Saturday, March 22, 2008

Washington State 61, Notre Dame 41

Superman meet Kryptonite. Washington State expertly controlled the pace and held Notre Dame to 25% shooting to end the Irish season in the Round of 32.

A pretty awful way to end the year. Luke Harangody grabbing 22 rebounds was the only highlight of the night as every shooter in black was harrassed constantly. Congrats to the Cougars for an excellent job on defense and taking ND out of their game.

What happened? WSU ran the half-court offense very well, draining the shot clock and picking up just enough offensive rebounds to keep possessions to a minimum. On defense, they never let the Irish get out in transition and played lock-down D in the halfcourt. They only had one or two guys crash the offensive glass, ensuring a high number of rebounds for Bamm-Bamm but also keeping Notre Dame from turning quick outlet passes into layups at the other end.

There were two ways for Notre Dame to win this game: accept the slow pace and shoot a high percentage from the field or get turnovers to speed the game up. In the first half, they tried plan number 1. Unfortunately, Forrest and Cowgill were mostly able to take away Luke Harangody one-on-one. That left Wazzou's quick guards free to roam the perimeter and take away outside shots. The 18% from three point range tells the tale of their success out there.

In the second half, Coach Brey made a solid adjustment to full-court man defense. This made Washington State a little more frantic and brought the Irish within 7. Unfortunately, WSU was able to adjust and beat the press. Notre Dame never opened the game into a sprint and were not able to convert half court opportunities. Game, set, match Washington State. The Irish go home.

Tory Jackson was a little razzled today. He tried to push the pace on occasion and turned the ball over. Certainly looked like a sophomore. 7 points, 4 rebounds, but only 2 assists. Not that there were a lot of field goals to assist.

Kyle McAlarney finished a resurgent year 2-8 from three point range. We have consistently lost when Mac shoots such a low percentage and tonight was no different. 12 points, 3 rebounds. Great to see him back in an Irish uniform, however, and here's to a spectacular senior campaign.

Zach Hillesland was pretty quiet. Only 2 points with 4 rebounds. 0-2 from the field. It will be interesting to see what is role will be in next year's squad. He was a welcome addition to the starting lineup halfway through the year and a great part of our success in the Big East.

How about Luke Harangody this year? No one would have predicted what we would become by year's end. A disappointing way to end the Big East Player of the Year's season. 10 points, an amazing 22 rebounds, but only 3-17 shooting. He was taken out of the offensive game in a way no one could have predicted.

Sad to see Rob Kurz go, but that's how it must be. 8 points, 3 rebounds in his final game. A great captain and terrific senior leader. His leadership will be missed and the Irish will need to find a solid high post guy to help Harangody next year. Good luck to Rob in the future.

Off the bench, a really tough night for Ryan Ayers. He showed the willingness to take shots tonight, but finished 0-4. No points. When he is on, he makes a great case for a starting slot, but we will see what happens. Jonathan Peoples with two late free throws. He was a quiet guy this year, just the backup point guard. Has some range, but rarely uses it. He may be a four year backup for us. Luke Zeller with nothing to show for the last game of his third college season. He has shown some improvement, but never became the post player that many had hoped for. Next year, he will help out at the high post and on the wing. It will be interesting to see how he handles some of Rob Kurz's responsibilities.

Abromaitis and Nash with mopup minutes. Those two guys could be the gamechangers next year. Really wanted to see more of them, especially Nash, but Coach Brey stuck with an 8 man lineup. Hard to second guess that now, as we had so much success with the eight veterans and the freshman probably would not have changed the outcome of this game. However, next year could be as much as 9-10 guys deep. Where do Abro and Nash fit in? I would guess they each get 8-10 minutes a game. What about a guy like Scott when he is healthy? He probably has the most upside of the freshmen. Even Proffitt could contribute. We shall see.

Just a poor game against a team that really matched up well against us. Hats off to Washington State for holding Coach Brey's team to its lowest scoring and shooting night of his career at ND. We never got into our game and they were incredibly efficent at theirs. Stats like their turning the ball over only once in the first half shows how well they were able to control this game.

Tough way to end the year, as always. However, great strides were made with the best Big East record and making the second round of the tournament. Next season should be even better.

Tomorrow and Monday I will recap the season and look forward to next year. Thanks to everyone who has contributed and I eagerly anticipate another season with all of you.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

If by kryptonite, you mean being thoroughly outplayed, and especially outcoached, then yes.

This is as good as it will ever get under Brey -- solid top-six Big East seasons, the occasional win in the BET, and the occasional win in the NCAAs. No BET finals, no more sweet 16 (getting to the Final 4 is a crapshooot-- thw Sweet 16 is the fairer measure).

Can we do better?

Golden Monkey said...

I've never watched a team so unprepared for a game in my life.... I'm embarassed being a N.D. fan. Brey couldn't coach a turd twisting contest!

Anonymous said...

"Tough way to end the year, as always. However, great strides were made with the best Big East record and making the second round of the tournament. Next season should be even better."

No, I'm sorry -- I can't settle for this. We've fired coaches who were thought to be stand-up, honorable men, but who failed to get it done come gametime. Why should Brey not be held to that standard?

luke said...

hey anonymous guy, this is a basketball blog, you are thinking about nd football!

seriously though, it would be crazy to fire a coach who finished in the top 15, and 3rd in the big east (picked to finish 9th)

lucid said...

"Why should Brey not be held to that standard?"

Brey has been the legimtimate coach of the year in the BE for 2 seasons in a row. He does the best with what is available for the basketball program at the university - not too many star recruits want to take calculus in their first year. And at the same time he has molded many players into pros - Murphy, Humphrey, Carroll, Quinn - and now Harangody. He's taken the team to the tournament 5 times in eight years and that total would be more had injuries to Francis and Thomas not compeltely ended their potential careers.

Brey is one of the best player coaches in the country. I hope to god he's not tempted to go to Indiana. Let's be honest, Digger had some really crappy years - remember the period from 1981 until David Rivers arrived? MacCleod was a nightmare & Matt Doherty wasn't much better. I think if he stays, Brey will become a better coach than Digger ever was & he will build the program into a perenial powerhouse playing Euro style ball [especially given that the rules committee is now extending the 3 point line & will likely expand the lane in a few years].

I beg you, don't drive Brey away. There are some Irish fans who seem intent on doing that, and I think they are seriously misguided.

Anonymous said...

Brey is one of the best player coaches in the country. I hope to god he's not tempted to go to Indiana.

Tonight is not quite the night to make this claim. I don't think that IU will be contacting Brey (and that is not meant as a slam at Brey, honest).

Let's be honest, Digger had some really crappy years - remember the period from 1981 until David Rivers arrived?

I certainly do. I also remember that Digger had a ton of good years before the pre-Rivers dry spell, and had built up enough good will to endure that dry spell. Brey is getting the reputation of a one-and-done, or two-and-out coach in a tournament setting.

MacCleod was a nightmare & Matt Doherty wasn't much better.

MacLeod was cleaning up the mess that Dick Rosenthal left (taking away Digger's power to schedule, loading up on power teams when we had the Ross twins, keeping us out of the Big East a full five years longer than we should have waited). Doherty was inexperienced, but was the best available after the Administration cut Wadsworth off at the knees when he had Rick Majerus all but signed. He may have been a good one had he stayed, but I'm not so sure.

I think if he stays, Brey will become a better coach than Digger ever was & he will build the program into a perenial powerhouse playing Euro style ball [especially given that the rules committee is now extending the 3 point line & will likely expand the lane in a few years].

Better than Digger? Um, probably not.

I think the one legitimate excuse that Brey has is the facilities. And that will be remedied within three years with the cosmetic upgrades to the Arena, and the dedicated practice space in the Fieldhouse.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster that wrote that this is as good as it gets with Brey. Not that this was a bad year - it wasn't. Brey's teams will never, ever whip a team like Duke on the road in a big spot like West Virginia did today. Huggins is a basketball coach as is Bennett. For the most part I am a proponent of the 8 man rotation, however, you have to have 9 and 10 ready to go for spot minutes. Brey could have gotten these guys ready in the never ending December walkovers. He chooses not to and his team looks tired at the end of the year....every year. He really only plays 6 guys. The minutes Zeller and Peoples got should have been Nash and Abromaitis. Both could have helped in spots this year. Nash rebounded every time he stepped on the court and Abromaitis can stroke the ball. Would have been nice to throw him into the fray tonight. What could it have hurt? Tory Jackson - I think the word is out that he will try to penetrate and then make a spin move. Every assist does not have to be spectacular. No help coming at point - I would tinker with giving Mac some minutes there next year with Ayers or even Abromaitis at the 2. Forget about Zeller - a 7 ft. 3 point specialist, now that is what I call player development.

lucid said...

Tonight is not quite the night to make this claim.

I said 'player coaches'. That has nothing to do with any particular game - so that claim can and should be made on any night. I think Brey still has a lot to learn as a game coach. But I've also seen steady progress in that regard over his tenure. He's still young enough that he's trying to find his signature style - and I think he's getting close. The college game will be getting more international in terms of rules in the coming years. I think that is a good thing, because it encourages team play over star power & Brey is an excellent coach to have at the helm as these changes occur.

...and to be honest, I've never thought of Digger as much of a coach. He was a good recruiter & sold the program, but I can't think of a single player that he made better. While Brey has taken guys who other universities passed over & made them into pros - that's coaching in my book.

Brey is getting the reputation of a one-and-done, or two-and-out coach in a tournament setting.

That will change. And he has made the sweet 16 twice. That ain't nothing to sneeze at. ND isn't and never will be North Carolina in basketball - but with a coach like Brey, the program will become something like a Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

ND isn't and never will be North Carolina in basketball - but with a coach like Brey, the program will become something like a Pittsburgh.

A program known for its year-in, year out bone-crunching defense? Try again.

BlackandGreen said...

I'll admit Brey was outcoached today, absolutely. To a second year famous jazz singer no less... Seriously, Tony Bennett did a great job and was the better guy on the sidelines tonight.

But let's not throw Coach Brey solely under the bus for this performance. The execution simply was not there. Harangody consistently forced shots under the basket that did not fall. He got frustrated and had tunnel vision. 3-17 is awful. Jackson let the game get to him and was ineffective. No one on the team shot anywhere near their average. You can't outcoach a 25% night from the field.

I'll certainly agree that Brey was outcoached tonight. However, one game does not erase what he accomplished in taking a 9th place team in the conference to a tie for 2nd. Some of the points being made are certainly valid, but it's a bit of a stretch for call for a guy's head after one very poor game in an overall good season (UCONN fans called for Calhoun's head after their loss, so this is not simply a Notre Dame phenomenon... I kid you not).

Let's try to keep comparisons to Digger at a minimum... it was a different game at a different time that is very hard to compare to today. Back then, the "mid-majors" had nowhere near the success that they do today. There were only a couple dozen truly strong programs. Today, I would argue that just about any of the top 50 teams in the country could battle for a Sweet 16 bid, while many more could pull an upset in a single game against just about anybody.

The tournament was completely different back then, as well, so it's rough to bash Brey's NCAA record in comparison to Digger's. It took Phelps 7 years to win two straight games in the tournament. That took Brey three. Does that make Mike Brey a better coach than Digger? Of course not, but that is an example of why comparing the two coaches is so difficult.

Is this as good as it gets with Coach Brey? Obviously none of us can tell for sure. Honestly if anyone would have told me we would finish 25-8, 2nd in the Big East, and make the 2nd round after losing Falls and Carter, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. But that's not the question. What we are really asking is whether this program can take the next step and become a true top 20 powerhouse with NCAA credentials every year and the ability to make a deep NCAA run. That is why next year is so important.

Let's be honest, no one expected this team to be Elite 8/Final 4 caliber at the beginning of the season. However, I think it is a fair expectation that the Irish will be good enough next year to make that case. In fact, next year's team should be the first since 2001 (Brey's first season) to start with a top 20 ranking. We will be able to see how the Irish match up with the Maui Invitational and a game at UCLA. If the Irish can get a couple wins there and finally make a strong showing in the BET, I would feel very confident that Sweet 16 or even more is possible.

But that's still to be determined. For now, certainly there are good arguments to be made about Coach Brey's problems as a game coach. However, I would certainly wait to see how next year turns out before making anything near a judgment as to his future at the school. If he can get us over that hump into the Sweet 16 and turn the program into a perennial contender in the Big East with some sniffs at deep tournament runs, I would be very happy. As it is, I wouldn't take a chance on an unknown quantity (let's face it, we're not getting a Roy Williams or something of that caliber) without letting the Brey years run their course... that means at least 3 more chances barring a complete disaster next season.

Also, notice I haven't mentioned the guy's character once yet. I doubt anyone here would want to sell the program's soul for a Kelvin Sampson. At the very least, we can all agree on what a great person and ambassador for the school Coach Brey has been.

Whew, that was a long one... you all are making me work tonight. Thanks for all the input as always, it's great having some back-and-forth. To the guys with whom I disagree, believe me, I understand the frustration and plenty of what has been said is dead-on. However, I certainly think that this program has the ability to move forward with the current coach. Could a coaching change be beneficial? Of course that is a possibility, but the chances of it backfiring are not worth taking for a while.

Anonymous said...

IU going after Brey. About as likely as Michigan courting Weis last year. If you were IU and you watched tonight's game who would you go after - Brey or Bennett? I'm sorry folks, and I like Mike Brey and most of what he does and stand for, Brey got outcoached badly tonight.

Anonymous said...

What we are really asking is whether this program can take the next step and become a true top 20 powerhouse with NCAA credentials every year and the ability to make a deep NCAA run. That is why next year is so important.

Agreed. If he can't do it next year, it is doubtful that he ever will. Do I think he can do it. I don't think so tonight, but I might change my mind by October, after the anger subsides. :)

BlackandGreen said...

Bennett has to be the next IU coach. He took a last place team in the Pac 10 and turned them into a contender. Watching tonight, it wasn't talent that won the game, just a great gameplan that suited the players perfectly.

He could be something special at a school with some tradition.

Anonymous said...

How surprising that all of the criticism is being directed solely at Coach Brey. Throughout the game, I thought that it was the players who collectively "spit the bit." We had no leadership on the court tonight. And, it was not Mike Brey throwing bricks at the basket.

As for character, recruiting (in a far more competitive era), integrity, AND coaching,Mike Brey surpasses Digger. And, if you are growing impatient with the tournament performances of Coach Brey, look up the record of Al McGuire. As he got older, he got better. Coach Brey is getting better, and so is the team.

Undeniably, tonight's was a brutal loss. But the future is good.

lucid said...

A program known for its year-in, year out bone-crunching defense? Try again.

I meant in terms of the program's overall success, i.e. quality team every year, always ranked & with the potential to go deep in the tourney. Sorry that wasn't clear, but then again there isn't another program that plays like Brey's clubs for comparison. He is a very unique coach...

And I'm sorry if I'm sounding like a Brey cheerleader tonight. I have many issues with him as well, not the least of which is that he didn't integrate Nash and Abromitis into the lineup this year. I've been vocal about that all year. If he had, this might have been a different game tonight. That said, I really like where he's going with the team. I really like what he's been doing with recruiting - the 2 guys with commitments for 2009 look fabulous - and will perform to their best in a Brey style system... Not to mention I can't imagine another coach in the country would have gotten McAlarney back after the dismal way the university handled that situation.

My only bitterness tonight is at CBS... It seems they changed the PPV package this year. I didn't see either game live because both were slated for CBS east, but because both were blowouts, CBS East cut away &... & [my ire is growing] the PPV packages at the sports bars wouldn't let you tune into the game if it was the scheduled game in your region!

I guess the NCAA's have gone the way of the Olympics.

Anonymous said...

I meant in terms of the program's overall success, i.e. quality team every year, always ranked & with the potential to go deep in the tourney. Sorry that wasn't clear, but then again there isn't another program that plays like Brey's clubs for comparison. He is a very unique coach...

Someone on the NDNation board posted the telling comment that Brey is running the 90s Duke offense, without running the 90s Duke defense. Too true. This year's defense is probably the best ND's had in a long time. And it still isn't Big East- or NCAA-titleworthy. If we could poach whoever on Ben Howlett's or Jamie Dixon's staff responsible for defense...

Anonymous said...

What exactly is "euro style" ball. If it means living and dying with the jumper and being soft defensively we are well on our way.

In this country, and I suspect this won't change anytime soon, cahampionships are won with exection, defense and superior game plans.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is "euro style" ball. If it means living and dying with the jumper and being soft defensively we are well on our way.

Euro style is what has kicked the USA's butt in the last Olympics and the last two World Championships. The closest thing I've seen in the college game is what Pittino runs. If he has good three-point shooters, that becomes the primary option in his offense.

And on an unrelated note, Ben Howlett's UCLA team just demonstrated how a consistently great defense can get you a win in a game where your offense is off-kilter.

Anonymous said...

So, what happens to "euro style" when a good defensive team neutralizes the three point shot? As for the Olympics - there are a myriad of reasons for our recent lack of success - not the least of which is that the talent level has caught up and that most international teams spend considerably more preparation time than our team.

lucid said...

Euro style is what has kicked the USA's butt in the last Olympics and the last two World Championships.

Exactly. The US hasn't won an international basketball championship since 2000 - with NBA players. And for good reason. This is what I see as good about Brey. He's coaching more for that game - a game that the NCAA rules committee is making more a reality by the day.

Euro style ball is team ball. Assists, movement, a group of players that can all handle the ball and handle different positions. Its a much more fluid game... and the reason I really don't follow the NBA - it bores me to tears. And no, defense is not absent in euroball. But the rules make it different. The lane is significantly wider and zones are allowed. This translates to a more finesse game that rewards passing teams and minimizes the impact of, say, a Shaq. [But in all honesty, if the officials ever called things right, players like Shaq would foul out in the first half.]

Brey has always needed to be better as a defensive coach, and I second the 'anonymous' who wants to snag the Howland or Dixon assistant responsible for that...

That said, I'm looking forawrd to next year. And I'm really hoping that Carlton Scott is 100%, because all practice footage I've seen points to him as the next emerging star on the team.

lucid said...

...And I say all of this as the biggest fan of the Van Gundy NY Knicks teams of the '90's. They were BE style physical defense teams. And it was beautiful. But... again they were replete with players shifting positions, passing, cutting, moving. LJ could be a beast in the post and knock down the spot up 3 pointer. Sprewell could slash, shoot and defend as well as anyone in the league.

Wellroundedness.

That is the type of ball I love, and I think Brey is making moves to that end. So I like the direction.

Anonymous said...

How many championships did the Knicks win in the 90's? What is JVG doing these days? How is his former team doing? Those Knicks played thugball and always, always choked in the playoffs. What amazes me is that everyone says the NBA is terrible. In many ways it is but the team that wins - The Spurs - plays a great brand of basketball that I would brand as a hybrid "euro style" along with utilizing the great talent that NBA players bring to the table. If I was a coach I would certainly pay attention to what they do - along with what John Wooden did. When it came time to press tonight ND had no clue whether to pressure the inbounder or he next receiver. Their press was laughably bad. How about a zone trap like Wooden ran at UCLA? The problem is that you must spend hours and hours to perfect it. I would be surprised if ND spent an hour all year working on a press. A press could have forced a more uptempo game.

Sebastian said...

I think Brey should be congratulated for this season and definitely hope to have him back next season.

Are we Notre Dame? Yes. And that's a fantastic thing.

But this isn't football. In football, though it annoys me when Irish fans say titles are their birthright, a standard of excellence has been set and failure to meet expectations results in a trip home. Notre Dame means something.

That being said, Notre Dame isn't Duke/UNC/UCLA/Kansas/Kentucky/etc when it comes to basketball, and booting a coach who has done as much as he has here with what he has at ND, in terms of players or academics, is ridiculous. Now if ND maintains a bare minimum final product, okay, fire him. But as long as that's not the case, keep Brey.

More importantly, I think someone needs to tell Notre Dame not to wheel out those hideous black jerseys. ND has more than enough color possibilities already:

Blue
Green
Gold
Yellow
White

We don't need a sixth option thrown in the mix because it's "cool." Good design decisions aren't made by 14-year old boys. Notre Dame needs to simplify and get a uniform look.

lucid said...

What is JVG doing these days?

Not coaching because he got burned by management, first at NY then at Houston.

How is his former team doing?

Well, his 'team' was dismantled by Isiah Thomas [who should forever be banned from basketball]... And he ultimately left when the former GM gave him a big middle finger with the Camby trade.

So there isn't a former team. His team was what he built with what he was given & he took them to the finals & he took them deep every year.

Best coach period in the NBA given what he had.


Those Knicks played thugball and always, always choked in the playoffs.

Like when? Yeah Ewing was a choker and there is the 1994 moment in the finals with Charles Smith, but those teams were damn good. And JVG is one of the best coachees the NBA has ever seen. I hope he gets back into the fray.

Anonymous said...

JVG is one of the best coaches the NBA has ever seen

You must be joking. Look at what Houston is doing now that he is gone (I don't think you can attribute it to the arrival of Shane Battier).

Craig said...

sebastian, this is the first time we laid a turd in the black jerseys, against a record of basically never playing well in the navy blue jerseys this season. I am 100% behind the use of black in this game.

Justin said...

"Bennett has to be the next IU coach. He took a last place team in the Pac 10 and turned them into a contender. Watching tonight, it wasn't talent that won the game, just a great gameplan that suited the players perfectly.

He could be something special at a school with some tradition."

I Don't think so, He'll likely move on at some point but probably not for another 2-5 years. The IU position isn't as appealing right now as it might appear from inside the Hoosier State. NCAA sanctions? Besides, Wisconsin is probably much more of a dream job for Tony than IU.

BlackandGreen said...

Very good points. If sanctions are handed down, I can't see anyone outside of the IU family running the program. Dakich, anyone?

Another problem with coaching the Hoosiers will be the terrible expectations. A young coach like Bennett needs a few more years to build a strong resume. However, if a place like IU comes calling and the money's there, it will be tough to turn down.