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Loss Gives Brey Recruiting Flexibility

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 2:30pm
By: Notre Dame Insider

Cameron Biedscheid's departure was mysterious, but it did give Mike Brey more flexibility in his 2014 recruiting.

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame has an additional scholarship to offer a late-rising senior or potential college transfer following the departure of sophomore swingman Cameron Biedscheid, who plans to join Missouri as a walk-on with the hopes of eventually earning a scholarship.

Biedscheid’s flight, ironically less than 24 hours after Jerian Grant revealed on the school’s website that he was done for the spring semester, was as mysterious as his decision to originally sit out the season to “preserve a year of eligibility.”

Notre Dame does not acknowledge the term “redshirt.”

A top-30 national recruit coming out of Cardinal Ritter College Prep School in St. Louis, Biedscheid’s reputation as a scorer never arrived with him in South Bend.

Appearing in 34 of 35 games as a reserve guard last season, Biedscheid averaged 6.2 points per game. But he struggled to do his main task – shoot the ball. Over the final eight games, he finished 3-of-25 from three. Included in that stretch was an ugly incident in which he exchanged punches with Sir’Dominic Pointer near the end of the home finale against St. John’s.

Following the scrap, for which he was ejected, Biedscheid stormed off the court, removing his gold Irish jersey in the process. That sat well with no one in the program.

He went 1-of-15 from three over his final six games.

Vowing to be better as a sophomore, Biedscheid decided in the fall that it was best for him to sit out the season, even though those close to him insisted that top-30 recruits do not sit out their sophomore seasons. Huh? Maybe Biedscheid wanted to be a starter, something he talked boldly about in the summer. Maybe he wanted more shots. Maybe he wanted more minutes.

But maybe, he just didn’t fit. In any regard, his exit allows Irish coach Mike Brey some scholarship flexibility. The Irish have two grants to give if they find the right guy. That could be a high school senior. It could be a transfer big man.

Reality Bites After Duke Surprise

It was supposed to serve as a slingshot into a special ACC debut run, an overdue shot of adrenaline for a Notre Dame men’s basketball program that had experienced its share of non-conference struggles on and off the court – the loss of its leading scorer, the transfer of a talented sophomore, the realization that they’re no longer invincible in their own gym.

Instead, it became the first chapter of a potential cautionary tale of what happens when a team gets a little too ahead of itself and forget to focus on, well, being focused.

Following 18 seasons in the Big East, Notre Dame made its ACC debut Jan. 4 against then-No. 7 Duke. It was a rare sellout at Purcell Pavilion. The national television trucks of CBS Sports were parked out back of the building. There was a big buzz some 45 minutes before tip-off, if only because the league’s premier program – the ACC gold standard – was in town for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Notre Dame delivered. Playing its third game without leading scorer Grant, kicked out of school for an academic violation committed late in the fall semester, the Irish rekindled arena ghosts of upsets past to roar back from 10 points down over the final 11:33 and a memorable 79-77 victory.

“This is the team you’ve got to beat in the ACC if you want to kind of feel and look like you belong,” Brey said. “That’s really big for us to start off that way.”

Brey has seen his share of special moments in his previous 13 seasons in South Bend, but he was hard-pressed to remember a better time in the building. But he also cautioned that for all the energy and effort expended by the Irish, all the juice offered by the fans in the stands, Notre Dame needed even more of it three nights later against N.C. State.

Brey may have known something others didn’t. He may have seen something coming that others didn’t want to see while figuring it was really possible, likely even, that a Notre Dame team that had earlier lost non-league home games – home games! – to Indiana State and North Dakota State was setting itself up to run off three, four, heck, even five consecutive victories to open ACC play.

Think again.

As good as Notre Dame was against Duke, it was that ugly and inefficient against a N.C. State team that ignored the 38-below-zero wind chills that greeted its Indiana arrival, ignored the howling winds that swirled snow all over a campus that closed for a day and a half before the game, ignored any feel-good feelings leftover from Notre Dame’s first weekend in January and refused to allow Notre Dame to do anything it believed it could do.

Forty minutes later, the Irish had fallen – and fallen hard – to the break-even point in conference play following a 79-70 loss in a game they rarely were in the final 20 minutes. The season’s third home loss – the first time Notre Dame has had that happen since 2009-10 – was a tough way to send the Irish out on the ACC road for four of their next five.

It also served as a reminder of how thin a margin for error this season is for Notre Dame. It erased the late deficit to Duke with hard work and hustle, with effort and energy, with an attention to detail on both ends and a refusal to give in to any notion of pressure defense.

All those elements seldom surfaced against N.C. State. It was the other guys who were quicker to the 50-50 balls, who were relentless attacking the glass and driving it into the gut of the Irish defense. The Wolfpack forced the Irish to play panicked on offense, turned them over and wiped clean any feel-good feelings still lingering from three days earlier.

“If we’re going to be erratic offensively like we were at key times (against N.C. State), we’re going to be in trouble,” Brey said.

Notre Dame has skirted trouble over since the loss of Grant, and Brey figured it would take until Feb. 1 at the earliest before he and his staff and his players figured out what they had. Forget that, many scoffed after the Duke game. That early-February deadline would arrive much earlier. The Irish looked so good, so smooth, so together in cutting up the Blue Devils with their precise cutting and moving on offense that that’s the way many figured they’d play the rest of the way.

Not so fast.

Three nights later, the Irish indeed looked like a team in continued transition. The team’s Big Three – Eric Atkins, Pat Connaughton, Garrick Sherman – all delivered in big ways, including a career-high and ridiculous 18 rebounds from Sherman, but nobody else offered much. Without Grant, that cannot happen, not if the Irish are to have a chance the rest of the way.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Brey said.

Somebody’s got to do something more, and do it consistently.

Maybe it’s McDonald’s All-American Demetrius Jackson, who finished with more turnovers (three) than points (two) against N.C. State and was benched late in the game after passing on an open baseline jumper, then turning it over in front of the Irish bench.

Maybe it’s sophomore big man Zach Auguste, the most talented post player in the program since Ryan Humphrey hustled his way into becoming a first-round NBA draft choice.

Maybe it’s a combination of the four available reserves, all of who will get their chances and must deliver. Now. Next game. Next week. Next month.

History says the Irish will find a way. Again.

“We’re still here; we’re going to compete,” said Sherman, playing the best basketball of his five-year collegiate career. “We’re not some easy win in the ACC that everybody thinks they’re going to get.”