Tom Noie: Welcome to a non-planned but (hopefully) entertaining Notre Dame men’s basketball hoops chat. Had this not been a pandemic year, the Irish would be in Syracuse now in prep for tonight’s game in the Carrier Dome. That was scrapped Monday because of contact tracing, which gives us a little free time, which gives us….this. You know the drill. Make sure to include your name and hometown with your question or comment and with that, let’s light this holiday hoops chat candle…
Matt: Appreciate all your hard work Tom. Three things if you don’t mind: 1) Why does this team underwhelm against legitimate competition so often? I understand @ Michigan St, Ohio St etc. Purdue is a very average team that just got beat at Miami, who lost to Florida Gulf Coast. The game never really felt it was going to go our way. 2) Why on earth are we not playing some weaker teams. If anything, this team needs confidence and more Detroit Mercy games. With Syracuse getting cancelled, Brey should schedule two free wins and get the guys shooting confidence back. 3) I appreciate football is first and there is a ceiling with hoops at ND, however, even Northwestern beat Michigan State the other day… how does Brey not get a ranked win in like 4 years. Seriously. Thanks Tom.
Tom Noie: Matt: Nothing like a three-parter to get us off and running. Good stuff my man. We’ll take each one separately, which might mean a few response threads once we run out of space, but here it goes. 1. The answer as to why Notre Dame underwhelms so often against legit teams so often (currently 0-24 against ranked team since November 2017). The Irish just aren’t good enough. Or talented enough. Or experienced enough. Even last year, that team had guys who didn’t know how to win. They had veteran guys, but fit-in guys. Not front-line guys. That was the difference. That foundation for an OK year (20-12; 10-10) was laid the previous year after the Irish went 3-15 and finished last in the ACC. After that trainwreck, EVERY single option should’ve been not only explored but utilized to get better. Bring in a couple transfers to shake up the locker room. Bring in a graduate transfer to shake up the rotation. Take a chance where you normally wouldn’t take a chance. Notre Dame did … nothing.
Tom Noie: On to No. 2. This schedule was all be design by Mike Brey with the blessing from his players. They didn’t know what this season would be like. Would there be games? Would there be shutdowns? Ah, heck, let’s just roll the dice and schedule all power teams. Looked good on paper and sounded good as the fall became winter, but looking back, don’t know if that was the smartest move. Notre Dame’s best win to date is Kentucky. In any other year, the Irish would get out of Rupp with that win, then get home and play two or three non-league games to build up their confidence. What happened? Next up was Duke in the ACC opener. Confidence crusher. Brey banked on his team being mature enough to handle the schedule. To date, they haven’t. It’s been hard for them to get any traction. The schedule’s not going to let up. It’s what they wanted, so go play it.
Tom Noie: Last but not least, No. 3. Kind of like No. 1. Notre Dame hasn’t been good enough to beat a ranked team. As Mike Brey has mentioned the last few weeks, it’s been a process. They were overwhelmed by ranked teams while going 3-15 two years ago. They were never in position mentally or physically to beat a ranked team. Even last year, that team had guys who didn’t really KNOW how to do it. Even the veteran guys in Gibbs and Pflueger and Mooney. This has to be the year they get at least one, right? You’d think. But again, how do they handle the crusher schedule? Does it kill their confidence? We’ll see.
Dave: I recently heard that the NCAA is allowing fall athletes to not count this year towards their 4 years of eligibility. If this is true, do you see any of our guys taking advantage of this?
Tom Noie: Dave: It is true that this year is a free year. It’s too early in the process to project who wants that extra year and who doesn’t. It’s a question that will need to be asked, but you have to pick your spots on when and how to ask it. Ask Prentiss Hubb or Dane Goodwin about it now, and they’re likely going to say that they haven’t thought about it. That question was asked throughout football season and only one guy (Jonathan Doerer) actually admitted that yeah, he’s definitely coming back. The additional year is there, but that doesn’t always mean guys want to take it, or coaches want to have it. There was a push from some last spring to get winter sports athletes an extra year when COVID shut down the NCAA tournament. But the feeling around Notre Dame was yeah, no thanks. The departing guys on last year’s team (Gibbs, Pflueger, Mooney) all were ready to move on, or the program was ready to move on from them. At some point, it’s time to start fresh. That might be the case with fifth-year guys (Djogo, Durham).
Mike,New Jersey: Hey Tom I know it has been emphasized that Brey likes a short rotation and doesn’t use the max scholarship amount but after three years of poor play how can he not reevaluate his roster construction? Look at teams like Rutgers that have giants like Myles Johnson coming off the bench and we are left with one center who is a 5th year senior and two freshman forwards (one who can’t play this year). Its one thing to miss out on top talent but its a whole other issue when you aren’t filling out the roster with anyone at all. Hope you and your family have a great holiday and appreciate all the content you put out for ND basketball.
Tom Noie: Mike: Great question, and totally agree. No reason and no excuse not to have at least 10 guys that you can go to on a given night. Injuries have been a factor in Robby Carmody not being available until likely February and Elijah Taylor lost for the year with an ankle issue. That said, the trust that Mike Brey so leans on and gives his core guys eventually has to go both ways. Brey decides he’s not going to bring in another big behind Juwan Durham, guess what? If I’m Juwan Durham I better understand that I have to produce. If I’m Prentiss Hubb, I have to realize I can’t go for no points against Purdue. Those situations get magnified when there’s no second option on the bench.
Joey from Highland, IN: How would you gauge Cormac Ryan so far?
Tom Noie: Joey: On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 5. The expectations were steep for Cormac Ryan right from the jump. He was an older guy. He made the most of his sit-out season. He was named a captain before he ever played in a game. Mike Brey talked him up as Ben Hansbrough 2.0. He eventually may be that, but like the rest of the season for the Irish to date, it’s been a struggle for Ryan. he’s averaging 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 36.7 minutes. Solid numbers. But he’s shooting .333 percent from the field and .357 percent from 3. He’s taken the second most 3s (37), which I would shave for more drives and potential drawn fouls to get to the line, where he’s at .923 percent. Watched a little of the Purdue game on tape last night, and there was one possession where he seemed to shoot a 3 for the sake of shooting a 3. He’s had issues defensively (they all have), especially against more athletic guards. Have to keep reminding ourselves it’s only six games in.
Michael: Are there any indications that Coach Brey is on the hot seat or getting ready to move on? 4 years in a row without a tournament quality team is a long time.
Tom Noie: Michael: Not at all. And there won’t be this year unless everything goes completely off the rails. Every college coach, and athletic director, will consider just getting through a season during a pandemic an NCAA-like win.
ND Hoops Recruits: What are you hearing about ND’s chances with Yale grad transfer Paul Atkinson?
Tom Noie: Radio silence, for myriad reasons. Notre Dame has not been known for chasing transfers in season, and seldom has chased a grad transfers. it’s unchartered territory for the program and for the coaching staff. And it would be unlike anything the staff has ever done – get a guy who could (and should) play right away, which undercuts the guy you put so much faith in in Juwan Durham. Everyone outside the program believes that the next guy is the right guy. The most popular topic the first three weeks of the season was Trey Wertz and his possible eligibility. Now that he’s playing, it’s who’s coming next? Inside the program, they believe the guys they currently have is enough. Not saying they’re right, but landing/chasing Paul Atkinson goes against the grain in every form and fashion. Which means this – go do it. Please.
Andrew from Plymouth, IN: How did Durham take being removed from the starting lineup? With transfers being eligible right now is there any chance he’s so frustrated he leaves to play somewhere else for the second semester?
Tom Noie: Andrew: All of our media work this year is done through Zoom calls. We have no one-on-one or face-to-face contact with the coaches or the players, which is something I really miss. Best part of being around practice for interviews is being able to talk to a coach or player on the side without the recorder running. Just BS with them about this or that. Maybe about a game or a moment or, like with Durham, his new role off the bench. As for getting frustrated that he leaves to play elsewhere, whaaaat? It’s not like he’s not been given a chance. Like, this is what he wanted last year when the focus was John Mooney. This is your time, make the most of it. Any frustration over that? Man, look in the mirror.
Dave: Was Hubb healthy vs Purdue? I thought I saw him limping at times during the game.
Tom Noie: Dave: He looked fine from my perch in the Varsity Club at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He wasn’t subbed out early which would indicate something was amiss and he wound up playing 38 minutes. Think it was more of a struggle to figure out how to find his while playing alongside his roommate in Trey Wertz. The way Wertz got his 27 was like he barely broke a sweat. Everything in the flow of the offense. Take a couple open 3s. Get a few drives. Some free throws. Like he fit it and it kind of threw Hubb off his game. Afterward, Mike Brey talked about Hubb being more of a facilitator/defender (that can’t happen). If he were hurt or sick, it likely would’ve come up. It never did.
Andrew: Do you see Blake or Jr coming in next year and playing real minutes? Because I think that Blake could be 6,7,8th man next year.
Tom Noie: Andrew: I don’t….At least, not right now, Both of them are talents and should eventually become good college players. But the adjustment both will face will be eye-opening. It’s one thing to go for 30-plus points on a routine basis in the Northern Indiana Conference, where neither one is ever really challenged. The ACC will be a step or two or three up for both. If they can get to campus and have a normal summer school of playing with the guys, it will be a massive help. But that first year will be an adjustment. I know Blake Wesley has talked about Brey saying how he could be freshman of the year in the ACC, but look at the depth chart. Now that Wertz is doing what he can do, that’s four guards all coming back next year with Hubb, Goodwin, Ryan and Wertz. What about Carmody? What if he comes back and shows something? Right there, Wesley’s the fifth guard before he ever moves in. Konieczny’s a little different in that he might be closer to 6-8 by the time he arrives, so he could work as the second big
Joey from Highland, IN: As far as toughness….give Zona a shot. He brings energy and toughness. Durham at times looks like he doesn’t even care.
Tom Noie: Nope, nope, nope….given what we know about Brey and the way he operates, he’s not flushing Durham anytime soon. He’d rather lose knowing he gave his guy (he’s waaaaay loyal to transfers) every opportunity to perform than bury him for a freshman. If Matt Zona truly gave this team a better chance to win, he’d be in there. He’s not there yet.
Joey from Highland, IN: Who is in charge of the defense? Do these kids have no interest in playing it?
Tom Noie: Joey: They don’t have anyone in charge of the defense. This isn’t football where you have a coordinator and bunch of assistants all locked in a room in Rolfs Hall breaking down what teams like to do in their secondary break. Playing defense is a lot of want-to. There’s your guy. Guard him. A lot of it also is being secure enough and mature enough and experienced enough not to let what’s happening (or not happening) with your offense to affect your defense. The Irish aren’t there yet.
Andrew from Plymouth, IN: I much prefer Wertz and Ryan bringing the ball up and running the show, as I think they are better facilitators than Hubb. Hubb played off the ball more against Purdue, any idea if this was planned and we should expect this going forward or did the game dictate it because Wertz got hot?
Tom Noie: Andrew: Mike Brey’s kind of talked himself into a corner with Prentiss Hubb. How it’s his team. How he has the keys to the car. You don’t suddenly take those keys away. Wertz and Ryan initiating the offense for stretches should and will be an option, but Hubb’s still the main guy.
Greg from NJ: what can this group do to be more effective on defense? 1-3-1 looks ok at times, but otherwise doesn’t feel like there’s much that is working (2-3 zone….yikes). I get that with a shorter bench, maybe the philosophy is don’t expend all your energy on defense, but at some point you need stops…and a steal every once in a while would sure help so we can get out in transition….i think part of the scoring droughts is that we get nothing in transition so every possession becomes a grind. But, to run, you’ve got to defend (steal, deflect, contest) and rebound and we haven’t been good at either yet. I’m not saying we need to be Virginia overnight, but if we aren’t getting stops trying to play straight up, why not mix it up….trap, double the post…something to try to make the opponent uncomfortable. what do we have to lose…worst case we give up a layup or a 3, which is happening anyway. Giving up 88 points to a purdue team that scored 54 against miami is alarming…..
Tom Noie: Greg: Can they play with six? I joke because, well, there really aren’t any options. They tried to go 1-3-1 which so effective at Kentucky one time against Purdue and they threw over the top for a dunk from the 8-foot kid. You can throw all the junk defenses and traps as you want, but eventually, it comes down to just guarding your guy. Boxing out. Gang rebounding. As you mentioned, we’re not talking about morphing into becoming Virginia overnight, but get a handful of stops (at key times) to stop runs and they might have a chance.
Jay from Chicago: Hi Tom, thanks for your coverage of ND basketball. It always feels as if you are setting yourself up to fail when you have such a heavy concentration of the roster in the same class, especially in a development program like ND. Two questions: 1) why is ND still struggling so mightily with this highly-touted junior class and 2) is there any reason for me to believe that the ’22-’23 season (assuming Jr. class all moves one) will not be as disastrous as ’18-’19?
Tom Noie: Jay: As Mike Brey said recently, it’s a process with that class. Learn to play. Learn to play together. Learn to win. It wasn’t going to happen as freshmen, and it didn’t. It happened only occasionally as sophomores. It has to happen more this year and then next. 2022-23? Man, I’m just trying to get to 2021. We’ll worry about that season when we get there.
Joey from Highland, IN: I am still in disbelief that Hubb didn’t score. You get 27 from Wertz and 11 from Djogo and you still get crushed. If he does anything, they probably win. That being said, I hope Djogo can keep making shots. He’s actually given them good minutes all year.
Tom Noie: Joey: As a fifth-year guy should. What they’re getting from Djogo now is something they always thought was there. Make a few shots. Get a few boards. Don’t get crushed in the (+/-) rating when you’re on the floor. Play like an old guy. He’s been good, but he should be good. He’s the old guy now.
Pat, Springfield, IL: What are the chances that for a few minutes in each game we could see a combination of Zona/Laszewski/Durham in with three guards? Could that produce better defense and rebounding?
Tom Noie: Pat: Less than zero. If they go that route, it would be more Laszewski/Zona with the three guards than Durham/Laszewski. We’ve seen that pairing. It hasn’t worked very well.
Andrew from Plymouth, IN: The only time Brey benched a transfer was Dennis Latimore, so maybe Juwan Durham = Dennis Latimore?
Tom Noie: My man, D-Lat! He just didn’t fit that season, for myriad reasons and it was time to go a different direction. I can see it going the same way with Juwan Durham. It’s the classic be careful what you wish for. Durham wanted more chances, wanted more minutes, wanted to be the focal point in the low post when John Mooney was in town. Now it’s Durham, who’s learning that yeah, this thing’s tougher than he thought.
P from StP: Do you think Juwan will make the leap we all hoped he would? Or do you think what we see is what we get? 1 rebound last game….He times his jump so well for blocks, why not rebounds?
Tom Noie: P: I went back and watched some of the Purdue game last night and watched Durham on the floor. He’s just not a natural basketball player. Like, you can see the wheels in his mind turning. Go block out that go, then turn and look for the rebound. Then when he gets the ball in the low post, it’s like he’s reading from the manual. Dribble once, twice, then turn, then…..oooooof!
Tom from Gary, Ind.: Hi Tom. It appears from this observer the roles on the team are not defined? That leads to spurts of good play, but more breakdowns and losses in the end. With Wertz, Djojgo, Zona, Saunders, there is sufficient depth now. Coach Brey needs to play these kids off the bench
Tom Noie: Tom: Good call on the roles. The chemistry is a work in progress, and really, with Wertz eligible, now starting over. But Brey said after the game that he’s now got his main seven – with Durham and Djogo coming off the bench – moving forward. Zona and Sanders will be emergency minute guys.
Bob from Mishawaka: Tom – this program desperately needs new juice. It’s tough to even type those words because of how much I love Mike Brey. But when is enough enough? Their 2-3 zone is an absolute abomination. Their man defense is depressing. Their 1-3-1 is….not reliable. Classic Brey squads it’s easier to overlook a lack of any defensive fundamentals when the offense is flowing (and the team is winning of course), but the offense hasn’t flowed for years? This team looks bad across the board. I love Mike Brey and he has earned the right to walk on his own terms…but do you get any sense from him what it will take to make that decision? When is enough enough?
Tom Noie: Bob: Enough won’t be enough until his contract runs out in 2024-25. I could’ve seen him leaving after last year, but the pandemic gave him a new lease on his immediate coaching future. He wants to finish that contract out and see this junior class through. There’s no indication that he won’t have that opportunity.
Chris: How much of a funk is Hubb in? This team has offensive potential, however can defense improve ?
Tom Noie: Chris: How much of a funk? This much – he came into the Duke game last week the leading scorer in the ACC at 21.6. Two games later, he’s tied for 11th and second on the squad. More troubling has been his body language. One thing about Hubb was his swagger. His confidence. He’s not really had that since the Kentucky game. Defensively, it’s about want-to. See your guy; guard your guy.
Justin Ft Wayne: Why does this offense look so good at times in the first half, then the second half they can’t make a shot or get the offense flowing. Fatigue? It’s like their offense is only producing in the first half.
Tom Noie: Justin: Likely a number of factors. Teams have the first half to see what adjustments they need to make. They notice that the offense is rolling through this guy or that guy, so let’s take them away and see if the Irish have a counter. They don’t have a counter. They’re then expending energy on the defensive end that it affects them on the offensive end. It’s a never-ending cycle of late.
Jake: two questions. 1. Carmody should be the 8th man when (or if…. who knows with him by now) he returns, right? 2. Could you Ryan benched for Durham given his struggles for a 3 guard 2 big lineup?
Tom Noie: Jake: Not jumping on you specifically, but now that Trey Wertz is eligible, are we now going to the….when Carmody comes back wishful thinking route? And if so, why? Nothing against you or Robby Carmody, but his first step is to stay healthy. Let’s start there and then anything he can offer becomes a bonus. Benching Ryan for Durham trades some offense for no offense, which isn’t the way it works for this program.
Tony: Tom, do you think Brey will try to bring in 2 bigs in the 2022 class? Why doesn’t he at least get to 12 scholarship players? We need a great recruiter to take RA spot on the staff.
Tom Noie: Tony: Even 12 is too many to manage. In this program, somebody’s leaving and then we’re back to the why did so-and-so leave discussion. And don’t expect any staff changes unless someone leaves to be a head coach. Mike Brey has a fellow former DeMatha guy (Rod Balanis) and two former Irish players (Ryan Humphrey, Scott Martin) on staff. That’s a lot of loyalty there.
Jake: Yes a big role for Carmody is out of the question for now. I’m just not a fan of a 7 man rotation. All Carmody needs to give is 10 serviceable minutes off the bench…. and why can’t he?
Tom Noie: Jake: A broken kneecap, a shredded ACL and a torn labrum is why not. And he’s not going to be cleared to go full-on five-on-five until February. Asking him to step in for even 10 minutes at that point is a big ask, regardless of where everything is on Feb. 1.
Matt from MA: Tom, I read your response to my three partner. Glad it wasn’t an airball; wanted to come out swinging in the first few minutes. I am not an expert at all, and you know far more than I do about this team and program, but a few things just really jump out big picture…. 1) There is not enough quality depth in the ND program to compete in ACC. 2 guys off bench and sometimes 6 scholarship players isn’t enough. It’s why they lost Ohio St game in my opinion because we were gassed down stretch. 2) Brey seems stubborn to a fault. Self evaluation is the toughest and worst part of any job, but I think it’s necessary. Brian Kelly had to really look in the mirror after ’16. He made changes and they are in CFB twice in next 4 years. Leonard Hamilton down in Tallahassee said he needed to change things and the way he coached…at like 74 years old. It can be done. I’m not expecting a Final Four, but 0-27 against ranked teams just screams time to make changes. Brey has to see that and know it. Merry Christmas, Tom.
Tom Noie: Matt: BUT IT’S ONLY 0-24!!!!!!!!!! LOL. All the best to you my man!
Walter from Indy: When the offense is struggling for stretches I would love to see more of a focus on setting something up for Dane or Nate. But to my question! Seeing what we’ve seen through 6 games now, and operating in a pandemic, what would you constitute as a successful season for this team?
Tom Noie: Walter: Good point, but Mike Brey will be ready with his standard response – they don’t necessarily run stuff for guys for the sake of getting guys going. It’s more flow of offense stuff. Other than the obvious – getting to March in any way, shape or form would be a successful season during a pandemic. Six games in, I’m a little more optimistic that getting Wertz and settling on some semblance of a rotation will allow everything to settle in where roles are defined and an identity is, well, identified. To the point where they can beat a ranked team and finish league play at 11-9. Like, this it’s time this junior class delivers. Juwan Durham delivers. Raise the expectation level and go compete in the league where you’ve had it handed to you. Enough with being worked over by “better” teams. Be one of those better teams. Isn’t it time?
Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Hi Tom, by the way, I’ve also enjoyed your work on the podcasts about ND football. From the outside, it just seems that something intrinsic has been missing from the Irish the last few years. Call it what you want – confidence, belief, knowing that you’ll consistently compete – it just isn’t there. When the Irish take the court there’s isn’t any certitude about how they will perform or what they will look like from game-to-game. That’s a mindset and a conviction and ND is bereft of it. Any thoughts? And can’t these guys at least show a little bit more heart and determination when it comes to crashing the boards and getting after it at the defensive end. That’s the least they can do. Thanks.
Tom Noie: Jim: Good stuff. And you’re so right. Except, there’s the Kentucky game, which may be more of an indictment on where the UK program is than where the Irish program was supposed to be going. But I had a feel that Notre Dame was going to win that one – one reason I was actually at that game. Just had a feeling that they were ready to take that next step after losing to Ohio State. Then they played like that, and figured, another step beckoned. And it hasn’t happened. That’s been the most frustrating. Instead of building off winning at Rupp, they’ve looked too much like that 2018-19 team. They were out of it almost from the start against Duke. And you never got the sense they were going to do enough over extended minutes to beat Purdue. They lack leadership, from all levels. They lack want-to on the defensive end.
Fred: Tom, have you heard any news on bringing in a big next year? Or was Saturday’s starting 5 the sign for next year. Matty and Elijah would be the back ups?
Tom Noie: Fred: For now, I’d say unless a can’t-miss transfer/grad transfer (what are the odds of that happening) shows itself in the coming weeks, they move forward with Taylor and Zona as the backup big option for 2021-22. We’re not going to know anything about Taylor and maybe only a little more about Zona. Have to figure out what they can offer before eyeing other bigs.
Walter from Indy: Yes it’s time!! I’m fired up! Clip those last few sentences and have Brey put it word for word into his pregame Virginia speech! This team just didn’t have the benefit of learning BBB (beautiful brey ball) from upperclassmen. They were thrust in right away. It’s no wonder this team lacks the awareness to drive and kick, space and cut properly, play inside out, outside in, make the extra pass…we were spoiled on offense for years. I’d lock them in a room and make them watch 12 straight hours of old game highlights.
Tom Noie: Walter: All true, but don’t discount not having a summer to lock themselves in the gym and play together. Like, get Hubb, Wertz, Goodwin, Ryan and Laszewski all on one pickup team and play all day, or run 5-on-0 dummy offense for a few hours. Drive and kick and find shooters, then swing it and swing it again the way those 2015-16 teams did. For as veteran a team as this is, they still play in ways that they just all met one another an hour earlier.
John: Kinda nervous about this Bellarmine game tomorrow, but I don’t know why. How do you think the 12pm game will go?
Tom Noie: Bellarmine’s coming up here to get into Notre Dame. They’re active and aggressive and won’t be intimidated. Notre Dame had to struggle to win by 10 last year. If you want your typical non-league laugher, this might not be it.
Walter from Indy: Will you be inside the JACC live-tweeting the Bellarmine game for us?
Tom Noie: Absolutely. Nothing like a hoops game that you can cover, take a deep breath afterward and write a column that will still get in before deadline for the next day’s paper. This time Wednesday, will be courtside….well, as courtside as we get at Purcell Pavilion.
John: So I know the NCAA gave winter sports athletes their years back, but what exactly does that mean for the Notre Dame program? Does this mean that they will have two more years after this season is over? I’m very confused on this, and it would be very helpful if you explained it. Thank you!
Tom Noie: John: It’s not just the Notre Dame program, but every program. Essentially, it’s that this year does not count in terms of eligibility. If you’re a fifth-year senior, you have a chance to come back for one more year next season. If you’re a senior, you have another year. If you’re a junior, you have two more years and so on. Now, that doesn’t mean fifth-year guys will automatically choose to return, and players also will have the option of transferring without having to sit out at season’s end. It’s all going to be one big roster management headache moving forward. Just look at this way – this year doesn’t count. It’s a zero year.
Tom from Gary, Ind.: I think the frustrating thing from a fan’s perspective this season and last is the Irish play just good enough to lose against some of the top teams. Like there is talent, you see it in the first halves against Ohio St. and Kentucky that gives you hope. Then you see the lead evaporate, the 3s stop falling, double dribbles, tired players, stupid mistakes and you know it isn’t going to end well. Like a bad dream. I can just imagine what is going through Brey’s head.
Tom Noie: Tom: How about covering this program. It’s the same old, same old, same old. They’re a player short against Ohio State and Purdue. Maybe two short against Duke. Thing is, inside Rolfs Hall, they believe they have enough to win.
Walter from Indy: In terms of atmosphere/game (win or loss), what is the best home game, road game, and neutral site game you’ve covered in your time on the ND beat
Tom Noie: Walter: I’m probably going to forget one or two or three along the way after 23 seasons. Home game? Maybe the five-overtime win against Louisville just for the absurdity of it, like, you didn’t think it was ever going to end. Road game? Maybe the 2016 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium where the crazies just kind of fell silent. League road wins are the best kind of wins where the only ones making noise are the Irish bench and their small smattering of fans. Close second was 2011 when they won at Connecticut on Senior Night. Neutral site? No brainer and will never be topped – Kentucky at Quicken Loans Arena. The energy/anticipation that night was off the charts. Still get chills just thinking about it.
David Garnett: Hi Tom, is it only me or are there many 3-second calls and carrying over calls that are missed constantly every game i watch? it is so obvious to me. why isn’t it obvious to the three officials who are watching the same game as i am?
Tom Noie: David: Were you the guy yelling three seconds behind the east basket of Purcell Pavilion the last few years when the media used to sit down there? No, I know that guy. Honestly, I’ve not noticed it. I’d rather refs not call stuff than sit through another whistle. Let the game flow more.
John: Follow up on my previous question. Do you think Prentiss and the boys will stay for the extra year, or go pro or transfer?
Tom Noie: John: Too early to tell, across the board. How does this year finish up? What about next year? Can see all three as being options. Just hard to project out. Do they want to stay an extra year? Does the staff want them to stay another year? As I mentioned earlier, there comes a time when classes run their course. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Fred: Tom, on your answer to below. The junior class actually has 2 more years. Will that hurt 2022 recruiting. They say they are coming back then decide not to. By that time the recruits are committed to other schools.
Tom Noie: Welcome to roster management pandemic-style….2020 will be the year that we won’t forget, even when it’s gone.
Coach from Reading, PA.: Hi Tom. Merry Christmas. I don’t understand the lack of recruiting on this team. Has Mike Brey become lazy? 3 of our top 6 guys are transfers and both kids coming in next year are from South Bend. Does Mike have a mileage limit for recruiting? Our best player now in my opinion is Trey Wertz, a transfer. Can you explain it? Thanks a lot.
Tom Noie: Coach: That’s above my pay grade. Brey wanted to give the junior class maximum opportunity to deliver, so there was no real plan the year after other than to shoot the moon and try for a one-and-done guy. This year’s freshman class was supposed to include Hunter Dickinson. Notre Dame had him. Until it didn’t. Then you take a transfer to stay older. It still feels like they’re two players short. Somewhere along the line, you’ve got to take a chance on somebody. Whoops, they did. But Chris Doherty was too homesick to stick it out.
Coach from Reading, PA.: Mike. I don’t think Durham helps this team. Matt Zona plays harder and can’t get on the floor. I have not seen the Cormac Ryan that Brey absolutely loves. What are your thoughts on those two guys? Thank you.
Tom Noie: Ryan? Expected more but haven’t seen it. Zona? Blank slate who won’t get enough minutes to really show what he can do. At least, not this season.
John: Any other guys Brey is looking at for next year? We could really use a big man.
Tom Noie: John: Unless its a five-star or high four-star guy who can help right away, it doesn’t much matter. Any high school they may land in the spring likely is two years away, which is why the transfer/grad transfer route should’ve been tapped two years ago and continued. Use one scholarship a year for a grad transfer/transfer. That’s how you stay old and get guys who can actually help.
Fred: Tom, we will never find out what Matt and Tony can do when they are sitting. This team won’t win enough games to make the tournament. Why not use it as the summer that they lost. I just don’t see Durham winning any games for us. If they pull a Chris Doherty and leave. Here goes the number game again.
Tom Noie: Fred: This wasn’t supposed to be a year where you find out what the freshmen can do. That was what the summers are supposed to be for. This team was in more of a win-now-with-old-guys mode than throw the freshmen in and watch them sink or swim. That’s not fair to the older guys. And Brey’s always been about being fair
Coach from Reading, PA.: Tom. How’s the chemistry look to you between Wertz and Hubb? Hubb looked a little disinterested during the last game when Trey started. Then puta up a big Z bird. Thanks
Tom Noie: Coach: They’re roommates so they obviously get along, but you’re right about Hubb just kind of being there the last game. Like he was stung that someone besides himself could initiate the offense and create and go get something. Still not buying the whole he let the game come to him and focused on defense defense that we heard afterward.
Steve: I know you already discussed Paul Atkinson below and how recruiting a grad transfer is against the grain. But, hypothetically, if ND were to land him (and assuming he’s in good shape), how much of a difference could Atkinson make for the remainder of this season? Based on his numbers last year, I think it would be significant. Not automatically a tournament team, but a significant improvement and hope.
Tom Noie: Steve: The same answer – less than zero because Mike Brey first would have to deviate from everything about his being as a head coach in terms of trust and loyalty. He’s spent the last two-plus seasons trying to pump up Juwan Durham into believing he’s a capable ACC-caliber big man. He even took Durham to ACC media day last year just so he’d feel more a part of everything. He preached patience from him when John Mooney was getting all the rebounds and national love last season, telling Durham he’ll have that role next (this) season. Now six games in, he’s going to bench Durham, then in essence kick him to the curb for an Ivy League big. Not saying it wouldn’t help, just saying that’s not the way this program usually operates.
Aaron from elkhart: Cormac Ryan came in with high expectations this year. What has your assessment been of his play so far?
Tom Noie: Aaron: Two-plus hours late on that one, my man. Look back to earlier in the chat where that was discussed.
Jeff from York, PA: I have lost all interest in Mike Brey and his basketball teams. He can’t recruit or isn’t allowed to recruit elite players that the program so desperately needs. Does Brey teach the importance of playing defense? Is there any chance that JS will fire or force Brey to retire at the end of the season? I’m from Pennsylvania so I have become a Villanova fan.
Tom Noie: Jeff: But you’ll always come back for Notre Dame hoops chat! Like it.
Wadelite Long Beach California: Tom, the biggest issues with this program right now is the assistant coach philosophy (you need killers, hiring formers players because Duke does it is classic apples to oranges, a philosophy that perfectly run offense will make up for pathetic defensive schemes and effort, and talent evaluation. 247 sports lists Hubb as a shooting guard. Hubb makes no one better on the floor. His assist numbers are more a product of playing 38 mpg. He can drive to the basket but does it rarely. Instead he sees himself as Steph Curry the deep shooter only. ND cannot be an NCAAT if he is their best or most important player aka the focal point. I had higher hopes for Ryan, but to date he looks very rusty. The players all say they feed off Hubb’s “swagger”, but what are they supposed to say. Hubb is an empty vessel on defense. Never pays attention to his man once a shot is up, you know like a block out. Instead his only concern is someone getting the rebound and passing the ball
Tom Noie: Wade: The biggest issue you say is the staff, but you spill a lot of words on the point guard….just an observation.
Steve: Tom, just to clarify on Atkinson. If he has ND in his “final 5” doesn’t that mean that Brey has officially offered him a scholarship? Maybe that already indicates Brey is willing to finally take a gamble on a grad transfer? Also, I’m not so sure Atkinson would eat up many of Durham’s minutes. Durham is only playing 20 minutes as it is and not starting as of now. I don’t see bringing on Atkinson as a definitive diss to Durham.
Tom Noie: No question, it’s a diss. And definitive.
Wadelite Long Beach California: Something also to note on these ivy league transfers is their production is rarely half once they move to a power conference. Patrick tape barely plays for Duke. Jordan Bruner at Alabama numbers way down. Mike Smith at Michigan his scoring is way down, but he is averaging close to 5 assists per game in 28 mog
Tom Noie: Wade: You’ve been around the Notre Dame block once or twice, so you know how it works. It’s not about who’s here, it’s always about who’s next. Hope’s always around the next corner, or so Irish fans….hope.
Coach from Reading, PA.: Tom. Thanks for this chat. I’ve been anxious to talk about this team. Now something positive. If you let Dane Goodwin set his feet, he is an incredible shooter. Is he a good man to man defender in your opinion.
Tom Noie: Coach: I’d hold off on incredible. And when it comes to defense, he’s there with the rest of these guys. Incomplete or needs work or just not happening.
Coach from Reading, PA.: That’s funny Tom. I think you put your finger on the problem with this team. They can’t guard. Be well
Tom Noie: All the best, Coach! Stay healthy and happy holidays!
Terry: Do you think atkinson’s coming? And even though juwans playing terribly I still feel bad for him because he’s a good guy, hopefully not a complete diss.
Tom Noie: Terry: Honestly, I have no idea, and have really little interest. That’s a big ask, get a guy on campus in January, plug him in without having played a game in how long, and expect anything in an ACC game. Really? That’s where they faith in the program is right now? Let’s hope to get an Ivy League dude to solve the interior issues? Sigh….
Wadelite Long Beach California: Tom. I noted several issues on my long post. They are all equal factors. Hubb was noted because he is a tangible example of poor talent evaluation. You made sure to insert the words “point guard” in your reply and that’s the problem he is not a point guard and he is not a dependable enough offensive player to be a “lead guard”. If you asked anyone if you could trade Hubb right now for combo guard Jaden Ivey, I seriously doubt there would be anyone objecting. He’s like Everett Golson on his second stint as ND’s starting quarterback. Not dependable.
Tom Noie: Think he’s got a no-trade clause somewhere in that scholarship agreement, so there goes that. Seriously?
Charlie, Benton Harbor: One of the few positives I have seen this season is that Goodwin and Laszewski both seem more willing to be proactive in the front court. Agree or disagree?
Tom Noie: Charlie: Thank for being a voice of reason….this thing’s gone a little sideways the last few minutes. But I agree. Lost in the defensive issues and the big man issues and the trade Prentiss Hubb hypothesis is the fact that Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski are having really solid seasons. Laszewski’s been the most pleasant surprise. He’s scored (14.3), rebounded (8.5) and consistently hit shots (.596 from the field, .526 from 3). Goodwin’s been good, but he followed his 10-for-12 against Duke with 3-of-12 vs. Purdue
Terry: Why is everyone ranking bad on hubb? He’ll be a first or second team acc player next year… don’t know what’s so bad about that.
Tom Noie: I’ll ride with P-Hubb….for the most part
Tim from Waverly, Iowa: What got into Djogo in the last game? Have you ever seen him make so many shots in a game? Watch him be the big star tomorrow against Bellarmine. LOL
Tom Noie: Tim: Where were you for his career game couple years ago at Boston College? Amnesia??
Terry: I just want to go to a final four once in my lifetime. Just once. Is that too much to ask??
Tom Noie: They play it every year…..Notre Dame’s just never in it
Kempton fan: What do you think holds a guy like Durham back? Certainly not physical skills. Focus? Attention to the small things? Confidence?
Tom Noie: Little of everything…either you have it or you don’t. You give a guy time to develop and grow his game with the belief that he will and then….he doesn’t.
Kevin from Detroit: Very frustrating to see headlines in the local paper – Dickinson Freshman of the Week and Dickinson leads Michigan to Win. Especially with what’s happening this season. What happened there? Why can’t Brey recruit even serviceable ACC big men instead of 6-4 combo guards?
Tom Noie: Kevin: Gotta be rough to read, and watch. Hunter Dickinson was coming to Notre Dame. He even told Mike Brey as much. Then things changed.
Tom from Gary, Ind.: I think Hubb is frustrating because he hunts his own shot too much sometimes, instead of getting his teammates involved. From DickyV to Dan Dakich say he is not a point guard, hence my earlier comment about what are the roles of the guys? I think Hubb, Ryan, Laz, Goodwin aren’t sure. Good talent, individually, but is it meshing or flowing???
Tom Noie: Tom: It’s not, which is as much a byproduct of no time together in the summer as it is saying that the pieces don’t quite fit. They could fit, but it needs work. And time. Thing is, with the schedule, there is no time to try and iron it out. It’s just play, then play, then play.
John: I think Notre Dame is one of the best shooting teams in the ACC, probably top 3, but why don’t they try on defense? And it seems like whenever we play anyone they shoot the lights out on us. Purdue did not miss a shot it felt like. Besides trey and zona, it feels like there’s 0 defense.
Tom Noie: John: You get that good on offense, two things happen – you either believe you don’t need to defend because you’re going to outscore teams or you get so wrapped up in wondering about your offense when the shots don’t fall that it affects your defense. At times, both of these have been true about this team.
Steve from Hollywood, FL: Initial impressions on our guy Tony Sanders? Not for this season as much as for future years.
Tom Noie: Steve: Love his activity and his bounce. There’s something to work with there. I really would’ve loved seeing him in open gym in summer where it’s a little more free-flowing. We’d be able to see more of his game than the cameo minutes he gets now. Love that he took two big shots against Detroit. He’s not afraid. The perimeter’s stacked so he’ll have to earn his way into the rotation.
Mike, Angola: I watched the video Blake Wesley put out after he signed with ND. He talks about being a 1 and done player, but he comes off as somewhat immature. My opinion is that the Irish won’t get much production from him until at least his second year, and likely not until his third year. That sound about right?
Tom Noie: Mike: Yes x 10. He’s a talent, but he’s going to need time to grow his game. And, really, grow up. He’s a one-man show at Riley. That’s not going to carry over to his time at Notre Dame. Fortunately, he’ll have the time to ease into his role as a freshman.
Tom from Gary, Ind.: John’s comment i agree with and your answer intrigued me. I liked the energy Zona gave a space eater and around the rim guy in just a few minutes against Ohio St. and Kentucky. Why can’t he play 15 minutes a game? He didn’t seem that bad to me.
Tom Noie: Tom: As Billy Joel once sang, it’s a matter of trust. Mike Brey likes Matt Zona’s hustle and hard work and attitude and potential, but not enough to give him 15 minutes a game right now. He’s just not there. Again, that might be different had he had the summer and a normal preseason and some non-league laughers to work on everything. But that’s a big ask to throw him in there against Duke or Purdue or Virginia….or really anyone on the schedule.
John: Who’s your favorite player on the team, thoughts on him?
Tom Noie: John: Great question, but gotta pass on that one. I don’t have favorites and don’t root for guys. I’ll root for the best story, how’s that?
Clint from Winnipeg: I know you said earlier in the chat that you didn’t anticipate Brey making any changes to the coaching staff. But doesn’t it seem like something is just missing there? Maybe a hard-ass to get on the players. Not sure myself. What say you?
Tom Noie: Clint: Here’s what I say – who do subtract from the coaching equation to bring in said hard-ass? Not saying you’re wrong, but how do you flush a guy who’s been by your side for 21 years or two Notre Dame graduates who played for you? Here’s a hint – you can’t.
John: Quick question – love these talks, how often do you do them and usually what days?
Tom Noie: John: Usually Thursdays once a month/twice if the season’s rolling along. Only reason we’re here today is Syracuse game got wiped out and I needed an ND hoops fix for the day. Give me a follow on twitter (@tnoieNDI) where I usually will post when next one is. Probably shoot for first or second Thursday in January for next one.
Jim from Philly: Hi Tom: Assuming the basketball year ends as it has started, I guess my question is whether you think the talent is there and not being developed by the coaches, or is the talent simply not there. Kind of like the Sixers back with Charles Barkley…eventually it came to “what you see is what you get”.
Tom Noie: Jim: There’s talent there, but just not enough of it. Watch them play against Ohio State and Duke and Purdue and you think, they’re still a guy or two short. Now, if the six or seven guys they do rely on all play at max effort and energy and everything else, we’ve seen what happens (first half, Kentucky). But that always has to be there to have a chance. There are signs that they might be good, but not enough to carry through for the next two months. They’ll try hard, and sometimes play hard, but it’s going to be hard to consistently win.
Tim: In my opinion ND has played 2 good half’s of basketball all year: first half against OSU and first half against Kentucky. You could argue that the second half against MSU and both halves against Detroit were solid, but those first two were really the big ones. Any scenario where every half we play are like the OSU and Kentucky i
Tom Noie: Tim: Agree. I’d say no way against Michigan State. Tom Izzo really pulled the plug on that one when they went up by 28. And you should play solid against … Detroit Mercy. Of course there’s a scenario where they can bottle those efforts. Let’s just hope we see it.
Irene: Last year you said in one of these chats that it was best for Jaden Ivey to go somewhere other than Notre Dame, but you never really shared your reason for that statement. Was it because you expected his madre to come back as the women’s coach in the near future? Or another reason?
Tom Noie: Irene: Jaden Ivey grew up around Notre Dame. His father went there and played football. His mother went there and played basketball. She was a coach there before leaving for the Grizzlies (nobody knew she’d be back as the head coach). South Bend was all Jaden Ivey knew. Sometimes, they need to get out and see what’s outside the South Bend bubble, not be tied to a place because of family connections. Could Notre Dame use him? Absolutely, but it wasn’t ever going to be Notre Dame.
Tim: Off topic but what the heck did Rex pflueger do in his ND career. Hit a layup against SFA freshman year but that is it my friend.
Tom Noie: He also had the sweet reverse dunk off a break in an ACC tournament win over Virginia. Was thinking about him last night in prep for the chat. Great kid who came from a great family, but showed very little in his time at Notre Dame. He was supposed to be this athletic freak who won slam dunk contests in high school. He had how many dunks while at Notre Dame? Maybe that one against Virginia? Like, why was it so hard for him to let it all flow? I remember talking to one of his former high school teammates, Stanley Johnson, at the NBA combine one year and he raved about Rex and what he’d bring to the ACC. Five years later, we never really saw it.
Hank: Personal question…Because Notre Dame men’s basketball gets so little national coverage, you are kind of the authoritative teller of the ND basketball story. Do you feel pressure in that role? Feel like “the man”? Something else?
Tom Noie: Hank: Great question, one that I don’t quite know how to answer. Never thought of it that way. I’ve covered Notre Dame football the last few years and definitely prefer hoops, if only because there aren’t as many media all fighting to tell the same story. I can tell the stories I want to tell, not the ones that everyone else is telling. It’s hard this year to dive too deeply because of COVID, but you find different ways. It’s easier to develop relationships with players to the point where I can call almost any of them (there are a few that I won’t get) anytime I want to do a story. I’m more of a hoops guy than football guy. There are more games, but the days are quicker, more high-pressure than all-day football games. Any pressure comes from within….like write everything better today than yesterday. As for being The Man? Nah, I’ll pass on that title. Just a guy doing what he loves. That works for me, hopefully, for you the reader as well.
Herbert: Gimme this years team plus Mooney and we’re top 5 in the ACC. I think pflueger and Gibbs were holding us back, even though I love the guys, they were. I’ll take Nate and Dane over them any day of the week no questions asked.
Tom Noie: Herbert: I agree. There were ceilings to both Gibbs’ and Pflueger’s games and they hit them long ago. Laszewski and Goodwin weren’t ready last year to do what they’re doing now.
Herbert: Another thing – say Robby never got hurt. Is he the best player on the team as he was expected to be?
Tom Noie: Best player? Was he expected to be? Think Nate Laszewski had the biggest growth potential from that class. Maybe Prentiss Hubb because he was going to have the ball in his hands a lot. Hopefully we’re not wondering what might have been with Robby Carmody. There’s still time for him to fight his way back.
Joey from Highland, IN: You said earlier you were optimistic about this team because of their rotation being set now. Then you say they’re a player short. Which do you think is more true?
Tom Noie: Both are true. The seven that Mike Brey believed would be his seven are in place. That doesn’t automatically mean Top Eight finish in the ACC or NCAA tournament bound. They’re still a player or two short – a player or two that they don’t have on the roster.
Joey from Highland, IN: Do you think at the end of the year (if we get there) we will still be saying they haven’t beaten a ranked team or do you think they get 1 or a couple?
Tom Noie: Law of averages say they get at least one, right? Almost have to at this point.
Walter from Indy: Back to the coaching staff question: they’re short a coach right now anyway with Ayers’ gone right? Why can’t you bring in a hard-ass coach to replace Ayers and slot Martin back to his original role? Is Brey really afraid of upsetting Scott Martin and having him go from interim replacement back to what he was hired for?
Tom Noie: Uh….he was hired with the understanding that he’d move up. Mike Brey has long wanted to add him to the coaching staff, but there wasn’t room. Move up, then move back? Don’t see it.
Terry: Is that player or two short Elijah Taylor Carmody or the Yale transfer?
Tom Noie: Hard to say. Haven’t seen anything from Taylor, haven’t seen enough from Carmody and know nothing about how any Ivy League’s game/skills will transfer to the ACC.
Joey from Highland, IN: Let me ask you this. I know they haven’t beaten anyone, but, do you think teams want to play the Irish? Or do you feel they think the Irish offense is just possibly explosive enough to pull an upset?
Tom Noie: Think the second part is how any team approaches any game. Watch out for A, B and C or you’re going to lose.
Joey from Highland, IN: I mean are they looked at as a cupcake of the ACC.
Tom Noie: They are? By whom?
Joey from Highland, IN: I am asking if you think so.
Tom Noie: Not at all.
Guest: Tom, why is Brey afraid to bring in competition every year. What is wrong with having 12 players that can play. Have 10 and 2 you make 5 year plan. If 2 leave you are still fine.
Tom Noie: So by that thinking, they’re one player short. They have 11 guys on scholarship. It’s not so much being afraid of competition as it is not wanting to worry about keeping 12 guys happy. Go with a core 10 who learn how to play together rather than a rotation roulette.
Mike from Louisville: Tom, so many of your answers to questions — whether its about roster management, playing time for younger players, recruiting, coaching defense — seem to naturally come back to something akin to “because that’s the way Mike Brey does things.”
Tom Noie: Mike: When the question is….why is the roster the way it is….or why don’t younger guys play more….or why do they not recruit the max guys or…the answer is obvious, isn’t it?
Mike from Madison, WI: This probably is an impossible question, but what kind of criteria do you think the committee will emphasize this year. Say ND goes 11-9 in conference, but that equals a 15-13 overall record do you think that may garner them more consideration than normal years?
Tom Noie: You’re right….totally impossible to even project. Go 11-9 in the ACC in a pandemic and play that non-league schedule, that probably gets you serious consideration. But what does the rest of the conference look like? The rest of the country? Too hard to even project what a team may or may not have to do to get in.
Tom Noie: That will do it for today. A+++ effort on short notice. We’ll do it again in a couple weeks. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Take care and stay healthy!