Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: 2/23

February 23, 2017

As if the ACC wasn’t a crazy league before this week, it got that much more interesting on Thursday night. Duke was knocked off by Syracuse and Louisville fell to North Carolina. The Irish, who are enjoying an eight-day layoff, now find themselves in a four-way tie with Louisville, Duke and Florida State for second-place in the ACC at 10-5.

“I mentioned to our guys in the locker room after the NC State game that we have this thing to 10-5 and we park it and we watch what happens in the league,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said on Thursday afternoon. “I didn’t think it’d be this much upheaval but it’s great. It’s great for our league. Certainly, it’s great for us but it’s great for the best league.”

Opposing coaches outside of the ACC have taken notice of the wild conference play this year.  

“I was recruiting in Boston yesterday and a Big Ten coach was sitting next to me the whole time,” recalled Brey. “’What’s it like in your league? Your league, oh my God.’ Everyone is watching our league. Quite frankly, guys in the other leagues are scared of our league. I am just glad we are 10-5 right now.”

Luckily for Brey, Notre Dame is an experienced squad and the unknown of the ACC isn’t going to be too big for his team. It doesn’t mean Brey doesn’t have to do some managing as he plans to stress taking things one day at a time for the next week.

“We really have to try to go daily starting today,” explained Brey. “Our guys are reading and looking at four teams at 10-5. All those scenarios are out there and our guys read that stuff. We need to focus on a good day of practice on Thursday and just methodically go through the week one at a time.”  

Time Off
Speaking of the eight-day break, Brey gave his team rest the last few days as his big four of Bonzie Colson, VJ Beachem, Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia needed a break.

“We got them a lot of rest on Sunday and Monday,” stated Brey. “We came in and scrimmaged on Tuesday. I thought we needed to get up and down and just play. On Wednesday, I gave them another day off. They will go in and do stuff on their own. The guys not playing will do some cardio.

“The big four guys, I wanted to get them refreshed and I think we did that. I think we will come back on Thursday and we will be bouncing around a little bit.”
All four have been used to big minutes this year and have taken care of their bodies but Brey was definitely keeping his eye them. The rest came at a good time as the Irish are now ready for three games in seven days to close out the regular season.

“I think all four of them collectively needed to shut it down a little bit,” Brey said. “I am always cognizant of Steve because we ask so much of him. I think he was really smart about getting his legs back under him. He was moving much better on Tuesday.”  

Georgia Tech
On January 28th, Notre Dame fell to Georgia Tech 62-60 on a last second layup. It was a tough loss for Notre Dame after a mentally taxing beating by Virginia earlier in the week but it was a loss the Irish took hard, which is something they don’t normally do.

“I think for our guys; they will want to play well,” stated Brey. “That one hurt. We had the ball with a chance, maybe we didn’t deserve that, but we were there. They made a great play and we weren’t as alert as we needed to be defensively.

“That’s the most down and upset I have seen them. They were mad at how they played and how it finished.”

Tadric Jackson scored 25 points off the bench for the Yellow Jackets in the first meeting and that is something unlikely to happen on Sunday. However, Brey knows Georgia Tech presents a tough challenge with its defense and Notre Dame didn’t handle it well at the time in January.  

“They are a tough matchup because they are hard to score on,” Brey explained. “They have good perimeter defending guards and (Ben) Lammers in the back to block shots. They change defenses on you and they’re really hard to score against. It’s a challenge for our offense, which is in a good flow.

“I’d love to see us get out in transition so we don’t have to play against their set defense. They are running some of that triangle stuff. They are posting up their guards.”  

Brey moved to small ball after the Georgia Tech game and sophomore forward Rex Pflueger is turning out to be the beneficiary of the move. Pflueger will once again get the start on Sunday and it looks to be the move to start the games for the time being.

“We will definitely do that on Sunday,” Brey said of Pflueger. “I like how that has progressed. It’s always an option at halftime to do something different but we will definitely do that on Sunday.”  

Point guard Matt Farrell has played extremely well this season but Georgia Tech was a game he found some tough love. Farrell shot 5 for 14 and had three turnovers. It was a frustrating day for the New Jersey native but he made a change to his game shortly after.

“I thought in transition we tried to make some really hard plays at the rim,” said Brey. “We drove it into traffic and it wasn’t Lammers. After that, we talked about sometimes calling the break off and start to flow into our offense.

“Since that game, Matt has made an effort to not take on the world at the rim. He’s been smarter about his penetration.”  

It’s not a secret Brey has had great success the last two seasons at Notre Dame. It presents the question of why isn’t he landing more elite talent? Brey has built his program on players that stay for four years and even five years, which doesn’t bode well for landing the elite of the elite.

“I think DJ Harvey is a good example of a high-level guy,” Brey stated. “The momentum and development of our guys helped us there. We’re always swinging for the fences. A lot of five-star guys are one-and-done kind of guys.”

Brey isn’t eliminating the possibility of getting one-and-done players, though. Notre Dame was after some five-star talent last year and as long as they continue to put guys in the NBA, Brey should have a shot at landing a big fish at some point.  

“Never say never,” laughed Brey. “We chased Thon Maker around for a while and every kid is different. For the most part, it’s going to be a four and a five-year guy that we get and develop. I guess a lot of those guys are the ‘dreaded three-stars’ and all of sudden they go Bonzie Colson or Matt Farrell or Luke Harangody. We are doing alright.

“The Elite 8s are great but the guys in the NBA are the key. We have three guys in The League. For the really high-level kid, the development for the next level has been just as powerful and even more powerful than the Elite 8 and the ACC Championship. That might sound sad but it’s true.”
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