There has been a lot of talk about culture around here the last few days. It has mostly been talk about the culture of the football program and it got me thinking. “How about the culture Mike Brey has built with the basketball program?” It just feels like what Brey has done/is doing has gone/is going a little unnoticed.
It’s a culture of toughness and that toughness has helped breed success.
“It’s the combination of physical and mental toughness. Ain’t nobody in this league got it. Ain’t nobody in this league got it like us man.” Brey said to his team after Wednesday night’s win over No.9 Louisville.
It was a typical, hard fought, Notre Dame type of win. The Irish led virtually the whole game. Louisville kept coming back with punches, but Notre Dame never backed down. Steve Vasturia, Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson had answers every time. The toughness that Brey speaks about was exemplified by his players all night long. Notre Dame almost has to play with this workman-like approach because more times than not, the opposition is going to bigger and more talented than they are.
This culture and program has turned in the results. We all know about the ACC crown and the back-to-back Elite Eights, but how about Notre Dame’s success against some of the nation’s best.
Wins over top ten teams have become the norm. Since the 2014-15 season the Irish have taken down five top 10 opponents. By my count, since Brey took over in 2000 Notre Dame has now taken down 23 top 10 opponents. Those 23 wins are pretty comparable to one of the nation’s elite programs, North Carolina. Again by my count, the Heels have 29 wins over top 10 teams in that span.
It has got to the point where when Notre Dame takes on another top program, you don’t just expect them to be in the game, you expect them to win. They are beating the likes of Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville. Before joining the ACC, they were beating programs like UConn, Syracuse, and Villanova. You almost never see this team get run out of the gym.
To me, what Brey is doing is reminiscent of what Bo Ryan built at Wisconsin. For the most part the Badgers don’t bring in the top talent to Madison, but year after year they are at or near the top of the Big Ten and making runs into March. They have a culture and system of winning and toughness.
It starts with the coach and the culture he creates. Brey has created a darn good one in South Bend and it’s time to start appreciating this program a little bit more. Get excited about this team Irish fans, worry about football another day.
The ACC is going to be rough this season as almost anybody can beat anybody, but because the toughness Notre Dame possesses they have will have a legitimate shot of winning it.
“We’re blessed to be 2-0 (in the ACC) but we darned-sure earned it with toughness.” Brey said.
If the Irish keep playing the way we’ve seen thus far, they’re going to keep earning a helluva a lot more.