Tag:Mike Brey
Posted on: February 9, 2011 10:29 pm
 

With one move, Mike Brey changes the game

Posted by MATT JONES

The difference between victory and defeat in college basketball often comes down to one play. Even in a forty five minute game that was as well-contested and intensely fought as Louisville and Notre Dame’s battle Wednesday night, the outcome can often be traced to one decision by a coach or player that totally shapes both teams’ fortunes.   

On Wednesday night, that play was not an individual’s dynamic move or a long-distance bomber’s clutch shot. Instead it was one decision by Notre Dame coach Mike Brey that took his coaching rival Rick Pitino slightly off guard and ensured his Irish team would have the opportunity to pull off their 89-79 win in overtime.

With the game tied in regulation, Louisville called timeout with 26 seconds left to set up a last-second shot and try to escape with another late victory. End of game situations have been especially fruitful for the Cardinals this season, as they have found a way to steal three late victories against Marquette, West Virginia and Connecticut based almost entirely on their ability to out execute against their opponent down the stretch. In the latter two games, Louisville found great success in clearing out for guard Peyton Siva and allowing him to create a final shot attempt one on one versus his man. Twice against Connecticut and one against West Virginia, Siva beat his man off the dribble and created a bucket that helped pull out a huge victory.

Fast forward to the end of game scenario on Wednesday night and the Notre Dame huddle before the final possession. Having seen the game tape of Louisville’s final possessions in past Big East games, Brey made one simple coaching adjustment that could have a profound effect on his team's season. Rather than allow the Cards to clear the floor and have Siva take advantage of his quickness against the defender guarding him in man defense, Brey told his Irish to play zone. If executed properly, this would keep Siva or one of the other Louisville guards out of the lane and force the Cardinals to find a different method to get off a final shot.

When Pitino’s team broke the huddle, it was clear the change in defense confused the Cards. They stood at the top of the key looking around frantically and then were forced to reverse the ball around the perimeter and settle for a contested three from Preston Knowles. Louisville had clearly prepared to face a man defense and the team was unable to change effectively enough on the fly to counter Brey’s clever change of strategy. The game went to Overtime with Notre Dame carrying the momentum and the Irish rolled to the win easily.

Had Brey not made the change, and simply defended Louisville in the same way Bob Huggins and Jim Calhoun, two bright coaches in their own right, had done, then we might be talking about how the gritty Louisville team stole another impressive road win. Siva could have taken the ball to the basket, finished with a layup or a pass to an open shooter and his role as a clutch finisher would have been the topic of this column. But instead, Brey made one small adjustment. And that adjustment set the table for the No. 7 ranked team in America to get a huge conference win.

It has been said in the past that a great college coach is worth at least 5 games a year. If that is true, Brey certainly got 20 percent of his quota on Wednesday in South Bend.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 24, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Irish prove worth, get huge road W at Pitt

Posted by Matt Norlander

The country was waiting for Notre Dame to legitimize itself.

Defeating No. 2 Pittsburgh on the road, in the Petersen Events Center, a place the Panthers seldom lose, is as legitimate as the plane ride the Steelers earned to Dallas Sunday night. The Irish were perfectly OK playing a slow game against highly efficient Pitt, defeating the Big East’s highest-ranked team 56-51 Monday night. They did it in a molasses-like 48 possessions, easily the lowest and slowest game in the conference this season.

“That’s music to my ears, because that was our goal,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of the 48-possesion game from the team bus. “We have not burned it for a whole game but we went into this burning the whole night. We did that to them last year, in the Big East tournament. We watched a little bit of that tape last night just to remember.”

It was Notre Dame’s fourth win against a ranked team in this 2010-11 campaign. Last season, it took until the second round of the Big East tournament for Brey’s team to get four Ws against ranked opponents. None of those wins were as impressive or methodical as what his team did tonight on enemy maple.

“I talked to our captains before we left on the bus, I had them up to my room, and told them I need four for four in terms of fighting and competing,” Brey said.

Senior starting point guard Ben Hansbrough — he of the no-longer-an-afterthought variety and younger brother to college immortal, Tyler — was caught by ESPN’s cameras eagerly embracing his head coach once the handshake-line formality was through. Hansbrough (right) led his team with 19 points and 7 assists. He’s taken on the role of being a point guard in his senior year and played beyond what many expected of him. It could be the biggest reason this team is now 17-4 and 6-3 in the most difficult conference in the country.

How's he managed playing the 1 in his final year of college ball?

“Coach has done a great job at slowing down my tempo,” Hansbrough said over the phone just minutes after he walked off the floor. “And I think, instinctively, I’ve always been a guy who can get in there and find people, especially in the lane.”

“Maybe as much as what he’s doing with his basketball is how he’s leading us," Brey said of his senior point guard. "He made us believe. His decisions with the ball, tonight was a great example, but he did the same things Saturday night. His play has been contagious.”

The most important thing about Monday night for Brey's team: It was the first road win in four tries this year for the Irish. Funny how the first comes at what's statistically been the hardest place to snag a W in the past eight years in the Big East.

“What a lot of people don’t understand, for two of those road wins, we were without Carleton Scott,” Hansbrough said.

Despite the fact normally reliable deep threat Tim Abromaitis didn’t make a field goal, Hansbrough and Co. overcame Abromaitis’ bad night, mostly due to the return of Scott, a senior forward. He had his most productive game since coming back from a hamstring injury, scoring 16 and making 5 of 6 shots from 3-point range, adding nine rebounds in the process.

"Carleton — when he came back to practice a week ago Monday, he really lifted the whole building up and lifted Ben up," Brey said. "Ben missed his voice. Carleton and Ben are the most vocal guys of our captains.”

Hansbrough deflected talk and questions about his play, choosing instead to shine a light on Scott’s play and the coaching staff’s pinpoint scouting of the Panthers.

“Coach Brey came in here with a great, great game plan,” Hansbrough said. “We didn’t even try to get a shot off until there was 10 or 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Having Carleton back is a huge key for us. He gives us a lot of heart; you can’t teach or coach it. It’s something you have or you don’t.”

The Irish kept Pitt who, again, has been extremely efficient on offense (the very best, in fact) this season, to a season-low 51 points and 44 field goal attempts. The praise of Notre Dame's effort and execution, with repeated emphasis that this came on the road, can't be overstated. Why’s Notre Dame been able to do this, to be one of those quintessential Big East teams who surprises many and streaks near or to the top of the conference? Hansbrough did his best to explain before being swept away to talk to local media on the scene in the Steel City.

“I would say we have lot of guys, maybe the best team that plays together in the country — we’re right up there with Duke in terms of sharing the ball and playing as a unit,” Hansbrough said. “This could be the jumpstart for some more [good] teams we could beat down the road.”

Brey will give the team two full days off while he goes on the road for recruiting. The Irish don’t play against until they’re at DePaul on Feb. 3.

“I love the gap in schedule we have right now. We could use a little bit of rest," Brey said. "And we’re older, it’s not like our veterans need two hours of practice each day.”

Such a shame, this long break. The country needs to see more of the Irish as soon as possible.

Photo: AP
Posted on: January 4, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: January 4, 2011 12:57 pm
 

Big, bad Fighting Irish can't hide any more


Posted by Eric Angevine

“Son of a gun. I knew I shouldn’t have returned this call today.”

Mike Brey, head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, was kidding. I think.

Why did this man, with his expansive personality and booming voice, want to hide? He doesn’t, really, but he wishes his team could stay the way it was at the beginning of the season: overlooked and underappreciated. It’s his own fault, really. His team, 12-2 overall, is winning too much to remain under the radar.

“When I saw it, I was ‘Great! Right there. I love it!’” Brey said, recounting the day he learned his team was picked seventh in the preseason Big East poll. “Probably the biggest reason is the perception that Jackson and Harangody leaving would leave us more decimated than we really were.”

It’s a reasonable theory from someone who knows the way us media types think. Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson led the winningest class in Notre Dame history, both four year players who defined the team during their stay in South Bend. Harangody was the nightly double-double threat who became a second-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics. Jackson was the ultra-reliable point guard who made sure Gody got the ball (huge caveat:) when he was healthy.

“The current nucleus did learn how to win last year when Harangody was down, so they had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder because they had some momentum going into the offseason that maybe they could be pretty good,” said Brey. “But Jackson was a big loss, he was a leader. That was my biggest concern.”

But the Irish have one of the more experienced starting lineups in the nation, with all five listed as seniors. The nomenclature is a bit of a dodge, however. Brey admits that Notre Dame lists players with their academic class, not their eligibility. Through a disciplined use of redshirt seasons, the program is able to ‘stay old’ in Brey’s terminology. Only Ben Hansbrough, a 23-year-old transfer from Mississippi State, and Tyrone Nash, a 22-year-old senior center, are completing their eligibility this season. Since Brey uses a seven-man rotation, next year’s lineup is already pretty predictable.

Nonetheless, star power is sexy, and it gains preseason recognition for a program. Brey admits his team lacks that quality, but makes up for it with an all-for-one attitude.

“The word unselfish is always used in basketball, but it’s usually mentioned from an offensive standpoint,” Brey said. “We are extremely unselfish defensively. You can really trust that if you get beat, you’ve got somebody else coming over to give himself up; get his body in front. Our team defense and rebounding take the place of a star.”

Don’t mistake that interchangability for lack of personality, however. The team works because each man plays his unique role. Tim Abromaitis is a poised scoring forward with range. Ben Hansbrough is the edgy veteran whose will to win inspires the troops. Carleton Scott is a shot-blocker who can stretch the defense. Ty Nash is such a good passer that Brey refers to him as the point-center. Scott Martin is the X-factor or glue guy. The two bench players who see significant time are sophomore Jack Cooley ('the brawler'), and Eric Atkins, the team’s true freshman, true point guard who is still adjusting to the nightly beatings he’ll take as a Big East guard.

Physicality is the calling card of this Notre Dame team, which is no surprise. But look at the size of that rotation. Nash, Abromaitis, Scott, Martin and Cooley are 6-foot-8 or above. “Ben (Hansbrough) is 6-5 but he’s strong as heck,” Brey says. Only Atkins, at a listed height of 6-1, falls below the 200-lb. mark.

In spite of that, the Irish aren’t just about pounding the ball inside. Brey believes the team concept gives this year’s lineup more flexibility and plenty of ways to score.

“Controlling tempo, running sometimes, burning clock other times. Getting to the foul line, position defense, rebounding,” Brey listed his options. “Just imposing our will as to how we want to play over 40 minutes. I think we’re really grasping how to do that.”

No. 15 Notre Dame (1-1 Big East) will host No. 9 UConn (1-1) at 7 p.m. tonight.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 30, 2010 10:22 am
Edited on: December 30, 2010 10:32 am
 

Notre Dame no-names got game


Posted by Eric Angevine

For four years, when one thought of Notre Dame hoops, the image that came to mind was a Chia-esque flat top haircut and a bullish, earth-bound inside game. In other words: Luke Harangody.

Now, the image is... what, exactly? Harangody's monster stats have been effectively spread between three players: 6-8 Tim Abromaitis, 6-7 Carleton Scott and 6-8 Tyrone Nash. All three are seniors, and each is averaging over ten points and six boards per game. And yet, I defy you to pick any one of them out of a lineup of other heroically-sized human beings.

The other key part of Mike Brey's team this year is Ben Hansbrough, who probably gets a little extra attention because fans remember his famous older brother, Tyler. The team's relative newcomer began his career at Mississippi State, but has blossomed into a reliable scorer in two years under Mike Brey. However, unlike his spirited sibling, there's no Psycho-anything in Ben's game. This Hansbrough is steady and workmanlike, much like the rest of his team. Scott Martin, perhaps the most faceless of a faceless bunch, is a fifth senior starter - one who chips in with whatever is needed on any given night.

The Big East preseason poll tabbed the Domers seventh, banishing them to the badlands of mediocrity in a conference that was supposed to take a back seat to the Big Ten in prestige this season. Abromaitis was the only individual player honored, with a slot on the league's second team. Polls are made to be broken, though, and Notre Dame is 12-1, nationally ranked with a freshly-minted win over No. 9 Georgetown on the resume. Only a neutral-court loss to the supremely talented Kentucky Wildcats has kept them from joining Syracuse and Cincinnati in the ranks of the unbeaten.

The Irish had basically the same team on the floor last season when Harangody missed five games due to a knee injury . The lineup gelled so well that 'Gody continued to come off the bench even when he was able to return. Perhaps we should have seen right then that this year's version of the squad would be just fine without star power, perhaps a tad better than seventh place in the league. Four seniors contributing at full strength are turning out to be mightier than four juniors deferring to a future NBA draft pick.

Still, Abromaitis is the closest to a centerpiece this team has in the 2010-11 season. "Probably the difference between him with that group at the end of (last) year and him with this group is, I don't know if you can really worry about one guy ," Brey told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday. "That helps him, that we have a couple of different ways of coming at you offensively."

Not to mention defensively. On a night when the Irish shot just 38 percent from the floor, they capsized the typically sharpshooting Hoyas by forcing fruitless trips down the floor, resulting in a season-low 0.86 points per possession for the visitors from D.C. On the flipside, Notre Dame drove their own offensive PPP number to 1.06 by getting Abromaitis open looks from outside (he was 5-7 from behind the arc) and by making the Hoyas pay for cheap fouls. 27 trips to the line produced 22 points.

With five seniors on the floor -- only freshman Eric Atkins (17 minutes) and sophomore Jack Cooley (5 minutes) got off the bench against G'town -- this low-profile bunch is building a team presence that may yet outshine the stars in this year's Big East race.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
 
 
 
 
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