College Basketball Nation: Mike Brey

Rules committee talks changes

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
DALLAS -- It feels like a lifetime ago now, but back before the season started there was much fretting about new rules that many feared would lead to a game bogged down by whistles.

Turns out, the game survived and the new rules mostly did what they intended.

[+] EnlargeRick Byrd
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyAs chairman of the rules committee, Rick Byrd has a few sticky rules proposals to navigate in the next year.
“I feel like we’re on a path to a better game,” said John Adams, the NCAA coordinator of officials. “There’s a level of predictability when you step on the court.”

Adams, along with Rick Byrd, chairman of the rules committee, and a handful of coaches and administrators met with members of the media on Monday at the Final Four to not only discuss the impact of the new rules but discuss what other changes need to be made.

It was a conversation more than a presentation, an open dialogue about the state of the game and ways it could be improved.

Plenty of ideas were discussed but the three everyone agreed needed to be addressed -- the freedom of movement for cutters without the ball, post play and the torturously long end of games.

“We’re not done,” said Art Hyland, basketball secretary rules editor said.

The question isn’t really what needs to be done, but how to do it. Some of it is simple -- allowing cutters to roam without impediment and stop penalizing post players with a foul when a perimeter guy merely leans in to draw a call.

“You know you’re going to get something if you jump into a guy,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, the previous rules committee chairman.

“It’s very difficult to defend if you can’t do it the right way,” Byrd added.

But the end game problem, for example, is trickier.

This isn’t a rules change year for the committee. Instead they’ll use this time to discuss a laundry list of changes and see which, if any, they’d like to implement.

On the agenda for discussion:

Reducing the number of timeouts allotted to each team in a game; widening the lane; limiting a coach’s ability to call a timeout in a live ball situation; allowing 10 seconds total in a backcourt situation rather than a new 10 seconds after an out of bounds play; reducing the shot clock; considering the NBA continuation; eliminating the de facto timeout that ensues after a player fouls out; and not allowing a player to score when a charge has been called.

No one expects consensus on any of the topics -- “Modern coaches want control over everything they can have control over,” Byrd admitted -- but the committee said it was steadfast in making changes that it believes would help the game.

The most controversial -- like reducing the shot clock -- will no doubt be the hardest to sell, but Hyland remembered when coaches also were reluctant to add a 3-point line and any shot clock at all.

“I think it’s time to really consider 30,” Brey said. “If it went to 24, they’d burn the castle down.”

Of course they wanted to burn the castle down at the beginning of this season when the freedom of movement rules came into effect, too.

Turns out, it wasn’t so bad.

As the year wore on, the complaints decreased and the scoring did, in fact, go up -- 2.7 points per game per team in the NCAA tournament (or 4.2 percent). Field goal percentage also improved, from 42.3 percent to 44.3 percent.

“As the season went on, I felt like the officiating matched up with the coaches’ expectations,” Adams said. “The more games, the less time there was complaining about the rules.”

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Roy Williams knows that Armageddon is right around the corner. The faces and names that await his team in its next test just happen to escape him.

The latter remark drew more laughs than the former after North Carolina's 73-62 escape job here over Notre Dame. But a season-best five-game winning streak has done little to calm the neurotic Tar Heels coach as his program turns the page to Wednesday's showdown against rival Duke.

"I never feel like that," Williams said when asked if his team was finding a rhythm. "I feel like every day we've got to play the best we can possibly play or the world's going to end, so I'm never going to be satisfied."

Satisfied, no. Not after a game that began with his Heels missing 20 of their first 28 shots and falling behind by nine early. While the Fighting Irish were connecting on their first four tries from long range, UNC's missed layups were becoming a source of comedy. Consistent giveaways only fueled a Joyce Center crowd that was filled for what coach Mike Brey had called another "program day" for his Irish in their inaugural ACC campaign -- a league slate that commenced with an upset over those Blue Devils last month.

[+] EnlargeJames Michael McAdoo
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsJames Michael McAdoo, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, and UNC were too much for Notre Dame.
But Williams and his band can feel much better about their much-anticipated meeting with Duke given the way the Heels took charge late in the first half, creating offense with their defense to carry a 9-0 run and four-point lead into halftime.

The opening play of the second half portended more of what was to come, with the 6-foot-9 James Michael McAdoo batting off a pass near Notre Dame's bench and saving it in one motion to Leslie McDonald, who cruised in for the lay-in.

It marked the first fast-break bucket of the game for the Heels. They finished with eight fast-break points in the second half, which at times looked like a clinic of how to operate in transition. They finished with 23 points off turnovers, forcing four in the second session's first four minutes and building a double-digit lead that they never really relinquished against an Irish squad that was simply no match athletically.

Notre Dame finished 2 for its last 17 from downtown after its hot start. The Irish were unable to crack the length of McAdoo (four steals), the 6-foot-5 J.P. Tokoto (four steals) or 6-foot-9 reserve Brice Johnson (three steals), who followed his 8-for-8 night against Maryland with a cool 10 points, three offensive rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes.

"The biggest thing was probably just our sense of urgency on defense, but with that just being disciplined and then just being really sound," said McAdoo, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. "Coach uses that word a lot, and I think that really has to do with 1-through-5 playing together and realizing that although we do strive to play perfect defense, someone is eventually going to mess up. But there's four other guys out there on the court that can help cover up for that."

This was different from the 19-6 run to open the Terrapins game, or the 18-4 lead UNC built early against NC State last weekend.

Encouraging may not be the right term considering the way the Heels struggled early in this one, but the 6-4 league record after a forgettable 1-4 start did bring out some smiles after a fifth straight double-digit win.

"Yeah, I do believe in a little bit of rhythm, unlike him," Marcus Paige (16 points, 6 assists) said at the podium, pointing to Williams on his right. "But I think we've had some success and we've been able to build off of it, and it's given us some confidence so we know what we're capable of doing now. We're not struggling as much. We're still not perfect by any means, but we understand that our defense can get us through our tough stretches on offense, and guys are figuring out their roles and what works well. And I think as long as we continue to take and build off that we can keep this run going."

Tokoto (13 points, 7 rebounds) played coy when asked about his next game before saying that momentum is ultimately thrown out the window when Carolina and Duke take center stage.

Still, it sure beats the alternative.

"It's fun, the game coming up is the kind of game you come here to play," Paige said. "But we definitely weren't looking past this. We had won a couple in a row, we didn't want our momentum to stop on a tough road game in a cold, snowy area. We wanted to keep this going, keep the win streak alive and then now we can really focus on the Duke game on Wednesday."

With expansion, ACC gets its depth back

October, 30, 2013

The previous time the ACC expanded -- in a move clearly made to boost football -- the impact on basketball simply equated to scheduling more games. The league didn’t get stronger. In fact, in some ways it appeared to get weaker.

The latest expansion will be different, league coaches and players say. Newcomers Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh -- with Louisville joining in 2014 -- will elevate the ACC back to what some would say is its rightful standing as the nation’s best basketball conference.

“Our league now -- the depth of the league, the tradition, the history, the success that all the programs have had -- is unmatched,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Fair
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesSyracuse forward C.J. Fair is hoping the Orange can end the stranglehold Duke and UNC have had on ACC bragging rights.
The depth. That’s what the ACC has been sorely missing. Virginia, Wake Forest, NC State and Georgia Tech used to be reasons why the conference was strong. But none of those programs has been consistent the past decade.

As the first expansion proved, depth doesn’t come from merely adding schools to the mix. Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech have combined to win one regular-season league title. On four occasions, one of those teams has finished last in the conference.

The Irish, Orange and Panthers, however, are expected to live in the upper echelon of the conference, as they did in the Big East. Pitt finished fourth or better in the 16-team Big East in three of the past four seasons, including winning the 2011 regular-season title. The team that finished second to Pitt that season was Notre Dame, which placed third or better in two of the past three seasons.

Syracuse and eventually Louisville, both of which have both won national titles and made multiple Final Four appearances, add historically elite-level programs to the league. Syracuse has the potential to immediately loosen Duke and North Carolina’s vise grip on the crown.

“I read a stat as far as Duke and North Carolina -- they’re the only two teams that be winning it,” Syracuse forward C.J. Fair said. “We want to win the ACC and start off right and have bragging rights early.”

The ACC has been shallow for too long, dependent on Duke and North Carolina to carry the league. The pair from Tobacco Road has accounted for at least a share of every conference regular-season title but three since 1997, and 10 of the league’s 13 Final Four appearances in that same span.

Consider that since Georgia Tech appeared in the 2004 national title game, no team from the league outside of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels has reached the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight, and only five have been to the Sweet 16.

Only four teams from the ACC received NCAA tournament bids last season. That has been closer to the norm than the exception since expanding to 12 teams in the 2005-06 season.

In eight seasons, the league put only four teams in the Big Dance on four occasions. Considering North Carolina and Duke made it in each of those seasons where the ACC had only four teams in the tournament, that means only two other programs were representing the conference.

Compare that to the span of 1992 to 2004, when as a nine-member league, the ACC received six tournament bids on five occasions.

“Those were glory days in the ACC ... But you know what, I think bigger glory days are coming with this thing,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

The ACC had its best seasons in 2006-07 and 2008-09, when seven teams received NCAA tournament bids. Brey believes that number will only increase based on how the depth of the Big East bolstered its tournament bids.

“We had years where we were under .500 in the league in early February, but you have enough big games on your schedule where if you get one or two of them, they’re RPI top 50, top 25 wins, all of a sudden you’re 9-9 and you’re on the board,” Brey said. “You’re never dead in a league like this.”

Thanks to the expansion, the ACC will feel alive again.
1. Syracuse wasn’t the only newcomer the ACC took care of in scheduling. Notre Dame has a tremendous first-year schedule in the league with home games against North Carolina and Duke. Three Big Ten nonconference games are also on Mike Brey's daunting overall schedule, two of which were out of his control. It was Notre Dame’s turn to play Indiana in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, and the Big Ten-ACC Challenge gave the Irish a road game at Iowa. Notre Dame had already scheduled the Gotham Classic in Madison Square Garden against Ohio State. “We’ve got three Big Ten teams on the schedule but I don’t want our fans to think we’ve joined the Big Ten,’’ said Brey. The Irish will also play three potential postseason teams in Delaware, Bryant and North Dakota State in the Gotham Classic in leading up to the Ohio State game Dec. 21 in NYC. Santa Clara and Indiana State, two other teams with postseason ability, come to South Bend. “Our fans are going to be spoiled by getting Carolina and Duke coming to South Bend,’’ said Brey. “We’ve got BC, Georgia Tech as our repeat games and Virginia and UNC too. Having Duke and Carolina coming here in the first year in the ACC is knocking it out of the park. We’re fortunate.’’ Brey considered playing a road game against Baylor in Dallas to start the season but then decided against it and wanted to get a home game for new point guard Demetrius Jackson. “He’s a key guy for us so I want to him to play 20-something minutes at home,’’ said Brey. “With the schedule we have, we’ve got enough games on the road and neutral.’’

2. Washington State coach Ken Bone said Idaho coach Ron Verlin agreed to move a game against the Cougars on Dec. 7 so Wazzu could participate in the Jud Heathcote event -- an event celebrating Heathcote's legacy at the four schools where he has either coached or -- in the case of Gonzaga -- has a passion for. Washington State will play Montana in the undercard while Gonzaga will host Michigan State at Spokane Arena on Dec. 7. Heathcote lives in Spokane where he coached high school basketball at West Valley High. He’s a regular at Gonzaga games. He also coached at Montana and Washington State before winning a national title with Magic Johnson at Michigan State in 1979. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo served under Heathcote before replacing him. Gonzaga coach Mark Few has become extremely close with Heathcote, as well.

3. Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett all will be unable to participate in next week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago on Thursday and Friday (live coverage on ESPNU 10 a.m. to 2 p.m./ 2-3 p.m. ESPN2 each day). That means there will be ample opportunity for even more players to shine in what has become a wide-open draft. At each of the five listed positions, there is at least one player who could really benefit from the lower numbers. Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, who is being discussed as a first-round lock, has a real shot to move up among the point guards. This will be a critical few days for those watching Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin among the shooting guards. The same is true of Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas with the small forwards, BYU’s Brandon Davies with the power forwards and Kansas’ Jeff Withey with the centers.

Video: Katz talks with victorious Irish

March, 15, 2013

Andy Katz talks with Pat Connaughton and Mike Brey after Notre Dame dispatches Marquette and advances to face Louisville on Friday.
1. Notre Dame was fully prepared to stick out the next year in the old Big East as per its requirement. But Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said once the seven Catholic-based schools decided to leave, the Irish were likely gone as well. As late as a month ago, however, Swarbrick had informed all his coaches to prepare to play in the old Big East. Now, they are all off to the ACC, and Swarbrick and Irish men's basketball coach Mike Brey were pleased to at least know they can move forward in their new home. Brey has been sentimental about this being the final Big East tournament for the Irish. The players didn't know until Tuesday -- and Eric Atkins said prior to Wednesday's victory over Rutgers that he fully anticipated playing next season at Madison Square Garden. Once he knew this was it, he said it made this tournament even more special. The Irish will get Boston College and Georgia Tech as home-and-home rivals next season. Notre Dame and the other 14 ACC schools will get two other teams they'll play twice, for eight double-up games. The other 10 league games will be singles, either home or road.

2. Rutgers has a lame-duck season in the soon-to-be-named conference, and that's actually OK with the Scarlet Knights administration and coach Mike Rice. There is no rush to race to the Big Ten when there is still so much to do. Rice, who has two seasons left on his contract, probably didn't need to be in the Big Ten next season. He has 90 percent of his team returning and, in the to-be-named conference, has a chance to be a factor and show improvement. Rutgers hasn't been party to the decision-making of the schools that will remain -- including decisions on what the league will be called and where its conference tournament will be next season. Rutgers is recruiting for the Big Ten, not this league, so it doesn't matter. Rice expects the conference to play a true round-robin schedule of 18 league games with a 10-team league in 2013-14.

3. Employees of the splitting Big East still don't know if they're working for the old or new league. Since the break just occurred, there haven't been requests by the new league to bring any of the staffers along. For now, the staffers remain committed to the old Big East and have work to do on putting the 2014 conference tournament out for bidding. The key will be which facility has the dates available, since arenas are typically booked for specific dates a year out. The favorites remain an existing facility that has hosted similar events, such as those in Memphis (Conference USA) and Hartford, Conn. (Big East's women tournament).
1. Highlights from Tuesday's Katz Korner show on ESPNU: Kentucky coach John Calipari didn't hold back his feelings about the SEC tournament. Calipari said the tournament is for the fans and noted a number of UK fans at the SEC tournament don't normally get to Rupp. He said the conference tourney is just a prep for the next (NCAA) tournament. "I don't like this,'' he said. "Three games in three days does nothing to prepare you for anything. I wish none of us had these tournaments.'' ... Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said in reaction to this being the Irish's last Big East tournament that the Big East, "made me in my coaching career.'' He said it was odd to tell his team Tuesday morning at breakfast that this would be their last Big East tournament. ... Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said it's hard to explain his past year: from being fired at Illinois to Big 12 coach of the year. He said his daughter pointed out that "I lost my job on March 9 and then it was March 9 this year that we won an unexpected Big 12 championship and the first one here since 1977.'' ... VCU coach Shaka Smart offered this advice for bubble coaches heading to the First Four in Dayton next week after the Rams started their Final Four run their in 2011, "Be aggressive confident and loose. You want to be an attacking team, no matter what style of play.''...Michigan's Trey Burke said the Wolverines will be looking forward to playing teams in the NCAA tournament not from the Big Ten, "It's a well-scouted conference, once we get outside of the conference, conference tournament, we'll be able to play at a higher level because those teams won't be scouting us each other day.''

2. One of the best decisions the NCAA/NIT made was ensuring the regular-season champs had a postseason home. A number of teams that won their leagues in the regular season weren't able to win the conference tournament: Northeastern (CAA), Robert Morris (NEC), Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Charleston Southern (Big South), Niagara (MAAC) and Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt). Middle Tennessee State is the only school that has a chance to make the NCAA tournament out of this group as an at-large. But the NIT has to guarantee bids to all of them. The regular-season title should have meaning and guarantee a postseason berth.

3. Montana coach Wayne Tinkle had quite a championship week -- in his family. His Grizzlies won the Big Sky for the second-straight season. His son, Tres, won the Montana AA high school title and was the most valuable player. His daughter, Joslyn, a senior at Stanford won the Pac-12 title and his youngest daughter, Elle, a freshman at the Gonzaga, won the WCC title. "How blessed are we?'' Tinkle said. But he said the real MVP of the family is his wife, Lisa, a member of the Montana Hall of Fame for "all the miles she logged.'' The Grizzlies will attempt to get back to the NCAA tournament but will likely have a challenge from nemesis Weber State. Montana hosts the Big Sky tournament in Missoula and gets a bye to the semifinals, while Weber State, the No. 2 seed, has to play two games to get to the finals since there are only seven teams in the field.

Podcast: Mike Brey on 'Mike & Mike'

February, 11, 2013
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey dishes with "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on the Fighting Irish's win against Louisville in 5 OTs, the performance of Garrick Sherman and more.

Video: Mike Brey on 5-OT Irish win

February, 10, 2013

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey speaks with Samantha Ponder after his team's victory over Louisville.
Before Thursday afternoon, it was arguably likely that these last few weeks of conference play would be Notre Dame's last as a member of the Big East. The Irish don't have the same sort of deep historical roots in the league as, say, Syracuse, but they've nonetheless become synonymous with it. Time, and one bruising Big East battle after another, will do that.

Come to think of it, I hadn't thought about this possibility — that Saturday's home game against Louisville was one of the last few big-time Big East battles we'd see from this program — until it was no longer a possibility. On Thursday, Mike Brey confirmed the Irish aren't leaving the league so soon after all:
"We do know we'll be in the Big East next season," Brey said. "That decision was made last Friday. ...The last hurrah will be next year, not this year."

Brey also told the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton he's confident the so-called "Catholic 7" schools will be in the Big East next year, too:
"I feel strongly that the Catholic schools are going to be there with us," Brey said. "That's one of the reasons we decided to sit tight. It looked like the Catholic schools were not going to be able to formulate the league they're going to put together. Could they put it together in the next six weeks? Nothing would shock me."

Of course, all of this is very much up in the air. Like Brey said, the C-7 could figure things out. Maybe even Notre Dame changes its mind. Its conference realignment. I'm not about to try to predict anything involved here.

What I will say is this: Provided Brey's predictions come true, next year's Big East won't be all that bad, at least as a basketball league. It will still have Cincinnati, UConn, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Memphis, ND, Temple, plus improving programs at Villanova, Providence and St. John's. I don't know about you, but I'll watch that league. And I'll deal with the impending Big East apocalypse another day.

Conference Power Rankings: Big East

February, 1, 2013
To death and taxes, I add Marquette. The Golden Eagles are the one thing you can count on annually. A year after losing the Big East’s player of the year and league’s leading scorer (and they were two different people) Buzz Williams’ team is back again, tied atop the leaderboard with Syracuse. Despite seven consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, Marquette still somehow manages to sneak up on people.

Maybe we ought to start paying closer attention.

1. Syracuse. That the Orange lost to Villanova in overtime isn’t the biggest worry right now. Even their bad shooting isn’t a big concern. Here’s the problem: Four of Syracuse’s starters played 41 minutes or more in that game. Without James Southerland (eligibility issue) and now DaJuan Coleman (injury), the rotation is minuscule for the Orange as they head into the home stretch.

2. Marquette. The Golden Eagles have won eight of nine to quietly slide into a first-place tie with Syracuse atop the standings. For those thinking Williams needs a steady scorer, Vander Blue might be the guy -- he had 30 against South Florida. But there’s a big test for both Blue and Marquette this weekend, at Louisville.

3. Louisville. The Cardinals ended their losing streak by beating Pittsburgh despite playing without Wayne Blackshear (shoulder injury) and Kevin Ware (suspension). Here’s the catch: Louisville is averaging just 61.8 points over its past four games. As good as the Cards’ defense is, their offense has to make life a little more bearable.

4. Georgetown. Without Greg Whittington, the Hoyas don’t have much room for error. Their bench is perilously short, so short that John Thompson III had to go to a walk-on against Seton Hall. But Georgetown is winning steadily after a sloppy start, three in a row and five of its past six.

5. Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ propensity for slow starts nearly cost them dearly at Rutgers. Sean Kilpatrick bailed them out then and has continued to be a backbone, especially with Cashmere Wright still getting over a balky knee. Cincinnati has winnable games in the coming week -- at Seton Hall and Providence -- but can ill afford to back into things again.

6. Notre Dame. The great tinkerer, Mike Brey, retooled his team practically overnight, debuting a bigger, tougher and stronger version of the Irish against red-hot Villanova. It worked. The Irish not only won, but got contributions from previously untapped resources such as senior Tom Knight and freshmen Cam Biedscheid and Zach Auguste.

7. St. John’s. The Red Storm could catapult up these rankings in a week. St. John’s has won five in a row, showing a streak of consistency few in this league can match. The catch? The Red Storm have feasted on the bottom of the standings (with the exception of Notre Dame) to get out on that run. I want to see how St. John’s does in upcoming games against Georgetown and Connecticut.

8. Pittsburgh. The Panthers’ four-game win streak came to an end at Louisville, but in the loss Pitt showed it could hang with the conference elite. And now the Panthers’ reward: They get to try to do it all over again when they host Syracuse on Saturday.

9. Villanova. That the Wildcats’ week of happy mayhem ended at South Bend did little to disprove that Villanova is arguably one of the most improved teams in the league. The Cats hung with Notre Dame despite a woeful 3-point shooting night. The next challenge: beating teams they are now expected to beat, including Providence and DePaul, next on the docket.

10. Connecticut. Nothing is easy for the Huskies these days, but at least they are finding a way to gut it out, beating Providence in overtime Thursday for their second victory in a row. For once, at least, UConn got some scoring from someone other than its backcourt, with Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels hitting double figures. That needs to happen more often.

11. Seton Hall. We have now entered that portion of the rankings where you are debating among the least awful of the awful. So kudos to the Pirates, who at least have lost just two in a row, both on the road and to two decent teams in Georgetown and St. John’s. Not that the schedule gets any kinder, with a visit from Cincinnati and a trip to Pittsburgh in the coming week.

12. Providence. The Friars are oh-so-close to putting something together and oh-so-far-away from seeing the results. Providence lost to Pitt by four, to Marquette by 10 and to UConn in overtime. Can the Friars finally break through Sunday at Villanova?

13. Rutgers. If "almost" counted, the Scarlet Knights would be right there. They’ve lost four in a row, but were in the games against Notre Dame, Connecticut and Cincinnati. Alas, this is neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, and as Rutgers preps for a midweek visit from Louisville, it has won just once since Jan. 10.

14. South Florida. The Bulls’ skid is at three, but in their defense, it is against two quality teams -- Notre Dame and Marquette. But like Rutgers, USF’s quality losses don’t mean much, not when it has but one league victory to show for it.

15. DePaul. I’ve run out of ways to describe the Blue Demons’ doom and gloom, so just use the numbers: DePaul has lost five in a row and seven of its past eight.

3-point shot: Izzo keeps breaking mold

December, 19, 2012
1. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo doesn’t just play the marquee games anywhere, any place and any time. Izzo once again proves he’s willing to bust the scheduling model for elite programs. The Spartans won at Bowling Green on Tuesday night. That was a two-for-one deal. Michigan State has done this type of arrangement recently with Bradley, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Eastern Michigan. The majority of the elite programs would never play on the home court of schools outside the power six unless forced into it by a bad scheduling situation -- but Izzo seeks out these deals. And that’s why his teams aren’t afraid come March. He doesn't fear any point of the schedule.

2. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said if the Irish were to get into the ACC as early as the 2013-14 season, the only non-conference scheduling tweak they would need is to avoid Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, since they are playing the Hoosiers in Indianapolis in a scheduled event. That means the Irish aren’t slated to play any ACC schools in 2013 non-conference games. That would make for a smooth transition if the Irish can get out of the Big East two years early.

3. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is supposed to give an updated report to the league's remaining athletic directors during the first quarter of 2013 about where the television deal stands for the fall of ’13, according to a source. I’m still not sure how Aresco is selling the conference to the TV partners without knowing who else could be leaving. Could Aresco strike a one-year deal for the Big East before Louisville, Rutgers and the Catholic seven depart (and maybe Notre Dame)? He might have to do something creative with the membership changing dramatically in 2015.

3-point shot: Coaches should be on watch

December, 14, 2012
1. Coaches are under more scrutiny from the NCAA, conferences and their administration than at any other time in the sport's history. The NCAA is pushing to suspend and penalize coaches if there are violations by them or their staff and conferences haven't hesitated to suspend coaches, too. Now, Rutgers has taken it one step further with the three-game suspension and $50,000 fine on coach Mike Rice for inappropriate conduct and language (i.e. his treatment of players in practice). Rice has apologized. But the timing couldn't be worse. Rice has made improvements with the Scarlet Knights, but he needed to dial it back in his climb back to relevance. And with Rutgers heading to the Big Ten in 2014, the school can't afford any embarrassments. Rice needs to be on his best behavior and win as the school transitions into the Big Ten. But the message has been sent by Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti that he isn't messing around with poor behavior. And other coaches should be on watch because of it, too.

2. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said on the ESPNU College Basketball Podcast Thursday that the Irish had talked to the other seven Catholic schools about forming a national Catholic conference. If the ACC option didn't occur then the Irish would have bolted with the rest. That shows how much this has been discussed and was a distinct possibility. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon also said on the same podcast that he was told the reason Marquette and DePaul were added 10 years ago was to ensure the five Catholic schools had seven members to retain an NCAA bid if they decided to leave. He said the eventual split of football and non-football was always inevitable, and may have actually happened later than predicted.

3. The Minnesota staff has been high on their team for three years running. But this is the first time the Gophers truly believe there is staying power with this crew, and for a few key reasons: The returning players have completely bought into the team concept; the bench is as deep as it has been under Tubby Smith; Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe are a pair of tough, interior players who can be counted on to play their role and Andre Hollins is having an all-star season. But the Gophers will know immediately in the Big Ten if they are pretenders or contenders. Minnesota has a brutal start to the league. It hosts Michigan State and Northwestern before road games at Illinois and Indiana, with a home game against Michigan wedged in before games at Northwestern and Wisconsin -- all from Dec. 31 to Jan. 26.

No surprise in Kentucky loss to Irish

November, 30, 2012

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- This is what's supposed to happen.

When a team this young goes on the road for the first time, it is supposed to lose.

When it's late November, and your group of freshmen and sophomores has't played in a hostile environment, and said hostile environment happens to be a packed, blackout-clad Joyce Center, where Notre Dame never loses in nonconference play, you are supposed to lose.

When ND's football-obsessed fans are juiced off that team's 12-0 national title run, and that school's Heisman candidate is sitting in the front row of the student section -- and, oh by the way, you are also playing a very good team with a very real chance of winning the Big East -- you are not supposed to play winning basketball.

You are supposed to lose.

That Notre Dame's 64-50 thrashing of Kentucky might be considered an upset is less a statement about Mike Brey's efficient Notre Dame team than a credit to John Calipari's remarkable tenure at Kentucky thus far. But not every season can be 2012, when a once-in-a-generation talent is surrounded by enough selfless future pros that the whole thing looks routine.

It is not routine. It's the exact opposite of that. And this young UK bunch is already offering up proof.

"I expected that we wouldn't play well," Calipari said. "I'm disappointed that we didn't compete."

For Eamonn Brennan's full column, click here.

3-point shot: Irish passing fancy

October, 31, 2012
1. Half of the Associated Press preseason All-America list came from schools outside the power six conferences. Lehigh (C.J. McCollum), Murray State (Isaiah Canaan) and Creighton (Doug McDermott) were all represented. The other three (there was a tie for fifth) came from the Big Ten -- Indiana (Cody Zeller), Ohio State (Deshaun Thomas) and Michigan (Trey Burke). No players represented the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big East or Pac-12. That’s more of a reflection of the NBA draft drain on the major conferences. There will likely be a freshman or two who emerge as All-America but it’s hard to project. The individual honors might not translate into team success, however. Creighton, Lehigh and Murray State should be NCAA teams, but outside of the Bluejays, it’s hard to see a deep run by any of the three. There are plenty of teams like Kentucky, NC State, Kansas, Louisville, Arizona, Michigan State and others that might not have an All-America but are Final Four contenders.

2. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is extremely pleased with the progress of the Irish so far heading into the season -- with how well the Irish are sharing the ball a major reason for his good vibe. “We can really pass it,’’ said Brey. The Irish should be a top-tier Big East team. Notre Dame can make its mark early in the season in two big events: Nov. 16-17 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, where the Irish will join three other likely NCAA teams -- Florida State, BYU and Saint Joseph’s -- in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and on Nov. 29, when the Irish host Kentucky in the SEC-Big East Challenge.

3. Tim Jankovich gave up the short-term success at Illinois State for the long-term bump in taking the head-coach-in-waiting gig at SMU. He knew he was leaving behind a possible NCAA team -- so it should come as no surprise that Illinois State was picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference, behind Creighton. First-year coach Dan Muller said he doesn’t know yet if the second-place prediction is justified. But he said practices so far have been going extremely well. The players have immediately bought into his coaching style, and their work ethic has him anticipating a successful season.