Notre Dame Looks To Make Statement on Senior Night Vs St. John’s

So every once in a while I have some really poor timing. Last week was just another one of those instances.

Just six days ago, I outlined why the the 2012-13 Irish basketball team was ready to break through in the NCAA tournament — we were just about to get our veteran leader Scott Martin back from injury, which would allow us to be deeper and more experienced than ever. The very next day, Mike Brey announced that Martin’s career with Notre Dame is over, as he would undergo arthroscopic surgery to clean up his left knee once again.

Then the Irish went out and got crushed on the road by Marquette 72-64. I know this sounds very “eternal optimist” of me, but I’m here to say that not all is lost.

I’ll be honest — I think the return of Scott Martin would have been huge for the team. However, this team is also learning to play good ball without the sixth-year senior as well. The Irish were 3-3 in Big East play when Martin was in the lineup, but have been 7-3 in his absence. The offensive numbers were higher when #14 was playing, too — the Irish were averaging 66.0 points per game in the Big East, but have since been scoring only 61.2 (when adjusted to remove the seven overtime periods they have played in that span, for fairness) in a way that has been much less pretty.

But the reality is that this team is winning more. Coach Brey has once again turned to the burn offense to slow the place of other teams in order to level the playing field. While there have been certainly been some “growing pains” games, players like Cameron Biedscheid, Zach Auguste, Tom Knight, and Garrick Sherman are really coming into their own. Though it sounds slightly blunt, removing the hope of Martin returning to the lineup should allow them to be more successful — mentally, they remove the thought of him returning to “save” the team, and instead will carry the load better themselves, in the way that teams have done in the past without Luke Harangody and Tim Abromaitis.

That all starts on Senior Night tonight in Purcell Pavilion, where Notre Dame has quite a few guys to honor — Jack Cooley, Scott Martin, Mike Broghammer, Joey Brooks, Garrick Sherman, and Tom Knight — although the last three could all be returning in 2013-14 for fifth years.

This class of Notre Dame seniors might not seem as pretty as the Ben Hansbroughs, Tim Abromaitis’, and Tory Jacksons before them — but the 2013 class is only three wins away from becoming the winningest class of all time in Notre Dame basketball history — that’s quite a feat. And considering the Irish have won their last seven Senior Nights, I expect the guys to go out there and put on a show.

The loss of Martin is a sad one, there’s no doubt about that — his seemingly never-ending college career ironically has ended a bit sooner than anyone hoped or anticipated. But the season did not end last Wednesday for the Irish, and there are still big things to come for this senior class. Expect them to show that tonight vs St John’s.

Tonight’s game will be aired on ESPN2 at 7:00.