My 55 Years of Irish Basketball Viewing
by coldwaterirish (2019-02-07 14:21:43)
Edited on 2019-02-07 14:22:15

It has been both my delight and my distress to follow ND men's basketball since my front row seat in 1965, beginning with games played at the iconic Old Fieldhouse. I have seen and witnessed the best of times and the worst of times. Please recall Digger's first and last years.

What seems most troubling about this year's roster is that it lacks the senior leadership that has become a characteristic model of Brey's program. Looking over Brey's tenure, the better teams always have featured strong play from the senior class. Obviously, the diminished contribution of an influential senior class is a big problem for Brey this year.

Brey's brilliance has been with the slow, progressive development of the players on his roster. He rarely inserts a first year player into the rotation, with few exceptions made for "elite" players such as Torian Francis and Chris Thomas. Indeed, Jack Cooley, for example, rarely played his first year on the roster. Many other examples can be cited to confirm this coaching development strategy used religiously by Brey.

Brey does not relish one and done players. He wants at least three and preferably four years of development from his players.

This year's season is an outlier for him. He has been forced --- for various reasons, including some that are his fault with regards to recruiting and scholarship distributions --- to overplay the first year players and they as a group are playing exactly like we should expect to have first year players play in Brey's fluid system that requires intelligence, crisp passing, positioning, and occasionally the use of intense defensive pressure. None of those positive characteristics are featured on this year's young roster.

So, it is what it is. A junior who has too much pressure applied without the crutch of senior leadership, literally a non-existent senior class, a brittle transfer with potential but meager performance minutes, and a scrappy stable of first year players who had no idea the game would be payed at this speed in college and did not have even a preseason to bond and develop chemistry among them.

This year is a disappointment but no one can argue that it is a surprise. And, Pfleuger would not be the solution if he had not been injured. He is a good player but not the calibre required to carry a team, such as a Pat Garrity, Troy Murphy, or Jerian Grant, for example.




Rex would still have offered something of value.
by OITLinebacker  (2019-02-07 16:32:06)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Namely a chance to rest or pull Gibbs or Hubb on a rough night. It just looks like those two are getting run into the ground by the grind of ACC play because they are rarely sitting out and almost never are the two of them on the bench at the same time. Just having Rex to rotate in for them some while not really adding anything offensively himself, might give enough rest to the others so that they might actually score a bit more themselves.

I wonder what Gibbs points per game with Rex vs without Rex is? I can't imagine it's significantly better. I'm guessing Gibbs now is drawing that harder assignment on defense and that is draining enough that he isn't able to add as much offensively.


If we are to consider Harvey as a first year player
by Ajax  (2019-02-07 21:53:56)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

after he played 345 minutes as a frosh, than can we consider Mooney a second year player since he played 46 minutes as a frosh?


Nope. Mooney got reps all year. Harvey was injured.
by rsmith18  (2019-02-07 22:06:08)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Harvey was out for the year not able to do basketball activities. Just playing in practice all year improves your skill set and ability to learn the system, etc. I see the point you are making though.


I knew someone would come up with this reply
by Ajax  (2019-02-07 22:30:36)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Harvey was injured on 1/16/2018. He was rotation player who was getting practice reps with the starters between 10/1/17 and 1/16/2018, in addition to 345 game minutes. He had 3.5 months within the system and not as a scout player like Mooney was as a frosh while playing 46 garbage time minutes. Mooney's reps as a frosh are not apples to apples to the reps Harvey had as a frosh. IMO the actual PT and level of practice reps even out the comparison.

The injury has certainly set him back, but the rationalization he is essentially a first year player holds no water for the 3.5 months he had in 17-18 as a rotation player.


I don’t disagree with that statement, however
by OITLinebacker  (2019-02-08 07:08:12)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I look at the physical step back that Harvey has taken post injury and figure that sort of counterbalances most of that experience. Right now it seems to me that most of the class years need to play a year older in Breys system, so Harvey needs to look more like an upperclassman and he just not there mentally and physically yet. This is compounded by the fact that he has no classmates to share the burden with.

His is an unusual case which is why I called it out. He has some experience coming in but let’s not also pretend it is the typical experience that most ND players had their first year in.


Fair enough.
by rsmith18  (2019-02-07 23:03:30)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Not trying to argue at all and completely see where you're coming from. I just respectfully have a different opinion but appreciate your views. I was more putting not only the in-season reps as a factor but all the spring, summer, and early fall workouts that Harvey missed. Missing the summer in my opinion is one of the biggest factors as that's where guys usually see a big jump in the weight room and level of play. During the actual season I'd probably agree that Harvey had more development as he was one of the first guys off the bench in games whereas Mooney barely played all year.


Some additional context
by ndzippy  (2019-02-07 15:37:24)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

You said, "Looking over Brey's tenure, the better teams always have featured strong play from the senior class." I spent a lot of time this morning considering that same point and I figured I'd share what I learned.

Before we move on, however, I think it's important to define Brey's "best" teams. Here's my list of his 5 best seasons, in rank order:

1. 2014-2015 (32-6, Elite Eight)
2. 2010-2011 (27-7, Round of 32)
3. 2007-2008 (25-8, Round of 32)
4. 2002-2003 (24-10, Sweet 16)
5. 2006-2007 (24-8, Round of 64)

Now, here's how the Senior class contributed to those teams:

1. 2014-2015: 36% of minutes, 37% of points
2. 2010-2011: 77% of minutes, 85% of points
3. 2007-2008: 14% of minutes, 16% of points
4. 2002-2003: 35% of minutes, 43% of points
5. 2006-2007: 32% of minutes, 39% of points

Clearly, there is no single "template" for a successful Brey team. Some teams are almost entirely dependent on the Senior class (2010-2011). Seniors have contributed very little to other teams (2007-2008). The sweet spot seems to be around 35% of minutes, and 40% of points...but that's not mandatory for success.

That said, Brey's never gotten less from a Senior Class than he's getting right now; the two Seniors (and, it's worth mentioning, team captains) have accounted for 8% of the team's minutes and 6% of the team's points. Those two numbers will continue to decline, of course, as neither will play another minute this season.

But, for the sake of argument, let's expand the focus to upperclassmen (Juniors + Seniors). Here's how Juniors & Seniors contributed to Brey's best 5 teams:

1. 2014-2015: 50% of minutes, 55% of points
2. 2010-2011: 77% of minutes, 85% of points
3. 2007-2008: 61% of minutes, 58% of points
4. 2002-2003: 50% of minutes, 53% of points
5. 2006-2007: 46% of minutes, 54% of points

This year, those two classes have combined to account for 48% of minutes and 53% of points. That's not too different than what we've seen with successful teams in the past. So what's the issue, then? As you pointed out, being too reliant on freshmen.

In your post, you said, "He rarely inserts a first year player into the rotation." My research suggests that's not true. Here's how freshmen have contributed to Brey's best 5 teams:

1. 2014-2015: 8% of minutes, 8% of points
2. 2010-2011: 13% of minutes, 9% of points
3. 2007-2008: 2% of minutes, 2% of points
4. 2002-2003: 23% of minutes, 20% of points
5. 2006-2007: 28% of minutes, 26% of points

Freshmen classes have often made significant contributions to Brey-coached teams, but they've never had to carry as heavy a load as they are this year (39% of minutes, 32% of points). With that context, I'm not as surprised by how poorly the team has performed this year. We just have to hope that the lumps we're taking this year will pay off in spades in the years to come.

Having said all of that, there's one other thing I can't shake. Let's pretend Burns stayed and Pflueger didn't get hurt. Brey likely would have given more minutes to the Seniors, and fewer minutes to the Freshmen, which would have brought the distribution of minutes more in line with Brey's established norms. Would the on-court results be any better?

Sometimes it's not as much about experience as it is about making sure all of the players fit well together. Along those lines, I'd argue that this is the most disjointed roster Mike Brey has had at ND, and that's my biggest concern moving forward.


So compare those numbers to this year.
by OITLinebacker  (2019-02-07 16:50:30)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I would also be curious to put the Freshman in a different sort of context: First year of playing time with the program. Transfers have played some roles for Brey's team (including Durham this year). Also if you discount the pre-injury minutes of Harvey and consider him a first year player (like many on this board do), then I would say there is a sizable portion of this years minutes being played by "first timers".

Inserting Djogo into the starting lineup changes that a bit lately, but there has been a time or two where ND has put out a lineup that was made up of players who had 0 minutes of previous year game action under Brey. I'm looking at the numbers your posting and seeing that on average over half the minutes and over half the points are coming from Juniors/Seniors. Mooney seems to be good for his share, but after that you need Gibbs or Djogo or Durham to have a good night to come up with the rest of that 50%.

I worry that some of these same issues will crop up again in 2 years when the next 1 person class is a senior. I think the difference is that a lot of the underclassmen in that class are now battle tested and that is something that this Junior class didn't really have.


Your five teams have one thing in common
by El Kabong  (2019-02-07 16:27:34)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

The coach(es) on the floor.

I've always felt Mike Brey's best teams at ND had a coach on the sidelines and at least one coach on the floor -- the ass-kicker-name-taker who knew how things were supposed to run and inspired his teammates to run things that way. That player didn't necessarily have to be a senior, but he usually was an upperclassmen. If that player happened to also be among the best performers on the team, that made it even better, because if they were underclassmen or not otherwise top-flight, you could see conflict. That guy's leadership inspired the other players to give their best, which meant we didn't see a lot of performances like the one last night.

In 2014-2015, not only was Connaughton that guy, but he had the best 1a of any team on your list in Jerian Grant. Their leadership helped bring along young players like DJ and Bonzie, and allowed Vasturia to shine. The next year, when they were gone and DJ stepped into the best-player role, it took a while for the leadership thing to take hold (assuming, frankly, it ever did), which is why while that team went to the E8 as well, as you pointed out, they needed more luck to get there.

In 2010-2011, you had Ben Hansbrough as that guy, with Scott Martin as his 1a. They were the examples Grant and Cooley could learn from, and took the pressure off Nash and Abro. When Hansbrough broke down in the postseason, so did that team.

In 2007-2008, there probably were two coaches on the floor in MacAlarney and Kurz. Harangody was one of the best talents, but there was no pressure on him to lead.

For 2002-2003, Matt Carroll & Dan Miller had the role. Chris Thomas was free to show his talent without having to shoulder the leadership burden. That didn't work out so well the two years that followed (for which, as I said below, Latimore deserves a decent share of responsibility)

2006-2007 had Colin Falls and Russell Carter. Same old same old.

The problem with this team is the expansive youth makes it difficult for that guy to emerge, assuming he's there in the first place. Pflueger could be a leader, but he's not up there on the talent scale. Gibbs is an excellent soldier, but as we saw last year when Farrell was sidelined, he doesn't do as well when he's expected to run things. Maybe Mooney can become that guy, but he seems to be more on the soft-spoken side. Then again, this is his first season having to contribute strongly, so I don't have any reason not to believe he could expand his game into at least one of those positions. Maybe Harvey, not having to focus on rehab next year, could focus on that part of the game instead.

The hope has to be one of the frosh becomes a de facto 1A next year in conjunction with Mooney's leadership.


Believe it or not
by BIG MAC  (2019-02-07 18:30:56)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I would keep my eye on Doherty over the next couple of years. I haven't seen enough of him to render a definitive judgment, but he seems to possess some intangibles. If he brings a top level work ethic he could be that guy.


I believe it *
by Notra_Dahm  (2019-02-08 12:19:54)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Maybe he'll be our Kurt Rambis *
by btd  (2019-02-07 20:53:11)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


absolutely. team is lacking a true floor leader *
by circuslunch  (2019-02-07 17:39:07)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Great point. Could have just rolled the ball out in 14-15
by NDTommie  (2019-02-07 17:20:27)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

with no coach and you probably would have gotten the same results. PC and JG completely owned that team and it was very easy to see that every time they took the court.


Why is only one of the E8 teams on your list? *
by El Kabong  (2019-02-07 15:52:02)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


That was a tough call for me
by ndzippy  (2019-02-07 15:56:32)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

First, they were only 11-7 during conference play; all of the teams I highlighted had a better record in conference (and overall).

Second, we got some good breaks on the road to the E8 that season. We didn't have to play #3 WVU (because Stephen F. Austin took them down), and we also dodged #2 Xavier (because Wisconsin took them down).

I guess that E8 felt a little "lucky" (especially in comparison to the prior year).


Fair enough *
by El Kabong  (2019-02-07 16:04:00)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


good points *
by circuslunch  (2019-02-07 15:19:12)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Great post but one nit
by ronniewoo  (2019-02-07 14:58:15)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

This team (including the incoming freshman) did have a pre-season. They had ten extra practices and three games in the Bahamas. In his most recent radio show Brey mentioned the number of practices this group has had and it was my sense he was a little frustrated they have not developed more given those extra practices