An anonymous poster mentioned a nice idea for a post and I am following through with it. So here they are, my ten steps to building the Irish into a national power.
10. Historical Rivalries- Restarting the UCLA series was a great idea. With Marquette and DePaul now in the Big East, our nonconference games have turned into a variety of easy opponents and one or two hot programs. Let's reintroduce a good home-and-home series (in addition to the Bruins) that taps into the success of the past. Dayton is a good one, being Catholic and a solid mid-major school, but they are tough to play at home and could be seen as a bad loss. Other ideas are Kentucky (big in the 60s and 70s) and Michigan State (played almost every year from 1908 to 1975).
9. Local Rivalries- Building off the last point and venturing into my "public relations" portion of the post, I'd like to see us reach out more to the townies. Bringing in an Indiana (played from 1946-2001), Purdue (1930-1966), or Butler (1922-1977) will energize the local fan base and sell out at least that one game. They're big draws for the South Bend area and have a lot of historical meaning.
8. Better Advertising- In addition, we need to work on promoting basketball games earlier in the season to see the Joyce Center fill up. The JACC can be one of the best places to play in the country when it is full in a big game. When we're playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, it's a graveyard. Tap into local support and try to sell out games year-round.
7. Ticket Distribution- Everyone knows that the gold seats remain half-empty even in big games. Hopefully the creation of a press box will keep the big donors away from the seating areas. With a smaller capacity next season, emphasis must be placed on selling tickets to fans who will actually show up to the game.
6. Open Pocketbook- To be successful, the basketball program needs full support from the board of trustees. That means allocating money. If we need a new coach, let's find the best one possible and pay him a competitive salary. We can pay two or three head coaches at a time for football, so let's make the hoops program more attractive with a strong financial reward for success.
5. Smarter Scheduling- Notre Dame played one of the toughest schedules in the country but you'd never know it by looking at the stats. Our strength of schedule is awful, hurting our RPI and tournament chances. I like playing a couple big programs a year, but more important is how you schedule the cupcakes. Louisville played a bunch of teams in the top 100 (5 to our 3). We played a bunch of teams in the 300s (5, the Cards had no one worse than 252nd). Schedule a solid group of midmajors ranked between 100-200 for your easy games, a couple at the bottom of the double digits, and one or two big games. Sure, you might slip up here and there, but you'll be better off in the long run (Louisville is tied for first in the Big East after three nonconference losses).
4. Attention to Defense- Rick Pitino's squad is another good example here. Defense wins championships. I love Coach Brey's teams when they score, but that is no way to build a championship caliber program. At the very least, the effort has to be there to consistently produce a top 25 defending team. The offense will suffer a little, but we will see some success in March.
3. Recruiting Mindset- In addition to the two big items which I have yet to address, the Irish need to work on building up their talent base. This has been argued before and there are some other factors that go into it (see step #1 and #2), but the overall talent level has to grow a bit. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers would never see playing time at a true national power. Let's crack into the four star ranks a bit more and also build a well-rounded lineup. Not just big white guys who can shoot, playing a couple athletic types (more like Carleton Scott) will allow for better production from a Kyle McAlarney or Luke Harangody.
2. Practice Facilities- This may in fact be a prerequisite to recruiting success. High school seniors know what they like. They like the new Guglielmino Athletic Complex. They don't like The Pit. Rumor is that the hockey team will get updated locker rooms and the like, opening the door for a possible North Dome expansion to include training facilities for basketball. They need to be state-of-the-art if we want to reach the level of quality at basketball schools.
1. Loosen Academic Standards- This may raise a red flag to some, but it needs to happen. I'm not saying we should let in every kid with a GED and some game, there just has to be consistency between the programs. Football gets far more concessions including, though they'll never admit it, three or four scholarships regardless of academic standing (see Golden Tate). If a player is willing to work hard in his classes and be a model citizen, let him in. It's no secret that many very talented basketball players come from poorer backgrounds with little access to the secondary education in the world. If a guy can come in and get a college degree from a better institution than he could otherwise attend, all the better.