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Bob’s Monday Thoughts: Is this Mike Brey’s best coaching job at Notre Dame? That and more!

Mike Brey has the Irish off to a 5-0 start in the ACC. Is this his best coaching job yet?

NCAA Football: Texas at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We have much to talk about in this week’s edition of Monday thoughts. Notre Dame is the best team in the ACC. Aside from that we have more to talk about involving men’s basketball. The NFL playoffs finally delivered for us. Grayson Allen can’t stay out of the news for all the wrong reasons. Let’s get to it.

Is this Mike Brey’s best coaching job so far?

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

I know there is plenty of season left, but up to date this might be Brey’s best coaching job yet. Just think about it for a second. He’s lost three guys to the NBA over the last two seasons. After back-to-back Elite Eights there was an expected drop off this season because there was no NBA type prospects on the roster. The Irish were also without any real inside presence. But here we are, five games into ACC play and Notre Dame is the only undefeated team. Brey has created a culture of winning.

The Irish play team-first brand basketball. It’s a different man burning the opponent every night. One night it could be Steve Vasturia breaking hearts, the next it could be Bonzie Colson. I think that is one of the best things about this club. In past years you knew Jerian Grant or Demetrius Jackson was going to be the guy with the ball at the end of games making plays. This season the opponent doesn’t know whats coming.

Brey has done an incredible job and if you don’t follow this team closely, a lot of his work has gone unnoticed...but I’m sure thats the way Brey prefers it.

Closing time

Speaking of end of games, Notre Dame is absolutely lethal then. The Irish have been in so many close games over the past two seasons that nothing really surprises them anymore. According to Alan Wasielewski, sports information director of men’s basketball, Notre Dame has outscored its five ACC opponents 45-11 in the combined final 11:27 this season.

Karl Ravech and Dick Vitale said it best during the broadcast of the Miami game on Thursday. They essentially said you don’t want to be trailing Notre Dame in the last two minutes of a game because it’s all but over at that point. Notre Dame is so good from the free throw stripe that they can ice games away. They also do a great job of handling the ball, so it is hard for teams to create turnovers via the press.

It seems that the Irish have learned their lesson from the two second half collapses against Villanova and Purdue. If not for those two meltdowns, the Irish would be 18-0 right now.

Another tough stretch ahead for the Irish

Ah, the beauty of playing in the ACC. It never lets up. If you thought this three game road trip was tough, look at Notre Dame’s next six games. Five of its next six games are against Florida State, Syracuse, Virginia, Duke and North Carolina. The Irish will be put to the test once again.

Duke and Grayson Allen are a complete and total mess right now

Last week I wrote about Grayson Allen potentially tripping another player against Boston College. This week he had two more incidents in both of Duke’s games. On Tuesday night he dove into Florida State’s bench for a loose ball, but in the process you can see him blatantly shove an FSU assistant.

Then on Saturday against Louisville, in another scramble for a loose ball, Allen took down Donovan Mitchell by the left arm. At this point he is literally doing something each game to put himself under the microscope. They have already suspended him once this season, and it’s hard to see them doing it again without Coach K. He’s becoming the story of the college basketball season, but for all the wrong reasons. Clean it up.

Underneath all the Grayson Allen hoopla, Duke is an absolute mess right now. They’re 2-3 in the ACC, with still games against Notre Dame, North Carolina (twice), Virginia and Florida State left on the slate. They’re without Coach K for a few more weeks, as he is recovering from back surgery. For the second straight season their veteran leader Amile Jefferson is out with a foot injury. Duke’s top rated freshman, Harry Giles, is still adjusting to the college game. Before debuting a few weeks ago, Giles had not played in a real game in over 14 months.

Nothing seems to be going right for the Blue Devils right now. For Duke to have a shot to win the ACC, they would essentially need to run the table. That being said, this is an extremely talented team and when they are fully healthy there might not be a better team in the country than Duke. I’m sure they will gladly take their lumps now if that means they’ll be a full go come March.

How about that National Championship game?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban and Alabama were finally dethroned last Monday as Deshaun Watson willed his Clemson Tigers to a 35-31 victory. That was the best game, and best individual performance since Texas and Vince Young in the 2006 National Title game.

Watson started off slow, but that didn’t deter him. He finished 36-56 with 420 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs. Watson also ran 21 times for 43 yards and a TD. He carved up the nation’s best defense in the fourth quarter. Clemson scored 21 points in the fourth, including the game winning drive at the end which will live in Clemson lore forever.

It was one helluva game, and one helluva a season. Hopefully next season, Notre Dame will play more of a factor in the CFP race.

AFC and NFC Championships are set

NFL: NFC Divisional-Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part, the playoffs have been a snooze fest so far. It seems like every game has been a blowout. The Cowboys and Packers kind of made up for it though on Sunday, as the Packers won in a 34-31 thriller.

Green Bay will now travel to Atlanta to face the hottest team in the league that no one is talking about, the Falcons. The Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 on Saturday to advance to the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are playing at MVP levels. Both defenses are showing up when it counts. It’ll be the last game ever in the Georgia Dome, so you know that place will be rocking. I think we’ll be in for another great game. Give me the Falcons by a field goal.

In the AFC we’ll have the Patriots vs. Steelers in Foxboro. This should be equally as good as the NFC game. Even though they didn’t look great vs. the Texans, we all know how good the Patriots are. Brady and Belichick are masterful in the postseason, especially at home.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Houston Texans at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers are getting all the press for “running the table”, but look at what the Steelers are doing right now. They’ve ripped off nine wins in a row. They’re scorching hot.

This will be another close one, but give me the Patriots by a touchdown. It’s too hard to go against Brady at home in the playoffs.

All right, that it it for this week’s edition of Monday thoughts. We have a busy sports week ahead of us, so make sure to check back next Monday as we’ll discuss the week that was. Have a great week and Go Irish!