Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey has only made it to the Sweet 16 once in his 18 years of coaching. Following another loss in the Round of 64, it is fair to ask whether or not Brey can breakthrough into the Sweet 16 and beyond.
Brey does not have an issue landing in the NCAA Tournament. In his 18 years of being the Head Coach, he has pushed his teams into the Tournament 11 times. This is a percentage of 61.1% of the time.
However, Brey has only won two games in the tournament once. This was in 2003 when Notre Dame defeated Bruce Pearl’s UW-Milwaukee team and Bill Self’s Illinois team before falling to Arizona.
The Irish have won their first game in the tournament four times (2001, 2002, 2008, 2011). This means that the Fighting Irish advance past their first game 55.5% of the time. However, when Notre Dame’s NIT appearances are factored in, Brey’s teams are only heading to the Round of 32 or further 38.4% of the time.
Why has Notre Dame failed to make solid tournament runs? Obviously, if there was a clear cut answer, Mike Brey would have fixed this issue already. The common denominator seems to be athleticism.
Iowa State, Xavier and Florida State all had more athleticism than the Fighting Irish. These are the last three teams to bounce Notre Dame from the tournament.
The NCAA Tournament tests a coaches and team’s preparation. It does not allow teams to fully prepare for opponents like they usually would. Mike Brey’s team maximize their talent and utilize execution to defeat their opponents. When a lot of preparation time or familiarity is available, Notre Dame does not play well.
Athletic teams that depend on their talent as opposed to their discipline win in these games. These games are closer to pick up games than organized contests.
Therefore, can teams ever win playing Mike Brey’s brand of basketball? Yes.
The Fighting Irish are already becoming a more athletic team. The additions of Zac Auguste and Cam Biedscheid give Notre Dame an element that they have not had. When Demetrius Jackson enrolls this fall, the Irish will have a player that they have not had since Chris Thomas.
Along with the current shell, Notre Dame should be able to go deeper into March. If they cannot, Brey’s seat may start to get a little warmer.