Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fifteen Games Left

At 2-1 in the Big East, the Irish stand on the precipice of three distinctly different five game stretches.

The first, which includes games against three top ten teams, will have a significant effect on any NCAA Tournament hopes. 1-4 here could finish Notre Dame off before we even reach the halfway point of the conference season. Predicted scores are by Ken Pomeroy, followed by the predicted number of possessions and percentage chance of victory.

Sat Jan 9 (10) West Virginia L, 79-736628%Home
Sat Jan 16 (56) Cincinnati L, 77-706726%Away
Mon Jan 18 (5) Syracuse L, 89-797421%Home
Sat Jan 23 (183) DePaul W, 75-626290%Home
Wed Jan 27 (29) Villanova L, 92-807217%Away

The Irish reach a nice run of easier games, all of which are very winnable. Sweeping these contests, or even taking four of five is extremely important.

Sat Jan 30 (157) Rutgers W, 78-746965%Away
Thu Feb 4 (56) Cincinnati W, 74-736756%Home
Sun Feb 7 (77) South Florida W, 74-706565%Home
Thu Feb 11 (58) Seton Hall L, 90-837527%Away
Sun Feb 14 (87) St. John's W, 77-726770%Home

Finally, a death march to end the year. ND was unlucky to land five of its most difficult games right at the end of the year. Even one win here would be a very good accomplishment.

Wed Feb 17 (34) Louisville L, 87-777219%Away
Wed Feb 24 (27) Pittsburgh L, 72-706442%Home
Sat Feb 27 (14) Georgetown L, 82-696812%Away
Wed Mar 3 (37) Connecticut L, 79-787147%Home
Sat Mar 6 (23) Marquette L, 84-726715%Away

Though the loss to Loyola Marymount was a huge disappointment that seriously affected our Tournament hopes, I think that final stretch of games is still what will make or break this season. Regardless of Notre Dame's overall conference record (it probably should be 10-8 at least to make the right side of the bubble), those last five games could have the Irish reeling while under the committee's microscope. Of course, if this team cannot pull out an extra win or two in January or drops a game it should win, the final games won't matter.

28 comments:

Kurt said...

This team is still a mystery to me. There is a lot of upside and pretty decent potential, but they could also end up 6-12. I think the easier games in the middle of the schedule is a good thing. 1 - it should give the current iron 7 some time to rest up so they can be fresh for the last 5 games and concomitantly 2 - give Brey a chance Brooks and Manner some minutes that could prepare them to contribute in the last 5 games.

Several things need to change with this team. Abro needs to step up to Big East physicality, which I think he can do. I expect him to have a good game on Saturday. Hansbrough can't disappear like he did against SF. It was reminiscent of Ayers last season. Nash needs to continue his upward trajectory. If he can keep getting low double figure points and high single digit rebounds with consistency, this team can go far. Scott needs to get more consistent and start to loosen up on offense. I think Brey's 'role-playing' bit has really thrown him off. He can be an important offensive weapon if he lets himself get back into an offensive rhythm - and he is our only shot blocker, so he needs to be on the floor more.

Luke & Tory, well, they are what they are and they will always fght to the end. I still think Luke needs to go back to his post game more often though.

As far as some potential wins that Pomeroy doesn't predict - I like us against Seton Hall. We played very well in the arena 2 years ago [I was there and will be there again] and despite their improved athleticism, I would look for both Luke and Abro to be too much for them again. I like us at home against UConn and on the road against Louisville and Marquette. Again, we play well at Louisville [particularly Luke]& Marquette has shown me nothing this year.

The games I absolutely see us dropping - Syracuse [terrible match up problems], Pitt [same] and Villanova [just too tough to play on the road].

We'll see. I think this team is substantially better than last years barring injury. They just need to keep maturing and becoming the efficient machine they can be on the offensive end.

Kurt said...

Sorry - meant Brooks and Hammer in the first graph.

BlackandGreen said...

Great analysis. This team is very hard to predict. They played well enough for 33 minutes on the road at UCONN to make you think they could knock off a highly ranked school or two down the stretch. But then, the loss to Loyola Marymount continues to serve as a reminder of what will happen when the effort is on the other end of the spectrum.

Bottom line, I can definitely see the Irish beating a couple of the teams you mentioned but coming out flat against a team like Rutgers at the RAC or South Florida in the rematch.

Golden Monkey said...

Let's not pretend....

Unless someone gets hurt Brey will never extend his rotation, it will just tighten up if thats possible. Carlton Scott starts looking for his shot and he will not see eight minutes a game, Brey will have him on the bench. Anyone who has watched Brey over the years knows that this is the way it is. His basic five man rotation will loose their legs the last four games of the season and the Big East tournament will be another disaster. Sad but true, I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

BlackandGreen said...

Which is another reason why that last five game stretch scares me. We'll most likely go into those games needing to be at our peak and win a couple, but dead legs could be a factor.

Kurt said...

I certainly know the tendencies, but I found it interesting that in the SF game, Brey had Nash up to replace Scott after he threw an errant pass, but sat Nash back down when on the next possession he knocked down a 3.

Also, it's a myth that Brey doesn't use his bench. He plays the guys that show him they're ready to play - unfortunately, his recruiting has left him short in that regard. While I'd like to see him gamble more [particularly with Brooks and Brog this year - Brooks in particular would have been an interesting matchup against Jones] it's only been in the last 2 years that he's limited himself to a 7 man rotation and that is because of that gaping hole of the 2008 non-recruiting class. If Martin were healthy this year, it would be a solid 8 man rotation.

Anonymous said...

Kurt - A myth that Brey doesn't play his bench? What have you been watching?

Watch a Notre Dame women's game and tell me you see the same sub patterns. Brey likes to have a whipping boy and that guy is Scott this year. In order to develop a bench you must let players play through their mistakes and learn. The optimal time to do this would be against the North Florida's of the world. Mike Brey chooses not to do this. Why? I have no idea although it also explains his affinity for transfers. Mike B. does not like to play young players - period. Who on this board doesn't think Abro could have helped last year? I truly believe Abro would have been the difference in 2-3 games last year which could have put us in the Dance. Instead we got to watch Zeller and Hillesland. Brey needs to be called on that decision, if only for the monetary effect of not going to the NCAA's.

BlackandGreen said...

In Kurt's defense, I think that it's important to note how this season has differed from years past. This is the first season since 2004 that we have had less than an eight man rotation. While I would still argue that playing only eight guys is still unreasonable over an 18 game Big East season, it's clear that Coach Brey has only limited himself to a certain number of players each year based on his confidence in the less experienced members of the team.

This year, there are only seven guys who have earned playing time in the mind of the coaching staff (for any number of reasons, most importantly how successful each player has been in practice, which we cannot see). However, when you only have seven guys that you think can play, that's a recruiting issue. And once again the blame lies at the feet of the head coach.

The short bench and inadequate recruiting are two sides of the same coin, and ultimately we can arrive at the same conclusion: that the coaching staff has poorly prepared this year's team for a very difficult final stretch.

Kurt said...

Anon - if you follow ndnation at all then I would simply direct you to Bonger & Kayo's posting history in this regard. I think they're spot on. Brey has no problem playing young players if they're ready [hell, he had to coax Gody into a starting role as a freshman because Gody didn't think he was ready]. Jackson averaged 15-20 minutes per game before Kmac was suspended. And Kmac himself averaged 20 minutes as a freshman. Thomas started from day 1 as did Francis. Zeller got sizable minutes as a freshman [though he didn't deserve them]. Kurz would have gotten sizable minutes all season as a freshman if he hadn't gotten mono. As it turned out he was only able to play in the first 9 games and then again at the end of the season. Falls and Quinn also both got a lot of minutes as freshmen. If you want to do you own research, all the stats are on the und site - I won't do it for you, but the numbers over the years clearly support my point.

As for the Abro issue, a). you can't say he would have helped or not last year because you have no idea how much he improved in the year off [he definitely bulked up that's for sure] and b). to be honest I'd rather have him with 3 more years of eligibility now than have been one and done in the NCAA last year. Last years team suffered because there was no post presence other than Gody & Nash, we now know, was a total head case in practices until Brey threw him out. Also, it didn't help that Hillesland was hurt the entire year. If we'd gotten Frease [who went to Xavier] things might have been different.

I do occasionally have issues with Brey's rotations - but honestly, if a guy throws a pass like Carlton did, any good coach would take him out [and earlier in the year he did the same thing with Peeps when he didn't close out defensively on 2 three pointers in a row]. I wish he'd do that to Gody when he's jacking and missing three's like there's no tomorrow.

Brey's problem is and always has been recruiting. We have an excellent class coming in next year and we have three bigs that will hopefully develop in this year's freshman class, along with a defensively oriented, tall, athletic 2. If this is the direction his recruiting starts to take [and it might be with the new arena], I think you'll see ND back as a regular in the polls - and I have no doubt we'll be competetive in the tournament too.

Kurt said...

Also - I should point out that Brey is already on the record stating that Atkins will start from day 1 next year as a freshman.

BlackandGreen said...

LaPhonso Ellis was high on Abromaitis from day one. Obviously, you can't be sure how much he improved from last year to this season, but I have to think he would have been a better choice than Zach Hillesland (who was historically bad last year, it would have been addition by subtraction).

However, last year's issues are the same as this season's. We need another post player who can provide consistent inside scoring, rebounding, and defense. Rob Kurz was never really respected for how much of a positive role he played on the team.

Kurt said...

True - it is possible he would have been an upgrade over Zack, but we'll never know. If Brey is to be faulted anywhere there, I think it is for not redshirting him his first year [because he did need to be redshirted as he was only 17 when he came in and needed to bulk up]. Ultimately though, the empty class probably contributed more to the problem last year than Abro redshirting. That and Nash and Scott not coming along as quickly as Brey probably hoped.

Anonymous said...

Kurt - This is the only board I follow as it offers rational discussion minus the "board rat" mentality that seems to prevail elsewhere. You make some good points. I'm a relative newcomer to following ND basketball day to day although I played D1 as did my Dad who also played in the NBA. Along with Ellis I'm quite certain that Abro would have made a difference last year. I know that having a 7 man rotation is a losing proposition. The elephant in the corner is Scott Martin. Sadly, when he went down so did the season. Will he return to be the player he was? My experience tells me that he will not. Also, comments like Atkins will start from the day he arrives contradict the "earning playing time in practice" thesis. Let's hope he is a better shooter than Jackson.
Thanks for the feedback - B&G does a great job moderating and encouraging thoughtful analysis and conjecture. Now, let's go out and beat the Mountaineers!

Anonymous said...

Kurt

A excellent class coming in? Compared to who? How many four star recruits? Three bigs waiting in the wings, for what? None of them would get a scholarship at one of the top twenty five teams in the country. How many runs have we made in the Big East Tournament? I think we should expect and get more. I've have attended 90% of all home games Brey has coached, including following them to San Diego for their only Sweet Sixteen incounter. I want more!

Golden Monkey said...

Ten years is enough!

Playing 12-13 cupcake games preseason? Going sub five hundred in the Big East with the player of the year in your starting lineup, is not acceptable. Thats what we are going to get. Spin all you want but that is the bottom line.

Kurt said...

Anon #2 - actually next years class is currently considered #4 in the Big East. Both Atkins and Grant are top 100 players [and Atkins is considered one of the top points guards in this class]. Drago is a rising star, claiming MVP honors at the Chicago holiday tournament against D-1 competition and could crack the top 100 if he continues playing the way he has so far this season. In the last class, Cooley was top 100 and Brog, Cooley and Brooks all had offers from quality [read top 25] programs - Knight was known to be a project that Brey offered after we lost Kelly, but from summer practice reports, he could be an Abro-like surprise.

I'm not glossing over anything. Brey has had some miserable recruiting failures. But the fact that he has led this team to a Big East conference record that is better than both Georgetown and Villanova and 2 shy of Syracuse over a ten year period given the horrendous state of ND facilities and the fact ND is 13th in spending in the Big East on it's basketball program would suggest to me that he's done a good job.

And if you've listened to Swarbrick talk, Brey isn't going anywhere unless the program collapses.

Anon #1 - I don't really participate much on ndnation for various reasons, but both Bonger and Kayo know the program very well and actually back up their positions with stats and historical facts, so I always check out what they have to say. I've been following the program since I was a faculty brat - '80 is probably the first season I remember well. The administration refuses to get in bed with the cesspool that college basketball has become, which is in large part why the program declined. However, Brey has done a great job of at least making it competative again. Is that enough? Well, given the current level of institutional support, I'd rather go with the devil I know than take a risk every 3-5 years on a new coach, because no home run coach would ever coach mens basketball at ND. We would likely do much worse than Brey - and with the new arena, I think we've already seen an uptick in recruiting [we're in very good shape with some top 2011 prospects as well].

Anonymous said...

Kurt - I think saying that ND refuses to get in bed with the cesspool that college basketball has become is gratuitous at best. It's like a merchant saying he does not want to compete with WalMart because he dislikes their flagrant predatory pricing practices. How long will that merchant be in business? He'll last a while if he finds a niche (17-20 wins, mostly against the Kennesaw States of the world).
Atkins is not too much different than any other D1 recruit from Baltimore - trust me. This reasoning supports mediocrity at its' finest. If you were here in the early 80's you saw a consensus group of HS All-Americans in the class of '81. You also saw them play IU and Kentucky every year and play in hostile venues on the road - something that Brey avoids like the plague. If you ask me the man has a good racket going - diminished expectations and a fat pay check, year in and year out.
Let's get McCaffery in here and see what he could do. I believe the "ND chooses not to compete in the cesspool" talk will be quieted by a more ambitious and innovative leader. Brey's formula is old and tired.

Kurt said...

... And you also saw them not make the tournament from '82 - '84... just saying.

Kurt said...

Also - he's not just doing against the Kennesaw St's of the world. As I stated his conference record over the last ten years is ahead of Villanova and Georgetown and just 2 behind Syracuse.

And while I'd prefer to see more RPI 150-200 schools in the ooc, this is the first year I can recall where we didn't at least play 3 quality opponents - and part of that is that UCLA is down this year. Except for this year, our ooc has been at least on par with other top schools in the Big East. It is also impossible to compare Brey's schedule to Digger's. Brey is coaching in the toughest conference in the country with an 18 game schedule. Digger was an independent in an era before the conferences took over. Night in night out, I would bet their full year schedules are very close in quality. Unless you consider annual games on the road at the likes of U Conn, Marquette, West Virginia, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova etc. to be 'avoiding hostile competition on the road like the plague.

Anonymous said...

I just checked Rivals.com top 150 not 100 for 08 09 @ 10. Atkins #58 @ Grant #92 are the only N.D. players on the list for three years. Knock um out Mike.....

Anonymous said...

Kurt - You seem very pleased with the direction of the program. Enjoy the NIT.

BlackandGreen said...

With regards to the OOC scheduling, Notre Dame's strength of nonconference schedule over the past few years-

2010- 339th
2009- 111th
2008- 249th
2007- 325th
2006- 195th

This season, only West Virginia has an OOC schedule that ranks in the top 100, and just Georgetown and Connecticut are also better than 198th. While those rankings will most likely improve a bit before the season is out, clearly only two of the last five years (this season and 2007) have seen schedules that are significantly worse than the rest of the league.

To be honest, the most important things that need to be done to fix our schedule will not make fans any happier:

1. As Kurt said, we need to eliminate games against teams in the 300s of the RPI and replace them with (what should be) easily beatable opponents ranked 150-200.
2. Add a true road game or two. Many prominent major conference teams don't do this, which may or may not surprise you. Pitt, Syracuse, and Connecticut all serve as examples of schools that have relied on home and neutral-site contests to fill out their OOC schedules this year. However, an early road contest would bump up the strength of schedule a bit and prepare the team for hostile environments.

What everyone wants (myself included) are some good home nonconference games against top-notch opponents. But that just doesn't happen a lot anymore (thus the appeal of the early-season tournaments). How many top 50 nonconference opponents has Pitt faced at home this season? How many has Louisville? Villanova, UCONN, or Cincy? Zero.

Only West Virginia, Georgetown, Syracuse, and Seton Hall have brought in top 50 teams from other conferences to their own floors. We just missed joining this group with UCLA being so surprisingly bad. The Bruins worst Pomeroy ranking over the past four years was 12th.

While I hate playing schools you've never heard of for two months, that's just the way the scheduling game is played these days. The majority of serious programs beat up on cupcakes at home in front of half-awake crowds while sometimes landing a quality opponent in one of the many early season tourneys that roll around each Thanksgiving.

BlackandGreen said...

As for recruiting, I believe we can and should do better. Coach Brey has not received nearly the amount of institutional support necessary to raise the program to the correct level (competing for the Sweet Sixteen most years, at least). It's a shame that the program hasn't gotten enough attention from higher ups and many of our recruiting problems will not be fixed until some true changes are made in the way the athletic office views and supports the basketball program. That is true regardless of who is on the coaching staff.

However, Coach Brey's inability to build an NCAA Tournament caliber team around one of the greatest players in program history is an absolute disgrace. He has done a tremendous amount of good for the school and the basketball team, but after ten years we should expect more than a bubble team (especially after last year's team nosedived from a top ten program to the NIT).

Kurt said...

Anon -

2010 - 2 top 100 playes [like I said]

2009 - Cooley was ranked 92 in ESPN was in the top 100 of at least one other recruiting service. Brooks & Brog were just on the outside.

2008 - we had no recruiting class. [Though we added a top 100 player with 3 years of eligibility in Martin].

What exactly are you arguing?

I think one could argue there has been an upward trend? Perhaps the arena helped? Let's see what happens with the 2011 class in which we appear to be in very good shape.

If the ND admin steps up and gives Brey what they promised 10 years ago, then I'd be happy to expect a better recruiting performance. Until that time, he has to make do with what he can - and he's done a pretty decent job of it - at least on the court.

Anonymous said...

ESPN 2009

#92 Jon Hood KY

Jack Cooley - No Show

Kurt said...

Then it changed. Pehaps because he was injured half of last season he dropped. But on national signing day he was 92.

Anonymous said...

You guys are making my hair hurt with this nonsense. Are we really tussling over whether Jack Cooley was #92 according to a scouting service? I could really care less. Go get some 6'9" underrated kids (like Marquette does) who will work their tails off to be the best player that they can be. We see the evidence that that model is successful every year when Marquette kicks our behind. If scouting services were anything more than mackerel wrappers the ND football team would have been playing last night.

BlackandGreen said...

That's a good point. Our best player was a three-star recruit who couldn't crack the top 100. Now he might finish as the top scorer in Big East history.