(Editor’s Note: Notre Dame men’s basketball beat writer and Tribune sports columnist Tom Noie holds the occasional chat on NDInsider. Following are highlights from Thursday’s session. A complete transcript can be found at NDInsider.com/chats.)
Q I recently heard that the NCAA is allowing fall athletes to not count this year toward their four years of eligibility. If this is true, do you see any of our guys taking advantage of this?
A It is true that this year is a free year. It’s too early in the process to project who wants that extra year and who doesn’t. It’s a question that will need to be asked, but you have to pick your spots on when and how to ask it. Ask Prentiss Hubb or Dane Goodwin about it now, and they’re likely going to say that they haven’t thought about it. That question was asked throughout football season and only one guy (Jonathan Doerer) actually admitted that yeah, he’s definitely coming back. The additional year is there, but that doesn’t always mean guys want to take it, or coaches want to have it. There was a push from some last spring to get winter sports athletes an extra year when COVID shut down the NCAA tournament. But the feeling around Notre Dame was ‘Yeah, no thanks.’ The departing guys on last year’s team (Gibbs, Pflueger, Mooney) all were ready to move on, or the program was ready to move on from them. At some point, it’s time to start fresh. That might be the case with fifth-year guys (Djogo, Durham).
Q How would you gauge Cormac Ryan so far?
— Joey from Highland, Ind.
A On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 5. The expectations were steep for Cormac Ryan right from the jump. He was an older guy. He made the most of his sit-out season. He was named a captain before he ever played in a game. Mike Brey talked him up as Ben Hansbrough 2.0. He eventually may be that, but like the rest of the season for the Irish to date, it’s been a struggle for Ryan. he’s averaging 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 36.7 minutes. Solid numbers. But he’s shooting .333 percent from the field and .357 percent from 3. He’s taken the second most 3s (37), which I would shave for more drives and potential drawn fouls to get to the line, where he’s at .923 percent. Watched a little of the Purdue game on tape last night, and there was one possession where he seemed to shoot a 3 for the sake of shooting a 3. He’s had issues defensively (they all have), especially against more athletic guards. Have to keep reminding ourselves it’s only six games in.
Q Are there any indications that Mike Brey is on the hot seat or getting ready to move on? Four years in a row without a tournament quality team is a long time.
A Not at all. And there won’t be this year unless everything goes completely off the rails. Every college coach, and athletic director, will consider just getting through a season during a pandemic an NCAA-like win.
Q How did Juwan Durham take being removed from the starting lineup? With transfers being eligible right now is there any chance he’s so frustrated he leaves to play somewhere else for the second semester?
— Andrew from Plymouth, Ind.
A All of our media work this year is done through Zoom calls. We have no one-on-one or face-to-face contact with the coaches or the players, which is something I really miss. Best part of being around practice for interviews is being able to talk to a coach or player on the side without the recorder running. Just BS with them about this or that. Maybe about a game or a moment or, like with Durham, his new role off the bench. As for getting frustrated that he leaves to play elsewhere, whaaaat? It’s not like he’s not been given a chance. Like, this is what he wanted last year when the focus was John Mooney. This is your time, make the most of it. Any frustration over that? Man, look in the mirror.
Q Do you see Blake Wesley or J.R. Konieczny coming in next year and playing real minutes? I think Wesley could be sixth, seventh or eighth man next year.
A I don’t ... At least, not right now. Both of them are talents and should eventually become good college players. But the adjustment both will face will be eye-opening. It’s one thing to go for 30-plus points on a routine basis in the Northern Indiana Conference, where neither one is ever really challenged. The ACC will be a step or two or three up for both. If they can get to campus and have a normal summer school of playing with the guys, it will be a massive help. But that first year will be an adjustment. I know Blake Wesley has talked about Brey saying how he could be freshman of the year in the ACC, but look at the depth chart. Now that Wertz is doing what he can do, that’s four guards all coming back next year with Hubb, Goodwin, Ryan and Wertz. What about Carmody? What if he comes back and shows something? Right there, Wesley’s the fifth guard before he ever moves in. Konieczny’s a little different in that he might be closer to 6-8 by the time he arrives, so he could work as the second big
Q Hi Tom, by the way, I’ve also enjoyed your work on the podcasts about ND football. From the outside, it just seems that something intrinsic has been missing from the Irish the last few years. Call it what you want — confidence, belief, knowing that you’ll consistently compete — it just isn’t there. When the Irish take the court there’s isn’t any certitude about how they will perform or what they will look like from game-to-game. That’s a mindset and a conviction and Notre Dame is bereft of it. Any thoughts? And can’t these guys at least show a little bit more heart and determination when it comes to crashing the boards and getting after it at the defensive end. That’s the least they can do. Thanks.
Jim Tal, Valley Center, Calif.
A Good stuff. And you’re so right. Except, there’s the Kentucky game, which may be more of an indictment on where the UK program is than where the Irish program was supposed to be going. But I had a feel that Notre Dame was going to win that one — one reason I was actually at that game. Just had a feeling that they were ready to take that next step after losing to Ohio State. Then they played like that, and figured, another step beckoned. And it hasn’t happened. That’s been the most frustrating. Instead of building off winning at Rupp, they’ve looked too much like that 2018-19 team. They were out of it almost from the start against Duke. And you never got the sense they were going to do enough over extended minutes to beat Purdue. They lack leadership, from all levels. They lack want-to on the defensive end.
Q Kinda nervous about this Bellarmine game, but I don’t know why. How do you think the 12 p.m. game will go?
A Bellarmine’s coming up here to get into Notre Dame. They’re active and aggressive and won’t be intimidated. Notre Dame had to struggle to win by 10 last year. If you want your typical non-league laugher, this might not be it.
Q This probably is an impossible question, but what kind of criteria do you think the committee will emphasize this year. Say Notre Dame goes 11-9 in conference, but that equals a 15-13 overall record do you think that may garner them more consideration than normal years?
— Mike from Madison, Wisc.
A You’re right ... totally impossible to even project. Go 11-9 in the ACC in a pandemic and play that non-league schedule, that probably gets you serious consideration. But what does the rest of the conference look like? The rest of the country? Too hard to even project what a team may or may not have to do to get in.