Who has the best guards in the Big East? Notre Dame coach Mike Brey thinks his pair, Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, should be in the conversation. The Irish play UConn in South Bend on Saturday afternoon, and it will be an interesting match-up of guard play.
“I don’t feel there is any backcourt better than them,” Brey told reporters during a press/ teleconference at ND on Wednesday. “They’ve been a little under the radar. … Some of it is the improved defenders they’ve become. Their bodies are stronger, older and stronger and they have the ability to guard the strong guards in our league. This Saturday [against UConn] is going to be a great match-up. Those two guys [Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright] are really good and our guys really love those challenges like we’re going to have, when really good guards come at them. They’ve risen to that.”
Grant, 6-foot-5 and 202 pounds, is averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 assists, Atkins, 6-2 and 182, has 11.2 points and 7.3 assists. Atkins has 109 assists and only 28 turnovers, Grant has 79 and 35.
Brey also gave his take on Kevin Ollie: “I’m really thrilled that they’ve decided to invest in him,” Brey said. “Players love him, you can tell they love him and he walks that fine line between players loving them and being their coach, getting on their backsides when he needs to. Players love playing for him and it’s great continuity for Connecticut to have him running the show.”
Brey said it is unusual to think about UConn and not think about the front court first, such as last year, when UConn’s front court really asserted itself in South Bend. “But those guards make the big guys they have better players,” he said.