Notre Dame men's basketball: New rule may assist Irish

TOM NOIE
South Bend Tribune

Slicing down the lane on a basket cut early in the first half of Monday's exhibition against Indianapolis, Notre Dame sophomore forward Austin Burgett stared at the baseline official while being guarded a little too tightly.

Attempting to play through the physical play, Burgett raised his arms in the air with a look on his face that asked the referee, “Are you going to call this?'”

A moment later, a whistle blew with another foul on the Greyhounds. Welcome to a new season of college basketball, where a new rule may help clean up physical play, allow more uninhibited movement and maybe even increase scoring.

The NCAA passed offseason legislation that prohibits defenders from keeping a constant hand or forearm on an offensive player. Defenders also cannot continuously jab an offensive player with a hand or forearm or use their arms to impede a dribbler's progress.

Defenders still can do the occasional hand-check, but constant contact is supposed to be a foul.

The rule has long been a point of emphasis, but often dissolved into loose interpretations by officials, many of whom had differing opinions on what was a foul and what wasn't. The rule now is as black and white as traveling or double-dribbling.

“It's not a point of emphasis anymore; it's an absolute,” said Irish coach Mike Brey, long a proponent of cleaning up rough play and allowing more freedom of movement. “They're calling it and they're not even flinching.

“It's a good thing.”

Enforcement of the rule Monday saw the Irish jump quickly into the bonus —which arrives after seven team fouls — in each half. Notre Dame needed only 9:59 of the first half to reach the bonus. They hit seven Indianapolis fouls with 11:41 left in the game.

The Irish were 20-of-25 (80 percent) from the foul line. Indianapolis was 14-of-19. The Greyhounds committed 22 fouls; the Irish 16.

“I like the rule,” Brey said. “I think it's better for us because we're a smart team, we're a smart program. I think we can play defense and keep our hands off.”

Long known as a position defense team, Notre Dame has historically been a team that rarely fouls. The Irish finished eighth out of 345 teams last season in personal fouls per game (14.1).

With more depth and additional backcourt quickness, Notre Dame may pressure teams more this season. But Monday's game — and quicker whistle —allowed Brey and his staff to see how the new rule may dictate their defenses.

Brey felt the Irish were better playing zone than man. The Greyhounds opened by hitting their first four shots against the Irish man. Their 2-3 zone then produced three consecutive stops.

“It's a little bit of a Catch-22,” Brey said. “We've talked about wanting to pressure the ball and press more with our athletic ability, but I don't want to foul.

“This is something to keep an eye on. Who are we going to be defensively?”

Jittery Jackson

Former Marian standout and McDonald's All-America Demetrius Jackson insisted he was fine for much of Monday leading into the exhibition opener. But when Brey summoned him to check into the contest with 15:09 remaining in the first half, Jackson felt like a freshman making his college debut.

“I felt good all pregame until they called me to sub in,” Jackson said. “Then it all kind of hit me.”

Working much of the time in the backcourt alongside seniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, Jackson scored 10 points with four assists in 21 minutes. There were times when he was the youngest of four guards on the floor, others in the second half when he was the main handler. He was one of five Irish with at least four assists. He also had zero turnovers as Notre Dame finished with 29 assists to seven turnovers.

“No matter who you are, we move the ball so well and our offense is so efficient,” Jackson said. “Coach (Brey) emphasizes that the ball is golden and we did a good job with that.”

Quinn connection

Former Irish guard Chris Quinn was hired Monday by first-year Northwestern coach Chris Collins to serve as director of player development. Reports of the hiring indicated Quinn is a native of Columbus, Ohio, but he was born in New Orleans and later lived for four years in Naperville, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

During that time, Quinn participated in a youth basketball program called Small Fry, where younger kids “adopt” a top prep player from the Chicago area as a mentor. Quinn chose Collins, who would eventually earn Mr. Basketball honors at Glenbrook North High School.

The Collins and Quinn families have remained close since.

Quinn played professionally last season with the Tulsa 66'ers of the NBA Development League before catching on with the Cleveland Cavaliers. An undrafted free agent coming out of Notre Dame (2002-06), where he scored 1,464 career points, the 30-year-old Quinn spent four seasons with the Miami Heat. He also played with New Jersey and San Antonio.

Baseline bits

•Irish fifth-year power forward Tom Knight is expected to return to practice Wednesday. Knight sat out Monday's game with back spasms.

•Sophomore Zach Auguste (broken left hand) is expected to receive medical clearance Saturday to resume practice in advance of the Nov. 8 home opener against Miami (Ohio).

•High school senior Devin Robinson, a Top 20 prospect from Christchurch, Va., will announce his college choice Wednesday afternoon. Robinson's final schools are Florida, Indiana, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. He visited South Bend the weekend of Sept. 21.

The 6-foot-8 Robinson, who averaged 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks as a junior at Christchurch, is the final college prospect on Notre Dame's short list still to make a decision. Bonzie Colson (Barrington, R.I.) and Martin Geben (Hagerstown, Md./Lithuania), committed to Notre Dame this fall.

Prospects sign their national letters of intent in mid-November.

Indianapolis' Tyrae Robinson, left, looks for a shot with pressure from Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton during the exhibition game between Notre Dame and Indianapolis on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, inside the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN