Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2014 Issue

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

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Page 89 of 119

BY ANDREW OWENS W hen Irish head coach Mike Brey provided his outlook for the 2013-14 season at the opening press conference Oct. 9, he identified an NCAA Tourna- ment berth in the program's first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) as the benchmark for a successful year. Nothing short of a five-day sweep in the ACC Tournament March 12-16 will allow Notre Dame to reach that goal this season, but it's the way the cam- paign has unfolded that has been un- expected and remarkable. Uncharacteristic home losses to In- diana State and North Dakota State, senior guard Jerian Grant's suspension, sophomore forward Cam Biedscheid's transfer to Missouri, freshman guard Demetrius Jackson's two-game aca- demic absence, fifth-year senior Gar- rick Sherman's chipped bone in his right pinkie finger, and on and on. Fans hoped Notre Dame could pull off a reinvention similar to the numer- ous instances Brey has led in recent years after crushing injuries or suspen- sions. A 79-77 win over Duke to be- gin conference play encouraged such thinking, but three consecutive losses foreshadowed Notre Dame's struggles with the ACC slate. The Irish (15-16, 6-12 ACC) finished the regular season below .500 for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign. For the most part, Notre Dame had an opportunity to win in 16 of its 18 league games, but difficulties late in games and scoring slumps without Grant doomed the Irish in most of them. Notre Dame entered the ACC Tour- nament needing to win two games to be eligible for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), although the Col- lege Basketball Invitational (CBI) was also an option when Blue & Gold Illus- trated went to press. Regardless, Brey's mind had already begun to focus on next year and life without senior point guard Eric Atkins, fifth-year senior forward Tom Knight and Sherman. "I look at it as we have had an unbe- lievable run here," Brey said. "We've probably been spoiled a little bit. It's been pretty good. You look and say sometimes the law of averages catches up with you. You have a year where it gets a little bit all over the board. For me, being positive and teaching, and finding ways and being engaged GROWING PAINS Notre Dame sputtered to a 6-12 fin- ish in its inaugural season in the ACC while its underclassmen developed

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