Mike Brey struggled in Notre Dame’s first season in the ACC.
Despite having expectations of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Fighting Irish were hurt by the loss of Jerian Grant to academic issues and suffered through a year in which they finished 15-17, including a 6-12 record in conference play.
A 13th place finish in the ACC certainly isn’t what Mike Brey was hoping for in his ACC debut.
And even though Jerian Grant is now back with the team and gives the Irish an All-Conference caliber player, Notre Dame finds itself in a spot where it needs to prove it can be competitive in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball.
That’s okay with Coach Brey. It’s a situation he’s encountered many times at Notre Dame.
The Irish seemed to create a niche of being annually underrated as a member of the former Big East Conference. While big things were expected every year from teams like Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova and Louisville, Notre Dame would fly under the radar and put together impressive seasons.
From 2006 to 2013, the Irish failed to win at least 22 games only one time – the 2008-09 season when they were 21-15 and didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament.
Based on the quotes from Brey and some of his players in this story by LaMond Pope of the Post-Tribune, the underdog role is something the Irish are comfortable with, and even relish.
It sounds like this team is going to play with a chip on its shoulder, which isn’t a bad thing.
Put me in the camp of people the Irish are trying to prove wrong. I expected Notre Dame to be one of the better teams in the ACC last season and reach the NCAA Tournament (along with Boston College, so I’m an idiot), but that team was a mess.
The suspension of Jerian Grant hurt, but there were red flags before he was ruled ineligible, particularly in home losses to Indiana State and North Dakota State.
With such a perimeter-oriented lineup, I think middle-to-bottom-of-the-pack-in-the-ACC is a fair assessment of the talent and coaching.
I may be wrong. But considering the results of last season, it’s up to the Irish to prove me wrong.
Mike Brey has proved the doubters wrong before. It sounds like he’s looking forward to doing it again.