Tip-off 2013
Senior captain Eric Atkins
Senior captain Eric Atkins
Publisher
Posted Nov 8, 2013


Notre Dame opens its first season as a member of the Athletic Coast Conference with two months and 13 games against non-conference foes, including a trio of Big 10 teams in Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio State. On tap tonight to begin Mike Brey's 14th season as the program's head coach, the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks.

Like most of their college basketball brethren, Notre Dame opens its season in relative anonymity this weekend, playing twice over the next 48 hours beginning with tonight's game against Miami (Ohio).

Led by second-year head coach John Cooper, Miami has a history of success in South Bend including its only visit during the Brey era.

"Last time they were here they beat us and they've won three of the last four," said Brey, noting specifically a 73-64 defeat at the hands of the Redhawks in his first season (2000). "We're 4-4 in our history against them."

Brey noted his squad's opening foe will offer a stiff initial test courtesy a trapping, unpredictable defense.

"Trapping, running, jumping," said Brey of the Redhawks unorthodox defensive approach. "This is a true test of us taking care of the ball because they're going to really make it chaotic and not let us play at our pace. So our decision-making with the basketball is really going to be challenged.

"Then they have some speed that you have to stay in front of them," he noted of Miami's backcourt. "They have some big guys that can step out and shoot jump shots. I think the big thing is, can you take care of the ball against that run and jump, half-court running/trapping stuff?"

Key to that end is the presence of three guards, seniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, plus five-star freshman Demetrius Jackson.

"The one thing about Demetrius, with his strength, he's great with traps," Brey offered. "He's more equipped to take on a trap maybe than Eric and Jerian over time because he's just so strong. He got caught in one (in practice) and just kind of stepped through it like a man and made the play."

Atkins returns as the program's first three-time team captain, designated as such this week along with junior Pat Connaughton.

"By vote of the team, these guys were unanimous choices to be our captains," said Brey. "We're going to encounter some unexpected stuff, and with that, we're going to need strong and consistent voices. Eric and Pat have done that for us since the summer.

"We've also had other good leadership from our other upperclassmen, which we are going to need, but these two guys have really set the tone for us."

Grant is the only member of the squad to receiver first-team All-ACC recognition in the pre-season poll.

While a quick turnaround will be needed with the season's second game Sunday vs. Stetson, Brey's sole focus is on a good start vs. a program that played a since-overlooked but no-less memorable role in his early days as Notre Dame's head man.

"My first year here, they came in here and beat us," he reiterated, noting star forward Troy Murphy's absence due to suspension. "They were good. And one of our great wins my second year was winning at Miami of Ohio, I think (guard) Torrian Jones blocked a jump shot when we were there (to ice a 70-69 contest)."

Cooper's current Redhawks are unlikely to pose such a threat.

"They're kind of rebuilding," said Brey, adding Cooper's coaching lineage comes from "a little bit of a North Carolina/Dean Smith, by way of Eddie Fogler disciple. He's done a heck of a job, was a good coach at Tennessee State."

Cooper's final Tennessee State squad posted a 20-13 record to give the school its first winning mark since 1995-96 and the Tigers' first 20-win season in 32 years.

Notre Dame has been installed as a 19-point favorite for tonight's contest.


Related Stories
Video: Atkins at Media Days
 -by ScoutCBK.com  Oct 22, 2013
First steps, then The Dance
 -by IrishEyes.com  Oct 11, 2013
Grant, Irish subdue Redhawks
 -by IrishEyes.com  Nov 9, 2013

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