Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Offseason Posting, Part III

Eric Atkins commits, our first for 2010. There are bigger fish in the sea, but its nice to know we at least have one point guard lined up.

EDIT: ESPN is much higher than on him that the other two major scouting sites. Their profile on him sounds very positive. Coach Brey really used his Baltimore connections well and grabbed a very solid player. Still waiting to hear back froms guys like McCallum, Irving, and Buie, but Atkins would not be a terrible starting point guard if he ends up being the de facto replacement for Tory Jackson.

Read this for more on what the guy's about. Very mature, a must for a guy who may be expected to start from day one. He'll make a good Domer. If he can gain a litle strength to go with the great quickness and solid defense, he could be a pretty solid player as well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Offseason Posting, Part II

A couple of things I need to comment about, albeit briefly.

First, Luke Harangody has declared for the NBA Draft. Not really a big surprise. He and Coach Brey keep talking about the need to go into this "all the way" and not just half-hearted. That's the right attitude to go about things and I don't mind seeing him test the waters. Of course, unless he locks up a first round selection with some great workouts (he won't), I believe it would be a terrible decision to skip his senior year. I'll be shocked if Luke isn't wearing an Irish jersey next season.

Also on the NBA front, congrats to Chris Quinn for a career-high 26 on Wednesday. He bounced back from a tough game the night before (though he did have 7 assists) and led a Dwayne Wade-less Heat team to victory. Luke can learn a lot from the Babyfaced Killer's career so far. Play hard for four years at ND, learn a lot, and find a niche for yourself at the next level. Kudos to CQ, one of my favorite Irish players, for making himself a success professionally.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Offseason Posting, Part I

I got an e-mail about an article in this week's SI a couple of days ago and finally decided to write a quick post about it. Here's the article.

I find this pretty sickening. It seems to be basically a combination of everything that is wrong with the AAU system. A basketball "school" set up in cooperation with an international academic program. A couple of highlights:

"In addition, these kids live in a $425,000 five-bedroom house in Las Vegas with everything paid for, including lodging, transportation, food, laptops, Nike gear, and full cable TV, among other things."

"Taylor says that the Findlay Prep Pilots program is the latest step in the evolution of elite high school basketball: “A program that operates completely outside the traditional high school system and makes no pretense about its top priority—to acquire the best talent from all over the world… Not being sanctioned by the national federation means the Pilots have no academic eligibility requirements and no restrictions on travel, transfers or practice time, as conventional high schools do. Findlay Prep answers to no one…. It’s that freedom from rules that makes critics see Findlay Prep as little more than an AAU team masquerading as a high school program.”

Taylor writes: “The naysayers didn’t worry teams such as Findlay Prep, runner-up Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and Montrose Christian School (Rockville, Md.), which are not members of any state federation, nor ESPN, which seized upon the opportunity to showcase some of the nation’s top high school recruits—and ignored any questionable circumstances, describing Findlay Prep as having an enrollment of 775 and never mentioning its unique arrangement with Henderson International during Sunday’s broadcast.”

Thanks a lot, ESPN.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Looking Forward to 2010

Last season's preview is here.

We didn't get the production expected from this year's senior class, so it's back to the drawing board. Luke Harangody has hinted in interviews that he will be back (I'd be shocked if he wasn't) and Tory Jackson returns to run an offense that sees some talented newcomers.

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG- Tory Jackson
SG- Ben Hansbrough
SF- Scott Martin
PF- Ty Nash
PF- Luke Harangody

Sixth Man- Carleton Scott
Question Mark- Joey Brooks


Tory returns to lead the team one final season. Ben Hansbrough should fill Kyle McAlarney's shoes nicely. A pretty good shooter (41% from beyond the arc as a freshman, 36% sophomore year at Mississippi State), Hansbrough will also add bring a little more athleticism and defense, two things Kyle lacked. He will get more shots than McAlarney as well, who was shut down most of the season. Jonathan Peoples will be a backup once again.


Scott Martin, the fourth best small forward recruit in the country a couple years ago, should get first crack at starting small forward. He played pretty well as a freshman at Purdue and I really like his upside. Carelton Scott should finally get some playing time and it will be interesting to see how he performs. He is the best athlete on the team and could be a big difference maker on both ends of the floor.

I put incoming freshman Joey Brooks as the question mark. He led Strake Jesuit to a very impressive run in the Texas state playoffs this season and has mentioned in interviews his willingness to be a lockdown defender next year. We certainly need that. If he can devote all his energy to being the defensive stopper, he has a chance of cracking the rotation.


With Hasheem Thabeet probably leaving for the NBA and possibly DeJuan Blair as well, Luke Harangody has a very good chance of getting back to being the best player in the Big East next season. He should benefit with more playing time for Ty Nash. Nash is a much better rebounder than was Zach Hillesland and can help out on the offensive glass when Harangody steps back to hit those 10-15 footers. I think this year's team would have been much better with Nash in the starting lineup, but we'll get a good chance to watch the pairing next season.

Jack Cooley and Tom Knight could help out right away in the post and Mike Broghammer may turn into a pretty good player as well. All reports are that the four recruits are a little undervalued by the scouting services and should be good fits for the program. Harangody really needs some help in the paint, so one of these guys could see some playing time next season.

All in all, I think we'll be better next season. At the very least, I'm willing to try the unknown after the disappointments of the past six months. Our best player returns, we get a bit of a boost in athleticism, and more toughness on the boards. Mike Brey teams have consistently outperformed low expectations while caving to big hopes. Hopefully next year will be a return to the NCAA and an overall improvement in the basketball program.

Thanks to everyone for your support and loyalty this year. It has been a very long and difficult road and I, for one, am ready for a break. While the season has been a rather negative one, things never got too out of hand here. I'll be back in October for regular posting, perhaps sooner should anything unexpected pop up. Enjoy the break from Irish basketball and let's see a resurgent football team lead the way for Notre Dame athletics in the near future.

Season in Review

Last season's review is here.

A season with such high hopes got off track early in the Big East season and pretty clearly failed to live up to expectations. Throughout the season I said that the year would be judged on our ability or inability to make the Sweet Sixteen. Less than that would be a failure. Not making the Tournament constitutes a disaster.

This should have been a much better team. We lost a lot more than I predicted with Rob Kurz's departure and I'm sure Gene Cross leaving was also a factor. This team was simply not built to contend with the best teams in the country on a nightly basis. After the best player in this vaunted senior class became the #1 priority for opposing defenses, no one was left to consistently help out Luke Harangody on offense. And defense, well, it was just horrendous all year.

The team started well with a win over a top ten opponent in Texas at the Maui Invitational and a decent showing against #1 North Carolina. Losing to Ohio State was a disappointment, but most people wrote it off as just one tough non-conference game too many. After the St. John's disaster, the writing was on the wall for a disappointing year, but few realized it at the time.

Going into the first Louisville game, we knew the Irish would face an eight-game gauntlet that would challenge the viability of Notre Dame as a premier Big East program. Losing in overtime at Freedom Hall seemed to be a decent start, but a lack of leadership allowed the loss to affect the next several games. Before we knew it, the Irish had lost seven straight and were well out of NCAA Tournament contention.

A big win in the rematch with Louisville breathed a little life back into the program and the Irish played well down the stretch until a make-or-break game against Villanova in the second to last contest of the year. The loss to a future Final Four squad killed pretty much all hope of an at-large bid.

After two games in the Big East Tournament, the Irish returned home for the NIT. They rolled off three close wins against good competition at the Joyce Center to return to Madison Square Garden, but ultimately fell to Penn State in the semifinals.


Coaching Staff- F

This would have been at least a D had the Irish simply failed to make the Sweet Sixteen. However, finishing in the NIT after spending the beginning of the year in the top ten is simply unacceptable. Coach Brey is back on the hot seat (justly), but will reutrn for at least one more year. With Virginia hiring Tony Bennett, there's very little chance of him taking another position as well.

I like Coach Brey a lot personally and he is a pretty good coach. Unfortunately, "pretty good" gets you to the NIT half the time with Notre Dame's resources. If the athletic department makes some strides to show faith in the basketball program (i.e. a practice facility and similar academic requirements to football), Coach will need to do his part to take this program to the next level. If we go to the NIT again next season, I think it's time to move on.

Kyle McAlarney- B-

Kyle finishes his career as my favorite Irish player of recent memory. The best pure shooter I have ever seen, K-Mac carries with him a good story and will graduate in May, something many people would not have predicted two years ago. Kyle showed a lot of heart in returning to school after his suspension and was a very effective player most of his career. Unfortunately, teams discovered him after the Ohio State game and kept Mac in check the rest of the season. When we was open, he was a terrific scorer. He just didn't get a lot of open looks this year. He gets a bit of a better grade because I don't want to give out all bad marks and I really think he would have succeeded with more help from his teammates.

Ryan Ayers- C

Ayers really strugged during the Irish losing streak and never came into his own as a reliable third scorer. His rebounding from the small forward position was never that great and he never developed to be more than a one-deminsional player on offense. On the other side of the ball, his wingspan allowed him to make up for a lack of athleticism and become our second best defender. Down the stretch, he stepped his game up a bit with consecutive double figure outings, but was unable to put up the kind of numbers we needed.

Zach Hillesland- F

In fairness, Zach played out of position all year. He is a 3, not a power forward. However, by the end of the season he clearly did not deserve to be on the floor. A poor shooter with a tendency to make bad decisions dribbling the basketball, Zach created heart attacks for Notre Dame fans when he touched the ball. His post defense left plenty to be desired and he never rebounded well enough for a 4. With all of his shortcomings, you have to have some respect for a guy who played through pain all year (plantar fasciitis, black eyes, multiple shoulder separations).

Luke Zeller- D+

The former McDonald's All-American played his way out of the rotation by the end of the season. He never developed as a post player and was a good, but not great, three point shooter this year. Played single digits after the losing streak and never lived up to expectations.

Tory Jackson- B-

The junior point guard improved his assist/turnover ratio to over two and shot better this season. His free throw shooting has improved with practice and he became a viabile three point threat over the course of the year. Though he still continues to make the dumb decisions with the basketball that have plagued him from time to time since his freshman year, he has grown into one of the better point guards in the conference.

Luke Harangody- B

It's hard to get a bad grade when you're a second team All-American. Luke put up more gaudy numbers this season, but his percentages dropped significantly. I attribute this to an attempt by the big guy to carry the team during long stretches of games. He works as hard as anyone and has developed a really good shooting touch to go with his inside game. Needs to quit complaining to refs and diving to get fouls, however. If he plays within himself next season and gets help from other guys on the roster, his stats may not be as good but he will be a more effective player. First on the to-do list is an emphasis on following his own shot and giving greater effort on defense.

Jonathan Peoples- C-

The backup point guard did his job this season and improved his assist/turnover ratio. Unfortunately, the shooting was down significantly and he finished with only one game in double figures scoring. When you're playing sparingly, it can be tough to get into a rhythm. That seemed to be the case this season.

Carleton Scott- INC

Really don't understand why this guy was kept under wraps all year. Five or six minutes a game could have been beneficial, but he never saw any real competition. Hopefully he will make his way into the rotation next season.