Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Western Carolina Catamounts Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 11th 2023

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When Micah Shrewsberry took over the Notre Dame program from longtime coach Mike Brey in March, he needed to find a lot of new players to fill the roster. Point guard Markus Burton wasn’t one of them.

Burton, who earned Indiana’s 2023 Mr. Basketball award, stuck with the commitment he made to Brey in July 2022. He paid immediate dividends by delivering the highest-scoring freshman debut in Irish history with his 29-point effort Monday against Niagara.

What might the 5-foot-11 Burton do for an encore Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind., when Notre Dame (1-0) hosts Western Carolina (1-0), a team loaded with big, experienced guards?

For example, 6-foot-6, 215-pound fifth-year senior Vonterius Woolbright was voted the Southern Conference’s preseason player of the year after averaging 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and a league-best 5.1 assists last season — and fellow backcourt members Tre Jackson and Russell Jones Jr. also made the preseason all-league team.

“My team trusts me to do what I do,” Burton said. “And the coaching staff trusts me to do what I do, too. When they trust you and you’ve got everybody behind you, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

Burton isn’t the only Notre Dame freshman who has earned that trust. Braeden Shrewsberry, the coach’s son, started alongside Burton on Monday to give the Irish two rookie starters in an opener for the first time since 1998.

Shrewsberry posted seven points in a team-high 36 minutes in the 70-63 victory. Fellow frosh Carey Booth added 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Shrewsberry, Booth and freshman Logan Imes all decommitted from Penn State and switched to Notre Dame once Micah Shrewsberry made the move after leading the Nittany Lions to the 2023 NCAA Tournament’s second round.

While Notre Dame welcomed back just 35 points — total — from last year’s squad, Western Carolina retained four of its top five scorers. The Catamounts are predicted to finish second in the SoCon.

“I think the understanding for us is, it’s not where you’re picked in the beginning, but where you finish,” Western Carolina coach Justin Gray told ABC13 News. “We’ve got an older group and I think what (being picked second) tells me is when you’re talking about building a program, we wanted to make sure we started to get some kind of respect.”

–Field Level Media

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