Posted by BrianBoru at 3/18/2009 12:42 PM EDT
Notre Dame began its quest in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) with a 70-64 victory over the Blazers of Alabama-Birmingham. I must confess that I did not watch the game; consider it a mute protest by choosing to do other things on a beautiful St. Patrick's Day.
Entering the 08-09 season, I, like many others, expected the Irish to compete for the Big East title. After all, they did begin the season ranked in the Top 10, returning all but one starter (Rob Kurz) from a team that finished 24-7 and 14-4 in Big East action last season.
What gives? For starters, Mike Brey's insular philosophy of "we're gonna outscore 'em" has proven to be an ineffective formula for winning games this season. Consequently, his players have demonstrated a lethargic attitude on the defensive end of the court, clearly reflecting Brey's disinterest in implementing any sort of defensive identity.
How does a guy who coached under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke become so disinclined to emphasize the importance of playing good defense? Espousing only Coach K's offensive philosophy is sort of like saying all Mike Schmidt did was hit home runs, failing to mention he was also the greatest defensive third baseman ever.
Until recently, athletic power forward Tyrone Nash could not find his way onto the floor. One has to believe the Irish could have used him earlier this season as the team was careening toward mediocrity. Nash would have provided the team with a toughness that, except for Luke Harangody, it desperately needed.
Perhaps as puzzling is, on a team with very few athletes, Carleton Scott's lack of playing time -- as in he logged just a handful more minutes for the Irish than yours truly. By all accounts, Scott is an athletic freak, soaring above the rim like a condor during practices. Having watched many ND Basketball games this season, I have very scant recollection of what Mr. Scott looks like; it's rather difficult when he's hidden at the end of the bench seated alongside the team priest.
Notre Dame returns to action Thursday evening against the New Mexico Lobos, and I will vow to watch and report back here, despite my feelings about the direction of the program led by Mike Brey.