ND Basketball: No Dancing Allowed

Every time that I have sat down to think about just how to put this post together it seems another disappointing ND loss immediately follows. It got to the point to where I didn’t even want to touch the subject (mostly out of rage). I figured anything I might say would throw fuel on the fire for a season that wasn’t quite over yet.

Well that line of thinking went right out the window recently.

Just what in the hell happened? This was a team ranked in the top 10 preseason. We had Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody, on the roster along with the amazing three-point wizardry of Kyle McAlarney and young players like Ryan Ayers ready to step up and take the team to the next level.

As the season went on, it became painfully obvious that all we really have is Harangody and if he’s on, McAlarney and a bunch of young players still learning. All lead by a coach that still doesn’t seem to know how to manage the clock and how to use timeouts.

Now I have never publicly written on Mike Brey, so let me be clear on my stance on him. He drives me absolutely nuts. My biggest issue with him has always been the management of the clock and use of timeouts. During my time at ND, I would be fuming from the stands as we would call our last timeout with 2 or 3 minutes still left to play. We’d refuse to call timeouts to stop huge runs by opponents, and we’d inexplicably at times call timeouts during our own runs if the opposing side scored.

Oh no! Our run is now 12-4 instead of 12-0! Hit the breaks! Time out! Something is CLEARLY wrong.

Then there is that whole rebounding thing that we never really seem to get right as a team. From the games I’ve been able to watch, it is almost like either Luke is going to be going for the ball or it has to fall in someone else’s lap. For a team that relies so much on the outside jumper for scoring, how we don’t try to have at least more people fighting for an offensive board is beyond me. Even more confusing is why this attitude transfers to the other side of the court as well.

I’m no basketball expert, but when I constantly watch games were our oppenents are grabbing offensive boards left and right, something is seriously wrong!

Most games, we only have one consistent scoring threat and that is Harangody. After that, we rely on our perimeter game. You live on the jumper, you die by it. You need more than one person trying to score from paint. This whole thought of having one guy to pound it in while everyone else fires threes just doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked long-term for us. Period.

Let me tell you, that kind of basketball is painful to watch when it fails. I watched the Mavericks try to make playoff runs on that mentality. The Suns have tried it too recently. The same thing ends up happening year in and year out, those teams don’t win the big one. There must be a strong balance, something to fall back on if your shooters are cold. We fall back only on Luke and then teams swarm him and dare us to fire outside shots in the meantime.

However, I’m saying this about a coach that has been with us for nearly a decade, so I am clearly just spewing venom right? Well thanks to this post at the Rakes of Mallow, it seems like my Brey-hating isn’t completely unjustified; however, it seems that it really should be for reasons that I didn’t see coming:

“You probably can come to the middle on the last three years,” Brey said. “That would be my opinion. You’re 11th and ninth in preseason poll (the last two seasons) and rocket up there. Given what we were going to play and who we were really this year — were you really seventh in the country? Were you really? I don’t ever want to take away from our guys… I don’t quite know about that.

“When you look at the last couple teams, you’re kind of in middle with where we were and who we really were. The last two groups came together at a good time, drew a very strategic league schedule. Now, we delivered. But we drew a very strategic league schedule. There were some teams in the league this year that drew a very strategic league schedule – I don’t think you can say we were one of them.”

When the league conducted a straw poll in June — once the test-the-waters guys were either gone to the NBA or coming back — the Irish were picked to finish fourth. With Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody returning, they were thus thrust into the top-shelf television schedule.

All of which had Brey examining his team’s league gauntlet the day after Christmas, then turning to his wife, Tish, and saying this: 9-9.

“Where do I sign on Dec. 26?” Brey said. “I don’t want to sell us short, but I’ve been through the cycle of the league nine years now. You thrive when you can, then when rotate up into that (difficult schedule), can you survive?”

WHAT?! I have never, ever heard a coach talk like this. So let me get this straight, he takes a look at the preseason rankings and thinks to himself “Wow, are we really that good?” and then says “Nah, we can’t be, got lucky last year with the scheduling.” Then, come Christmas time, he looks at this seasons schedule, chuckles at the June prediction of 4th in the Big East, turns to his wife after Christmas and says ND will go .500, and finally to cap it all off he publicly states all these wonderful thoughts and asks everyone in the nation how they could expect poor little ‘ol ND to survive the big, bad schedule of the Big East.

What in the hell is this? Dumb and stupid doesn’t even begin to describe what Brey said. The fact that he even thinks this is bad enough, saying it in a freakin’ news conference for the whole world to heard and then subsequently laugh at! What a great voice for ND Basketball to motivate!

The University must feel the same way because the press conference is still clearly being hosted at UND.com — oh wait, no it isn’t.

No wonder this team came out constantly flat in big games, lost leads, folded at the end of big games, and couldn’t take care of the easy teams they were supposed to pound. You got a coach taking a look at things and saying “Hey guys, don’t worry, just the schedule do what you can.”

Harangody clearly deviates from his coach. I love his attitude even though at times I think it hurts his game. He often tries to take too much control of the game and attempts to take on double and triple teams that he shouldn’t as well as believing he can surpass obvious height mismatches (see UConn). Now I see why he does it though. Someone has to light the fire under the team, and by God, he’s taken it upon himself to do it.

However, that only goes so far when even your own coach sees that attitude and then benches you at the end of the Villanova game when you are getting beat:

“He was so wired emotionally right there,” Brey said. “I didn’t want him swinging or elbowing anybody at the end of the game. He wanted it so bad. I didn’t want him doing anything crazy. His motor runs at a very high level. I told him, that engine is great, and we want that thing revved up high, but directed at the right things. An elbow or a confrontation, we didn’t need that.

Wait, wait…so because he wants the game so bad, you are convinced that he will elbow someone and start a fight? Seriously? This statement just boggles my mind. So what if he lands an elbow at that point? Unless Luke is judge a rampaging maniac throwing elbows and punches at every turn, why in the hell are you putting out the biggest fire on the team, Brey? If you don’t have enough trust in your star player to be able to refrain from starting a fight, you have bigger issues.

So in all of this pissed-off posting, what does this all mean for ND Basketball? Well for one, start chanting NIT because that is the best case scenario right now, barring some miracle run in the Big East tourney. A season with so much promise and hope is now ultimately doomed to failure.

But I’m sure Brey has a plan to turn this ship around for next season right?

One solution to mitigate the Big East grind that has mashed the Irish into pulp this year: Going to divisions with 16 teams. It’s an idea Brey clearly wants to put on the table.

“We are the only league that will do the straw poll and then repeat the top teams for TV purposes,” Brey said. “Everyone else, (the league schedule is) projected out already. Could we go to divisions? I think we have to talk about it. There’s a movement and an open mind to discuss it in Jacksonville (at the league meetings) this year. Could we get a rhythm to a schedule? But that’s easy for me to sit here and say.”


Just great Brey, just great.

Here’s hoping to a stronger end to the season, and the Irish play with some fire and pride for the games that remain.