Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 37 of 47

38 FEBRUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY TODD D. BURLAGE S atisfied with his team's 82- 56 home win over Alabama A&M Dec. 29, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey left the court, entered the Irish locker room, sunk into his big black leather chair and dutifully explained how efficient passing and second-half shooting sparked the rout. "I love how we pass the ball, man," Brey said of his team's 23 assists in the win and the No. 1 national rank- ing in assist-to-turnover ratio it has held all of this season. "We really move the ball, and that's going to give us a chance." And with that, Brey's celebra- tory mood took a sharp turn as he switched gears and evaluated the daunting task ahead. The win over Alabama A&M com- pleted the non-conference portion of the Irish schedule. The New Year brings 18 straight Atlantic Coast Con- ference games, and with those, the legitimate question of how well the seven-man Notre Dame rotation will hold up during the next two months with essentially no down time. "We've got 18 league games, it's one of the great challenges maybe any of us has ever signed up for," Brey said matter of factly. Already winless in two early ACC games against North Carolina and Boston College, the Irish must go 10-8 over these next 18 just to finish at 10-10 in league play and earn some NCAA Tournament consideration. Making coaching and life even more difficult, ACC officials added two more league games this season, bringing the total to 20 games in ar- guably the toughest and deepest con- ference in the country. Notre Dame went only 3-15 in league play last season, which in- cluded a seven-game losing streak to finish the 18-game conference slate. And of those 15 ACC losses, seven came at Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the eight total home losses last season —the Irish were also up- set by Radford in November — were the most at home since 1992-93 when head coach John MacLeod's squad also dropped eight games at the old Athletic and Convocation Center. "We're going to have to come back here and hold serve," Brey said of finding drastic improvement at home this season. "And then try to pick off some on the road to make it interesting." While each of the remaining 18 ACC games will be a difficult chal- lenge for Notre Dame, two specific stretches might best define the league season. The first comes immediately with three ACC tilts in eight days: Jan. 4 at Syracuse, followed by a game Jan. 8 at North Carolina State, then back to Purcell Pavilion Jan. 11 to play No. 3 Louisville. The second difficult stretch comes during seven days in February when the Irish play Feb. 11 at No. 16 Vir- ginia, Feb. 15 at No. 4 Duke, then come back home for a rematch with North Carolina Feb. 18. "You gotta play smarter, you gotta play tougher," Irish senior guard T.J. Gibbs said of the survival message Brey delivered to the team. "Each game is a fight and when we have Sink Or Swim Fighting Irish dive into ACC play After compiling a 9-2 mark in non-conference play, senior guard T.J. Gibbs and the Irish headed into ACC play confident they can improve upon their 0-2 league record. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - February 2020