When Notre Dame joined the Big East, they were by no means a basketball powerhouse. They were definitely trending upward after a successful but brief run by Matt Doherty. Had you told me back in 2000 that the Irish would be not only in the ACC, but competing for it? I would have told you that you’re crazy. I would have said the same if you told me that Mike Brey would be a three-time Big east Coach of the Year winner too. But it’s all reality, and so is he deserving the nod for the same in the ACC.
Basketball is a funny sport. Clearly, it’s a team effort. Michael Jordan was a great player, but while that’s true, he made those around him better. Now, I’m not saying Jerian Grant is Jordan, but his effect on a team is noticeably similar.
Last season, just as the Irish were about to open up conference play for their first season in the ACC, Grant was dismissed from the team for academic issues. The Irish were 8-4, and had just missed upsetting No. 2 Ohio State, falling 64-61.
They would win only seven more games, finishing the season 15-17, missing postseason play for the first time in his tenure.
Entering the 2014 season, even with Grant returning, most saw the Irish as middle of the pack in the ACC. Sound familiar? Often where they found themselves in pre-season picks in the Big East. Brey set up a home-heavy early schedule, and lacking in strong opponents. But it was intentional, as he said early losses in ’13 seemed to hinder his teams confidence – as well as the loss later of Grant.
The Irish possess one of the best -and depending what source you use- possibly the best offense in college basketball. There is a lack of frontcourt size and strength, but as usual Brey finds a way to adapt with his team’s personnel. Can we ever forget the “burn” offense he instituted when Luke Harangody was lost for an extended period? It’s hard, but this offense helps to forget that agonizing, slow-tempo offense.
Grant is a Wooden Award Finalist, and as a coach it doesn’t hurt you to have one of those. But statistically, this offense is as good as advertised.
- Offensive Team Efficiency – 1st
- Assist to Turnover Ratio – 4th
- Points per Game – 13th
- Field Goal % – 2nd
- 3-Point % – 15th
Brey seems to get the most out of his players, no matter their talent level. Slowly, he has brought in better recruits. Mr. Basketball of Indiana never would have chosen Notre Dame over Indiana or Purdue years ago. Being in ACC is only widening the reach of top recruits for Brey and the Irish.
The Irish are 24-3 (11-3 in the ACC), trailing No. 2 Virginia by only a game and a half in the ACC. Coach Tony Bennett has done a fantastic job, and while the wins aren’t always pretty for the Cavaliers, they’re wins. It’s hard to discount him, or Mike Krzyzewski for that matter. He’s won over 1,000 games for crying out loud.
Brey is by no means a “hands-down” favorite, but I think it would be ludicrous for them to not have his name at the top of the list with the job he’s done, especially after last season. A successful run deep into the tournament would help to cement his place in the ACC coaching ranks.