Sunday, March 21, 2010


After four seasons, it is time to call it quits. What started as just a side project for my own satisfaction grew into a pretty respectable site with followers from around the world (seriously, Marco's holiday e-mails from Italy were the best). With time constraints adding up and an extended stay in Uganda planned for next spring, I simply can no longer count on providing the same kind of coverage that I have expected from myself over the past few years.

This really has been a tremendous ride and I would encourage anyone who is considering starting their own blog to jump into in wholeheartedly. At the beginning, this site was just something I started on a whim to kill some free time. 793 posts later, I can sign off with the firm knowledge that I have grown as a basketball fan and leave with no regrets.

For future reference, Rakes of Mallow is probably the most professional ND hoops blog out there. Be sure to check that out if you need a new place to read up on Irish basketball. Matt Mattare's blog is also a pretty good upstart. Of course, if you think you can do it better, the internet is always ready for someone new to enter the conversation.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has read and contributed to the blog over the past few years. This site would be pointless without your interaction. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have and I'm looking forward to continuing to cheer on the Irish in the future along with you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Next Year

We lose the winningest senior class in program history, but a lot of talent returns to propel the program forward to a new decade under Mike Brey. Obviously Luke Harangody's contributions will be missed. Though his style this season left a lot to be desired, no one should underestimate the effect of losing a 20 point, 10 rebound guy. There will be a large leadership gap with Tory Jackson graduating and the program will need a new point guard for the first time in four years. Walk-on Tim Andree always worked his butt off in practice for almost no reward. Non-scholarship players put in all the time and effort and receive no credit. Thanks, Tim. Jonathan Peoples... nevermind.


Eric Atkins looks to start at the point as a freshman next season. He is a very talented guard from the Baltimore area. Given four-stars by Rivals (more than Tory Jackson as a high school senior), he seems to be as ready as anyone to take over his first year. Ben Hansbrough will be back and time will tell if he will match Atkins' style better than Jackson's. Though I do like to bash Peoples a lot, his experience as a backup guard who can play both positions will be missed. Look for Joey Brooks to get minutes off the bench at the 2 and for Hansbrough to slide over and play point from time to time. Freshman Alex Dragicevich or Jerian Grant may also see very limited action off the bench.


Scott Martin is the big question mark next season. He could play any frontcourt position or even shooting guard when the Irish go big. Think of him as a left-handed Abro. I think his role will start off as the sixth man off the bench, but should any of the starters falter he will be ready to fill in. Tim Abromaitis will return to play on the wing. Hopefully he can figure out whatever was dogging him at the end of the year to get back to his early season form. Adding Martin to the rotation may reduce Abro's minutes and keep him from getting dead legs down the stretch. Carleton Scott should get first crack at the 4 after he played so well at the end of the season. If he can develop better ball-handling skills to go with his athleticism and decent stroke, I see him as a potential breakout star. Ty Nash may be the weakest starter amongst the forwards, but his physical play and improving post game will be much needed. Jack Cooley will get time off the bench and could compete for a starting spot. Mike Broghammer and redshirt Tom Knight will most likely ride the pine all year.


PG- Atkins
SG- Hansbrough
SF- Abromaitis
PF- Scott
PF- Nash

Bench- Brooks
Bench- Martin
Bench- Cooley

Friday, March 19, 2010

Season Report Card

What an up-and-down year it's been. After an 11-2 nonconference record against the one of the easiest schedules in the country, the Irish caught some national headlines with a 70-68 home win against West Virginia. That one really was a shocker. Though it foreshadowed the great stretch run to come, there were a lot of frustrating results on the way. ND went 3-7 over its next ten games and placed itself well off the bubble with a 6-8 conference record. Luke Harangody was lost to a knee injury during this stretch and all seemed to be lost.

Starting with a home win against Pittsburgh, Coach Brey's decision to hit the brakes really saw some good results. Our "Burn" offense led to six straight wins over a few very talented opponents. All of a sudden, the Irish played themselves off of the bubble and into a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament, a result that exceeded my expectations at the beginning of the year. Another frustrating first round exit ended the season on a sour note, however, as the team couldn't buy a late basket against Old Dominion.

Coaching- (C+) The team's struggles led to my calling for Coach Brey's head in the middle of the season. Though I still do not believe that this coaching staff is the right one to take the program to the next level, they impressed by completely changing the offensive philosophy for the most inspiring late season turnaround I've seen in awhile. However, making the Tournament was the expectation this year. Another first round exit doesn't cut it.


Tory Jackson- (B) Not his best year statistically, but Tory showed off his leadership this season. The true heart and soul of the program, this season revolved around him. He will be greatly missed on the floor and in the locker room.

Ben Hansbrough- (B-) He impressed me this year. A more complete shooting guard than Kyle McAlarney, his style didn't always mesh with Jackson, but he provided an offensive threat from the shooting guard slot. On defense, he was one of our best on-ball defenders, but got lost frequently off-the-ball.

Jonathan Peoples- (D) A decent backup point guard who never should have sniffed a starting role. By the end of the year, his contributions were effectively nil.


Tim Abromaitis- (B+) Though he dropped off at the end, Abro had an excellent year. Until a skid over the last four games, he scored in double figures in all but three contests. Very impressive for a guy who redshirted last season and wasn't on the radar freshman year.

Carleton Scott (B) Growing from a guy who couldn't crack the starting lineup into our best rebounding threat with a pretty clutch stroke from three. He could be great next season.

Ty Nash (C+) Respectable season, but nothing flashy. Grew into a serviceable post threat, but was never able to put up big numbers. With Harangody out, it was Scott who carried the team on the glass.

Luke Harangody (C) One of the greatest players to ever put on a Notre Dame jersey, but used this season as an extended NBA tryout. His tendency to throw up bad three-pointers killed our offensive flow before his injury. Gets a decent grade due to his pure statistical greatness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Old Dominion 51, Notre Dame 50

Irish let a nine-point lead slip away and fall in the first round with some bad shot selection against a second-half Monarch zone.

ND attempted three-pointers on nine of its last eleven possessions, making just one of them. With no offensive flow to speak of, Coach Brey's team allowed Old Dominion to slowly take control of the contest and end the game on an 11-5 run over the last six minutes (Luke Harangody's buzzer-beating layup not included). For the game, Notre Dame shot 24% from beyond the arc while attempting twice as many threes as ODU. The biggest culprits were Abromaitis (who has struggled for the last couple of weeks) and Jackson.

Defensively, the Irish played well enough to win the game. Really, it was the offensive letdown the cost the team a chance for a Tournament run. Old Dominion's zone cut down on any points inside down the stretch while Ty Nash and Luke Harangody played a very ineffective 40 minutes between the two of them.

Tory Jackson ended his career with 5 points and 5 rebounds. He also pitched in 4 assists and 3 steals. Unfortunately, he couldn't hit the broadside of a barn with his jumper. 2-11 from the field, 1-7 from long range. Falling in love with the three pointer just killed any chance at a late run to close out the game.

Ben Hansbrough did shoot pretty well, making seven of his eleven attempts from the field. He finished with 17 points. Add in 6 rebounds and 3 assists for the senior shooting guard. I expect he will be back next season, but you don't know for sure.

Tim Abromaitis finished off a very good season on an extended cold streak. 0-5 on his three pointers today. He chipped in for 3 rebounds, but has never seemed to get comfortable in the "Burn" offense.

Carleton Scott played a bit of Jekyll and Hyde today. 14 points, 10 assists, made a couple big threes, but was awfully disappointing with the ball in his hands. He turned the ball over 5 times, almost all in the first half. On defense, he finished with a pair of blocks and a steal.

Ty Nash played just 18 minutes with foul trouble. 1 point, 3 rebounds.

Off the bench, Luke Harangody finally got in the scorebook late. He did help out a lot on the offensive glass, but was unable to find any flow inside against the zone. Jack Cooley played six minutes while Nash and Gody were on the bench. Peoples got in the game for 3 minutes and didn't see action after a really dumb attempt to save the ball under the opponent's basket. He should have learned not to do that in middle school.

Just like that, the season has come to an end. For much of the game, the Irish looked pretty strong, but simply could not overcome their offensive woes at the end.

I'll do some season recap stuff over the next couple of days. Thanks for the hard work, seniors. It was good to get back in the Tournament after last season, but ultimately another disappointing result will end the year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Start the Tourney

Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop grudgematch tonight. Winner takes on Duke.

Also, an announcement. After four years, I will be relinquishing control of the blog at the end of the season. It's been a great ride and I've enjoyed every minute of it, but time constraints have made me limit my posting this season. Next year, I will be out of the country for most of the Big East slate. While I would love to continue posting, I simply cannot continue to bring the same caliber of coverage that I hope you have come to expect from Black and Green.

My last post will be the Sunday after the Irish play their last game this season (if ND loses this weekend, I will finish up on March 21st). Until then, I promise to give you my best effort in the remaining posts and hope to continue going for as long as possible!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Regular Season Year in Review (Part II)

Remember this post from last week? Here are Matt's responses to the same questions:

1. There have been multiple nationally televised Big East conference games where the lower bowl of the student section wasn't even close to full. To be perfectly blunt, it seems that the majority of the student body couldn't care less about the basketball team. You're a current student. Is the indifference that comes through on TV--and the message boards--as bad as it seems?

As much as I'd love to still be a student I'm not. I will now pull out my old student ID, stare at it, and silently sob. But for the record I think the student body should be ashamed of their showing this year.

2. Mike Brey deserves applause for getting Cooley, Scott, and Broghammer to contribute when Harangody went down... but does he deserve equal criticism for not utilizing them more at an earlier point in the season?

He absolutely does. I don't understand why he's so slow to move toward putting in younger players who can make a contribution if even it's limited. It happened with Russell Carter a couple years back, it happened with Nash, and it happened this year with Cooley and Scott. To me there is little to no upside having Jonathan Peoples on the court yet all year he ate up minutes while Scott and (even more so) Cooley collected splinters on the bench. Everyone--especially the media--has short-term memory though and the only thing people will talk about is how Brey brought the team out of the ashes when his superstar went down. Those that watched all season will realize he was responsible for being in the ashes in the first place.

Perhaps the thing that blows my mind the most is the fact that it took a shade under ten years for Brey to adjust to an effective strategy that neutralizes the athleticism of elite Big East teams. He's cried about how we can't possibly match up with the top tier of teams in the conference yet did little or nothing to adjust until three weeks ago. Now he's in the middle of a month-long coaching clinic where we might—HUGE, HUUUUUGE might--be on the verge of taking the leap to the next level. It's beyond baffling. When I try to understand it my nose starts to bleed.

3. Who is your MVP of the regular season?

I'm really torn. Ben Hansbrough blew away the expectations I had for him coming in to this season, but when push comes to shove I have to go with Tory Jackson. He's been a gutsy performer all year who was a big part of keeping the high-octane attack going for the first part of the season and an even larger part in making the adjustment to a slow, grind it out attack a smooth one. He's a sparkplug and when Brey gushes about him it's totally deserved. Tory really helped the team stay afloat when they could have closed up shop after Harangody's injury

4. In your eyes what was the season's biggest disappointment?

Uttering this on ESPN would lead to my public crucifixion, but honestly it's Luke Harangody. I'm of the opinion he got terrible advice when it came to what he needed to do this season to prove he could make it in the NBA. Luke had shown over the course of his first three seasons that he could be an extremely effective scorer on the interior. What he needed to do this year was prove he could man up and be more than a human turnstile on defense while continuing to be a Barkley-esque force on the boards despite being a little on the short side (you can call this the DeJuan Blair Strategy). Instead he went the route of trying to prove he could be a perimeter threat. The result was a softer Luke Harangody that hovered around the three point line Luke Zeller style and launched twice as many threes this year as he did last year.

To say we're a better team without Luke is inaccurate, but I commented a couple weeks ago that if there was a way I could have freshman year Luke instead of senior year Luke down the stretch I'd make that trade in a heartbeat. Harangody was much more raw then, but he went down low and punished people with his physicality. He used to knock teeth out, he was like the big kid who didn't know his own strength and hurt all his little friends. I blame Brey a lot for enabling him to take on this new approach at the expense of the team's success.

Fortunately, since he's returned from his injury it seems like he's snapped back into freshman year mode at least a little bit. He attempted zero threes in his first two games back—the only two games all year he didn't launch one. Perhaps he's finally seen the light. Or maybe Brey flatout demanded he see the light. I don't really care which it was, but I hope he embraces his new role because we'd become a FAR more dangerous team. Until we confirm that though I'll still label him with the unsavory title of biggest disappointment.

5. How did this season play out in terms of your preseason expectations?

Before the season I predicted we'd be living on the bubble which means we're right about in line with what I thought. It's been a roller coaster season but it appears we're peaking at just the right time. If we get the right draw (please for the love of God throw us in a 7-10 game with Purdue as the 2 seed in our pod) we can do some serious damage, which would far surpass my preseason expectations.

6. Let's take a small lead of faith and say the Irish sneak in the Big Dance. What's their ceiling when they arrive?

Well this isn't a leap of faith anymore. Their ceiling is based 100% on the draw they receive. If they land in the 8-9 game and have to match up against Kansas or Kentucky then the buck will stop there (see: ND-Arizona Sweet 16 game from '03). If we're in the 7-10 spot and find a weak 2 seed then we can start to dream big (Elite 8 isn't likely, but not totally unreasonable). It's just a matter of how the deck breaks. Check back on Sunday night and I'll tell you exactly what our ceiling is.

7. Nearly ten years are in the books of the Mike Brey era... do you believe he's the guy who takes Notre Dame to the next level?

As recently as three weeks ago I would've answered with a resounding NO, but I'm granting him one last reprieve. The reinvention of his squad has been a beautiful thing to watch and it's the most striking evidence as to why he's held in such high regard by colleagues. My decision as to whether he's the guy to take us to the next level will not be determined in the NCAA tournament; rather, it will come this offseason when Brey will be faced with the choice of talking his team down or embracing the challenge of being the hunted. I really think next year's squad has a lot of potential and thanks to this late surge of success it won't be under the radar like he hoped it would be. If he spends the entire offseason campaigning to avoid the "TV Schedule" like he did during the '08-'09 season then it'll prove to me he's not the guy. Should he go the other route then maybe there's hope.

8. What will be your lasting memory of the 09-10 season?

Boy has this changed over the last few weeks. It was going to be Harangody's de-evolution at the expense of the team's success, but now it will forever be how the team rallied after Harangody's injury and played itself back from miles off the bubble to potential middle seed in the tournament. No matter what happens in the Big Dance I'll vividly remember the fantastic stretch of basketball we played to end the season.

Irish in the Tournament

It feels a lot better to be talking about a tough first-round matchup than another year in the NIT, especially considering how this season started.

ESPN's Bracketologist Joe Lunardi pegged the Irish as an 8-seed (as did the majority of people who predict this stuff). Thankfully, the Committee decided to look favorably on the Irish this year and grant them the same seed as three years ago... when ND went 24-7 and 11-5 in the Big East.

That year, a very talented Winthrop team picked up the first round upset. Notre Dame's opening matchup is no easier this season, as Old Dominion will present as close to an equal opponent as one can find on the opening weekend. However, the other 6/11 games are just as tight.

ODU is ranked 33rd by Ken Pomeroy, boasting a quality win over Georgetown and just one bad loss to George Mason on its way to the CAA title. The other 11-seeds, San Diego State (40th), Washington (29th), and and Minnesota (25th), all pose similar challenges to their first-round opponents. Indeed, each game is predicted to be a one-point contest by Pomeroy.

Should the Irish advance to the second round, a date with Baylor is most likely in store. The Bears are ranked 12th nationally, a better matchup than one of the top seeds we would have seen as the winner of an 8/9 game. However, Pitt (30th) and New Mexico (47th!) are 3-seeds just waiting to be upset.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Selection Sunday

Irish land a 6 seed. Old Dominion is a very talented first round opponent, but it is hard not to see this as a best case scenario for a potential run. We avoid the 8/9 game and could take on a pretty beatable opponent in Baylor in the second round. I like it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

BET Semis Live Blogging

Pregame: test

7:34- Gtown up 26-21. Two Catholic schools, so it's a bit tough to decide who to cheer for.

8:02- 37-34 Gtown at the half. I've decided to cheer against the Hoyas now. Personal reasons (their admissions department).

8:51- Georgetown for the win. Let's go Irish.

10:09- Down 17-12. Tory is struggling. Abro and Hansbrough also not shooting well. What else is new.

10:25- Down 23-20 at the half. Not too bad, it's a slow pace, which is good.

11:01- Have to shut down Da'Sean Butler. He is killing us right now.

11:26- Down 48-45. Bring it back!

11:45- 53-51 not the end of the world, sorry about the bad blogging. See you Sunday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

*BET Semis*

So here's the deal. I will be without internet from tomorrow morning to Sunday night. I did not predict that this would be an issue at all when the trip was planned. I will do my very best to figure out how to do some (limited) blogging via Blackberry. Go Irish, keep this going!

Notre Dame 50, Pittsburgh 45

Somehow, this team just keeps getting it done. The Irish controlled the pace once again and will play in the Big East semis tomorrow. Hopefully this will help us avoid that dreaded 8/9 game in the NCAAs.

ND overcame a nine minute drought without a field goal and only scored 18 in the second half, but was able to come up with consecutive stops with the game on the line. Tory Jackson led the team with 12 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. One of those was an ultra-clutch bucket with 3:30 left that put the Irish up 6 when we couldn't manage a point for two full minutes. His classmate Harangody also scored 12 but was not quite as efficient as we saw last night.

54.5% from the field, 46.2% beyond the arc, a very hot night shooting. The Panthers relied on eight offensive rebounds to keep this one close all night, but only managed to shoot 37% for the game. Another strong defensive effort for the Irish.

Tory only took one attempt inside the arc. He shot lights out on those three-pointers, however, and showed a ton of confidence in his ability to just step up off the dribble and knock a few shots down.

Ben Hansbrough has had some trouble getting his points off of the slower pace the last few games. He has just two made three pointers and has not scored in double-figures since our win against Georgetown. 5 points tonight with 3 assists. He also racked up 4 fouls. However, he and Tory have done a very nice job forcing the team to slow down. On multiple occasions, he was the guy to motion to his teammates to hold the ball. Good leadership.

Tim Abromaitis continued his offensive struggles. He only attempted five shots (one three pointer) and wound up with 7 points. Like Hansbrough, he isn't getting his looks in the "burn" offense, but has stepped it up a bit on D. His two blocks were SportsCenter-worthy and took a pair of easy buckets from the Panthers.

Carleton Scott had foul trouble again tonight, scoring 6 points before fouling out. He made all three of the shots he attempted but just managed to pull down one rebound.

Ty Nash impressed with his tenacity on the blocks. While Harangody forgets to post-up from time to time (more on that later), Nash manages to put his body on someone every time on the floor. In the first half, he racked up a career-high 6 assists by distributing the ball out of the low block. He also managed 8 points and 6 rebounds for a very strong stat line, especially in such a slow contest. The one big negative in his performance was his 2-6 line from the charity stripe. A couple more of those free points could have been vital at the end.

Luke showed off a bit of his frustrating old self again off the bench. He picked up an offensive foul by driving to the post with his head down in double coverage, took a few bad jumpers, and completely forgot to use his body in the post for several long stretches. That final note was most frustrating to watch. Harangody's post-ups led to many of his points last night, but on several possessions tonight he just stood around looking lost. He needs to watch how Nash uses his body every chance he gets on offense. Of course, beyond the negative points Harangody had a very solid game. 12 points on a decent 4-9 shooting. Just a pair of rebounds, but there weren't a ton to be had.

Jonathan Peoples also played off the bench. I only know that because he picked up one foul.

And now we are headed to the Big East semifinals, matching the deepest run ever by a Notre Dame team. The winning streak is six and shows no signs of stopping. "Burn" might be a boring offense to watch, but I hope we never go back to the old run-and-gun style. This has been incredibly effective.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Notre Dame 68, Seton Hall 54

Fantastic win. The Irish are really rolling right now.

Give Coach Brey some credit for how he has reorganized this team. Bilas and Raftery talked about the slow-down offense all game. It has improved our overall efficiency and, more importantly, forces the guys to work harder on defense. Hopefully this style will continue the rest of the year and into next season with a less star-centric team.

Harangody was great today, looking like his sophomore self all over again. This is how he should have been performing all year: avoiding the jump shot and racking up a ton of points on layups and fastbreak dunks. He was ruthlessly efficient tonight, such a difference from how he has played most of the year.

We struggled a bit with Seton Hall's press, but controlled the pace very well for most of the game. The Pirates wanted to run, but the Irish stuck to the gameplan and didn't panic after falling behind by seven early. Our slowdown offense may have been ugly to watch and seemingly ineffective when we used it to protect big leads earlier in the year, but now it is very hard to beat.

Tory Jackson had the play of the game when he dived to save the ball from going out of bounds and tipped it forward to a streaking Harangody for the basket. Great hustle. For the game, he had 14 points (all in the second half) and 6 assists to just one turnover. On defense, he was very effective in slowing down the Seton Hall fast break. He came away with one very heady steal that led to his own layup on the other end of the floor.

Ben Hansbrough had a tough night, but recorded one very nice offbalance three pointer. He added in 4 assists and 3 boards, but has struggled a lot the past three games. 5.6 points per on 14% shooting since the win over Georgetown.

Tim Abromaitis was not able to take advantage of a less physical defender in Jeremy Hazell and just scored 9 points, but didn't force it out there. He shot 3-5 from the field and played very well in a support role. He was named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year yesterday, a much deserved honor. I didn't realize that he is on track to graduate in three years. Congrats, Tim. He will be back next season while completing the accelerated MBA program.

Carleton Scott was limited with foul trouble, but still had a very good night. I believe Sean McDonough mentioned how surprising it is that the Irish now look for Luke Harangody to fill in when we're missing Scott's production. 8 points, 7 rebounds. He missed a pair of threes, but otherwise had just about as much production as you could want in 19 minutes.

Ty Nash had 7 points and 5 rebounds, but played in the shadow of Harangody and Scott most of the game. His free throw shooting woes came back, just 1-4 from the line.

Off the bench, Harangody was the star. 20 points and 10 boards. He just let the game come to him tonight and didn't try to dominate anything. If that is what we can expect from him the rest of the year, the Irish will be very dangerous at any pace. Jack Cooley played pretty well in a couple of minutes. It was interesting to see mimi-Gody play alongside his doppelganger. Jonathan Peoples turned the ball over twice on a couple of really dumb plays, but did score a pair of baskets.

On to Pittsburgh, the team that started this current winning streak. Keep it up, Irish.

Seton Hall BET Preview

Seton Hall-
Pomeroy Ranking- 57th
Record- 19-11 (9-9)
Best Win- Pittsburgh (ranked 27th)
Worst Loss- South Florida (ranked 72nd)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 80-79

Key Players-
#21 Jeremy Hazell- 21.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 35.0% 3PA- Dropped 35 on the Irish who came in talking a big game after shutting down Dominique Jones. Production has dropped off somewhat recently as he has not been the team's leading scorer in the past four games.
#32 Jeff Robinson- 11.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG- Production has hovered in the teens since the ND game in February. Has gotten in foul trouble in three of the past four games.
#15 Herb Pope- 11.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG- Has stepped it up lately. Didn't score in double digits for nine straight, but has had two 20+ outbursts in the past three game.

Last Game- Seton Hall 90-87

-This was the game we lost Harangody to an injured knee.
-Irish clawed back from a ten-point halftime deficit to pull the game close in the second half.
-Tory Jackson scored 25, going 9-12 from the field.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Regular Season Year in Review

This is one of two pretty big posts for the day, so be sure you also check out the Championship Week post below.

Matt from We Never Graduate sent over a batch of questions for a year-end collaborative post. I'll share a link to his responses when he completes them, but here are mine:

1. There have been multiple nationally televised Big East conference games where the lower bowl of the student section wasn't even close to full. To be perfectly blunt, it seems that the majority of the student body couldn't care less about the basketball team. You're a current student. Is the indifference that comes through on TV--and the message boards--as bad as it seems?

The student support has been up and down this year. Obviously ND never has the kind of support seen at universities where basketball is king, but we typically can get a much better turnout than has been the case in several of the games this year. While there has been an uptick recently (the student section was pretty full for the UCONN game), Sunday afternoon contests against South Florida and St. John's barely drew anyone.

I think the way last season ended and this season began has been the number one factor behind our low student attendance. With the football team struggling and Coach Brey's squad ranked in the top-ten, basketball was king on campus for the first couple of months of the 2008-09 season. The College Gameday experience and subsequent support for the Irish against Connecticut that January was one of the highlights of my basketball watching career. At the time, I felt that the program could carry that momentum and the construction of a new arena into a permanent place amongst the college basketball elite.

Unfortunately, that opportunity was wasted. The UCONN game just became loss number three of a seven game slide and even a huge win over Louisville and deep NIT run were not enough to keep the students interested. The football team may have sucked again this year, but the hiring of Brian Kelly has kept students looking forward to next fall instead of focusing on the present.

With last year's letdown still a recent memory and nonconference losses to Northwestern and Loyola Marymount seemingly dooming the season from the start, it's been hard for anyone to get excited about a bubble program. The recent success has helped turned things around in the students' minds a lot, but it has come too late to display a consistent increase in attendance.

I think much of the internet bashing of students has been a bit unfair. It's a consistent topic for the message boards, but I haven't really addressed it too much on the blog. Yes, student support is too low and we need to see a change in the way the student body views the basketball program. However, there are so many factors involved: hangover from yet another frustrating football season, terrible South Bend weather, cupcake nonconference opponents, the sheer number of home games. Without a good team to watch (a Sweet Sixteen contender), the students just aren't going to put in the effort to follow the program like they do for football. That's not an excuse, it's just a fact we have to deal with.

2. Mike Brey deserves applause for getting Cooley, Scott, and Broghammer to contribute when Harangody went down... but does he deserve equal criticism for not utilizing them more at an earlier point in the season?

Absolutely. As always, this help has been better late than never, but there is no reason why we could not have been playing Scott on a more consistent basis all year and giving Cooley/Broghammer at least five minutes per game. Scott has really come into his own recently and developed into the kind of athletic rebounder that the program has needed for years. His offensive development has been surprising, as he seemed to struggle with the ball at the start of the year, but could have come even sooner with a bit of game experience.

We could have used a big man off the bench all season and there is no excuse for why Coach Brey would have been willing to burn redshirts on two of his freshman bigs in meaningless contests without giving them a chance to spell Harangody in short stretches during the Big East season. Gody's injury forced him to open up the rotation a bit and we were able to see that these guys actually do have a bit of talent.

3. Who is your MVP of the regular season?

That's a really tough one. Harangody was the obvious choice, but the team has improved so much without him that it's hard to stick with the All-American. Scott is most-improved. He has been the most valuable guy during this winning streak and has kept a level head while persevering through a playing time crisis to develop into one of our best players. Abromaitis has come off a redshirt year to score in double digits on all but three occasions. His scoring ability and support on the glass has been much-needed all year. He's been utterly reliable in every game this season and should continue to develop into a star.

But I'll go with Tory Jackson. He scores less than ten points per game, frequently takes ill-advised shots in the lane around much taller defenders, and has seen a sharp decrease in his rebound numbers this season. Yet his contributions to the team have been immeasurable. For two-thirds of the year, he was the only guy who seemed to give a damn about playing D. He will continue to be matched up with the best scorers from our opponents in the postseason and I can't wait to see him challenge some of the best players in the country. On top of everything, he is the heart and soul of the program. He is a passionate leader and bleeds blue and gold. Many will remember his 22 points against UCONN that kept the Irish Tournament hopes alive, but I'll never forget the pure excitement that was in his voice for the postgame speech. The Notre Dame senior class of 2010 boasted a former Big East Player of the Year whose individual accomplishments rank amongst the greatest in Notre Dame and Big East basketball history, but he pales in comparison to what Tory has meant to this program. Harangody will go on to have a very successful pro career, but I can think of few better players to start a team around than Tory Jackson.

4. In your eyes what was the season's biggest disappointment?

Just the overall underperformance we saw for much of the year. Obviously, this team had the talent to perform amongst the league's best, but managed to throw away contests to Northwestern, Loyola Marymount, Cincy, Rutgers, and St. John's. I blame the short bench and the handling of Harangody for much of those problems.

Luke used this season as an extended pro tryout. I don't hold that against him too much, but the coaching staff should have had him riding the pine every time he threw up yet another dumb three pointer. He vacated the paint and destroyed the offensive flow by operating as a shooting guard in a center's body. The rest of the players were more than willing to watch him jack up 20+ shots a game and be our sole rebounding threat on the floor. With him out of the lineup, the ball movement has improved and every guy has been able to play to his ability. Call it the Ewing Theory or whatever you want. Luke Harangody's injury was the best thing that could have happened to our Tournament chances this season.

5. How did this season play out in terms of your preseason expectations?

That's such a tough question. I entered this year thinking we would be better than last season's team. Not the top-ten early season ranking for the program a year ago, but certainly good enough to merit NCAA consideration. Tim Abromaitis has been everything I expected and more. His performance has been such a great improvement over the Hillesland/Ayers fiasco that we should have been two or three games better on that basis alone. On paper, the addition of Abro and Hansbrough replacing McAlarney should have made this team a lock for the NCAAs.

Yet they weren't. Until recently, this team would have been lucky to nail down an NIT bid. Its defensive effort was god-awful for 27 games. The once great star of the program turned into a selfish shell of his former self and Mike Brey was another losing streak away from finding a new job.

The recent success hasn't made me change my mind about this season being a disappointment, indeed I think we should have played like this all year, but there is something endearing about the current squad. Without Harangody, they have been transformed into something we haven't seen on campus in years: a gritty underdog that is willing to fight with anyone and can actually play a little defense when it counts. Sure '07 and '08 were surprises, but this one is different. I have never seen a team completely transform its identity over the course of the year like this. They could very well make a run over the next few weeks and reach a level of success that Mike Brey has only seen once. Or they could completely flame out and lose their next two. Regardless, it's hard to be surprised anymore. This season has been nothing like what I expected.

6. Let's take a small lead of faith and say the Irish sneak in the Big Dance. What's their ceiling when they arrive?

Again, I really need to stop predicting this team's behavior. With the right draw and the current momentum, I could really see them making it to the second weekend. However, this luck could play itself out very quickly. Regardless, it will be interesting watch.

7. Nearly ten years are in the books of the Mike Brey era... do you believe he's the guy who takes Notre Dame to the next level?

No, I really don't. I like Mike Brey a lot as a person and still think he is a very good coach, but my patience finally wore out on him this season. Unfortunately, I have no idea who the right guy could be. Is it Fran McCaffery? I like what he's done at Siena, but it is hard to say definitively that he would be an improvement over Brey. Earlier in the year, I supported a coaching change if only to breath new life into the program. Now however, that would be a much harder sell. There simply is not a Brian Kelly-type coach (or better) available for the hoops program. Any new blood would involve a lot of risk. If Brey continues to make the Big Dance at the current rate, he's going to be retained. I don't think that is the right mentality for the program, but I really don't know if there is anyone out there who can bring about the success we should strive for under the current conditions.

8. What will be your lasting memory of the 09-10 season?

That is still to be determined. I'm glad we didn't do this two weeks ago, because it would have been pretty negative. That still might be the case if the team regresses from its current form. However, if the season ended today I would have two major memories of this year.

First of all, the Loyola Marymount loss now seems like a harbinger of the struggles we saw in Big East play. There was no need for good defense, little intensity all day, and a late-game collapse against a vastly inferior opponent. My proudest moment right now is that UCONN game. It wasn't our best win (that would be against West Virginia way back in January, a game that was seemingly ages ago), but it was one we needed to win. After two big upsets, the team was due for a letdown but somehow pulled out a much needed victory in a low scoring defensive battle. The Marquette game came close to topping it, but there's nothing like getting the W on Senior Night like that with your best player in street clothes.

Championship Week

As Mike Brey has wanted all season, the Irish are officially "in the conversation" for the NCAA Tournament. Riding high after a four-game winning streak, that conversation has shifted somewhat to talk about seeding and first round matchups when just two weeks ago it seemed unlikely that ND would even make it in. First things first, however.

The Big East Tournament begins today. Obviously, the game of note is that 10/15 matchup tonight which will decide our second round opponent. With a 15 point win over Providence in hand (from way back in December), it's pretty fair to say that a Friar win would be beneficial. However, this Irish team can expect to be favored against Seton Hall, as well.

As far as Big East bubble teams go, watch the Pirates and South Florida this week. Seton Hall doesn't have any really bad losses this year and could potentially steal our bid with a win against the Irish on Wednesday. The Bulls have a bit of a tougher road, with Georgetown and Syracuse potentially waiting in the wings. If they made it all the way to Thursday and played the Orange tough, however, this could also be a late entry into the Tournament.

What about Notre Dame's hopes? I think that it is safe to say that the Irish are in with at least one win in the BET this week. That would place the Irish at 11-9 in the conference and 4-1 in their last five. The committee loves to see teams that step their game up down the stretch, perform well without a star player, and beat other bubble teams when it counts. This ND team has done all of that, a huge improvement over previous seasons.

Notre Dame's Record over its Last Five Games (Regular Season and BET)-
2010- 4-1 (barring a Big East Championship)
2009- 2-3
2008- 3-2
2007- 4-1
2006- 2-3
2005- 1-4

While the Irish faltered big time under the microscope in other big bubble years such as '05, '06, and '09, this squad has been able to turn it on when it counts and has been successful against much better competition than the 2007 and 2008 Tournament teams faced in crunch time.

Other Bubble Teams-

Of course, the other part of this postseason equation relies on how other potential Tournament teams fare in their conference playoffs. With Saint Mary's, Siena, and Old Dominion all taking care of business, the bubble picture has cleared up just a little bit. By comparison, the Irish are 21-10, 10-8, 49th (Pomeroy), and 59th (RPI).

Washington- (21-9, 11-7, 33rd Pomeroy, 49th RPI) Joe Lunardi and The Bracket Project's first team out, the Huskies face Oregon State before a probable bubble play-off against the Sun Devils.

Arizona State- (22-9, 12-6, 37th Pomeroy, 52nd RPI) Split the season series with the Huskies and performed well in a very bad Pac-10, but most likely need to reach the conference finals to earn a bid. Friday could be a very big matchup.

Illinois- (18-13, 10-8, 56th Pomeroy, 74th RPI) Has just fallen apart down the stretch, losing five of their past six. Play a very good Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Tournament that just trounced them. Even a win in that game may not be enough. It will be a travesty if this conference gets more than four teams in.

San Diego State- (22-8, 11-5, 44th Pomeroy, 36th RPI) The exact opposite of Illinois, San Diego State is a pretty good small conference team that has performed well enough when it counts to merit some consideration. As long as they don't drop a first round matchup with Colorado State, they will have a shot at solidifying an entry into the NCAAs against top seed New Mexico.

Mississippi- (21-9, 9-7, 51st Pomeroy, 57th RPI) Have played well down the stretch and could potentially face Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Need a win there to be a lock, but could still make it as long as they are not upset by the Tennessee/LSU winner on Friday.


As always, The Bracket Project does a nice job of compiling a whole bunch of different projections for you. Currently the Irish are listed as a 10 seed and make the Tourney in 73 of the 76 brackets. I'd take that in a heartbeat over the 8/9 game.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

All-Big East

Congrats to Luke Harangody for making first team All-Conference and Tim Abromaitis for making Honorable Mention.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Notre Dame 63, Marquette 60

Irish cap off the season on a four game winning streak with an incredible come-from-behind performance. Down seven with a minute to go, a pair of Ty Nash free throws and two clutch threes sent the game to OT, where the Irish outlasted the Golden Eagles.

That just might have been enough to send this team to the Tournament. A BET win should seal the deal. Huge congrats to Coach Brey and the whole team.

Tim Abromaitis pulled the game within three with just under a minute remaining, but was unable to deliver the tying basket at the end regulation. However, some great hustle by Ben Hansbrough kept the possession alive and set up Carleton Scott to notch things up at the buzzer. Can you imagine a better finish than this one? For a program with notorious history in close games (2006 still burns in my memory) and a reputation for keeping a tight rotation, the Irish miraculously pulled themselves out of the grave with a clutch basket by the poster child of limited playing time.

This finish was our season in a nutshell. With Luke Harangody on the bench, the rest of the team was able to rally with their backs against the wall to defeat another very talented opponent in a defensive battle. This game, along with the three previous contests, was the polar opposite of what we have been used to watching in the Joyce Center for the past several seasons. Good defense, loads of hustle, and a lineup composed of a bunch of unselfish overachievers. I love it.

Tory Jackson wrapped up his regular season career with 9 points and just a single assist. After an incredible performance against Connecticut, the point guard was a bit of an afterthought in a weak Irish offensive performance. On defense, however, he helped to hold Maurice Acker and David Cubillan to just five points apiece.

Ben Hansbrough was 0-5 from beyond the arc. That was pretty standard for the game, as neither team shot over 17.4% on their three-point attempts. He also tacked on 4 fouls and 4 turnovers in a bit of a struggle.

Though the backcourt failed to impress, Abro, Scott, and Nash cleared up on the glass and provided some necessary offensive oomph. Abro struggled with his shot for the third straight game, but was able to contribute 7 points from the charity stripe and 18 total (with just one three-pointer). He is so much more of a complete player than we had in Ryan Ayers last year. A fantastic shooter, to be sure, but he has enough athleticism get rebounds from the perimeter and take the ball inside to draw fouls or create offensive opportunities for the rest of the team.

Just as I love watching Abromaitis develop, his classmate Carleton Scott seems to be growing in front of our eyes. 14 points, 13 rebounds. His offensive output is expanding with each game and that freakish leaping ability has made him the best rebounder on the team right now. It's a shame that he couldn't have gotten more playing time at the beginning of the year, but no one can complain with his performances now.

Ty Nash also scored in the double-digits and grabbed 9 rebounds. Five of those resulted in second chances for the Irish. Most importantly, Nash sank 7 of 10 free throws, including a clutch pair to help the Irish tie the game at the end of regulation. If he can continue to improve his reliability from the line, he will be pretty dangerous as a scorer with how often he draws contact in the lane.

Luke Harangody will come off the bench the rest of the year. That's a sad way for such a great player to end his career, but I wouldn't want to mess with the system we have going right now. In just eleven minutes, he had 5 points and a pair of rebounds. We will see what kind of role he plays the remainder of the season, but I have to think that bringing an All-American off the bench in limited stretches will provide a nice boost in the postseason.

The Irish have claimed the seven seed for the Big East Tournament. They will play either Seton Hall or Providence on Wednesday at 7. Bracketography, one of the better independent projection sites, lists the Irish as solidly in the NCAAs as a nine seed. I'll break down more of that this week as other sites update their projections.

Four straight wins through our hell stretch to end the year. Remember this? Seems like an awful long time ago.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Marquette Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 19th
Record- 20-9 (11-6)
Best Win- Xavier (ranked 20th)
Worst Loss- DePaul (ranked 165th)
Pomeroy Prediction- Marquette 75-67

Key Players-
#32 Lazar Hayward- 18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 33.5% 3PA- Has been Mr. Reliable for the Golden Eagles this year. Eight double-doubles to his credit.
#33 Jimmy Butler- 15.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 50.0% 3PA- Takes very few three pointers, but has made half of them. Good for 6 or 7 boards just about every game.
#1 Darius Johnson-Odom- 13.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 48.9% 3PA- Dead-eye shooter from long range. Went 4-6 from downtown for 22 points against Louisville.

Scouting Report-

In the top ten nationally in fewest turnovers allowed.
7th in the nation in three-point percentage.
Block very few shots on defense.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bracket Project

I didn't think we'd need this, but all of a sudden it's time to start watching the bubble.

The Bracket Project lists the Irish as a twelve-seed, just a couple steps down from the vanquished Huskies. We'll see if anything changes before Saturday.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Notre Dame 58, Connecticut 50

Huge win. It was an ugly one, but the Irish took one step closer to a possible NCAA bid and, perhaps more importantly, eliminated the Huskies from Tournament contention. ND has moved into a tie for seventh in the Big East and holds the tie-breaker over Georgetown.

Both teams shot very poorly from the floor. Give the Notre Dame D some credit, but UCONN also missed a few open looks and airballed a bunch. Someone forgot to turn on the heat in the building.

However, you can't overlook the effort our guys put in tonight. This has been a huge improvement the past three games. In addition to moving their feet on defense, the Irish threw their bodies around inside to nearly break even in rebounding against a team with three guys at 6'10" or taller. Led by Tory Jackson and Ben Hansbrough, ND forced 15 turnovers, tying a season-high against Big East opponents. Out 10 steals for the night marked just the third time this year the Irish finished with double digits in that category.

The offensive output was the second worst of the year (to the Northwestern game) but that just underlined how effective the home team was in other areas tonight. If we can win with 37% shooting and ten missed foul shots, more success will follow with a good night shooting the ball.

What a fantastic Senior Night for Tory Jackson. The vocal leader of the team for the past four years, Tory led the way with 22 points. He was ruthlessly efficient at the rim with 8-14 shooting and added in a pair of assists and three rebounds even though the Irish put the brakes on the pace of the contest, frequently waiting until the shot clock read five before attacking the basket. When he was pulled from the game with a few seconds remaining, he received a much deserved standing ovation and gave a very nice postgame speech after putting the team on his back tonight. Thank you for four great years, Tory.

Ben Hansbrough had no shooting touch tonight, but tied Tory Jackson with 4 steals. Like any good shooter, he tried to get shot back with multiple trips to the free throw line. He was able to come away with 6 points even though he finished 0-8 from the field. He was also the second highest rebounder with 4.

Tim Abromaitis also struggled a bit with his shot, but had a little success inside the arc. 10 points and 4 rebounds for the Alumni Dawg. At the end, his teammates had some trouble getting him the ball in an opportunity to get fouled, which needs to change. Going 4-8 as a team from the foul line during a crucial minute-long stretch allowed UCONN to cut the lead by four.

Carleton Scott was excellent. 12 points, 14 boards, 2-4 from three-point range. His athleticism overcame the height disadvantage and allowed him to finish as the game's highest rebounder. Add in a pair of assists and 3 blocks for a great all-around effort. He combined all of his best attributes: solid wing defense, athleticism on the glass, and a bit of clutch shooting, for a fantastic performance.

Ty Nash had a bit of trouble putting the ball in the basket like a few of his other teammates. 5 points, just 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. When the Irish looked to kill the clock, he caught the ball far too away from the basket to be effective and we relied on some perimeter drives for points. That's not the kind of offense in which he can be effective.

Off the bench, Jack Cooley combined 3 points with 3 offensive rebounds in just 7 minutes on the floor. Jonathan Peoples' Senior Night was forgettable, just 2 minutes and a turnover, though he did get the token start in Abromaitis' place. Joey Brooks got in at the last second and so did Tim Andree, senior walk-on. Thanks to him for playing hard in practice all these years with so little reward in games.

So now we're looking at a very realistic NCAA bid all of a sudden. Who would have thought? With no Harangody tonight, you have to think we will be out against Marquette on Saturday. Keep playing like this and the Irish could enter the BET riding high on a four game winning streak.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Connecticut Preview

Pomeroy Ranking- 40th
Record- 17-12 (7-9)
Best Win- West Virginia (ranked 7th)
Worst Loss- Providence (ranked 85th)
Pomeroy Prediction- ND 76-74

Key Players-
#11 Jerome Dyson- 18.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 30.3% 3PA- Double digits in every game this year, 20 and 10 against the Irish in the first contest. He really is not a great three point shooter, but keeps throwing them up. 5-30 in the past seven games.
#21 Stanley Robinson- 15.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 36.6% 3PA- Double-doubles in the past two games. He is another guy who is guaranteed at least ten points. Against the Irish in January, he dominated the glass with 16 rebounds.
#15 Kemba Walker- 14.8 PPG, 4.1 APG, 37.6% 3PA- His acoring average has shot up recently with his ability to get to the foul line. 23.5 PPG in the past four contests, with an average of 11.5 free throw attempts per.

Last Game- UCONN 82-70

-Led by Robinson and Alex Oriakhi, the Huskies held onto a ten rebound advantage.
-Irish pulled the game within three with five minutes remaining, but UCONN answered with seven straight points to put the game out of reach.
-Luke Harangody finished with 31 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Irish.