It's October, which means basketball season, which means an NDI hoops chat

Tom Noie
ND Insider
South Bend Tribune sports columnist and Notre Dame Insider men's basketball beat writer Tom Noie during a promotional photo shoot at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA

Thomas Noie: The leaves are falling. So are the temperatures. Brrrr....You know what that means - it's officially college basketball season. Won't be long now until Notre Dame is on the court and (hopefully) headed back on the road toward the NCAA tournament. Basketball season means the NDI hoops chat is back. To leave a question or comment, also include your name and hometown. You know the rest - let's light this hoops chat candle! 

Mike: Tom, any truth that Elmarko Jackson had an official visit this past weekend? On the big side, will that be a transfer  or is Brey looking at a few high school players? Tom Noie: Mike: Yes, guard Elmarko Jackson (consensus Top 25 prospect) did make an official visit to Notre Dame last weekend. He will announce his college choice Thursday night. His five finalists are Kansas, Notre Dame, Texas, Villanova and Miami (Fla.). It's hard to get a good read on where Notre Dame stands. Usually, those close to Notre Dame know whether it has a good chance at a prospect - yep, he's coming or nope, the Irish aren't in the mix. Not many around Notre Dame - who should know - know. Word is Jackson's been really quiet about his decision. Thomas Noie: Notre Dame has commitments from three guards for the Class of 2023 - Markus Burton, Brady Dunlap and Parker Friedrichsen. Notre Dame still has at least two spots for potential recruits if needed. It needs a big, maybe two, but likely will look for those in the transfer portal in the spring and in the Class of 2024. 

Mike in DC: So… who’s going to rebound? Thomas Noie: Mike: How about everybody? Notre Dame lost three rotation players from last season in Paul Atkinson, Prentiss Hubb and Blake Wesley. They combined to average 13.8 rebounds, with Atkinson the team leader at 6.9. So Notre Dame needs to replace 14 rebounds a game off last year's team that finished 24-11 overall, 15-5 in the Big East. How do Irish do that? Easiest way to divide that up is to say to the seven main rotation guys, OK, I need two additional rebounds per game from each of you. That includes freshmen J.J. Starling, who should get two rebounds a game, and Ven-Allen Lubin, who should average double that as the second starting big. Rebounding only will be an issue if the Irish allow it. They can't look at just Laszewski and Lubin - and maybe Matt Zona - in the post and say, here, you guys handle that heavy lifting. Notre Dame wants to get out and go this season. The only way that happens if they collectively gang rebound. Forwards. Guards. Starters. Reserves. Want to get out and go? Then go get the ball. 

Guest: Since they're going to have to play smaller more often this year - should we expect a faster tempo to go with that? Thomas Noie: Absolutely. I don't know if they HAVE to play small with Ven-Allen Lubin ready to contribute as the second big. They can play two bigs, but they may WANT to play small. Their best lineup might just be four guards around one big to spread teams out, move it, shoot it, score it. They can play with a better tempo with guys like J.J. Starling and Marcus Hammond in the mix because they can do what Prentiss Hubb couldn't - get into the lane to finish or kick to open guy. They're going to be fun to watch on the offensive end, but know that they can't stray too far from the defense that was much improved last season. 

Robb, Colorado: Tom,  Coach Brey typically doesn’t go with a deep bench but it seems that this years team could actually change that. Can you foresee 8 or even 9 guys getting some regular run? Thomas Noie: Robb: Nope, nope, nope. We do this dance every season - whoa, look how potentially deep these Irish are. They might go eight or nine or even 10 deep. That's just not who Mike Brey is. Now, they may have eight or nine guys who are capable of rotation minutes. That's true. Right now, there's a core seven with the eighth and ninth guys being J.R. Konieczny and Matt Zona. Sometimes, it's Zona and Konieczny. Thomas Noie: Brey is a big believer that the bigger the rotation, the bigger the headaches in keeping everyone engaged. This will be a seven-man rotation. If Konieczny and Zona prove worthy of minutes, that will be a good problem to have. It will keep the core seven from getting complacent. 

Mike, New Jersey: Tom, the roster is talented and experienced across the board outside of the center position, Is Ven-Allen Lubin's development as a big the key to taking this team to its max potential this year?  How good can he be right out of the gates to start the season? Thomas Noie: Mike: Ven-Allen Lubin is an important piece and needs to be from the jump. If the staff didn't believe he was ready to do what he needs to do, they'd have gone and gotten a veteran in the transfer portal. They believe Lubin can hold his own and grow his game as the season develops. He'll figure it out. As long as he's a piece - a really key piece - this team can get to where it needs to get to. He's going to get minutes. He's going to get opportunities. Let's see what he does with it. But the key for this team to max out its potential rests squarely with the Big Three - Cormac Ryan, Dane Goodwin, Nate Laszewski. They all came back to do more in the NCAA tournament. They have a road map now after last season. They have to drive this team and bring Lubin and fellow freshman J.J. Starling along the way they brought Blake Wesley along last season. The freshmen are talented and needed. The older guys need to be secure in themselves to accept/embrace that. If Notre Dame can mesh old with young, watch out. 

Christian, Chicago IL: Tom, what are your thoughts on the 2023 recruiting class signees thus far? The individual rankings are not overly impressive with no players in the Top 100. After signing Wesley and Starling in consecutive classes this seems like a let down… Thomas Noie: Christian: Understood, but Notre Dame never has been a program that has lived and breathed and survived in recruiting with Top 100 prospects. The Irish will get a few now and then, but the key is to get the right ones. It certainly looks that way with Starling. He's such a gifted guy who knows how to play. More advanced at this point than Wesley, who was an absolute unknown coming out of high school. He was known locally, but a mystery nationally who developed into a first-round pick. That's been this program - get developmental guys who can grow their game to the point where the NBA isn't a dream. Burton and Friedrichsen and Dunlap will be nice pieces. I'd have liked to have seen at least one Top 100 big say, yeah, I'm choosing Notre Dame. Xavier Booker was thought to be that guy, but then, he wasn't. It's a solid class - on paper - with a chance to be really good. The transfer portal has changed everything. How do you find that balance? Recruit only out of the portal? Recruit traditional high school kids? 

Steve Duff: Eternal optimist Irish hoops fan here Tom. With the mix of the freshmen (particularly JJ) and old guys - this team looks solid other than maybe not having a true big. On paper they look like a Sweet 16+ team, but we’ve been disappointed by talented on paper teams before. What are your thoughts on how far this team can go? Also what does the chemistry between the freshmen and old guys look like early on? Thanks and keep doing your thing! Thomas Noie: Steve: Baseline, at the very least, this has the makings of a second NCAA tournament weekend team. It's why Goodwin and Ryan and Laszewski came back. Yeah, that Master's degree is nice, but they got a taste of the NCAA tournament last season and want more. Want to do more. Want to win more. To do that. they know having won last season with Blake Wesley as a main guy that they're going to need J.J. Starling and Ven-Allen Lubin. Need them a lot. They're that talented and that ready. But they also know  that at its core, this program is a senior-led program. Let the experienced guys show the way, but also let the young guys do what they do. It worked last year. It should work this year. 

Will K: Hi Tom, first time long time. With Brey’s tendency to start an “older group”, how long with it take Ven Allen-Lubin to crack into the starting 5? Assuming Zona will get the first shot at being the starting big, but I’ve heard promising things Re Lubin. Thanks! Thomas Noie: Will: Where you been all these years? Good to have you aboard? How long will it take Ven-ALlen Lubin to crack the starting lineup? Don't know. I stopped keeping time, mainly because it's already happened. Maybe sometime in July or early August. But if Notre Dame played tonight, Lubin would be in the starting lineup. If the Irish decide to open four-around-one, Lubin's the first big off the bench.  But he's as main of a guy as J.J. Starling. Both are playing, and playing a lot. Soon. Like, now...😀 

Will K: Another Q for you Tom: what’s the ceiling for this team? Top contributors (minus Blake) back from a team that won two tourney games and adding Starling, Lubin, and Hammond — second weekend potential? Thomas Noie: Will: Keep 'em coming. Second weekend of the NCAA tournament at the least. It's the logical next step. This team knows how to get there. It knows how to win there. Now get back there and go further. It's so difficult to project anything beyond the Sweet 16. How does the bracket shake out? Are there upsets? Injuries? What's the rhythm of the tournament? That all takes care of itself as the tournament unfolds, but there's no reason for this group not to believe - and then go show it - that they're among the top 16 (and maybe beyond) in the country. They have age and experience and talented young guys and a group that believes this is their time. OK, go show us. 

Alan from Whiteland, Indiana: Tom, Coach Brey has traditionally went with a very short player rotation, usually 7 or 8. With the experience Notre Dame is bringing back, plus the addition of some impact freshman, do you anticipate the rotation growing by one or two? Thank you for answering my question. Thomas Noie: Alan: Thanks for the note. Notre Dame may have as many as nine guys challenging for minutes. The core seven of Cormac Ryan, Dane Goodwin, Nate Laszewski, Marcus Hammond, Trey Wertz, J.J. Starling and Ven-Allen Lubin and fringe rotation guys Matt Zona and J.R. Konieczny. So nine guys who COULD play, but really, seven who will. There might be times when it's a Matt Zona night or a J.R. Konieczny half, but for the most part, it will be that core seven. 

Alan from Whiteland, Indiana: Tom, Notre Dame’s best basketball teams have usually been very good defensively. In your opinion, how does this year‘s team stack up defensively and where do you see any shortcomings in that area? Thank you for answering my question. Thomas Noie: Alan: Not so sure about "very good" defensively. Adequate maybe. Notre Dame was way, way better on that end last season, and it translated into an NCAA tournament trip. That defensive bar has been raised. This group has to match that, and maybe a little more. That Nate Laszewski is back is big. He kind of quarterbacks everything on the defensive end back there. Ryan too. Starling and Lubin are athletic enough to be good defenders. Thomas Noie: Shortcomings? It will always be rebounding. There were concerns last year with Paul Atkinson in the post. He was maybe 6-foot-7. He didn't have the longest arms or bounciest of frames, but averaged a team-high 6.9 rebounds. So the Irish always seem to find a way to not get crushed on the backboard. There still will be those nights (we see you North Carolina) but if the Irish can collectively commit to that end, as they did defensively last season, they'll be good. 

Guest: Any chance of an eight-man rotation this year Joe from River Forest Illinois Thomas Noie: Joe: How about 7.5? 😀 

Bob from chicago: Hi Tom, what are our chances with Elmarko when he decides later today and are we recruiting any bigs for 2023 ? Thomas Noie: Bob: It's been difficult to get a read on what Elmarko Jackson is thinking - even from those inside Notre Dame. Those who should know didn't know earlier in the week. Usually, that's not the case. The popular opinion is that it's going to be Kansas, but we'll see. There are no bigs currently on the Irish recruiting big board for 2023. If Notre Dame adds a big to its current recruiting class, it will come via the transfer portal or the 2024 class. 

Guest: Notre Dame has always had solid perimeter play but do they have the ability to score the ball inside or defend the post? Thomas Noie: It does and it will. Many of the concerns this year about Notre Dame's interior were similar last season when it came to defense. Can Notre Dame defend? Will it? The Irish then finished fourth in league in scoring defense (66.9 ppg.), third in field goal percentage defense (.426 percent) and second in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.296). Notre Dame knew it had to deliver on that end last season and delivered. Now, go and do it on the interior scoring and rebounding. They'll figure it out. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Conincidental that Elmarko Jackson visits South Bend and within a few days schedules a press conference to announce his decision?  With all of the graduations at the end of the season, he could coexist with JJS next year, if JJS stays, or just take over the lead guard spot if JJS moves on.  Thoughts? Thomas Noie: Joe: Conspiracy theorists are out early today! Either he was blown away with the Notre Dame visit, or it reinforced his belief that his first choice (whoever that is) is the right choice, right? Usually, I can get a handle from those who are in the know about a prospect's intentions. Jackson's been a tough read. He sure would look nice next to J.J. Starling next season, but we also said the same about Blake Wesley playing alongside Starling this year, remember? 

joe from the south side: Tom,  I sense the attitude around the team is that there is unfinished business from last year.  That anything short of two (or more) wins in the Tourney is a bust.  If Brey makes a magical run in the tourney, do you think he would bow out on top?  He'll be 64 and the only thing missing is a Final Four run as a Head Coach. Thomas Noie: Joe: You are 900 percent correct. Cormac Ryan and Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski didn't come back to be even better in the Atlantic Coast Conference - how do you top 15-5? Can you? They didn't come back because yeah, that Master's from the Business school is going to look really good on the resume one day. They came back to take this a step further than they went last year. They tasted the NCAA tournament. They want more. They truly believe they can do more. And they should. They're three fifth-year guys who have done a lot in college. They know the drill. They know how to pace themselves. They know how to get to March. Now go do it. As for Mike Brey, given what we've seen the last two offseasons with the retirements of Roy Williams and then Jay Wright coming out of nowhere, never say never. Brey has been adamant that he wants to stay through his current deal (2024-25) and maybe beyond. Does that thinking change? There's always that chance. Slim, but still, a chance. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  What are your thoughts so far on the new recruiting class?  Here is what it looks like to me.  Brey knows he is losing   6, or more, players in all likelihood.  That said, if everyone else stays, he has only 6 scholarship players.  With the 3 he has, not counting Elmarko, he has to build a core around which to maintain the program.  If you look at Markus, Parker and Brady, all three of those kids project to be multi-year guys at ND.  Not only from a talent standpoint, but from a size issue as well.  All 3 kids will need to bulk up to play in the ACC.  I think this is a class kind of like Zona, Sanders and Taylor.  Not the most heralded, but more like foundation guys for the program.  Your thoughts? Thomas Noie: Joe: From suspect to shaky to solid. You had to wonder where all of this was going when Markus Burton - the local guy - was the lone commit through summer and part of the fall evaluation period. Adding Dunlap and Friedrichsen were solid additions. And like you said, program guys who can grow their games and develop. I think it's a little better - with better potential - than the Zona, Taylor, Sanders class, which was cobbled together during a pandemic. It's no secret that there will be at least six subtractions from this year's roster. Cormac Ryan has a sixth year option if he chooses, but if this season goes the direction it's supposed to go, he's not returning. Nor should he. The key next year is what happens with Starling, and to an extent Lubin. That's where it gets dicey as far as next year's roster. Both have the potential to be one-and-done guys. Maybe one is. Maybe neither are. 

Matt from Virginia: Tom, thanks for these chats. Hoops season is around the corner - can't wait! From your feel for the program, do you think Mike Brey is close to retirement, or do you see him as a Jim Boeheim type who loves it so much that he won't be able to pull himself away (i.e. he'll ride it out for as long as he can)? And do you think uncertainty about how much time he has left affects recruiting? Thomas Noie: Matt: Comparing Mike Brey to Jim Boeheim...he'd love that. Not so much....lol. He's definitely on the proverbial back nine of his coaching career. Those four years where Notre Dame didn't get to the NCAA tournament took a lot out of him, to the point where it is a surprise that he's still around. He seemingly reached a point where he wondered if his message was still being received during those years - he tried everything and nothing really worked. It got him wondering if that was it. The last couple years have helped him recharge and refocus for one more run, though how long that run winds up being is anyone's guess. He may decide to go another five, 10 years, or may decide that, yeah, I've had enough. He's not there yet. 

Dennis Huyvaert Osceola: Hi Tom , I see that Robby Carmody is on the roster . Will he be healthy enough to contribute anything ? I am rooting for him . Thomas Noie: Dennis: Robby Carmody will be a main guy this season for Notre Dame, but not in the main guy traditional sense. He's likely not going to play meaningful minutes or see any time in the rotation. He's become more of a coach/counselor in the program. A strong voice. A positive voice. Someone to talk other guys through the rough spots. He missed too much time dealing with injuries that playing at this level is unlikely. Doesn't mean he can't contribute - just in other ways. 

Morgan McKinley: Tom - What’s your athletic and basketball playing history? Did you play hoops in high school? Other sports? Thomas Noie: Morgan: Thanks for the question. Not that high of a demand for a skinny 5-foot-11 point guard on the means streets of the Mid-Suburban League, but basketball remained a big part of my youth. So was football. And baseball. But I just gravitated more toward hoops. Pickup? I was there. Evenings outside at the playground? I'd shoot for hours. Just something about having a ball in my hands and a basket. Still try to get out and get a hoops run in today, even at 54. Not a big football guy. Or a baseball guy. But hoops? It's always been hoops. Always will be.😀 

Marty: ND made significant strides in improving their defense last year — can we expect further improvement this year?  I recall Brey making a point that he dedicated additional defense practice time and allowed his assistants to run the defense drills Thomas Noie: Marty: We touched on the defensive numbers earlier in the chat - fourth in scoring defense, third in field goal percentage, second in 3-point field goal percentage in conference games. Don't know how much better those numbers can get from this group. As long as there's no slippage to when they were indifferent about guarding, they should be good. Keep those defensive numbers where they're at and make a concerted team effort to gang rebound. Don't leave it up to one or two guys. Everyone get on the glass. The offense still is going to flow pretty easily. Stay committed to defense. Got to. 

Marc: Hi Tom, Thank you so much for doing these!  I'm sure you're going to get tons of questions on this year's rotation, so I won't repeat that.  What do you think the rotation will be for the opener November 2023?  I'm looking forward to this year's team, the sky is the limit, but I am concerned for 2023.  I remember Laz, Goodwin, Hubb, etc all starting as freshman and that wasn't pretty.  The incoming recruiting class next season looks great for the program long term, but counting on them to carry the load could be scary. Thomas Noie: Marc: I believe Mike Brey learned his lesson from 2018-19 when he had no choice but to turn it all over to a freshman recruiting class that was highly ranked but nowhere near ready to withstand the rigors of the Atlantic Coast Conference. That group was promptly taken apart to the tune of 3-15 in the league. Markus Burton and Parker Friedrichsen and Brady Dunlap will be good, but not they're not good enough to step into major roles as freshmen. Some of them will play early, but you can't expect a big role. Have to learn how to walk before they can run. Especially in this league. Let's say J.J. Starling and Ven-Allen Lubin both are back for 2023-24. The starting five might look like this - J.J. Starling, J.R. Konieczy, Matt Zona, Ven-Allen Lubin and a piece to be named later. Maybe a transfer. Maybe a transfer big. Too early to say on so many fronts. Let's just enjoy this ride first! 😀 

Ryan mars pa: Tom what do you think about the team going into the season go Irish i think they have a shot at maybe winning acc go Irish Thomas Noie: Ryan: Let's go with a top-five finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference with double-digit league wins and a trip to the Sweet 16 at the least. It's hard to see a path to an ACC tournament title, until we see what Duke and North Carolina and Virginia and Virginia Tech look like. Then, who's the team from nowhere like Wake Forest last season? 

Mike from PA: Tom - when will Brey finally listen to the armchair coaches and go 9-10 deep???  (I kidd, I kidd).  Serious question, a few chats ago I asked who would make a bigger impact, Starling or Wesley.  Your answer was Wesley because that team was really set up for him to come in and make an impact.  I'm going to simplify the question this time.  Who is the better basketball player? Thomas Noie: Mike: Wait, Notre Dame isn't going nine and 10 deep this season? Really? Now I kid, I kid. Wesley was the bigger impact guy because it had been so long since Notre Dame actually had a talent like that. He was really good, but really raw. He kind of grew into everything as the season evolved. He became an all-league guy and first-round pick. But there's no doubt that J.J. Starling, at the same point as Blake Wesley was last year, is the better basketball player. The more all-around, well-rounded player. Watching him in July and then again in October, he just made plays and reads that Wesley didn't make at a similar point. He's got an overall better feel, while Wesley was the better athlete who figured it out as he went. Turned out OK for him...😀 

Adam: What have you heard about Hamlet Tibbs and how he has been able to integrate so far? How does it appear the responsibilities will be distributed among the assistants? Thomas Noie: Adam: Early returns, nothing but good stuff. On the floor. On the recruiting trail. In the staff meetings. A fresh voice. A young voice. A hungry voice. From the practice we saw Oct. 1, Tibbs spent time working with the bigs alongside associate head coach Anthony Solomon while Antoni Wyche had the guards. He's not the most vocal guy, at least from what we saw, but that will come as he learns the lay of the hoops land over there. 

Justin, Ft. Wayne: Hey Tom! I think this the year we see the Irish back in the AP top 25. What are thoughts on that? Thomas Noie: Justin: I'm all for it, and believe they'll get back in there (maybe after beating Michigan State at home in yet another ACC/Big Ten Challenge), but if it were up to Mike Brey, he'd prefer everyone to sleep on his squad. Don't think I agree. Everyone did that last year, and it allowed Notre Dame to sneak up on everyone and go 15-5, but had the season gone another two days, the Irish would've missed the tournament because of a lack of buzz. Nobody took them seriously. It's time to take this group seriously. Top 25 seriously. 

Jeff: Hey Tom, what have you seen from Marcus Hammond this off-season? Looks like another guy who can shoot it to me! Thomas Noie: Jeff: Love Marcus Hammond, but it took a while to get there and figure out exactly where he fits. He was the one guy I was still unsure of when we saw the open practice in October. Specifically, what are his skills? Where does he fit? How does what he does translate to what this program likes to do? Watching individual drills, Marcus Hammond doesn't stand out. He's just kind of there. Then when it's time to play, it all comes into focus. You can see why he was a good get. He just plays. Has a swagger about him. A toughness. Like, I'm going here and I'm going there and you can't stop me. He's a basketball player with a New York City mentality. Get down the floor, get into the lane, get going. I left that day thinking, OK, I get it with Marcus Hammond. He's good. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  FWIW, Elmarko's going to Kansas.  I think the ND visit was polite and completed his offficials, but I had ND third behind Kansas and Miami.  Defending National champs, and Larranaga was on him first.  Brey had an uphill battle.  I hope I am wrong. Thomas Noie: Joe: Duly noted, though I will be ready and willing to knock out a quick commit story tonight at 8...all the while thinking, man, Joe don't know nothing if he chooses Notre Dame...😀 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Is it me or does JJS remind you a little bit of Walt Frazier?  Clyde was not the biggest guy on the court or the flashiest, or the fastest, but always the smoothest.  You watched the Knicks and Willis has his 20 and 10.  Earl the Pearl with all of the Shake and Bake.  And there was Frazier.  Unflappable.  Want me to run point?  No problem.  Need 25 points?  Done.  Need 5 assists, 2 steals and 3 or 4 boards?  Mark it down.  I always thought his best quality was that he didn't impose on the game; he waited until the game came to him, then picked his spots.  I see that in JJS' game and in his attitude.  Let me figure out what you need me to do tonight and I'll have it ready for you.  DO you sense that? Is my read correct? Thomas Noie: Joe: Nailed it. Starling's good and he knows it and everybody else knows it, but he doesn't feel the need to have to show it every single possession. He doesn't have the ball going down the floor? That's cool. No shot that trip? That's fine as well. Then you look up and he makes a steal or a pass or a shot and it makes you go, whoa, yeah, that guy's good. I love his pace. He just plays. No flash. Just focus. It will be fun to watch him. 

Paul, here in the Bend: An unusual situation in that our local kid was one and done.  With that and the positive NCAA experience, do you think that has any positive impact putting butts in the seats this year?  Or the typical me and 2,500 of my closest friends for most games? Thomas Noie: Paul: You'd think so, right? Though Notre Dame had two local kids on the roster last season - Blake Wesley and J.R. Konieczny. A quick quiz - first time two local kids at Notre Dame since Demetrius Jackson and Austin Torres in 2015-16...how many home sellouts do you think there were? Notre Dame played 15 home games and had...TWO sellouts (Duke and Georgia Tech). This for a program that won a school record 15 league games and 24 overall and got back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. Yeah, think I'll go the you and 2.500 close friends. Still a fickle home crowd bunch. I'm sure somebody somewhere will muster an excuse as to why. 

Mickey, New York: How do you see the scoring load divided on this team? Is there 1 (or 2) 18-20ppg player or are we going to see a bunch of 10-12ppg averages?   Which of the “big 3” of Nate, Dane, Ryan do you see making the biggest leap this season? Thomas Noie: Mickey: Two-parter out of the gate....love it. Don't know if there is an 18-20 ppg., guy on this team, and that's OK. There wasn't last year. Notre Dame was OK with having to win grinders. Same should be the case this season. Dane Goodwin might be someone who flirts with the 18-20 ppg. He averaged 13.6 last season, but struggled once he became a main guy on the opposition's scout. Cormac Ryan and Nate Laszewski were under 10 ppg. last season. Let's get them to 12-15 first. Trey Wertz? Not a scorer. Marcus Hammond at another time might go for 15-18 but there might not be enough shots on this team. And you can't pencil in a freshman to be 18-20. Blake Wesley was at 14.4 last year. Maybe J.J. Starling gets to that. Thomas Noie: Biggest leap? Let's go with Nate Laszewski. Gotta go from 9.3 ppg., last year to around 14-15-16 with more rebounds and more of a factor. If Ryan can bottle what he did at the end of last year, watch out (hey, sounds like my Sunday column)! 😀 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Hi Tom, congrats on doing such great work on both the hoop and football fronts. While scoring and showing offensive firepower shouldn't be an issue for Brey and company, their perceived liability when it comes to size and defensive prowess could be what holds them back from doing well in the ACC and ultimately the Big Dance. In your opinion, what can the Irish do to mitigate against these two factors so that they don't prove to the ND's undoing? Thanks much. Thomas Noie: We've dissected some of the defensive numbers/improvements this program made last season. I'd expect that to remain a constant. Associate head coach Anthony Solomon won't allow for much slippage in that area. They weren't lock-down/smothering on that end last year, but they were good enough to if they had to win a grinder, they could. And did. Size does matter, but so does a collective commitment to rebound. There will be a night of two when Notre Dame gets absolutely smoked on the backboard. But other nights when you think it will, but delivers. It's just the nature of who and what this program will be this season. 

Justin, Ft. Wayne: What’s your overall thoughts on the non-conference schedule? I kinda like it but would of like to seen some more powerhouse games. Think Michigan St/Marquette will be really good games. Thomas Noie: Justin: Softer than anticipated, especially for a veteran team. Last year's non-league (Maui, Illinois, Indiana) was more conducive for this year's team than last year's which we knew very little about. That one almost suffocated under the non-league schedule - it was 4-5 going into the home game against Kentucky. This team's too good to not go and get the Michigan State and Marquette games. They're at home. Notre Dame's good enough to win. It should win both. The lack of power from the non-conference means Notre Dame better deliver in the ACC. It did last season. It has to again. 

Robert from Mishawaka: Everyone asks about the inside game and needing a real big man. That being said, doesn't Dom Campbell fit that answer as he progresses for next year? Thomas Noie: Robert: On paper, you would think, but much like with Marcus Hammon being a great unknown until I saw how he fits, Dom Campbell's the same way. He didn't do much to stand out in the summer session that we saw, and then was out with the flu for the October open practice. I don't know what his game looks like. I don't know how it fits. Maybe it does next season. Little too crowded  for him this year. Let's see how everything unfolds. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Apologies in advance but I have to do it.  Drawing close to three hours in and no mention of Sanders.  WHAT?  😁 Thomas Noie: Seriously? Not enough perimeter positions to go around. Not this year. Same might go for Konieczny. They're kind of one in the same. 

Matt from St. Louis: Thought your comment earlier about ND staying out of the spotlight and Brey liking that was interesting. Long article in The Athletic this morning that discussed the ACC last year and heading into this year. It only mentioned Notre Dame in two brief sentences (about beating Kentucky and Dane Goodwin). How does a program go about changing something like that? In what ways do you see that being beneficial? Thomas Noie: Matt: Easy. Find another campus to call home. And another league. For all Notre Dame men's basketball has done, it does suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Nobody around these parts (besides the beat guy) gets serious about basketball season until January. Sometimes February. College football is king on campus. Always will be. For those who do prefer hoops, too many still wish for the good old days. Playing Marquette and DePaul and UCLA every year. Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake? No, thanks. They'll pass on that. It all can work in Notre Dame's favor, and has at times in the past where the Irish can just kind of play and get better without the white-hot spotlight of national attention. Last year, it both helped and hurt. Notre Dame was not a play-in team. Not even close. It freaking finished second in the ACC one game out of first. Play-in game? Give me a break. 

Chris: Do we think all 3 of the freshman get major mins this season? We know 2 will but does Dom? Thomas Noie: Dom Campbell's too much of an unknown, and behind Matt Zona in the rotation of whatever minutes might be left over. It's hard to see where he fits - at least this season. And that's OK. He'll have a chance. It just won't be as soon and as extended as J.J. Starling and Ven-Allen Lubin. 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Tom, could you please contrast the game's of Paul Atkinson and Ven-Allen Lubin and is there something that the latter can do that the former couldn't? Also, could you provide an update as to what Atkinson, who such a huge contributor last season, is up to these days. Thomas Noie: Ven-Allen Lubin looks like an Atlantic Coast Conference power forward. Athletic. Lanky. Bouncy. Paul Atkinson looked like an Ivy League power forward who used his smarts and savvy around the basket to max out his only season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was the ultimate safety net/security guy in the low post. Get him a touch and he was going to make something good happen. Paul Atkinson currently is playing professionally for Atomeromu in Hungary where he's averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 33.0 minutes. First pro game, Atkinson went for 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 41 minutes. 

Matt from St. Louis: Will Notre Dame be the best college basketball team in Indiana this year? Purdue graduated a ton and Indiana's roster looks solid but they always seem to fall short of expectations Thomas Noie: Matt: It's hard to win at Indiana. The expectations are suffocating. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. Let's go with Notre Dame carrying the Hoosier State flag, while playing on Tobacco Road. Makes perfect sense! 

John: Tom- i) any chance JJ Starling isnt one and done? and ii) Also saw Brey talking about NIL and being competitive in that area/nd has done a good job with it.  Any of that coming from Under Armour? Elmarko Jackson did play with UA AAU team, maybe that was his play.... Thomas Noie: John: Absolutely. There's a chance that J.J. Starling is a two-and-done, but Ven-Allen Lubin is a one-and-done. Let's see how it all plays out. Same with Elmarko Jackson...😀 

Illinois Fool: What's the scoop on the new players as to their defensive skills? I'd imagine interior defense could be a problem this season. Thomas Noie: IF: They'll be fine collectively and individually on defense. Can they get on the glass? Remains to be seen. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Who determines what away games you attend?  You?  Your boss?  The magnitude of the game?  Given the schedule as it stands, where is the one away game on the schedule you want to attend and the one they could not pay you to attend? Thomas Noie: Joe: A little of everything goes into the brew that is our hoops travel itineraries. Most important is, is the team any good? Hard in this newspaper climate to push for a road game if Notre Dame has no chance. Then we go with the rhythm of the schedule and opponent. Any game in the Triangle and along Tobacco Road? Sign me. Syracuse in January? Hard pass. Done that dance too many years in the Big East. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  I thought SYR myself.  Is there another program that looks that old?  The whole program has no bounce.  Boeheim looks old.  The Carrier Dome looks badly dated.  One Jim B retires, that program could tank without a homerun hire. Thomas Noie: He'll go out kicking and screaming which for Boeheim, is nothing new. 😄 

Illinois Fool: It seemed that Goodwin struggled at the end of last season. Did other teams figure out his game, was it fatigue or was it something else? Love the kid and hope he has a great year. Thomas Noie: IF: Welcome to the top of the scouting report, Mr. Goodwin. Hope you like the view. And the attention. Goodwin downplayed any significance of wearing out (though he did) and insists it had more to do with becoming a main guy. He's right back there this year - not sneaking up on anyone in the scout. He's one guy rooting for Ven-Allen Lubin to be good. This team goes four around one and Goodwin becomes the second big. Will be interested to see what he adds to his game - and how he fares over the long haul. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Next ACC coach to be fired?  I'll take Pastner.  One 20 win seson in 6 years at GTECH.  One NCAA bid.  And likely to finish near the bottom this year.  All in all, a hire that never worked.  Capel is a close second. Thomas Noie: It's a short list and both of those guys are definitely atop it. Change in leadership at Georgia Tech means Josh Pastner better have a really good season or the new athletic director will want to bring in his own guy. Jeff Capel can't get out of his own way in Oakland. Freshman Dior Johnson was a four-star recruit who was expected to be a guy to help turn all of this back around. Getting arrested and subsequently suspended from the team is not the way to get it going. 

Guest: GM Tom.  Who do you think starting 5 is first game. Thomas Noie: Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, J.J. Starling, Nate Laszewski and Ven-Allen Lubin. I can see Mike Brey going with Trey Wertz in place of Starling to start, but it's the same situation with Starling as it was last year with Blake Wesley, who started the year coming off the bench. It's only a matter of time until the freshman guard starts. He's that talented. 

Illinois Fool: Any thoughts on the proposal to expand the NCAA BBall tourney? I love it the way it is now but it looks like the idea is gaining momentum. Thomas Noie: Thoughts? How about DON'T (FREAKING) TOUCH IT!!!!! That about sums it up. 

Robert from Mishawaka: I agree with you on Lubin. He could really help the perimeter game with being an inside force. Thanks for the chats that you do, here's to a great season! Thomas Noie: Amen, my man. Let's go! 

Mickey, NY: I know a Sunday article is coming but is Ryan running around with swagger and “lead dog” attitude as a follow up to last year?  Are we slotting him into a 39 min/game type importance and, if so, how do you think he handles it? Thomas Noie: Mickey: Mike Brey joked about it in the summer , but I don't think he was kidding when he wondered aloud if a college basketball team has ever had three players ALL average 40 minutes per game. Goodwin and Laszewski and Ryan might all do it this year. They're never coming off the floor. OK, almost never. Ryan's got the attitude to pick up where he left off last year when he was what, one of the top 10-15 players in the game at season's end? Loved everything about how he played. Now go do it for an entire season. He's set the Final Four bar. Better be ready to chase it. Thomas Noie: Thanks to everyone who participated today...we'll be back around next month (hopefully before, gulp, Thanksgiving) as this season starts to take shape. Take care and have a great weekend!