Team preview: Notre Dame

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:12 PM ET
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COACH AND PROGRAM

Last year, all the signs seemed to be pointing toward a memorable season for Notre Dame basketball. The Fighting Irish were coming off an appearance in the Sweet 16, their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. They were young. Second-team All-Big East point guard Chris Thomas was talked out of entering the NBA draft and was back for his junior season. And 2002 McDonald's national high school player-of-the-year Torin Francis lived up to his billing in his freshman year and was ready to step it up another notch as a sophomore. The hype was palpable in South Bend. All that could possibly stop coach Mike Brey's Fighting Irish, maybe, would be a string of injuries ...

Unfortunately for the Irish, that's exactly what happened. Thomas started all 32 games and put up great numbers, but played through the season with sometimes excruciating pain in his left knee because of a cartilage tear. Francis was limited to 10 Big East regular-season games (playing significant minutes in only eight of them) because of a herniated disk in his back and had to sit out the season's final 12 games. And newcomer Omari Israel, expected to come in and log substantial minutes at both the two and three spots, couldn't return from a torn ACL suffered as a high school senior in time to contribute and had to be red-shirted.


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