Finally, we get back into the painted area. We have not discussed a post player since Mamadi Diakite at #10, but at #4 we have possibly the biggest surprise from the 2018-19 season, Notre Dame’s Big John Mooney.
While Mooney’s meteoric ascension came seemingly out of nowhere last season, he won’t catch anyone snoozing in 2019-20. Prior to last season, I don’t think anyone knew that he would be effective as a more “traditional” type big man. We all knew he could shoot it well for a big, evident by his 42% three point percentage as a sophomore. But, I think he was thought of as more of a “wrinkle” player. He put all of that to rest and proved to be one of the best and most underrated big men in the country, averaging 14.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for the Irish.
Before last season, much of the speculation surrounding the Fighting Irish front court was that UConn transfer Juwan Durham would be the starting center. In a podcast I did with Slap the Sign writer Nate Erbach, he stated that Coach Mike Brey was leaning towards Mooney. That statement proved true as Mooney started all 33 games for the Irish last season and led the ACC with 20 double-doubles (14 in ACC play). His 370 total rebounds were 8th most in the country and 2nd in the ACC behind only Luke Maye of North Carolina. His 25.8 player efficiency rating trailed only Zion Williamson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. among ACC players that clocked 900+ minutes.
Coming into this season, Notre Dame is a dark horse pick among some prognosticators (me) and Mooney is a huge part of that. In conference play last season he actually played better, averaging 15 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. You can throw in a block and steal per game for good measure. Hell, have basically a 1-1 A/TO as well, just for grins.
He didn’t just feast on the unfortunate either. He matched or outplayed most of the top big men in the ACC including Eli Thomas ( 18 & 15), James Banks (19 & 7 average in three games), and Luke Maye/Garrison Brooks (16 and 16).
Look for Mooney to lead the Irish back to the tournament and add another All-ACC selection to his mantle in 2019-20.