Friends, it’s been a minute.
The last time I went in-person to cover the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team, they ran a ranked Michigan State Spartans team off the Purcell Pavilion floor, giving Irish fans hope that the shaky performances against bad competition to start the year were simply a team figuring themselves out and preparing to do some damage later in the year. There were obvious flaws, especially defensively and on the glass, but the team looked like it could be another potentially dangerous squad come March.
That, of course, was incredibly wrong.
Fast-forward to Saturday, and the Irish sat at 9-12 overall and an abysmal 1-9 in ACC play entering their home matchup against the Louisville Cardinals, who are one of the only teams in the ACC you could definitively say has looked worse than ND this season. Kenny Payne’s first season at Louisville has been somehow even worse than expected after all the tumultuous scandal and turnover the Cardinals program has seen the last few years, and entering their game in South Bend they were 2-18 overall and 0-9 in conference play, with their two victories earned in back-to-back games against Western Kentucky and Florida A&M.
Needless to say, before tip-off, this looked like a game this Irish team could actually win — although I’m not sure any of us had THAT much confidence, just based on the team’s play the last couple months. But still, considering this is now officially the Mike Brey Retirement Tour for the next month and a half, it was exciting to think I’d be in-person for, most likely, one of his last victories as coach of the Fighting Irish.
Per usual, I took extensive, useless notes on all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels this dumpster fire of a basketball matchup had to offer. Below is that documented experience, with lots of color and context and random tangents folded in for fun times and good time wasting on a Sunday (gotta avoid those Sunday Scaries somehow, amiright???).
I knew it was going to be a pretty solid day about 45 minutes into my drive from Chicago. Not only had it been a painless experience getting my rental car and getting out of the city (shout out to the absence of traffic at 8am on a Saturday in late January), but also the Spotify playlist I was bumping in my Nissan Versa was called “All Out 2000s,” and as I horrifyingly sang the words to essentially every song that came on, I was gifted with a truly magical song selection at that 45-minute point of the drive: “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz.
Of course, as at least one or two of you know, it was about this very song that I wrote what people around my apartment have called “the most important piece of journalism in human history” back in 2019. If I felt the British monarchy was potentially on my side heading into this match-up, then damnit if the Irish didn’t have an excellent chance to win this one.
I got to Purcell a little earlier than I would’ve ideally liked (planning the timing of driving from Chicago for one of these games is hard to get perfectly right), so I spent a little time hanging out in my Versa, enjoying more of that lovely, nostalgic playlist and also having a violent sneezing fit that briefly made me think there might never be a time again where I wasn’t sneezing. Sneezing is my life now. Just time to adapt and move forward.
Once the sneezing finally halted, I meandered into Purcell and made a quick pit stop. You obviously don’t need the details of that, but one thing I do want to mention about my Purcell bathroom experience is that Purcell now offers what they call “Healthy Soap.”
Imagine my surprise, as a local simpleton, that not all soap is healthy. I could have sworn that’s soap’s main benefit — to clean away unhealthy things — and so I guess I chalk this one up to a bad assumption and focus on how grateful I am to cover a program who doesn’t skimp and shells out for the healthy soap!
I found my seat in the press box without any issue for maybe the first time ever (a reflection on me, as a guy who is bad at finding things), and as I settled in, it truly hit me that I had driven 3 hours round-trip to watch two teams who have a combined conference record of 1-18. This is truly the Toilet Bowl of the 2022-2023 ACC basketball season, you guys.
For the next little while, I enjoyed the Purcell DJ’s music choices, reminiscing on how good “Forever” by Drake is and then having a mini freak-out in my seat when the Purcell speakers started playing the beat from “Some Cut” by Trillville ft. Cutty. I don’t think they played the actual full song, and I understand why, but MAN does that song hit different.
After the excitement wore off, I realized that I barely remembered what my rental car looked like and where specifically I’d parked it — I think it was a gray Nissan Versa, and I knew the general area I’d parked in, but I began to worry I was gonna be the fool wandering around the parking lot after the game, pressing his little clicker to try to find his car. Well done, Pat.
With about 12 minutes to tip-off, I decided to count the students in the student section, and the tally was 17. At first I thought it was 16, but then I noticed one kid all by himself in the top corner. He seemed like there was a 50/50 chance he’d be there the whole game.
And let me be clear — pointing out the above is not meant to be a slight to the Leprechaun Legion. Do the students maybe not show out as much as us cranky old folks think they should, especially for lesser opponents? Sure, but this team has given them very little reason to devote 2+ hours of a day to watching them. I don’t blame any students for not wanting to see this dumpster fire on a cold Saturday morning.
I turned my attention back to the video board, where the in-game emcee was talking into a microphone. I’m not sure she’d been briefed on how to pronounce all the players’ names, because she said “our player to watch is forward Nate...”
*then just keeps on talking about him without mentioning that he does, indeed, have a last name*
If I didn’t already have the Zewski nickname for him, there’s a 100% chance my new nickname for him would become “Nate...” That was magical.
As they flew through some ads on the video board, one was a little commercial for next Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, which has been called “Superhero Day.” The more important and fitting thing about Superhero Day, of course, is that they’ve managed to book an honest-to-God superhero for the occasion, as the GOAT herself, Red Panda, will be performing at halftime of that one. That gave me goosebumps on Saturday and it’s giving me them again as I type this. She’s the best.
A few other quick notes as we moved into the player intros, national anthem, etc.:
- Notre Dame was a 10.5-point favorite heading into this one, I believe, which was just unfathomable knowing this team and how bad they’ve been. So that really begs the question, how absolutely atrocious are the Louisville Cardinals this year??? And can ND actually capitalize on that, despite how bad they are?
- We found out early in the pregame warmups that Ven-Allen Lubin got hurt at practice on Friday and would not play in this one. The talented freshman forward has started to really come into his own of late, so that was a bummer to hear
- They did a lot of marketing for Coaches vs. Cancer during this game, and one awesome tidbit they mentioned is that Mike Brey has raised more than $4.5M for the fight against cancer via his work with Coaches vs. Cancer over the years. That’s pretty awesome.
- The band director for the game was announced as Sam Sanchez, which sent a chill down my spine knowing his role in the whole Taio Cruz/British royal family conspiracy, including his response to my article. Hopefully he and his conspiratorial crew will be pulling the strings in favor of the Irish on this day.
- Cathy Richardson still hits, and hits different, as the lead-up to the beginning of the game. Even when the team stinks.
- G El Ellis
- F Mike James
- F J.J. Traynor
- F Sydney Curry
- F Jae’Lyn Withers
- G J.J. Starling
- G Cormac “Scoremac” Ryan
- G Marcus Hammond
- F Dane “Daney G” Goodwin
- F Nate “Zewski” Laszewski
First Half Notable Stuff
The early going of this one was a pretty fun and even affair — Zewski kicked off the scoring with a three-pointer that Louisville immediately followed up with an easy layup against ND’s patented “Stop No One” defensive alignment. Over the course of the first couple possessions, the Cardinals’ Sydney Curry — who I can only assume is Steph Curry’s large adult son — displayed an uncanny knack for not being able to handle a basketball, looking like Patrick Ewing in Space Jam right after his talent is stolen by the aliens.
Someone named Withers on Louisville buried a three at one point in the early going, and his name just made me think of Smithers from The Simpsons and I hereby swear I will only refer to him as such for the rest of this recap so that I can make Mr. Burns references.
Although he didn’t do much to earn many mentions in this recap, so this may be an empty promise. Still, here’s one for good measure.
With ND trailing 9-7, Trey Wertz nailed a long ball to give the Irish the lead, and then after Daney G did a great job grabbing an offensive rebound (wouldn’t be the only time in this one), it set up a second-chance look for J.J. Starling from long range, which he buried to give Notre Dame a 13-9 advantage heading into the first media timeout.
During the timeout, they introduced the Purcell DJ as “DJ Hotrod,” which I have to assume I’ve seen before but I can’t remember ever seeing, so that was exciting for me to learn the DJ’s name. I wonder if he’s available for a wedding early next year...
Anyway, DJ Hotrod got to work for the Dance Cam, throwing on the “Cupid Shuffle” for the fans to groove to. Unfortunately, the first camera shot of fans lingered for way too long on a group of fans that was having NONE of it and refusing to dance. Eventually they moved to other fans doing some dancing, more little kids, etc., but it was a really funny start to the Dance Cam segment with no one dancing and that horrible song piped through the loudspeakers.
When action returned, the Irish began to really assert their dominance over what may be one of the worst Power 5 basketball teams I’ve ever seen in this iteration of the Louisville Cardinals. I joked earlier about this being a Toilet Bowl of sorts for the ACC, but there was still a pretty big difference between the two squads — they were not on the same level. If anything, ND served as the actual toilet in this Toilet Bowl, with the Cardinals serving as what was being flushed.
Zewski buried another three, which Louisville answered with a deep three they bricked, with the ball caroming over the hoop and bouncing off the basket support. Then Wertz got himself a layup and Starling got another bucket, and Louisville called a timeout, having seen enough of the Irish’s 15-2 run.
Coming out of the timeout, Mike Brey subbed in everyone’s favorite bull-in-a-china-shop freshman, Dom Campbell, and pretty immediately he had a nice pick-and-roll where he caught a pass and nimbly converted on a nice layup as he rolled to the hoop. This also allowed for one of our loyal OFD followers to tweet us a no-brainer nickname I’ll use for Dom for the remainder of his career at Notre Dame.
stealing this and using it forever https://t.co/jax3dBGpUv— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 28, 2023
Of course, Bonzie was more skilled in terms of scoring when he started seeing time as a freshman, so it’s not like they’re the same player. But to me the comparison is still apt — a physical, beefy frosh who’s not afraid to mix it up down low and who the team really needs on occasion to come in and throw his body around. He is to Bonzie basically what Jack Cooley was to Luke Harangody — a more physical, less skilled reminder of an all-time great Irish player and someone who has the chance to develop into something awesome.
After a Marcus Hammond three, the Irish went into the next timeout up by double digits. They also went into the timeout in the dark, as did the Cardinals. For some reason, the timeout entertainment was for Purcell to turn the lights off, shine a spotlight at center court, and for all of us to watch the ND cheerleaders and the Leprechaun run around on the court with flags.
Meanwhile, both teams were in their timeout huddles, in the dark, trying to prepare for the next stretch of hoops action. I gotta say, if I were one of Mike Brey or Kenny Payne, I’d be pretty unhappy that we had to game-plan in the dark because the cheerleaders wanted to do a really dumb performance.
As the game picked back up, ND continued to dominate. At one point they had hit 6 shots in a row, with Louisville offering little in the way of resistance. It was becoming a big enough blowout that my mind began to wander a bit, and as I watched Domzie continue to be an absolute unit down low, I thought about how much I would love to see a roster of 15 Domzies playing basketball. That would be pure gold.
Hell, I’d even be okay having just 14 and then adding one Matt Zona to the roster, as long we you told Zona he was in there to launch threes and to only launch threes. That would be fun.
After I finished thinking about that tangent, I then considered the Louisville player Mike James. Not only have there already been more than one Mike James who’ve come through the world as basketball players (one Mike James in particular I recall hanging around in the NBA for a long time as a solid backup point guard), but hearing his name on from the PA announcer every time he did something was also making me think of Rick James, and Dave Chappelle, which then made me reminisce on the Prince basketball sketch. Good, good stuff there — and this is what watching an absolute Toilet Bowl of a game can lead to, you guys.
The next few minutes of basketball featured Louisville missing a lot of threes, ND going on a nearly 4 minute scoring drought, and a two-minute stretch were literally no one on either side successfully got any points. Finally, Daney G hit himself a jumper and Hammond did a great job absorbing the blow of an opponent’s shoulder/forearm to draw a charge just before the next TV timeout.
During the timeout, the ND Pom Squad came out to perform, and to the delight of the fans they cast their poms asunder midway through their routine and transformed into the Artists Formerly Known As the Pom Squad, AKA just “The Squad.” Also, as they began to perform, there was a man in the section just in front of the press box and to the left who ran to the top of the stairs of his section so he could film the entire performance on his cell phone. I REALLY hope that man is a parent of one of those girls, because otherwise that is some DISTURBING behavior.
The timeout was a long one and featured the cheerleaders running out after The Squad was done, ready to toss foam balls to the crowd members who stood and cheered the loudest. Foam balls might be the only thing less useful they could throw into the stands than the low-quality, one-size t-shirts they usually toss, and yet, as expected, tons of grown adults in the crowd decided this would be the first time all game stood and cheered, getting rowdy as they tried their best to earn a foam ball hurled inaccurately their way.
What was great about all the above, though, is that DJ Hotrod threw on “Turn Down For What,” which brought me back to what an awesome moment in time that was when that song was released — especially when its music video came into our lives.
Also, I’m positive I got very sick of that song for a long time, but I can confidently say now that that sickness is over. Hearing that song on Saturday got me all sorts of pumped up — it still slaps.
I was snapped out of my DJ Snake and Lil Jon nostalgia-haze by Daney G once again using his old-man game to hit a turnaround midrange jumper. No one puts up 10-20 points a game while playing like that old guy at the gym better than Daney G, y’all.
As I watched Domzie fight hard with some Cardinals players for an offensive rebound and force the ball to go out of bounds off Louisville so that ND retained possession, I noted that if he can develop any sort of back-to-the-basket offensive game over the next year or two, he’s going to absolutely rule by the time he’s an upperclassman. Tons of potential for this big, beautiful boy.
After Louisville randomly converted on a 3/4-court alley-oop layup for some reason, Daney G did another middle-aged-man-at-the-YMCA move, backing down his man and then spinning and making a scoop shot. Starling followed that up with an awesome split of a double team and a weird layup that hit the front of the rim and just barely went in, and then it was time for the final media timeout of the half.
During said timeout, they had two freshmen come out and compete in “Dress, Dribble, Score,” where two students have to put on several ND hoops clothing items, including huge shoes, and then dribble a basketball the length of the court and make a layup. The two competitors chosen were a kid wearing a purple shirt named Conor, and a kid in red named Daniel.
From the beginning, Conor dominated this competition. He got dressed in the various items of clothing way faster than Daniel, who appeared to have never put a shirt on in his life. Conor was driving down and making his layup before Daniel even got to the size 15 shoes he was supposed to put on before dribbling. Shout out to Conor, and my condolences to Daniel for getting embarrassed.
This was a pretty entertaining little show for a timeout, and the band followed it up by launching into “Everytime We Touch,” so you could argue this was the perfect media timeout. It had a little bit of everything.
As I enjoyed the soothing sounds of Cascada, I took a quick gander at the stats so far and noted that the Irish had 9 assists and no turnovers at this point, while Louisville had already turned it over 7 times. That’s how a blowout happens, you guys.
Also, during that reflection I also once again enraged myself by thinking about the ND now adorning center court, as I am FIRMLY in the bring-back-the-shamrock camp in terms of how Purcell’s court deserves to be designed. It was so much better before.
We got back to action for the final 4 minutes of the half, watching Mike “Rick” James talking shit to some ND players after making a shot to cut Notre Dame’s lead to just 15 points (LOL). Soon after, the crowd was treated to Sydney Curry missing some free throws, disappointing his father Steph, a known free throw master.
To finish the half, J.J. Starling decided to remind everyone why the hype was so high and why the potential he still has is so exciting, going on a personal 7-0 run with an awesome reverse layup, burying a three, and then stealing the ball from a Cardinals player and dropping in a dunk just before halftime to make it a 46-24 lead for the Irish at the break.
On that note, I think anyone who’s been “disappointed” with Starling’s play to-date needs to take a step back. Are there plenty of things he needs to get better at or do a much better job of? Yes. Was Blake Wesley last year even more impressive in some areas (like defense) than we wanted to give him credit for when he bolted for the NBA? You bet.
But you also have to remember that not every big-time prospect is going to immediately be a star, and that doesn’t mean they’re a bust. Do you guys not remember Demetrius Jackson’s freshman season, when ND STUNK in their first season in the ACC and it looked like DJ might not be the stud 5-star point guard everyone thought the Irish were getting?
Of course, he went on to be absolutely electric in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, leading the Irish to back-to-back Elite Eights, and although there were some things he did that Starling just doesn’t have the ability to do, Starling has some advantages over Jackson as well (height/length, being a more capable scorer as a true freshman, etc.).
So, let’s hope that Starling, in the event that he sticks around for whoever the new coach is going to be, follows a DJ path and blossoms over the next couple years into a certifiable stud who can lead this program back to some postseason success. I believe he’s quite capable of that, especially with other young talent around him like Lubin, Domzie, J.R. Konieczny, etc.
Halftime Box Score
Halftime Notable Stuff
Because next weekend is the big weekend for halftime entertainment with Red Panda coming to town, this game featured a much more casual and relaxed halftime show — but it was still an enjoyable one, for sure.
It began with the honoring of Melanie Trowbridge, a Coaches vs. Cancer survivor. That, of course, was cool to see and it’s awesome to see the kind of impact all that money that Brey and co. have helped raise has had on real people who were battling such a horrible situation.
After that, they brought out Grace, a freshman from Pennsylvania for some sort of shooting game. I swore the guy emceeing (different from the girl who refused to say Zewski’s last name) said it was called “Shoot Drive Shoot,” but it consisted of just 3 shots and thus I can’t imagine that’s the name of the game, with no driving involved.
Still, Grace’s chosen spot for where she’d be taking three shots was a deep three spot at the top of the key. She air-balled her first one while trying to shoot the basketball normally with both hands, and appears to have panicked a bit in switching up to a baseball-throw style of shot for her second attempt. It did not work.
Her third and final attempt was a return to normal shooting form, but that one missed as well, and thus Grace did not win whatever the prize was (I missed that announcement as well).
Overall, it was a nice and chill halftime but not anything to write home about in terms of entertainment or the “wow” factor, and thus I am forced to give it a 3 on the scale of 1 to Red Panda.
Second Half Notable Stuff
As the two teams walked out onto the floor to begin the second half, DJ Hotrod was bumpin’ the Space Jam theme song, which of course had everyone in the arena feeling really nice as the Irish looked to build upon their 22-point lead.
Sure enough, Scoremac got things going by draining a three to extend the lead to 25, and for the next few minutes it kept getting better for the Irish. Starling continued his strong performance from the first half, getting himself a couple early buckets, and then Zewski and Scoremac both converted on and-ones to push the ND lead to 29 and to officially double-up Louisville, putting Brey’s boys ahead 58-29 at the next timeout. Some experts commented that this is a game plan the Irish should put into action more often.
I think ND men's basketball should simply double-up their opponents more often. They would win more games, I think— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 28, 2023
Others took it one step further with other recommendations for the Irish.
We should play Louisville more often— Rick Pitino’s son (@FightingGaels91) January 28, 2023
During that timeout, the crowd was treated to the delightful video board entertainment of the Monogram Shuffle (or it might be called Basketball Shuffle, I don’t know) where a cartoon basketball is hidden behind one of three ND monograms, and then they move around a bunch and one lucky fan gets the task of having their concentration tested in front of a few thousand people.
Typically, people are able to pass this game with flying colors and choose the right monogram with the basketball under it at the end. Unfortunately, this fan was not so lucky. She chose monogram #2, and immediately as the word “two” left her mouth and was broadcast to the entirety of Purcell via the emcee’s microphone, the entire crowd let out a collection “aaaahhhhhhhhh” gasp/sigh, and then many yelled out that #3 was the correct choice. It was, and the unlucky contestant was forced to live with her shame.
However, that moment was followed up with the ND Leprechaun holding up a rubber chicken to various sections of students to see which would be loudest, with the winning section all receiving a free chicken sandwich from Dave’s Hot Chicken at Eddy Street Commons. Section 4 took home that title, which I honestly felt was deserved — they truly made some noise when he held that rubber chicken aloft in their direction.
Also, has anyone seen this absolutely unhinged ad campaign from this restaurant chain????
Nothing like basing your entire advertising budget around telling people not to die so they can buy your chicken!
Anyway, the next few minutes featured Louisville going on a 5-0 run that, at the time, I noted was “wild,” I assume because the Cardinals had been so bad all game. Later, I would realize it was just the beginning of this ND team being back on their bullshit, but heading into the first media timeout, it definitely seemed like a harmless and fun little moment for Kenny Payne’s squad.
That timeout brought on the first T-Shirt Time of the game, as the first half had only given us Foam Ball Time. The crowd understood the importance of this moment because of that, and I think more grown-ass adults than ever before were on their feet, hootin’ and hollerin’ at the cheerleaders in hopes of having a t-shirt that probably won’t fit them thrown wildly in their direction. I also think this was probably the most engaged the ND men’s basketball fan base has been since the Michigan State game in late November.
The Irish got back to it after the timeout, with Scoremac knocking down a three-pointer and getting a layup to push the Irish lead back to 28 points with 14:40 remaining in the game. From there, though, things started to change. Trey Wertz missed a layup, Zewski had a very bad flop as he failed to draw a charge, and then Wertz picked up a charge to give the ball back to the suddenly sort-of-surging Cardinals.
First #NotreDame turnover finally surfaces with 13:18 left in game, and Irish up by 23.— Tom Noie (@tnoieNDI) January 28, 2023
That brought us to the under-12 timeout, where we were once again treated to The Squad performing a new dance routine (they didn’t even pretend to be the Pom Squad this time, leaving their pom poms on the sideline), and also treated to that same guy filming them on his cell phone from the stairs of his section.
At the 11:04 mark, the Cardinals added a couple more free throws to their total, and were quietly in the midst of a 10-0 run that put them down just 64-46. They began to press the Irish in the full court as well, and surprisingly ND’s players mostly handled that well — which, knowing Brey’s teams of late, says a lot about how bad Louisville’s press currently is.
Louisville extended their run to 14-0 as ND continued their scoring drought, which reached almost 7 minutes of game action as the Cardinals threatened to get the deficit back to single digits. Mercifully, the basketball gods finally allowed for a couple Starling free throws and then for Zewski to knock down a big three, and after a Louisville turnover, we got another timeout and the Irish had a little breathing room after leading by 30 only a few minutes earlier and then watching that lead come crumbling down.
This timeout gave us what’s quickly becoming a classic at both football and basketball games: an adorable little ND fan telling us how long they’ve been a fan (spoiler alert: it’s always the same number of years as their age) and then giving the cue to the band to begin playing, saying, “Go Irish — hit it, band!” As the band rocked out, the cheerleaders were playing air guitar on their megaphones, which I very much appreciated and hope they do more often.
The rest of the game was pretty uneventful, with both teams trading baskets to keep the margin somewhere between 12 and 20 points at all times. Daney G got himself another offensive board and a bucket to follow that put the Irish up 71-52 with 6:55 to play, but the Cardinals quickly clawed back into it with a three and another basket.
Meanwhile, ND set what had to have been a record for shots that looked good but rimmed out instead, but still managed to get some shots to fall down the stretch so that Louisville could never truly threaten the outcome of the game. Hammond drained a jumper with 2:26 to play that put Notre Dame up 17 again, but the Cardinals got a bucket to make it 15 immediately after that.
However, any possible desperate hope Louisville was clinging to was erased when Zewski, feeling inspired by the megaphone air guitar from earlier, decided to absolutely rock the rim and throw down a one-handed slam that was both awesome and that also almost didn’t go in.
That’s certainly a part of Zewski’s game it’s been nice to see more of this season and that I think we all hope can continue to come out more in the final games he has in an Irish uniform — the aggression and determination to hunt his shot at the rim has been fun for the stretch-four big man.
After a couple more possessions, the Irish stuck a fork in the Cardinals and called them done, walking away with a 76-62 victory. It should also be noted that somehow, some way, there was not one instance of a dead ball for the final 4 minutes of play in this game, and thus there was no under-4 media timeout. I’ve never seen that happen and I’m not sure anyone else has either, based on some chatter in the press box. That was pretty funny but much appreciated by those of us who wanted to hit the road ASAP.
Final Box Score
Random Thoughts from My Simple Mind
- First of all, allow me to just give a big ole LMAO to the fact this Irish team was up by THIRTY POINTS in the second half and still somehow managed to go scoreless for nearly 18% of the game and let Louisville get to within 13 with enough time for them to keep clawing back and actually win the contest. Nothing more perfectly encapsulates this year’s team than that.
- This is going to sound pessimistic, but there’s a decent chance we just saw Mike Brey’s final win as head coach at Notre Dame. Yes, of course there’s a chance this team finds an extra gear and gets hot one night to truly send him off against a decent team, similar to the MSU game in November. And yes, they COULD potentially manage to beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta considering the Yellow Jackets are also very much not good.
But there are simply no remaining easy home games for this Irish squad, and thus I’m not willing to bet on them emerging victorious in basically any other contest down the stretch. I desperately hope I’m wrong and they snag at least a couple more parting gifts for Mike, but color me skeptical.
- IF the new coach can manage to hold onto the young guys and the only remaining 2023 signee in Markus Burton, that’s an awesome core for the new coach to start from. I know that’s a potentially big if considering they’ve lost two 2023 signees in the last week or so and considering there’s a possibility any and all of the young talent on the current roster decides the transfer portal is a better plan than starting over with a new coach, but it’s possible.
And if the new coach that Jack Swarbrick manages to bring in is able to convince all the current guys to stay and can convince at least Burton to stick with his NLI (if not also convince the other two to re-sign), that that is a very solid young base to build on, especially if he can add a few transfers to contribute right away along with them: Starling, Lubin, Campbell, Konieczny, Burton...that ain’t too shabby, you guys. And remember, Scoremac technically could return for one final season, if the situation makes sense...
- Speaking of the new coach, it will be really interesting to see what reports start to pop up in regards to whom Swarbrick is zeroing in on. It might not be super clear until March because some of these guys won’t want to officially interview until their seasons are over, but there are some pretty fun and interesting names being tossed around, such as Pat Kelsey, Darian DeVries, Sean Sweeney, Porter Moser, Dusty May, etc.
I’ll probably dive a bit deeper into a list of potential names in a future article, but for now will just say that I’d be much more jazzed about someone from that list than I would with Swarbrick just picking the low-hanging fruit off the Brey coaching tree (i.e. Martin Ingelsby, Anthony Solomon, or even Ryan Humphrey). This program needs a complete refresh, and none of those guys have proven enough to deserve this job. Hopefully Swarbrick can find the basketball equivalent of Link Jarrett and get this men’s hoops program humming again.