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  • Wonder, Think & Know: Vacated Titles Edition

    by Mike Coffey

    As the late great Mike Royko once said, some things you wonder, some things you think, and some things you just know.

    Given ND’s history against Kentucky, winning by the third-biggest margin ever against a defending national champion is cause for the good hard liquor to be brought out. Not that run-it-through-the-Britta-five-times stuff.

    Those uniforms were awful. I know, I’m an old fart, etc. etc., I’ll cop to all that. Did not like.

    Every year, Jack Cooley gets better and better. Watching him deal with his health limitations his freshman year, his improvement couldn’t make me happier. Next time someone says this staff can’t develop talent, they need to watch some film on the big guy … only the latest example of their capabilities.

    What I like a lot better than the 64 points scored were the 50 points given up. The quickness and focus of this ND team on defense is going to keep it in games when the shots aren’t falling. Much like the football team, defense is showing up consistently and is helping make things happen. The ability to switch from man-to-man to zone and back again, often in the same possession, is giving opponents fits.

    On the other side of the ball, ND remains unbelievably capable of controlling the tempo on offense. Teams go into the game wanting and trying to speed the Irish up, but they’re having none of it. The equivalent of imposing one’s will on the gridiron, and very well done.

    I’m not sure if this is the Kentucky team we’ll see in March, but right now, their defense is horrendous. But that’s what happens when you’re breaking in a new starting lineup every year.

    When you are the men’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, there are two ways you can deal with football. Either you rail against its popularity and feel put-upon, or you can embrace it and create a symbiotic relationship between the two. Mike Brey and Digger Phelps went the latter route. The two guys who bridged them didn’t, especially the one-and-done guy. Results speak for themselves.

    When I was at ND, it was a great time to be a student athletically. I imagine right now is giving that time a run for its money.

    41 wins in 42 home games. Yes, I know there are tomato cans in there, but that’s a damn impressive stat.

    It’s amazing when you win how little talk there is about the bench. Gene Sullivan, former ND assistant and head coach at Loyola, always thought if you’re playing your bench a lot, you’re losing a lot of games. Players who are ready play, and tend to play well. Those who are not ready see what is required to change their situation.

    17 minutes, 10 points, three boards, two-of-three beyond the arc, and only one turnover. Welcome to Notre Dame, Cameron Biedscheid. It only gets better from here.

    14 Responses to “Wonder, Think & Know: Vacated Titles Edition”

    1. Long Suffering Irishman says:

      I’m not sure when you were at ND, but my time there was a great time too. 1977 – 1981. Got to experience both a football national championship and a final four. Also there for the night Digger’s team beat DePaul and the Chicken Soup bowl. Had to endure Danny Ainge’s crushing shot in the NCAA Tournament, however. Those memories have carried me since then.

    2. Kevin Byrnes says:

      Well said, Mike. I liked the energy throughout the game as well as the fact that there were contributions from newbies and vets alike; if they keep that up they will win a lot more games even as they move through the meat of their schedule.

      It’s nice to see that Brey sees his team as part of a greater ND athletics whole. However, we probably will never again see the Digger days of players on both basketball and football (Mike and Willie Townsend back in 72-73), unless you know of some later examples.

    3. Cool Breeze (PV1x) says:

      That was a big win last night, bigger than many realize. If you were there, remember the victory because it doesn’t happen too often. I started following Irish basketball about the same time I did football, 1946. At the time I was also a huge UK fan and loved Beard, Groza, Barnstable, and the other Fabulous Five players. In the 56 years I’ve followed this matchup ND and UK have played 40 times and the Cats have won 28 games. Our victories were few and far between.

      My favorite memory was the 1964, 111-97 ND victory over Rupp’s Runts.

    4. Baltimore_Irish says:

      I agree almost 100%. My one issue is that those uniforms were awesome.

    5. My main complaint about the uniforms was that you could hardly read the numbers. It was great to watch the football players there, cheering, sweeping the floor etc, but the best part was watching the 8 Kentucky fans behind me sit there in silence through most of the game. Priceless!

    6. Sensational game.

      Two negatives – The uniforms (already commented on), and the post-game floor rush. Act like you’ve been there before.

      • Loved the post game floor rush. ND hasn’t been there in a long time against UK…Unis were awful, would have defeated the purpose, but gold letters and numbers would have been better…

    7. What a great team effort last night – passing, defense, looking for the open man, tough rebounding against some real Kentucky thoroughbreds…it was all on full display. Mike Brey and his staff have done an excellent job of blending in the new talent as well. For a change, just like the Shamrock Series or the infamous Green Jerseys in football, the “blackout” uniforms were refreshing to see. It shows the players (and future players) that ND is not so tradition bound that it is afraid to make a statement.

    8. @ Tim. If Manti leads the rush…..you best follow.

    9. Living in Lexington and being a University of Kentucky grad, but with family with Notre Dame/South Bend ties, I spend my fall following Notre Dame football and my winter and spring with Kentucky basketball. Contrary to popular belief, this is actually the FIRST time a Coach Cal UK team has had to break in a new starting lineup. Each of his past three teams had upperclassmen as both starters and key contributors. The freshmen get all the press. John Calipari is great at getting a group of young talent, separated from millions of dollars by just a few short months, to learn to play together as a team. I just hope he can make some progress in the next month. I was glad to have a humbling loss this early in the year and to such a well-coached team in a great environment. It was also nice to see T’eo pulling so hard for his classmates. Good game.

    10. When Braveheart said charge, the Scots followed. So shall it be when Manti says charge.

      I actually don’t get the whole “Don’t charge the court thing.” We complain like crazy when the JACC crowd doesn’t show a pulse or doesn’t show up, but then we get upset when their enthusiasm doesn’t stop when the buzzer sounds. I’d much rather have some over-enthusiastic court rushing than the golf claps that often emanate from ND crowds.

    11. Jason …great comment
      Wish more could see your point about ND athletics and well coached teams. Early on losses are just that…early on…in hoops at this level it means getting better and ready for the long haul.

      Thanks for the comment about T’eo pulling for his classmates. Lots of ND haters will never look past the way ND football players and all the varsity athletes embrace and cheer for their ND sports counterparts. I was there at the prep rally that celebrated ND’s contribution in undergrad athletes to the Olympic games and the other varsity teams moving on in playoffs towards championships. Was also there for Teo’s words on his last home game at ND. Priceless

      Notre Dame can only be understood by the people who have experienced the place first-hand. Surrounded by ND haters in Western PA – and with a junior son in pre-med there…I have endured the bashing of ND by family and friends for a very long time. They will never embrace for a single moment your final comments:
      “I was glad to have a humbling loss this early in the year and to such a well-coached team in a great environment. It was also nice to see T’eo pulling so hard for his classmates. Good game.

      A Pitt or Penn State fan would never give credit to a “well-coached” ND team, a loss of any kind to the Irish and most importantly the comment about a great environment in South Bend.

      Thanks for being real.

      PS..Two sons in college – first born at Notre Dame..second son at Penn State. Can truly understand your discourse with KU and ND.

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