Colson back as No. 14 Notre Dame opens at DePaul

With forward Bonzie Colson back for his senior season, Notre Dame is in position to dream of conference titles and even a Final Four run.

The Irish begin the season ranked No. 14 in the AP poll and they open Saturday afternoon at DePaul, a game in which Colson might not actually be the main attraction. Top billing could go to the arena itself. The Blue Demons will be playing their first game inside the new, $173 million Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

"We all obviously want to perform well," DePaul junior guard Eli Cain said in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"We want to play well and win the game. We want to show that the change of DePaul's culture is real. It's not just talked about. It's not just something we can go around saying in interviews and put on social media. We want to show that that's the real deal."

Notre Dame has been the real deal for a while. The Irish have reached at least 21 victories in 10 of the past 11 seasons. They reached the NCAA Tournament in nine of those 11 seasons, with back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 2015 and 2016.

Stability hasn't been the issue.

With Colson -- a consensus preseason All-American who averaged 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season -- the Irish could be a major player on the national scene all season.

"I wanted to come back for my fourth year of college," he recently told a media gathering. "I wanted to get my degree; that is why I came here. That has always been a dream of mine -- get a degree, especially from Notre Dame.

"Just taking ownership of that and knowing that I have things to prove in my game as well to maybe get to the next level."

Colson, 6-foot-6 and 224 pounds, led the ACC last season with 19 double-doubles, physical in the paint while also dabbling outside the arc, hitting 26 of 60 3-point attempts (43.3 percent).

"He loves to win and is focused on that and that is a great trait to have," said coach Mike Brey, who is 17-0 in season openers at Notre Dame. "It is up to me to find where to play him on the court throughout the game where he will be the toughest matchup."

Notre Dame was 26-10 overall and 12-6 in league play last season. The Irish were picked to finish third this season behind Duke and North Carolina in a vote of the conference media.

Colson has help, including senior guard Matt Farrell (14.1 ppg, 42.0 percent 3-point shooting) and high-energy junior guard Rex Pflueger, who is expected to have a full-time starting role this season. D.J. Harvey, a physically ready 6-6 freshman who was the No. 1-rated recruit out of Maryland, should be an inside-outside threat.

DePaul returns four starters from a 9-23 team. Cain is the top returning scorer at 15.6 points per game. Transfers to watch include sophomore guard Austin Grandstaff (Ohio State/Oklahoma), junior guard Max Strus (a Division II All-American at Lewis University) and 6-11 senior center Marin Maric, who averaged 14.4 points and 8.4 rebounds at Northern Illinois last season.

This will be the 105th meeting between the schools. The Irish lead the series 60-44 and have won the past nine matchups, which equals the longest streak in the series.
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