After years of success in the Big East, the Irish Men’s Basketball team missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years.
A new conference, the loss of Jerian Grant, and other factors added to the struggles of the Irish who finished 15-17 (6-12 in ACC). But Grant has been readmitted, Pat Connaughton has worked out a deal with the Baltimore Orioles to play out his senior season, and Mike Brey has just the idea to help more ACC teams into the tourney.
Play each other more.
While many within the Big East thought more conference games would weaken their chance to make the dance, Brey was one of the few who saw it as an opportunity to show their strength as a conference. He believed that the conference would only be stronger in playing more conference games, giving the opportunity for more bids.
Brey alluded to the push he made while at the Positive Coaching Alliance event in Chicago:
“One of the things I actually floated at the ACC meetings that’s been getting shot down, but I’m going to stay with it, is 20 league games,” Brey said. “You remember the Big East, we were the first league to go to 18 league games, from 16 to 18. And in the league meetings, I’ll never forget the argument, the Georgetown athletic director said, ‘We can’t do that, because in those 32 games, our teams will be 16-16, instead of in the non-league games we would be 28-4. It’ll kill our RPI.’
“What it did was just the opposite. And you could almost say conspiracy theory a little bit in some of those years when we got 10 or 11 bids. It gave bubble teams yet another shot at a lot in league play in February. So I’ve actually said, ‘Let’s play 20, man.’” h/t Brian Hamilton, Sports Illustrated
The Irish have never been known for a grueling non-conference schedule. An occasional preseason tourney has put a few good opponents on the Irish schedule, but it in no way has got them to the tournament. Brey has led the team to a 300-159 (.654) record. The Irish finished third or better in the conference six times. Brey knows the committee can see the importance of a quality conference.
“If we can’t get this thing to eight bids, it’s going to be hard on coaches,” Brey said.
After struggling last year, the returning pieces could be enough to get the Irish back to the dance this year. But Brey, while very successful in bringing up the basketball program at a football school, is not only going to have to make the tourney, but advance further than the second round to cement a “legacy” at Notre Dame.