A few thoughts on the 2013 Fighting Irish basketball team.

Jonathan Daniel

After another first round loss, we need to air some grievances and look to the future.

All right, let's do this.

1) Mike Brey isn't getting fired this offseason, so if you want to discuss how Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart would fit at Notre Dame, feel free to do that on your own time but not on this post. Discussing who you want as a new Irish coach for the 2013-14 season is akin to discussing what superpower you would like: You may take pleasure in it, but it won't give you what you want.

2) This team was miserable to watch all year. This is not an attack on the character of any of the players or coaches, but a simple basketball observation. Other than a few stretches here or there, this was not an aesthetically pleasing basketball team. They were disinterested during the majority of the non-conference slate and for stretches of most games during Big East play. They had brief spurts of competence but overall, this was the least enjoyable team to watch since the 04-05 edition.

3) The team had no identity. Were they running The Burn? Were they a three-point shooting team? Were they an inside-out post team? It seemed like there were stretches of success with the pick-and-roll, but that didn't happen nearly enough.

4) I'll solve that identity problem for you for next season: Run and enjoy playing basketball again. Sure, this is my default position on hoops, but the talent will be there next year to extend on defense and get out in transition on offense. You're going to a new league, what a time for a makeover to retro Irish teams from a few years ago, but this time with better defense. By my count, the Irish should be able to go at least nine deep (Atkins, Jackson, Grant, Connaughton, Beachem, Biedscheid, Sherman, Knight, Auguste and then potentially Katenda, Burgett and/or Vasturia), and they should have athletes, shooters and size. Atkins and Grant won't have to play forty minutes a game next year. That should help.

5) Here are a few things that annoyed me all season:

a) The number of times a big man got the ball 27 feet from the basket in the Irish offense. This happened in a late-season game and led to hilarious Bob Knight commentary such as "You don't want him with the ball there" and then a few seconds later "Well, you don't want him with the ball there, either." And this wasn't just early in the offense or against presses. It was wasted motion, and if it's part of The Burn, then The Burn needs to go.

b) Zach Auguste not getting more minutes sooner. He got a decent amount by the end of the season, but following the Louisville win, Brey decided that he always needed to come onto the floor with Garrick Sherman. Why? Did Auguste do dumb stuff and have trouble finishing at times? Sure, but he's a freshman. He also played hard on defense, rebounded well and clearly gave a shit. Nobody else on the frontline was earning those minutes, yet they just sort of seemed to be handed out to them at the beginning of every game. He should have played until he fouled out or passed out.

c) This is nit-picky, but it's telling about the lack of attention to detail this season: Auguste getting the ball in the high post against any 2-3 zones, particularly vs. Syracuse. Again, he is a freshman. Why is he being put in a position to fail like that?

6) I think going to a new league is a really, really good thing for Brey (and for Jamie Dixon and John Thompson III). You could see it on their faces yesterday: Oh God, here we go again. Their teams played tight (Georgetown playing tight as a two seed against a frisky fifteen was understandable, but the Panthers and Irish were in coin-flip games and still came out like they were competing for the safety of Earth's future against alien forces), with past postseasons of failure weighing on them. Culture is important to any sports organization, and perhaps next March when this team doesn't have to go to the Garden to start the postseason, it will clear some of the bad memories away. Let's hope so.

7) Let's be clear: Last night was embarrassing. I've always been a Brey supporter, but that was a joke. Before the game, no one had any confidence (e-mail on a thread of fairly knowledgeable sports fans/Irish alums I'm on just before tipoff last night: "Does anyone think we're going to win this game?") and nothing in the first half gave the Irish or their fans anything to be hopeful about. They were outcoached, outhustled and outplayed. Thank God Georgetown and UCLA both lost, because it takes most of the spotlight away, but yeesh. I've been through some pretty dark times as an Irish fan, and I don't think I've received as many "This is embarrassing" texts, e-mails and tweets as I did last night. (It's a shame we all weren't on Twitter for the 2007 football season.) It's not that the Irish faithful expected a win, they just didn't want to get embarrassed on national TV. Mission not accomplished.

8) I'm still hopeful for next year. This team needs a kick in the ass, and getting the most heralded recruit in a decade is going to help with that. The main problem of the last two years (no rest for Atkins) is going to get fixed immediately, and when you throw in a change of scenery, it could portend some good things. But if we're having this same conversation on the same weekend next March? Then we can start talking about whether we want to fly or shoot lasers out of our eyes.


9) Oh, and big thanks to adidas and the athletic department for coordinating on the Freekbass of uniforms. If you're going to get blown out of the NCAA tournament, you should at least do it in style.

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