NC State vs. Notre Dame preview: Pack's focus turns to the Shermanator

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame @ StatSheet
2013 Stats / 2014 Stats
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Notre Dame Offense 13-14
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 54.2 39
Turnover Rate 15.0 23
Off Reb Rate 32.7 141
FTA/FGA 36.7 256

There are plenty of coaches who get their due credit in certain respects, but Mike Brey doesn't seem like one of them. His offenses are just always good (his defenses, well...); you could set a watch to them. He's had up-tempo teams, plodding-ass molasses-lookin' teams. Teams that rely heavily on the three and teams that don't. Since 2002-03, Notre Dame has never finished outside the top 55 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and only twice have the Irish finished worse than 31st.

This season, Notre Dame's offense--most recently seen scoring 79 points in 64 possessions against an admittedly sub-standard Duke D--is ranked 29th. The Irish are only average on the offensive glass and don't get to the line all that much, but as I've said many, many times in the past, those things don't really matter so long as you take care of the other two factors. Notre Dame is definitely doing that.

What remains to be sorted out is the extent to which the absence of Jerian Grant will affect Notre Dame. It didn't look like the Irish missed him too much while they were rallying on Duke over the weekend, but there's no doubt the departure of their leading scorer will be felt--dude was off to an incredible start, hitting 57.8% of his twos and nearly 41% of his threes.

Notre Dame's history under Brey suggests the Irish will probably be okay. Grant's absence will put some added pressure on Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton to knock down threes, since the team doesn't have much beyond them in the way of reliable options. Beyond that, it's tough to say until we start seeing how those suddenly-free possessions get redistributed over an extended period.

Starters

Eric Atkins (6-2, 182) -- Atkins has logged a ton of minutes over the last 3+ seasons, which will make him an interesting matchup for State's inexperienced group of guards. His profile hasn't changed much over the years--good three-point shooter, solid distributor with a mediocre free throw rate and a FT% a little lower than you'd prefer from a guard (68.8% this year).

Demetrius Jackson (6-1, 195) -- Jackson is shooting sparingly so far, and little over half his attempts have come from beyond the arc, where he is 15-of-35 (42.9%). One emerging strength is his ability to draw fouls, which is tops among the regulars.

Pat Connaughton (6-5, 214) -- He has good numbers on the offensive side, but what really sticks out is the way he's rebounding at the defensive end. It's a lot easier to understand how a team might fare so well in that aspect of the game when you realize it's got a 6-5 dude hauling down 20% of opponents' misses while he's on the floor. That's a career-high figure, but it isn't exactly aberrant; he's done well in this area throughout his career. (Also, he is a high-percentage three-point shooter.)

Zach Auguste (6-10, 242) -- Excellent offensive and defensive rebounder, if a bit foul prone. He doesn't get a lot of minutes and doesn't waste a lot of time, either--with 62 FGAs in 150 minutes, there's a good chance he'll be firin' away when he gets a touch. He's about a 52% career shooter inside the arc, so that's not all bad.

Garrick Sherman (6-11, 255) -- Sherman didn't factor heavily into the rotation at Michigan State during his first two years in college, which is why he ended up in South Bend. He didn't factor heavily into the Irish rotation last year either, but suddenly, kablammo, here's the Shermanator and look at how important he is! And I think we can all appreciate a young man who gives Doug Gottlieb the business.

(Back in the day, Gottlieb got kicked out of Notre Dame for stealing roommates' credit cards.)

Anyway, Sherman has the highest workload on the Irish, and he's a 53.6% shooter from two. He is on pace for career highs in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, block rate, and free throw rate. Turnovers have been a problem for him throughout his career, so NC State can hope that some errors just kinda pop up here and again. Maybe on one possession he'll exclaim, "I've forgotten what a basketball does," then bounce it off his head into the scorer's table. That could happen. (Would be the third time this season alone.)

Bench

Tom Knight (6-10, 258), Steve Vasturia (6-6, 207), Austin Burgett (6-9, 227), V.J. Beachem (6-8, 187). Vasturia and Burgett were the only reserves to log double-digit minutes against Duke, and with Grant out of the picture, the team is lacking guard options off the bench. For now, Vasturia, a freshman, appears limited to jumpers (though he is 6-of-15 from deep). Neither he nor Burgett figure to shoot often.

Notre Dame Defense 13-14
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 50.2 203
Turnover Rate 17.6 232
Off Reb Rate 25.8 15
FTA/FGA 27.8 10

Notre Dame's offense can lift it to upsets like the one over Duke on Saturday, while its defense can cost the team games by allowing, say, Iowa (granted, a good Iowa team) to score 98 points on 72 possessions. (The Irish scored 93 in that one.) Sound familiar?

Making matters worse, the Irish are as unlucky when it comes to opponents' free throw attempts as we are. They've actually overtaken us as the team with the worst free throw defense in the country--they are dead last at 351st, while we're waaaaay up above 'em at 349. Maybe we can all have a good cry afterward, then start a support group for this load of stupid jerk crap.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Notre Dame by seven.

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