Notre Dame is NOT widely expected to have a great season this year in men’s basketball. With three starters to replace, I can see why. But I’ve also learned that when Mike Brey is faced with his biggest challenges…that’s usually when he surprises us the most.
Think back to 2006. Notre Dame was mired in a 3-year NCAA drought and weren’t expected to finish anywhere near the top of the Big East. But Brey coached them to a 24-8….didn’t lose at home…and Russell Carter emerged from complete obscurity to be a first team all BIG EAST selection and helped lead the Irish back to the big dance.
And then last year, following the departure of Luke Harangody & the winningest class in program history, Brey’s team once again defied the odds. Ben Hansbrough morphed into the best point guard in America, and the Irish were being talked about as a NUMBER ONE seed the week before the tournament.
Looking at this team, I don’t see a Hansbrough or a Russell Carter. But that’s the beauty of this. NOBODY saw it coming last year either. Maybe Tim Abromaitis is the next Jimmer Fredette. Maybe Eric Atkins or Scott Martin thrive in the spotlight.
Mike Brey isn’t the national coach of the year by accident. He has a system..and it works.
But it’s not a magic formula. It’s going to take time. The Irish are young. Brey admits this group will test his patience unlike any other. There will be some losses that should’ve been wins.
But somehow, someway, by the time the first week of March rolls around, I’m betting Mike Brey will find a way to have this team in the mix.
Because I’ve seen people bet against his teams before, and more often than not he’s come out ahead.