Some additional context
by ndzippy (2019-02-07 15:37:24)

In reply to: My 55 Years of Irish Basketball Viewing  posted by coldwaterirish

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.