DAYTON, Ohio – A Notre Dame coaching staff and team that has struggled in the NCAA tournament in the past, continued to do so again Friday night as they dropped another opening round game to the Cyclones 76-58. In what seemed like an Iowa State home game, the Irish were outhustled, outplayed, and outcoached all night long, and all one had to do is look at the scoreboard to understand the complacency that seemingly envelops this Irish Men’s program.
While few thought this squad was built to make a deep run in this years tournament, even less expected the type of effort that was on display by the Irish inside Dayton Arena. Notre Dame fans saw their team get shown the door in the first round for the third time in four years, and are once again left with more questions than answers.
In his twelve years Brey and his teams have been invited to “dance” eight times in his time as Irish coach, but he has compiled just six wins over that span. Yes, it is understood that Notre Dame is a football school first, and every other sport comes second, but fans who follow the Men’s hoop program have made it clear that they are tired of the lack of success in post-season play. The Irish have now been ousted in the last 4 years by teams that were seeded lower than them, as Washington State was the last team seeded higher to beat Notre Dame (WSU#4 ND#5) in 2008.
When asked about his team’s consistent struggle in the NCAA tournament, Brey said “I really would think it’s the next step for our program. We’ve been so consistent in the regular season, and we haven’t been able to do much here. That’s what keeps me up at night and keeps me trying to figure out how we can be better at it. That’s the unfinished business. This is a hump we can’t get over yet, but we’ll keep trying to figure it out.”
So while people may think that Brey is oblivious to what is going on, he is not. The problem is he is still talking about eventually taking the next step after 13 years, but how much more patient does he expect the fans of his program to be?
For those of you who think it’s time for a change though, you can put those thoughts to rest, because it is not happening anytime soon. Jack Swarbrick, vice president and director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame, loves Brey, and as one of the head administrators, he should. The men’s program has made it to the NCAA tournament six out the last seven years and he is a leader of one of the athletic programs that rank as the best in the country in graduation rates, based on Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figures released by the NCAA.
So the Irish bid farewell to the Big East and NCAA tournament all in the span of a week’s time, and will now prepare to join the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1st of this year. Some would say that Notre Dame was never a team built to compete in the Big East, and their style of play is a better fit for the A.C.C, but has that really been the problem? The Irish have averaged just under 11 wins a year in conference play, and have finished in the top half of the conference 11 out of their 13 years with Brey as head coach. So we fail to see how joining the ACC will bring a different set of results come tournament time in the upcoming years.
Notre Dames struggles in post season are real, and there are real reasons they have such little success. They rarely look prepared on the court, or off, and tend to look overmatched by teams and coaching staffs that have less talent and less experience, but more heart. One day this may change, but after 13 years of such mediocrity, is that really a reasonable expectation?