Our next team is one of the most successful college basketball programs to never win a national championship. They’ve made 35 NCAA tournament appearances, and currently rank ninth ever in all-time wins. While they’ve never climbed the mountaintop in college hoops, they’ve produced a handful of players who’ve had success in the NBA, including a couple of multiple-time NBA champions. While they’re not elite, the NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish team is a fun mix of offensively talented players who should be a tough out in our tournament.
Notre Dame has several options in the backcourt, and will start off without a traditional point guard in their starting lineup. Mr. Cavalier, Austin Carr, was a one-time all-star who averaged over 20 points per game in each of the first three seasons of his career. Although injuries derailed him, he was an explosive scorer, and excelled from the mid-range and in. He’ll be asked to take on more ball handling duties on this team, and will have to look for teammates more than he was typically accustomed to. Kelly Tripucka will join him in the starting backcourt. Tripucka was a natural small forward, but his shooting touch was his forte, and allowed him to average over 20 points per game five times in his career. He had the ideal height for a shooting guard (6’6”), though not the ideal quickness, so he’ll have to punish opponents on the offensive end of the floor to be effective. John Paxson, the team’s most natural point guard, will see a lot of time off the bench, and will allow Carr and Tripucka to slide to their natural positions when they share the floor together. Paxson and Tripucka are two examples of this team’s dangerous three-point shooting attack, which will be needed as they try to outscore their opponents.
Adrian Dantley, the standout offensive weapon on this roster, will start at small forward. Dantley led the league in scoring twice during a stretch of four straight seasons where he averaged over 30 points per game. Known for his devastating post-up game despite his modest height (6’5”), Dantley was a master of efficiency, currently ranking sixth all-time in NBA/ABA true shooting percentage. In addition to his excellent shooting from the field (54 percent), Dantley also led the league in made free throws five times, and was one of the more unique offensive players in league history. He’ll be paired up in the starting lineup with 6’9” Orlando Woolridge, another standout scorer who is far and away this team’s best athlete. Woolridge may not have fulfilled his immense potential as a pro, but, when motivated, he was an efficient, explosive scorer. The starting center, Bill Laimbeer, was best known for his thuglike tactics with the Bad Boy Pistons. He was more than just an agitator, however; he was also an elite rebounder who could spread the floor on offense. Laimbeer and Dantley can play an inverted inside-out game that will be difficult for any opponent to stop, especially with talented scorers surrounding them in the lineup.
Off the bench, there are a plethora of forwards who bring different strengths to the table. Donald Royal was a rotation player on the great Orlando teams in the 1990s, and had the ideal frame of a modern day wing player (6’8”, 210 lb). LaPhonso Ellis was a hybrid forward who was an inefficient high volume scorer on the 1990s Nuggets teams, but was a solid offensive rebounder who could cause matchup problems when not serving as an offensive focal point. Bill Hanzlik was a solid defensive wing who made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team in the 1985-86 season. Expect him to earn a large role in the rotation as perhaps the only plus defender on the roster. Tom Hawkins was a contributor to three NBA finalists in the 1960s. Pat Garrity was a good shooter who contributed little else, and will likely join Hawkins as permanent bench fixtures who only enter games in garbage time. Troy Murphy will serve as the de facto backup center. Murphy was an excellent shooter and rebounder who averaged a double-double five times in his solid career. He’s the bench’s most effective weapon, and will play alongside Laimbeer when they face bigger frontcourts.
The NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish team will have no trouble scoring the ball, with a mix of talented shooters surrounding their efficient small forward. They will struggle mightily on defense, however, and will have to outscore opponents to have a chance to succeed. As the 25th seeded team in our tournament, they have an intriguing first-round matchup with the eighth seeded NBA Louisville Cardinals team.