Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men's Basketball
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The Big Picture:
For the second straight season, the Irish easily surpassed preseason expectations. Picked ninth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll last year, the Irish finished third with a 13-5 mark. They were 21-12 overall after earning their fifth NCAA berth in the last six years. And last season's success was achieved after All-BIG EAST forward Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season with a knee injury after playing just two games. Over the last two seasons, coach Mike Brey's team is 27-9 in BIG EAST play.
The Irish welcome back all five starters and will be one of the most experienced teams in Brey's 13 seasons. The backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins is one of the best in the country. Both averaged more than 12.0 ppg while Grant averaged 5.0 assists and Atkins' assists mark was 4.1. Grant made the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team. Atkins, a junior, has been a starter since his freshman season. Senior Joey Brooks (3.2) continues to back up both players. Jack Cooley anchors the frontcourt with his 6-foot-9, 244-pound frame. The senior was voted BIG EAST Most Improved Player after posting averages of 12.3 points and 8.9 rebounds. Forward Scott Martin, who was awarded a sixth year of eligibility, averaged 9.5 points and played his usual strong defensive role. Pat Connaughton earned a starting position as a freshman by midseason. A capable outside shooter, he averaged 7.0 points. Senior forwards Tom Knight (1.7, 1.6) and Mike Broghammer (0.5, 0.4) will continue as reserves.
As mentioned, Abromaitis only played two games before suffering his season-ending injury. He was the named the BIG EAST Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year for a third straight year. Reserve guard Alex Dragicevich, who averaged 6.6 points, transferred.
Notre Dame can boast an experienced lineup that is used to success. Brey's team continues to be extremely formidable at home, recording a 16-1 mark last year at Purcell Pavilion. In addition to the returning starters, the Irish can look to senior forward Garrick Sherman, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Michigan State, to help around the basket. Six-foot-10 freshman Zach Auguste also will push to be noticed up front. Heralded freshman Cameron Beidscheid will back up Connaughton on the wing. Freshman guard Austin Burgett is considered a strong perimeter shooter.