Less than 24 hours after his team met a shockingly early exit from the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame college basketball coach Mike Brey was named this year’s Henry Iba Coach of the Year, presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). The duality of emotion was quite indicative of how the 2010-11 Irish season went.
Brey, who was recognized as the Big East Coach of the Year honors for the third time in five seasons just two weeks ago, led the Irish to a 27-7 record (14-4 in conference) as Notre Dame finished second in regular-season conference standings and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the second consecutive year and fourth time under the 11-year mentor.
But a lot of it seems inconsequential as the Irish suffered a monumental upset at the hands of Florida State Sunday night. Any time a #2 seed, the school’s highest since 1981, fails to survive even the first weekend- that’s what you call a choke.
By Paul M. Banks
The 27 wins were the most in the modern era of Irish basketball and the second in program history. The 1908-09 squad finished 33-7. However the tournament elimination loss dropped Brey to 1-4 in the round of 32. Three of those last four tournament elimination games were at the hands of a lower seed. For a team that was squarely in the conversation for a #1 seed on Selection Sunday, it was a tremendous disappointment to say the least, and if you belief “March is what everyone remembers anyway,” the loss kind of negates a lot of what was accomplished.
And it wasn’t an isolated incident. The Irish shot 31%, 23% from three in the FSU loss. It was 23% from three, 36% in the first round loss to Old Dominion last year. 25% FG, 18% 3pt in the ’08 loss to Washington State. And 42% from the floor, 18% from behind the arc in ’07 upset to Winthrop. This is an alarming trend in South Bend.
It appears the team really maxed out with their 38 point BE conference tournament semi-final win over the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team which ended up lasting as long as the Irish did in the big tournament.
“We’re really disappointed in not getting further in both of ‘em (conference and NCAA tournaments), but in time we’ll be able to reflect on what this group did for our program,. It was uncharted territory for our program,” Brey said.
They’ll lose Hansbrough of course, and their point-center in Tyrone Nash.
So it’s going to be really hard to replace Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough next year isn’t it?
“It’s funny, people said that about 44 (Luke Harangody), and Troy Murphy and Chris Thomas. And we’ve always been able to come back with some guys and I think we have that brewing again in our laboratory, when you have three fifth year seniors coming back as your captains, that’s a tremendous place to start,” Brey said.
Losing those two seniors inserts Eric Atkins into the starting point guard role. Their other three seniors: Carleton Scott, Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin all return for their fifth year of eligibility.
“I bounce back pretty quick, by the time we hit the Indiana state line I’ll be thinking about next year. When I subbed I actually grabbed out three rerturing fith year guys and said I’m excited about you guys being our voice next year, and we talked about planting the seed,” he continued.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
He does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
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