Four quick things because I’m at work and I should be preparing for a presentation, not doing this.
1. Lazarus Arrives to the Party Early
I’ve been very critical of Mike Brey over the last couple years and that reached a boiling point last month when I wrote an article for this site about how it was probably time to find someone else to take ND to the next level. The Irish promptly unleashed arguably their six gutsiest, complete performances of the year and now Brey is back on hallowed ground in the eyes of the pundits on TV. I saw this latest resurrection coming but I thought it would be next year because I was fairly certain this year was a lost cause. Crow never tasted so good.
Mike Brey deserves a ton of credit for transforming this team and proving that he is capable of being a top-level coach. He has completely junked his normal high-octane style of play in favor of going with a patient, grinding, borderline Pete Carril-esque brand of basketball. The results have been staggering. We have worn down opponents with this new methodical approach on the offensive end and finishing them off with—dare I say it—relatively suffocating defense (Did I really just type that? Someone get me some smelling salts) on the other side of the ball.
Brey’s willingness to adapt with such a drastic change affirms the fact that the guy knows what he’s doing. Could this be a turning point for the entire program? That all depends on how he—not the team—handles the success. Does he downplay his team in the tournament and offseason or embrace the challenge of a potential bullseye on his team’s chest? If he does the latter than I believe we’ve turned a corner; if it’s the former than this is just a tease and the status quo will continue.
2. “Painful…yet Beautiful”
During last night’s game my buddy Pat sent me a text that read, “painful yet beautiful to watch our new style.” I couldn’t agree more, it’s Ron Hassler-ball on a higher level with a shot clock (let that Allentown Central Catholic Basketball reference soak in for a second). The grind it out game we played against a Seton Hall team that had put up 100+ points the night before almost made you feel sympathetic for the Pirates as they died a slow death on the court.
Brey’s “Burn Offense” is predicated on being able to get off a good shot in the last ten seconds of the shot clock, something we’d failed miserably at when we’d attempted to do it in the past (see: ’05-’06 season). This year’s squad is so smart with the ball and exploits weakness in the defense so effectively that the offense has been deadly. First of all it limits the number of possessions both teams get over the course of a game. For a team as efficient with possessions as Notre Dame (#2 in the entire country in offensive efficiency) that’s a very good thing.
Secondly it frustrates the opposing team so much on the defensive end that it starts to affect them on the opposite end of the court as well. Inevitably they begin to quicken their offensive possessions in an attempt to quicken the pace of the game. The patience of Tory Jackson and Ben Hansbrough prevents that from happening though, even when the Irish fall behind like they did at the beginning of the Seton Hall game.
Lastly—and perhaps most importantly—it has translated into a different defensive team. The Irish have gone from one of the worst defensive units in the country to a smothering defensive team. Part of it is the “Burn Offense” getting the opponent out of rhythm, the other part is Notre Dame having more energy to exert on defense thanks to the more methodical offensive approach.
Watching this style of play isn’t nearly as fun as the normal run n’ gun offense we’re accustomed too*, but I’ll take ugly, boring victories over fun, exciting losses any day of the week. Here’s hoping that Brey doesn’t junk this after the season and at the very least finds a happy medium between the two.
* = Be forewarned that the student body will most likely use this as another excuse to not attend games.
3. The Return of Bam Bam
Luke Harangody had to listen to people question speculate as to whether Notre Dame was a better team without him for about a month. A five point, two rebound game in the
I understand Luke may have been hurt by fans implying they didn’t want him back, but the reality is that he needed to change his game in order for the team to be successful. His hiatus allowed his teammates to come into their own, made Brey tweak a strategy that wasn’t working, and had to be a bit humbling for Luke. The injury was the turning point of the season and four weeks later we’re a far better team because of it.
Now that he’s back he needs to integrate himself into a system that’s working. There is no reason for him to be hoisting 25 shots a game any more and certainly no excuse for launching five three-point shots each contest. He needs to do his dirty work around the basket and patrol the baseline on offense against 2-3 zones (he put on a clinic on how beat a zone by running baseline against
4. Quick Hits
Tory Jackson demonstrated in the second half of the Seton Hall game how he is capable of taking over a game on offense when he wants. He did it in the Big East tournament as a freshman as well. I love the kid and appreciate all he’s done, I’ve always just wondered why he didn’t flip the switch like that more over his career…If you really love the game of basketball and the intricacies of it then you love watching Ben Hansbrough. He’s got an endless motor and is so fundamentally sound and smart on both ends of the court…Greg Monroe is a 2-3 Zone KILLER…If Greivis Vasquez was on Duke he’d be the most hated player of all-time. He makes Joakim Noah seem likeable…I have no doubt that the NCAA Tournament will expand to 96 teams and it just makes me sad. It won’t be for the good of college basketball, it will be because of greed and dollar bills. The best part of the entire tournament is the Cinderellas that emerge in the first weekend. Mark my words: the expansion will destroy it…Jonathan Peoples was on the Big East Tournament intro montage even though he’s our ninth man. He was also prominently featured in the team intro video his sophomore year when he never played (he was chugging away on a stationary bike as