Men's Basketball: No shortage of topics to discuss about Irish hoops as March nears

Tom Noie
ND Insider
South Bend Tribune sports columnist and Notre Dame Insider men's basketball beat writer Tom Noie during a promotional photo shoot at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA

Tom Noie: And....we're back. Notre Dame men's basketball is hot - in a good way, maybe in the best of ways. Bouncing back from its weekend loss at Wake Forest for a win Wednesday at home over Syracuse, Notre Dame is 20-8 overall, 13-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Be sure to include your name and hometown to participate in the chat. You know the rest. Let's light this chat candle... 

Jim from Berlin, Ct.: Tom, I don't understand how Notre Dame is still so disrespected by the so-called basketball experts around the country.  They are 19-8 and yet they aren't even close to being in the Top 25.  They're second in the ACC and you would think they are at the bottom of the league the way they are ignored by everybody.  I saw a recent poll by Jay Bilas ranked them number 48.  What gives?  I know the Irish haven't been good in recent years but let's give them credit for turning the program around and becoming viable again.  At this rate, they'll be a 12-seed and have a tough time getting past the first round in March, when they should be no worse than an 8-seed.  What am I missing? 

Tom Noie: Jim: Good to hear from you. First, you put way too much stock in the "so-called basketball experts." We're not. It's hard to get a good grasp on the national landscape when you follow just one team or one conference. Say you're a writer who covers a team in the Mountain West and you have a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. What do you realllly know about the Atlantic Coast Conference? Outside of what people say - the league's down, there are no good teams, it's Duke and only Duke, probably very little. Just as I have zero idea of the Mountain West. But we writers tend to take a narrative and run with it. That's what's happened this season with the ACC and to an extent Notre Dame. Is the conference down? Yes. Are there few really good teams? Yes. But stop it with any notion that Notre Dame is a fringe NCAA Tournament team. This program's going to win at least 14 league games. That matters. No matter what league you're in or how down it might be, that matters. ... 

Tom Noie: ...And let's worry about seeds or matchups or anything else tournament related on Selection Sunday. After where this program was the previous four years, that's a nice problem to have, no?😀 

Greg from South Bend: Looks like this year's Irish BB team has an NCAA appearance close at hand. Congrats. What does the roster look like for next year's team? Sorry to look ahead, but, this year's team has made us hopeful for things to come. 

Tom Noie: Greg: Notre Dame's roster looks exactly the same as every other 340-plus Division I team. Extremely unpredictable and uncertain. Who's coming back? Who's leaving? Who knows? Nobody really does in this new world that is the one-time immediate transfer rule that really is disguised as college free agency.  No coach really knows what his roster might look like next year. Mike Brey is no exception. Only Paul Atkinson, Jr., exhausts his eligibility this season. Everyone else has the opportunity to come back. Some will. Some won't. Others might choose to transfer and go somewhere where they can play right away. Blake Wesley might be a one-and-done. Brey has arguably his most impressive recruiting class coming in highlighted by McDonald's All-American guard J.J. Starling. He'll be a starter from Day One. There will be new additions and like a few subtractions. Just like every other Division I team. 

Tony: Tom, any news on the recruiting for 2023 class. I know it is early but I see other school getting commitments. Brey getting out worked again! Do you think Blake will come back next year. Another year to get stronger would help him and really help ND  if he came back. 

Tom Noie: Tony: Guess we're back to the Brey can't recruit narrative, huh? Whoa, that was fast. And a little unfair, but I get it. Perception is the new reality. There's little movement on the 2023 class. The direction of it will depend on what the roster looks like come fall. But keep beating that dead horse narrative that Brey can't recruit. Did you mention that when J.J. Starling committed? When Ven-Allen Lubin committed? Refresh my memory my man...😀 

Mark: Do you think Coach Bray  has his team practice blocking out for rebounds? Wake Forest 16 offensive rebounds, Notre Dame 2 offensive rebounds. It’s going to be a short NCAA tournament, if they don’t block out. 

Tom Noie: Mark: Coach Bray any relation to Mike Brey? Obviously this was posted BEFORE the Syracuse game. I'm sure you were just fine with the (+13) rebounding advantage that Notre Dame finished with in that win. As for Wake, think foul trouble had a little something to do with that...and the Irish still almost won their seventh league road game. Doing that can win you an NCAA tournament game or two as well. 

Jim in Charlottesville: Hi Tom.  Love the Chat! This week the Irish finally got a look/see by a national collegiate basketball pundit. I enjoyed it, except that he forgot Niele Ivey’s name. This punditry influences my opinions about Notre Dame’s Program. They think it’s irrelevant even when it’s winning, and that gets me feeling it’s deficient. Your long standing take that the University governs athletics by a stricter academic standard than the schools of Programs the pundits do highlight helps. Do you think the pundits dismiss the Irish because they discount academics, or perhaps do not take Notre Dame at it word about them? 

Tom Noie: Jim: It's flat-out the laziness that I mentioned earlier. One national college basketball voice says the ACC is down and there are no good teams and everyone runs with that. Name me a better story in college basketball right now than Notre Dame. This is a program that gathered to watch Selection Sunday a year ago knowing it wouldn't be a part of it. Mike Brey told his guys to dream that dream. They dreamed it. They likely will live it. One of the best stories in college basketball this year. 

Linas: Hey Tom! Love your column. At risk of asking yet another question about the 7 man rotation or Robby Carmody, I think here's a new angle: Does Mike Brey run starters vs. subs scrimmages during practice? If so, can you think of a player(s) who excelled against the starters during these scrimmages and forced his way into the rotation later in the season? Just wondering how a guy like Carmody is looking during these scrimmages and if there is a precedent for another player being added to the rotation later in the season. Thanks! Can't wait until selection Sunday 

Tom Noie: Linas: That didn't take long. A rotation AND a Robby Carmody question. The rotation is the rotation and will be the rotation moving forward. Nobody is going to play major minutes. Nobody is pushing the starters in practice. And Robby Carmody is just not part of the plan. He wants to be, and believes he can be, but the rotation, again, is the rotation. The train for both long left the station. 

Dan: Why was Blake not a top 100 recruit?  Seems a bit outrageous.  Especially when the accolades of his potential seem to outweigh the accomplishments of a very, very good freshman year (but not a dominating one). 

Tom Noie: Dan: Blame the pandemic for that one, which basically wiped out the AAU circuit/summer between his junior and senior seasons. There was no Peach Jam. Was no Vegas. There was nothing, which would've allowed Wesley to rocket well into the Top 100 and maybe even be a McDonald's All-American. But nobody knew about him. That worked in Notre Dame's favor. And Wesley's. Nobody saw him coming. Everyone knows his name now. His future won't falter because of it. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Great two-parter with Jack Swarbrick.  As it relates to the chat, my takeaway is that Brey is not leaving ND until he chooses to retire.  So, two questions.  Unlike Holtz and Kelly, I don't think Brey would coach again after leaving ND.  Your thoughts?  Part 2 is do you think it is in the realm of possibility that Swarbrick extends Brey beyond 2024-25? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Thanks my man, but in this business of college athletics, be it football or basketball, you never can say never. Who had Brian Kelly bolting for another job, let alone one in the Southeastern Conference, after what he'd done at Notre Dame? Exactly nobody. So while I can't see Mike Brey taking another job somewhere else, I'm never going to rule it out. Every college coach believes he has that one more move in him, often, the one that nobody sees coming. There may be one of those in Brey's future, or he might decide, ah, forget it, I'll finish the ride here. And I do think there will be a discussion about extending Brey beyond 24-25. Hasn't happened yet, but this spring and summer is a possibility. Strong one, too. 

joe from the south side: Tom, (written b4 SYR) At the last chat, I had ND as an 8 or 9 seed.  They look Top 40 to me.  Scenario 1: ND runs the table.  Wins the last 4, and wins 1 in the ACC Tourney.  Scenario 2: ND loses to SYR (Laz out?) and FSU, has 2 meh wins against Pitt and GTECH, and then loses the first game in the ACC Tourney.  Give me your take on seeding for each outcome. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Obviously scenario No. 2 isn't happening after last night's win. The 2014-15 team ran through the ACC tournament and was a No. 3 seed. This Notre Dame team isn't as good as that one, and neither is the league. Having not studied it, like, really studied it, I'd say the Irish win their last three league games and then win the ACC tournament and they're a 6 or 7 seed. That's where the lack of power wins will become a factor. 

James: as much as I love nate, do you think cormac needs to stay in the starting lineup with the way he’s been playing? He has been playing unbelievably down the stretch. Side note, wish we could get trey going. All seven guys together would be insane. 

Tom Noie: James: Great stuff. That starting lineup isn't changing anytime soon, and maybe not at all. There have been so many guys who've kind of taken the reigns and run with them this season - Dane Goodwin, Blake Wesley, Prentiss Hubb, Paul Atkinson, Jr., Nate Laszewski. Now it's Ryan's turn. He had perhaps one of his best games ever Wednesday against Syracuse with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. Love the pace he's playing with now. The game's slowed down and he's not in as big of a hurry. We kind of forget about him, but he's been a real key the last month. 

Jim: Tom, I know you must have noticed the rotation is slowly but surely turning into a six man rotation. What the heck is trey wertz doing. When are we going to see the 27 point Purdue trey wertz again!??! He needs to find his role and confidence if the Irish want to go far in March. I know it must be hard for brey to play him much with the little production he contributes. 

Tom Noie: Jim: Preach. Wertz admitted he was in his own head earlier when he just couldn't clear out the clutter and play. He was good for a couple games but looks to have fallen back into that black hole. They need him. Six has worked, but there will be a time when Ryan or Wesley struggle. Wertz has to be that veteran guard again. 

Bob: What are the odds of Atkinson returning for a sixth year ?  What about Wesley coming back ?   Sure seems like he is not ready for the NBA. 

Tom Noie: Bob: Looks like allowing current/former Ivy League student-athletes to get that COVID year back is going to be an extreme longshot for guys like Atkinson and Syracuse swingman Jimmy Boeheim. There's been very little movement toward granting them the extra year. As for Wesley, it's been well-documented here what he SHOULD do. Blake Wesley has the skills right now to GET to the NBA, but another year of college to figure some stuff out will give him the kind of game that allows him to STAY in the NBA. It's a slippery slope for him, and for everybody. Knowing how that league works, you have such a small window of opportunity. Once it closes, because you're not ready or you don't fit with the team that drafted you, it rarely reopens. 

Mason: Are you feeling any differently about Blake Wesley potentially leaving ND? Im looking forward to watching him and Starling next year... 

Tom Noie: Mason: Not at all, because gauging whether Wesley will go or stay changes almost game to game. Kind of like Notre Dame's seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's pointless to micro-manage both. Like, oh, Wesley's doing well, he's gone. Or, wow, he's struggling, he's going to return. Just like with the NCAA tournament, nobody really knows. It's all a guess. 

Jake from a small town in Washington state: Cormac has stepped up since entering the starting lineup. Think Brey will keep him in there and continue to bring Nate off the bench? 

Tom Noie: Jake: Absolutely. Cormac Ryan is rolling as a starter right now. Mike Brey's not messing with that karma.😁 

Jake from a small town in Washington state: Why can’t we hold on to a double digit lead? 

Tom Noie: Jake: They just want everyone to sweat out another close conference game. Seriously, though, they may play with little regard for the score. There's so much of a confidence there that the numbers don't really matter. Like, they know they're going to find a way to eventually figure it out to be on the right side of the scoreboard after 40 minutes. To them, to Brey, to the staff, they couldn't care less if they won by one or 21. It's only the win that matters, and the wins that people remember. I know it leads to a lot of anxious moments, but even last night against Syracuse when Notre Dame had its lead sliced from 12 to two, you're like, well, how are they going to figure this one out? Then they do. 

Ryan mars pa: Tom what did you think about Atkinsons game last night was my first game back in south bend for a while last night go Irish 

Tom Noie: Ryan: Guy was unbelievable. Played with the patience and poise of a graduate student. Syracuse had no answer for a Notre Dame big. How many times have we said that during Mike Brey's tenure? Not many. 

Xavier from Upstate: in regards to an extra season of eligibility for Ivy League players there seems to be a unified belief the IVY league isn’t interested in granting them the extra year everyone else did. Is there are a reason they don’t care? You would think the Ivy League would benefit from it. Is it just a matter of it just not being a high priority for the Ivy League and just wants to tell everyone that cares to kick rocks and move on with their life? 

Tom Noie: Xavier: Yes and no. I can see their point. Mike Brey kind of laid it out for us when we pressed him on why there's been such little movement from the Ivy and the NCAA. Say you're a student-athlete at an Ivy League school. The NCAA rules that you get that pandemic season back. What happens next? You say, whoa, I get a pandemic year. So long Columbia or Harvard or Penn and hello A-10 or Big East or ACC school. The Ivy League is afraid it will open the gates for all their student-athletes to transfer in their sport. As for just allowing that Boeheim-Atkinson class to get that year back, even that is tricky. The more Brey has tried to investigate it - as best he can in the middle of a pretty important run - he's gotten the vibe that the Ivy League and NCAA aren't interested in finding a solution. Brey fully expects the next time he asks that he'll be told, it's not happen, so please stop asking. 

Chris. DC: Tom, it looks like close to a sell out on Saturday.   But the crowd is too quiet.   ND has  a challenge to make any of their home courts/fields intimidating to include football.   Very frustrating. Any ideas on how to make crowd cheer?   Go Irish 

Tom Noie: Chris: No, I've been down this road before - and often - during my years on the beat. I'll chalk this season up to still more pandemic-related side affects, because the crowd - both the general seating and the student section - was below average for Syracuse. Notre Dame fans have whined and moaned and moaned and whined for the last four years about wanting a winner. Now they have one, and they treat it with a shrug. Like, meh. Fickle bunch, this fan base. Don't know how good they have it until it's gone. Then when it returns, nobody seems to really care. 

Claire M., Pittsburgh: Tom, which all the “seniors” with eligibility remaining do you predict will be playing on next year’s ND team? 

Tom Noie: Claire: On Feb. 24, I'd go with Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz and Cormac Ryan. The others, probably not happening. For myriad reasons. 

joe from the south side: Tom, I am asking this from more of a legal perspective.  What happens if everyone decides to return?  Including Atkinson if the Ivy League guys get another year.  If you are JJS or Lubin, or Campbell can you legally walk away from your LOI? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Good question, fair question, but probably one that we'll not have to worry about. Be a nice "problem" to have, but one that's not happening. Stay tuned. 

Mike,New Jersey: Tom the ACC has been way better in past years but the national perception of the top of the league being horrible is getting out of hand....Its not Notre Dame's job to apologize for North Carolina not being a top 5 team 

Tom Noie: Mike: Amen, and this times 10. Yeah, the league is down and not as good as it's been, but that speaks more to how good the ACC has been in seasons past than how down it might be this year. Notre Dame can only play the schedule in front of them. It still has to win games at home (7-1 in league play). It still has to win games on the road (6-3). It's done both. That has to matter. 

Mark Kruz from Mishawaka: Tom after watching last nights game do you have any concerns about Dane Goodwin's play lately? To me it appears he has hit the wall which happens to kids this time of the season. Luv seeing the play from Cormac these past few games. Playing with so much more confidence now in his shooting and on the defensive end. I'm really concerned about Trey Wertz not giving them quality minutes lately. Thanks again for the chat and hopefully you're back to playing pick up hoops 

Tom Noie: Mark: Not really concerned all that much about Dane Goodwin. he's become THE guy on the scout, just as Blake Wesley learned about that life of late. He's the guy other teams try to take away. Luckily for the Irish, this team has the options it didn't have in seasons past. It's the ebb and flow for every player in a season. You get caught a rut, work your way through it and are better off once you emerge on the other side. 

joe from the south side: Tom, Let me add one thing to the ACC being down discussion.  The Univ. of Kentucky football team has been to 6 straight bowls.  They have won the last 4 in a row.  Stoops has two 10-win seasons in the last 4 years.  IN THE SEC! Annnnnnnddddd.......nobody cares.  Kentucky is a BBL school.  Or so it is perceived.  Same with ND and FB. 

Tom Noie: You mean that's not 3-point Jesus on the south wall of the Hesburgh Library????😀 

Jake from a small town in Washington state: You’ve mentioned in the past Carmondy may never play again at ND. Any news or updates on how his rehab is going? Cheering for the kid regardless of where he ends up. 

Tom Noie: Jake: Seeing him work out before practices and games and now recently, after games, you get the sense that he WANTS to play, but has to read the room. It's waaaaaaaayyyyyy too late in the season to change gears and try to work him into any rotation with the blue (reserve) team. It's not so much rehab as it is his left knee just isn't where it needs to be to be counted on in any capacity. There's a reason why he's still in sweats on the bench and not a uniform. Maybe he dresses for senior day next week, which would be cool, but there are bigger-picture goals this program is chasing than trying to get Carmody back on the court. 

Guest: Tom always love the work and the dedication to the team. Been a blast of a year and I agree the ride is part of the fun not the end result. 

Tom Noie: Amen my man (or woman). NOBODY saw this coming when this team was 3-4 and had just been boat-raced by Boston College. But you hang on and see where the ride goes. This one's gone off in a direction that few could've predicted. It's been as fun a few months as there have been on the beat. 

Noah: Tom love the work as always and have really enjoyed this season. Agree with you that the fun is in the ride not in the end result. If I am a one or two seed I do NOT want to see ND in the round of 32. Feel like a great chance at a big upset, but not a deep tourney run given the type of team that can beat us (long, rangey, athletic). Thoughts on how deep we can go? Also how about Mike Brey? Most certainly will return next year but after that...? Just tell me its Chris Quinn and I can rest easy. 

Tom Noie: Noah: No idea on the NCAA tournament until the bracket's released. Let's first get to Selection Sunday, then we'll worry about that path. Chris Quinn may feel his future's in the NBA more than at Notre Dame, so no easy rest for you, my man. 

Jake from a small town in Washington state: I have so much respect for how Hubb has handled this year. He was the main guy for 3 years and to move to a role player mid year had to be hard. Did Brey have a conversation with him about the role change or is Hubb smart enough to see the writing on the wall and adjust himself? Hard to imagine he stays next year, especially with JJ coming in. But who knows. 

Tom Noie: Jake: For the amount of flak that kid took earlier in the year, nobody deserves this more than Prentiss Hubb. Wish I could go back to my mentions when he was still trying to find himself. Fans can be pretty brutal because they make it so personal, and certainly did with Hubb. The guy was a bum, couldn't play, shouldn't be on scholarship. Then it all turned. And you know what, you get nothing but crickets from those complainers. 

Clint from Winnipeg: Hi, Tom. Thanks for the chat. Returning to one of your least favorite subjects, Robby Carmody. You consistently have said that he never plays for ND again. Is it simply that with the injuries he no longer plays to the same level, an ACC level? If he does transfer out, is it to a mid-major? How lucky are we that they took Dane Goodwin when they already had Carmody committed? 

Tom Noie: Clint: A clarification - the subject has nothing to do with Robby Carmody himself. He seems like a good kid who's given me time when he's been available to be interviewed. It's more the people who believe that he's the magic answer who will suddenly step from the shadows and be this lock-down defensive guard with endless effort and energy. The knee injury/lingering knee issues will keep him from ever being even a serviceable player in the ACC. He wants to try and he believes he can play, but it's probably not going to happen here. That happens for some, where their careers never get off the ground. 

Charles from South Bend: I can assure you the guys in row 1 section 16 are yelling and continually riding the refs during the game! What have you thought of the officiating the last couple home games? Even though we fouled out 3 BC bigs, it still felt like that crew was missing things. First half yesterday, was a different crew that couldn't figure it out either. Second half felt much better, even though the Boeheims were allowed to clear out with that sneaky forearm extension. Teddy Valentine has been good to us this season! 

Tom Noie: Charles: You need to get your seat neighbors and row neighbors and section neighbors to follow your lead. Place is waaaaaaay too subdued for a team that's 20-8, 13-4. As for officials, we've hit the dog days of February. They've all been on the road a lot. They're worn down. They see the finish line. No excuses, but man, some of those calls in the Syracuse game, brutal. And back to the Wake Forest game, those fouls on Paul Atkinson? Woof. It's been a grind for everyone, officials included. But they owe everyone to at least be on their A game. Same for the 

Tim from Evanston: Hi Tom, I thought Hubb completely shut down Joe Girard last night and made him a non factor.  Am I right to say that there is a bit of a rivalry/history between those two? Each time these two teams match up I feel like the competitiveness between these two players is leveled up.  Really thought Hubb was working hard on JG last night. 

Tom Noie: Tim: Oh, yeah. Prentiss Hubb says all the right words when the cameras and microphones are on and pointed his direction, but he has a scorecard with guys like Joe Girard. He remembers. That stuff fuels him. He took Girard completely out of the game to the point where he was a non-factor. Look at Hubb's final stat line. Ridiculous - six points, seven rebounds, 10 assists. Like Mike Brey said afterward, just controlled the game. Everything 

Jake from a small town in Washington state: What is the future like for the ACC? Will Duke take a step back with Coach K gone? Hubert Davis seems like a great guy, but can he get it done? UVA run over or just a down year? 

Tom Noie: Jake: The league will be fine. This thing goes in cycles. Duke still will be Duke. Not sure about North Carolina. Virginia has won at least 10 league games now for 10 straight seasons. Florida State is caught in that wash of injuries and other issues that Notre Dame found itself in. Will be interesting to see what direction Louisville goes with its head coach. The ACC's been around for a few years, so I think it will last a few more. Don't write it off just yet. 

Tim from Evanston: Tom - love your coverage of ND, love your chats and engaging with the fans.  Know you have been covering ND for awhile, now.  How did your journey take you here?  And were you a baller in your school days? 

Tom Noie: Tim: Good question. Settle in. This might take some time. Wish I can say I honed my games and my writing skills on the mean streets of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, but not much need for a scrawny 5-11 kid who didn't know much about the game during my high school days. But basketball always did it for me - going to old Chicago Stadium on cold winter nights with the city as a backdrop. There was something about the arena, the fans, the energy that I just had to be a part of when I grew up. Graduated University of Dayton in 1990, spent two years as sports editor of a small town paper in Wilmington, Ohio, then moved with my then-girlfriend, now wife, back to her hometown of South Bend in 1992. Had no job, no leads, no bank account, no nothing. Just decided to make a move, and started with the Tribune in the fall 1992 answering phones on Friday nights. Spring of 1993, I joined the Tribune's Irish Sports Report on a two-man team that also included David Haugh.... 

Tom Noie: ...Moved into David's role as ISR managing editor when he became the SBT sports columnist. Covered Notre Dame hockey and football from 1993 until 1998. Eric Hansen was the beat writer for Notre Dame hoops and wanted to cover football, so we basically flipped jobs. He went to ISR to oversee football and I took over hoops in 1998. Covered three head coaches in my first three seasons on the beat. Mike Brey promised he'd stick around for 20. He's gone two past that. Have covered hoops for the last 24 seasons - the first 15 in the Big East. Best league ever. Still nothing like a Friday night in Madison Square Garden for BET semifinals. If you know, you know. Counted it up one day waiting on another connecting flight - have covered over 800 men's hoops games in 85 different arenas from Anchorage to Maui, to Miami to the Virgin Islands. It's been a ride like none other, and one you never want to end. Hope I can stick around another 30. 

joe from the south side: Tom, Internally, is it perceived that Coach Humphrey can pull a Marcus Freeman and slip into Brey's slot, or is it more likely that Brey coaches 3-4-5 years and Hump is being told you need to leave the nest and be a HC somewhere first?  I am not saying this will happen, I am asking how does Swarbrick et al. perceive him. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Ryan Humphrey should be the next head coach. Not saying he is, but saying if there was a move to be made in the next year or two or three, Hump should be the guy. He's a head coach in waiting. Don't think he necessarily has to go elsewhere to get head coaching experience. Niele Ivey didn't. Marcus Freeman didn't. Hire Hump. 

Saint Knute in SBN: Perhaps you can clarify for me how Juan Howard still has a job.  The incident in Wisconsin was a second offense (last year threatening to kill the Maryland coach) so whatever was prescribed to try and work out his anger issues is not working. Lost all respect for U or M (never had much to begin with). 

Tom Noie: SK: Can't do that as a head coach. Like, ever. Gotta just turn and walk away and stew over it later. Or, in Howard's case, grow up. 

Will from Pitman: Tom, Mike Brey really is Ted Lasso, isn't he?. 

Tom Noie: Who dat?😀 

Mickey, New York: It was great to see Atkinson’s play last night. If ND wants to run a “4 around 1” making sure you punish teams with the “1” frees up shooters. But when Blake isn’t hitting from outside (consistency isn’t there from distance…yet) what can Brey do to get him in a grove (and I know the SYR zone had something to do with last night)? Is it running the offense (but not putting through Hubb is a risk)? Is it having him as a cutter for midrange (potentially jamming the middle on Atkinson)? 

Tom Noie: If you're not playing a team that goes 2/3 101 percent of the time, it would be to drive it, get into the lane and either get to the basket or dish to a shooter. That's the first time that Wesley has played against that zone, so there's a learning curve of understanding what he can do and what he can't. Prentiss Hubb was basically like, yeah, I've got this. Carved up that zone like a Thanksgiving turkey. 

Mark Kruz from Mishawaka: Tom have you had the chance to watch on ACCN the documentary series The Tournament? So far I have really enjoyed it and it is interesting how Indiana high school basketball has played a part in the creation of the ACC tournament 

Tom Noie: Mark: That was interesting early on, but man, there's only so much North Carolina or Duke or North Carolina State I can take. The back half of Episode 6 was basically the same as the 30-for-30 on Survive and Advance. I get it, but it's a LOT of Tobacco Road on there. 

Tim from Evanston: Tom, if you had a son who had D1 basketball talent, are there any one or two specific coaches that you have covered over the years (excluding Mike Brey) that you would send him off to and know he would be in good hands with? 

Tom Noie: I've known Fran McCaffery for over 25 years. I'd have no problem sending my son to play for Fran. Same with Tom Izzo. Demanding? Absolutely. But they'd also make him better. The late Charlie Coles was a prince of a man. I loved listening/talking with him. He was someone who could teach kids lessons of life, regardless of what their W-L record was on the court. 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Hi Tom, great work as always. In your opinion, has this season be one of the top two or three coaching jobs turned in by Brey since he's been at ND? Also, if you were handing out an Irish MVP award, who would win it? I think there are three legitimate candidates. Thanks. 

Tom Noie: Jim: Yes, because everything Brey had tried to do in the past to make it work - every button he pushed, every roster he tried to put together - nothing worked. There was a feeling that he might be out of moves. Like, the message isn't getting through after 21 seasons. Dane Goodwin deserves to be an MVP of this team. Same for Paul Atkinson, Jr.. And Prentiss Hubb. Blake Wesley. Not an easy/clear answer. 

Joe, cape may: With Atkinson leaving, what does ND’s post presence look like next year? 

Tom Noie: Joe: To be determined. Maybe Ven-Allen Lubin is ready. Maybe Matt Zona. Maybe the transfer portal. Lot of maybes. No definites, at least, not yet. 

Justin, Ft Wayne: Would it really be a Notre Dame game if apprentices Hubb didn’t airball a three in the first half then nail a big shot in the final couple minutes? Lol. He’s been fun to watch down the stretch of games this season. and that A/TO ratio. Woah 

Tom Noie: Justin: Prentiss shot that ridiculous air ball in the first half and I turned to the fellow media dopes in the press box and said, OK, now it's an official game. He gets it out of the way early and then locks in late. And that A/T ratio (4.56) is downright ridiculous. He has 73 assists to 16 turnovers in league play. 

Tom Noie: Let's try this - who do you think should have played more when they were freshmen/sophomores? Not based on what they did as juniors or seniors but how they were as freshmen and sophomores. Maybe J.R. Konieczny could help for a segment here or Matt Zona for a segment there, but not to the point where they deserve more minutes. No, the way the bench works has zero influence on recruiting and everything else. I'd say less than zero. It's a fun topic for fans to harp on. Inside the program, totally different. 

joe from the south side: Tom, If MICH implodes (hopefully) and Hunter D. decides to go, would he be welcome at ND or did he burn that bridge?  Lubin is a bit too short and still needs some polish to his game.  I don't see him as a FR starter in the way that I see JJS.  Lubin is truly a 3-4 year guy. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Totally wishful thinking. Hunter Dickinson leaves for Michigan, he's leaving for the NBA. 

Justin, Ft Wayne: Will all the seniors get recognized on senior day even if they what to return next year? Will be a cool senior day this year. 

Tom Noie: Justin: Every senior and graduate student Paul Atkinson, Jr., will be recognized prior to the Pittsburgh game. Might be the longest senior day in program history....😀 

Jim in Charlottesville: National basketball pundits gaga for Gonzaga.  Me too!  Yet they annually discount the Zag's annual cakewalk through  the WCC, and this year Notre Dame's run through the "declined ACC" as well.  Conflicting takes on strength of schedule! 

Tom Noie: Jim: Gonzaga always a hard sell for me given that they really don't play anybody in their league, and rarely, out of it. Gonzaga is 13-0 in Quad 4 games (mostly WCC). But look at its non-conference strength of schedule. Notre Dame has a non-conference SOS of 31. Gonzaga? 108. That usually catches up to you in the postseason. See, Baylor...😀 

Jim in Charlottesville: How to setle this? How about an  "WCC--ACC Challenge" Series: each WCC team plays a designated ACC team in the same week during a regular season. I think this Series' shelf life might be 4 seasons max. Thoughts? 

Tom Noie: Jim: Never happen. Nowhere near enough quality WCC teams to even pique interest of ACC. They'll all want to play Gonzaga or Brigham Young, but who do you stick Pacific with? Duke?😃 

Brendan, TN: Tom, are you going to Brooklyn for the ACCT? If so, what are you looking forward to most, both Irish hoops and non-Irish hoops related? 

Tom Noie: Brendan: Looks favorable, especially if they get the double bye, let alone a No. 1 or 2 seed. Just being back in the big city is enough for me. Love the energy of New York. May slide up to the Garden and relive my Big East days. Just being there, and knowing that something's coming on Selection Sunday, is enough for me. Best part of the season. Just glad the Irish will be part of it. Finally. Again. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  ESPN wouldn't touch the WCC ACC challenge.  The west coast teams have no following in the east, and half the games would start at 11PM or later.  Advertising revenue drives matchups, not fan curiosity. 

Tom Noie: The WCC may as well be played in Japan. Nobody on the East Coast notices. Or cares. Sorry, Gonzaga. 

Joe: Any elite transfers we could hopefully get this off-season? Or are there limited available scholarships due to returning seniors and incoming great freshmen. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Understand the interest, but that's like asking what the Saturday lottery numbers will be. Nobody really knows (or do they?) The transfer portal will play itself out in the spring and summer. 

joe from the south side: Tom, I find it interesting that ND's last 4 are SYR (Boeheim is close to retiring), GTECH (Pastner saved his job with last year's run.  He is about one year away from getting the boot), FSU (Hamilton is in his 70s.  He is clearly at the tail end).  And Capel will probably get fired. Brey might outlast all of them. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Or none of them. Counting up the years a coach may be at this or that job is like counting up potential league wins. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don't. 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: The Irish may not be ranked in the polls but when it comes fluidity on the offensive end, they are clearly top ten caliber. Few teams screen, cut, move the rock, make the extra pass and find the open man better than ND. When Brey's guys are operating at a high level, they are truly something special. Honestly Tom, have you seen a team this season that is as fun to watch as the Irish when they've got it going on offense? 

Tom Noie: Jim: Isn't it like that for ANY team when it has it going, they better be fun to watch. Notre Dame is ranked 50th in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency, so there are teams that have been better on offense. What's best about watching this year's group is that it reminds you of what this program long has been, when you can see a possession and know that it's going to end with a good shot. A made shot. We couldn't say that about this program the last few years, which is why it was so frustrating. A program that had long made it look so easy made it look so hard. It's a game of free flowing and movement. When both are happening, it's a clinic. 

Mark Kruz from Mishawaka: With the conference tournaments right around the corner what has been your favorite stories while covering the Big East and ACC tourneys? Not the obvious story in ND winning the ACC in 2015 

Tom Noie: Mark: Riding that wave that was 2011 into the Big East tournament after Notre Dame ended the regular season by winning in Storrs against a UCONN team that would go on to win the national championship. Then 2017 when Notre Dame came within a Bonzie Colson sprained ankle of winning a second ACC tournament title in three seasons. Seeing Jayson Tatum play that final and thinking, that's the best player in the draft. Working the ACC tournament in Washington the previous year while staying in hotel across the street in Chinatown and just taking in the city on mornings before games. There's so many you forget or miss. As mentioned earlier, it adds a totally different element knowing you have to get back to Indiana for Selection Sunday instead of hoping that you don't have to do a coaching search in the offseason. 

Joe: it May be better if we aren’t ranked. We are sneakily underrated. If we get the right matchup in the tourney vs a 1 or 2 seed in the second round, we will scare somebody. (Don’t like our odds against zags or Kentucky for a second time, and jabari smith would be an insane mismatch, but some teams we match up well against) 

Tom Noie: Joe: Just fun to imagine, isn't it? Notre Dame's not one of the five best or 10 best or maybe 15 or 25 best teams in the country, but the Irish will want to take their best swing. Don't bet against them after what we've seen this season, right? 

Nick from South Bend (now Goshen): Tom, was curious to when/if guys like Zona, Sanders, JR, Taylor will make an impact? 

Nick from South Bend (now Goshen): Is it apart of the get old stay old plan ? 

Tom Noie: Yes. Keep in mind that the current sophomore class of Matt Zona, Tony Sanders and Elijah Taylor never had a traditional summer before their freshman seasons when they could work out, play pickup and learn about life as a Notre Dame men's basketball player. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of importance, it's about a 12. Seriously. They were thrown into impossible situations last year, as freshmen, during a pandemic, when none were ready to seriously contribute. Zona and Sanders were winging it. Taylor wasn't healthy. So this is really their first true understanding of Division I basketball. That's why they're not playing. Same goes for Konieczny. Talented in high school but this ain't the NIC. It's going to take time for all of them. Some will get there, but some may not. Notre Dame is 20-8 overall and 13-4. There's not been one single game - one single loss - that you can point to and say, if only player A, B or C played, it would've been different. Fans like to whine about the bench because, well, because. 

Tom from Gary, Indiana: How important are the change's in Coach Brey's staff to the success of this year's team? Is it part of that fabric you wrote about? 

Tom Noie: Tom: Not really the fabric because that's more player-centric, but the staff reshuffle has been a major impact to this season. New voices, new perspective, new outlook. It was just time. Nothing against the guys who aren't here or are in different roles, but Mike Brey tried to go that route, and it didn't work. He knew that he had to make a change, or the next change would involve the head coach. Credit to him for recognizing it. 

Joey from Highland IN: they have to get more out of Wertz. He’s in the dog house it seems. 

Tom Noie: Woof. 

joe from the south side: Tom, You have a valid point in there.  Brey makes no bones about trying to outscore the opposition.  Yes, they are better on DEF, but he builds teams from the perimeter in.  That said, on the plus side, he could take down a better team with just an unreal shooting display.  10+ 3s go a long way.  On the other hand, OFF generally doesn't travel as well, especially in strange BBL venues.  On a bad night, they keep bad teams in the game or they get whooped badly by a superior team.  That is what it is to be an ND hoop fan, you always hope for a miracle.......maybe even count on it. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Disagree on the miracle. And the hope. For the previous three seasons, sure, that was valid. But with this group, like in 2015 and 2016, you just have a certain calm that these guys are going to figure it out. For the most part, once 2022 arrived, they have. You don't win six road games through hope and prayers. You just don't. 

Dave Garnett from West Covina, Ca.: Hi Tom!  I have noticed that Notre Dame usually waits until halftime to make major adjustments.  This is a general statement but is accurate.  In your opinion why do you think they wait until halftime and not make the adjustment much earlier?  I know halftime is around 15-20 minutes and is easier to speak with everyone at one time but can't a simple timeout do the trick? 

Tom Noie: Dave: Adjustments are always being made. Halftime? Not enough time for that. The game loves fast. You have to adjust. You don't say, yeah, we'll save that for halftime. What was the big adjustment on Wednesday? There really wasn't one. Once Syracuse started missing shots, the game changed. And they started missing because, in part, they were playing their third game in five nights. Stealing from my time on the football beat, but even Al Golden said last week, yeah, you don't wait until half to adjust. It's an ongoing process. Same for hoops. Never understood that belief - whoa, they adjusted at half. SO what did they try to do before half? Just wait for it?😁 

Tim from Evanston: Tom - do you have a chance to interact with the assistant coaching staff much?  It's such an interesting and important part of the team.  Martin, Wyche, Humphrey are all former ND guys.  Do they jump ship at the first good external promotion/position that is offered to them, or is there a sense of loyalty to ND and Brey? 

Tom Noie: TIm: It's unique in that I've covered all of them when they were players. I've known Antoni Wyche for 25 years. Humphrey almost as long. Martin a decade less. Tone's in it for the long haul. Hump wants to be a head coach. Get the sense Scott Martin is still feeling his way through this whole business of college basketball. All have a really strong loyalty to the place. That matters. 

Rob (Boston): Am I crazy, or would you rather be an #11 seed if you’re ND than anywhere in the 7-10 range? I don’t see us matching up well with any of the 1-2 seeds and yes I know we beat Kentucky earlier this year. 

Tom Noie: No, because there's a chance an 11 seed goes to Dayton for a First Four game. I'm all for any game at University of Dayton Arena, but this team shouldn't have to have anything to do with the First Four. Give 'em an 8-10 seed and let them go prove 'em wrong. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  I'll give you you don't win 6 road games with hope and prayers.  But if you are good, really good, and senior laden, you don't give up 100 points to BC.  You don't run up double digit leads on just about everybody and then hang on for dear life.  You don't score 40 points in your biggest game of the season, on national TV, on your home court.  Really really good teams step on the throat of their opposition.  This is a team that still relies on a bit of Irish luck. 

Tom Noie: Perhaps, but do we really think they're "hanging on for dear life" or are just like, yeah, no sweat, we got this? Again, they're not a Top 25 team, but they're not exactly doing it with smoke and mirrors and a box where they saw somebody in half at halftime, only to have them come back and hit some free throws down the stretch. Step on the throat of somebody sure sounds nice, but is there anybody in the entire student body with that kind of attitude? Seriously... 

Dan - Chicago: I'm surprised Nate doesn't seem interested in another year.  It seems he plays his best ball with him and four guards in the lineup.  And with Atkinson most likely gone next year, it seems like it would really give him a chance to put up bigger numbers and also develop his inside game more.  I know he is a longshot for the NBA, but it would make him even more valuable for international play where they already know about his outside shooting abilities.  Improving his inside game with no Mooney, Durham, nor Atkinson would seem to make sense. 

Tom Noie: Dan: All true and valid, but....I don't know about you, but four years in college for me was enough. Great time of my life and days and years I wouldn't trade for anything, but after that period, you're kind of ready for the next challenge. I can see Nate taking that route. Like, I've done this. It's time to do something else. 

Dan - Chicago: Any thoughts about Billy Taylor joining the successor predictions with Humphrey, Inglesby, Quinn, etc? 

Tom Noie: Dan: None. I believe it's Ryan Humphrey and everyone else. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Maybe you need to recruit a Ben H.. or a Pat C. or a Jerian or Bonzie kind of guy every once in a while.  Not eve a 4star guy.  Maybe a 2 star guy with attitude who empties the tank every time he steps on the court.  Somebody with Slo's disposition.  I am not saying this team doesn't have swagger.  It does.  6 road wins.  'Nuff said.  I am saying everything that went against them the last 3 years is kind of all going their way this year.  And good for them.  But they are in a down league.  Their home and home league games were weak. And most importantly, a 7 man rotation with no real injuries or no lost time due to COVID.  You don't think there is some luck involved in all of that? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Trust me, you don't have to have the luck debate here. I know ALL about it. Bonzie doesn't sprain his ankle in 2017, they win the ACC tournament. One NCAA selection committee member feels differently in 2018, they aren't the first team out of the field. Bonzie and Matt Farrell don't get hurt within days of each other that season, maybe they chase down a top four league finish. The pieces finally look like they fit and Pflueger blows out his knee. So, yeah, luck whether it be good or bad is a key in every season. But how many times have you heard fans say, oh, if only Notre Dame had taken advantage of this situation or that....well, guess what? They're taking full advantage of it and the prevailing attitude seems to be.....pfffff....they're not that good. I don't get it. Enlighten me from a fan's perspective. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  I voted for Blake in the poll.  One reason.  ND has nothing close to replicating his athleticism.  He is the one threat to take you of the bounce and create for himself.  Not minimizing the others' contributions.  Just saying Wesley's skill set is singular on this team.  Atkinson a very close second.  What people don't realize is his interior scoring presence and board work has opened the perimeter for shooting and movement.  Other than Duke, you can't guard the ring with 4 guys and solo on Paul.  Opened up the OFF for everybody else. 

Tom Noie: Solid my man.... 

Brendan, TN: Do you get the sense that Brey and the team think about the stinker of the Duke game? Do they want another shot there? 

Tom Noie: Brendan: Problem with that game is they thought TOO MUCH about it. Collectively wet their pants when they saw a sellout crowd in their home for the first time in forever. They couldn't function. The moment got to them. I'd like see them get another chance in a couple weeks at Barclays. Might not win, but could be a lot of fun. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  For those fans clamoring for the bench to play, it is extremely likely ND will lock up the 2 spot in the standings.  One more win gets them to 14 in the league, thereby eliminating Wake and UVA.  They own the tiebreakers with UNC and MIAMI.  Duke owns the tiebreaker with them.  So, they are almost a dead nut cinch to be the 2 seed by beating GTECH.  If so, Brey will play hard against FSU.  He needs a QUAD 2 win, which I think that will be.  Once that game ends and ND is locked into the 2 spot, he may empty the bench against Pitt.  I would.  At least to protect the starters from injury.  That said, you might see JR, Sanders, Big Zone, etc....... 

Tom Noie: What a weird, wild, wacky scenario if we get to the season finale at home against Pittsburgh and the game means nothing. That he sits his main guys. I've never seen that happen, and don't think it would. 

Paul, SB: I put 3 kids thru Mish Marian and was fortunate to see Demetrius, Devin, and then have my son be teammate w Jaden Ivey and play 4 yrs against Jr and Wesley. Some great BB talent has come out of N Indiana. Covering the HS BB beat, what potential D1 talent do you see in the near future locally? 

Tom Noie: Paul: Good stuff. Hard to say, because I've unplugged a lot from high school this season because we have a designated high school reporter now (Justin Frommer) and Notre Dame has, well, been better than seasons past. As far as the future, the area hasn't produced an abundance of Division I talents. You mentioned Demetrius Jackson and Jaden Ivey and Devin Cannady. There's also been Blake Wesley and Damezi Anderson from Riley. And J.R. Konieczny from Saint Joe. Future guys might be few and far between, but have to keep an eye on Markus Burton at Penn. He might be next. 

joe from the south side: Tom, I am not saying they don't play at all, I am saying this is where you give the real seniors, the guys who are leaving, their moment on the court.  You know, where you substitute one-by-one so the crowd gets to honor and cheer their contributions.  I love those moments in sports. 

Tom Noie: There may be just as many "seniors" coming back as leaving. They're the best when the arena's full, but we've been down that road already. Would expect the place to be maybe half full for that one next week. 

Tom Noie: Thanks for everyone who participated today. Solid effort on a quick turnaround. Hopefully we can shoehorn one more of these in before THAT day. Stay tuned. Take care and have a great weekend! 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI