring (20.5) and rebounding (7.7). Bowman has scored double figures in a league-best 28 straight games. … Boston College is 79-148 in its 13 ACC seasons. … Notre Dame leads the all-time series 20-10, including 7-6 at Conte Forum. The Irish have won 12 in a row and 16 of the last 17. They are 11-0 against the Eagles as ACC colleagues. … These teams have been repeat opponents since Notre Dame joined the league for the 2013-14 season. … Boston College last beat Notre Dame on Feb. 4, 2004 in Conte Forum. … The Eagles are 7-5 at home. … John Mooney scored 27 points with 12 rebounds and Prentiss Hubb added 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in a 69-66 victory over the Eagles on Jan. 12. Notre Dame had only six players available for that game. The Irish have since lost five in a row. … Mooney leads the ACC in rebounding (10.8) and double doubles (13). He has seven-straight games of at least 10 points and 10 rebounds.

QUOTING: “I’m very confident in the group we have. Every guy has shown really good, really great flashes. It’s just a matter of putting it all together now.”

• Notre Dame junior power forward John Mooney.