Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

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

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56 PRESEASON 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL T o understand just how much control new associate head coach Anthony Solomon has over Notre Dame's de- fensive reboot, look no further the floor of the Irish's practice gym at Rolfs Hall. Head coach Mike Brey is no fan of a practice court dirtied by extra lines. Yet here is his program's practice setting, festooned with white tape. The lane lines are extended toward center court. There are two horizontal tape lines just beyond the three-point arc that stretch sideline to sideline. A pair of boxes are on each wing and an "X" in each corner. It feels like a class- room, which is the goal. "Those lines on the floor are all kind of defensive lines," Brey said. "Slo said the first day of practice, 'Coach doesn't like a lot of lines on his court.' I said, 'Whatever we need to do for them to visually understand.' "In the spring, I put the lines on be- fore Slo got here officially when we were conspiring long distance. I took the returning guys up on the railing and said, 'Look down on the court. This is what these spots mean.'" Notre Dame's offseason is one big instructional course in defense. Solo- mon, hired in this spring for his third tenure with the program, is the teacher. His formal title is associate head coach, but he's the unofficial defensive coor- dinator tasked with turning a major weakness into something that offers more resistance. A season ago, the Irish ranked 203rd nationally in defensive efficiency, per — their worst finish in the 20-year KenPom era. Only one of the 346 Division I teams that played last year forced turnovers at a lower rate. Notre Dame was 271st in scoring defense despite playing at a slower- than-average pace. Simply put, the Irish need a pulse on that end of the floor. Solomon wants to go even further and make it a strength. "His biggest thing is, 'Notre Dame is going to be a defensive team,'" senior guard Cormac Ryan said. "We're go- ing to come out and set the tone and dictate what our opponents are going to do." In July, a peek behind the curtain at Solomon's project offered some insight into his methods. Notre Dame will play "no middle" defense, Brey said, a popular tactic in college basketball. Reigning national champion Baylor and 2019 runner-up Texas Tech use it. The objective is to funnel everything to the sidelines and baseline. "We really have to keep it out of the middle and push it toward the base- line," Brey said. "Through the years we've influenced middle, even when Slo has been back on his other tours of duty. But we're really committed to that and our help side." Solomon, though, puts just as much of his focus on core defensive prin- Associate Head Coach Anthony Solomon Is Back To Oversee Notre Dame's Defensive Overhaul Solomon is back for his third tenure as an Irish assistant coach, and this time he is in charge of turning what has been a major weakness — the Irish ranked 203rd nationally in defensive efficiency last year per — into something that offers more resistance. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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