Notre Dame Men's Basketball sees progress in a season of little highs and many lows
Progress. Patience. Potential.
In his 19 years at the helm of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Head Coach Mike Brey has no doubt preached these values.
After a season of little highs and lots of lows, it’s this foresight that has this Irish team optimistic despite being near the bottom of the ACC standings.
“It's a great group of kids. They've taken some big punches in this league. That's what happens in this league. It's a league of men. We've not beaten anybody in the upper division. We need to get one of those teams before this thing ends,” said Coach Brey.
In November, talks of an NCAA Tournament run were still top of mind.
But after crushing, close losses to Oklahoma and UCLA to start the month of December, the turning point of the season came on back to back days.
Freshman Guard Robby Carmody was out for the season after a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Then at the Crossroads Classic against Purdue, guard and the team’s emotional leader, Rex Pflueger tore his ACL sidelining the senior for the remainder of the season.
“I'm still going to be that vocal leader, captain. I'm going to pick them up during tough times. I just want to be there as a leader and a vocal presence for our team,” said Pflueger at the time.
After the injury the Irish would reel off three straight wins before the new year.
But since January first and the start of ACC play, Notre Dame has experienced the growing pains Coach Brey foreshadowed back in November.
“I was hoping we could go three steps forward, but this group hasn't been really able to do that," said Brey.
But throughout a lost season plenty of gains were made.
The freshman class including Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski and Dane Goodwinn all played more than 2,000 minutes, which is the most of any class in the Brey era.
"We've given them a lot of opportunity and we've given them a lot of minutes. We want them to be more effective and more efficient. They're really hard on themselves," said Coach Brey.
Captain T.J. Gibbs became the 63rd player in Notre Dame history to score 1,000 career points.
"We can't just rely on our talent or rely on shots. That's not the MO of this program or this team. We have to get down and do the dirty work,” said Gibbs.
And John Mooney showed how dominant of a player he can be in the ACC leading the conference in double-doubles.
“Personally, I worked hard this off season, but it's really a testament to my team and coaching staff for putting me in a position to be like this," said Mooney.
So while this season won’t produce the results Coach Brey and his players anticipated, with everyone one returning in the 2019-2020 season, we should see how that progress, patience and potential pays off when a new season tips off.
"They're all coming back. So, it's a matter of what do you do in the off season," said Coach Brey.