So, I'm not a huge fan of Mike Brey, I'm not shy about this, earlier this year I tweeted that I wouldn't mind switching the men's and women's coaches at ND. Coach Brey has attempted to prove me wrong and I'm not going to go all Drew Sharp and take responsibility for his success*. Brey thinks it's better to recruit players that will grow into their roles and redshirts players in order to have one of the oldest teams in the Big East every year. I have called out his use of redshirting Abromaitis and still think he did it wrong, he should have lost his freshman year and not his sophomore year. Having Abro for his sophomore season was probably the difference between that team being in the NIT and the NCAA tournament. Prove me wrong!
Harangody getting hurt last year was the best thing to happen to Brey, he realized he had to coach differently without his star and now he is able to switch schemes depending on the opponent. The fact that it took him 10 years at ND to figure this out is a bit befuddling, but what are you going to do. His coaching this year has been phenomenal as Notre Dame doesn't lose close games which is opposite of his team in 2005-2006. The NIT team that lost to Michigan to end their season, lost 10 games by less than 5 points (including twice to Michigan) and all of their wins were by more than 5 points except two (IPFW and Wofford).
With 5 seniors on this team and 3 of them back next year, I hope for more of the same from the Irish, with Eric Atkins the only underclassmen for next year we'll probably see a freshman get Atkins-like minutes next year. But this is about this year, and what a glorious year it's been, beating everyone but 5 teams? A completely unexpected turn from a team that lost it's two best players from last year. Ben Hansborough is way better than I thought he could ever be, probably the Big East player of the year, Eric Atkins doing enough to show that his future at ND will be bright. Tyrone Nash is the most underrated player on this team, doing enough every game to be the difference and that 3 pointer he hit was wondrous (Free Ty Nash). The only real disappointment is Scott Martin as he has been called by Mike Brey "the best offensive player I've coached." A two year lay-off is tough to overcome (Dayne Crist anyone) and I expect big things from Martin next year. I still wonder if Everett Golston will actually play basketball at ND, he says he wants too, but if Andrew Hendrix doesn't win the job (I expect he will) then Golston may have his hands full with football.
Mike Brey has coached brilliantly this year, although his move with Ben Hansbrough against UConn left a lot of people scratching their heads. And then blaming Hansbrough brought rushing back memories of poor Mike Brey decisions. Yes, we could laugh about it, because they won, even joke about how Hansbrough and Brey did it on purpose to show the other players they could win without Ben. Mike Brey has built a team that can win in the B(ig)EAST but before I jump fully aboard the band wagon I need tournament results, Dominion and Winthrop, Ole Miss and Arizona are still memories I'd love to replace with a Final Four run or at least Elite Eight and the Notre Dame seeding should bare those expectations out. I'm still in disbelief that this team is in the running for a ONE SEED.
So Mike Brey, I apologize, sort of, for now. Win two games in MSG and three games in the tourney and I'll admit that, for this year, I was wrong. Then do it again next year. And keep doing it. The bar has been raised by Brian Kelly, and his team went 8-5, Notre Dame expects excellence and you need to keep delivering it.
*Drew Sharp is a Detroit columnist that called out one of Izzo's MSU teams, I think it was the team with Ager, Brown and Paula Davis. When that team advanced to the Final Four Drew wrote a column about how his column calling out the Spartans was the reason they advanced so far... Seriously. Luckily for Drew he writes for the same paper that employs the liar Mitch Albom thus making him only my second most hated writer at the Free Press.