South Bend, IN – Christmas has come early for college basketball fans, as this weekend marks the start of the 2017-18 college basketball season.
After a long off-season, which included some good times and bad, college basketball fans are coming out of hibernation and ready to watch some madness happen.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish open up their season on the road against the DePaul Blue Demons, at the newly constructed Wintrust Arena, a 10,000 seat multi-purpose arena that will be the new home of Blue Demon’s basketball and the Chicago Sky of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
After opening the pre-season with a three game sweep against NAIA competition, the Irish are ready to take on a more formidable opponent in the Blue Demons.
This match-up will be the 107th meeting between the two teams, and the Irish lead the all time series 62-44.
While the Blue Demons are predicted to finish 9th in the Big East according to an article written by Broc Libra of VUSport.com, don’t expect them to play like a bottom half team when the Irish come to town.
The Blue Demons have faced immense roster turnover over the last year and return a total of four scholarship players and two walk-ons. However, within this group returns leading scorer Eli Cain, who put up 16 points per game last season as well as Tre’Darius McCallum, who averaged close to 10 points per game and seven rebounds.
Sophomore guard Brandon Cyrus returns, who averaged six points per game in addition to reserve point guard Devin Gage, who only contributed four per game.
What should get Blue Demon fans excited are the newcomers, highlighted by four star freshman point guard Justin Roberts, who ranked as the sixth best point guard in the state of Indiana and Ohio State Buckeye transfer Austin Grandstaff, who will likely start immediately.
Max Strus joins the Blue Demons after transferring from Division II Lewis College, where he was an All-American as a sophomore and averaged 20 points per game. Martin Maric also highlights an impressive transfer haul, who last played at Northern Illinois and averaged almost 15 points and nine rebounds per game.
However, DePaul will certainly have their hands tied with a Notre Dame team that did lose two big names in Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem, but return a lot of fire power to their potent offence.
Notre Dame is led by pre-season ACC Player of the Year Bonzie Colson, who returns for his senior year after averaging a double-double. He forms a formidable tandem with returning point guard Matt Farrell, who averaged 14 points per game while shooting 42% from three point range.
Bonzie will be helped on the boards by Martinas Geben, who had a great summer playing on the Lithuanian national team and should increase his production this year after many unproductive games last year.
Rex Pflueger and T.J. Gibbs will be in the back court with Farrell, and both showed flashes on offense and are defensive monsters that love to force turnovers on teams.
Because this game is on the road for the Irish, and will be used to celebrate the opening of the new Wintrust Arena, this game will likely start out close with a loud crowd expected to be present.
However, either towards the end of the first half or towards the beginning of the second half will be when Notre Dame starts to run away with this game.
Even though the Blue Demon big men Martin Maric (6″11) and Tre’Darius McCallum (6″7) both tower over Colson on paper, expect Colson to put up big numbers as he has out played players bigger than him many times.
Not to mention Farrell, who likely will guarding freshman Justin Roberts, brings lots of game experience and will look to make the frosh’s debut miserable.
Notre Dame: 75
Tip off is set for Saturday November 11, 2017 at 4 PM EST; airing live on Fox Sports FS1.
– R. Scarfone