Men's Basketball: Plenty of questions as Irish hoops heads into offseason

Tom Noie
ND Insider

Tom Noie: Here we are one more time, albeit perhaps a week too early. NDI should be in San Francisco today preparing for an epic Sweet 16 game against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke. Texas Tech had other ideas and sent Notre Dame home a little early with a second-round loss that the Irish let get away rather than the Red Raiders grabbing it. But we digress. We're here for a wrap-up chat of a season that was wildly enjoyable. To join today's chat, be sure to include your name and hometown with any question or comment. And with that, off we go. Let's light this chat candle... 

Notre Dame players react on the bench during the first half of a first-round NCAA college basketball tournament game against Alabama, Friday, March 18, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Mark Kruz from Mishawaka: Tom thanks for the final chat this season. Not here to complain about the officiating which is part of the game. The one question I have is did anyone in the post game press conference ask coach Brey when Tech had the ball and up 3 with 46 seconds left why did Goodwin commit a foul with around 30 seconds left? I understand the theory of extending the game but I thought there was plenty of time to get a stop especially when they didn't hit a field goal down the stretch. I thought momentum turned when ND was up 3 late and Cormac misses the front end of a 1 and 1. Makes both that might have changed the mindset of Tech coming down and trying to score. Also what one memory will stick with you about this past season? Have a good summer 

Tom Noie: Mark: Good to hear from you - and first in the queue as usual. That question wasn't asked in the post-game. When a season ends, however it ends, the post-game stuff is more about big-picture/next season that the details of the final minute. Everything's a blue - to the coach, to the players, heck, even to the media because one minute you're planning to travel to San Francisco, and the next, you're going home. Those final 30 seconds, kind of a moot point. Ryan has to make his free throw. Nate Laszewski has to grab that defensive rebound. When that doesn't happen, it gets away in the way it did. 

Tom Noie: The one memory from this season will be the last week. From barely getting into the NCAA tournament to having to survive double overtime to the scramble to get to San Diego. The win over Alabama and then the near-miss against Texas Tech. This team played with a swagger that we hadn't seen since 2015. Like, they weren't losing. They were going to find a way to beat Rutgers, then drop the hammer on Alabama. Then stare down the big, bad Big 12 and Texas Tech, which really wasn't THAT big or bad. It's so fun to just kind of ride that wave and see where it goes. It went a lot further than anyone imagined. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Looking back on the season, what is the high point and low point, in your opinion? 

Tom Noie: Joe: High point? Just mentioned it. That week-long NCAA Tournament run where, uh-oh, Notre Dame might not get in, then it has to go to the First Four, then beats Rutgers in a Final Four like atmosphere and everything that followed 2,200 miles away in San Diego. Everything happens so fast that you don't always have time to soak it all in - but after four years of no NCAA Tournament, I soaked it in. Low point? That home game against Duke. That's the one game Notre Dame really, really wanted back. Thought that rematch would've been tonight in San Francisco. Won't say Notre Dame was going to beat Duke, but the possibility of Mike Brey sending Mike K into retirement. Whoa. That would've been epic. Like, 2015 Kentucky epic. 

Tom Noie: Garrett: Good question. J.R. Konieczny rotates into the rotation in some capacity next season at the least. Say, maybe seventh man. If he can play as well as he can dunk in pregame warmups, he'll be a keeper. This is a big spring/summer for him to earn the trust of the coaching staff. Take care of the ball, make shots, defend, fit in with whoever returns. The odds of Paul Atkinson, Jr., being granted that additional COVID year are long. Slim, at best. So say he doesn't return. Who steps in? Maybe Matt Zona. Maybe Elijah Taylor. Maybe Ven-Allen Lubin. More likely, it's time to find a grad transfer/old guy much like the Irish had in Atkinson. That's the beauty of the transfer portal - you can stay old fast. All options will be on the table. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Did Brey really have an interest in Maryland? Or was he using that to extract an extension from Jack Swarbrick?  The way those two hug at the end of the game you would think they are joined at the hip. 

Tom Noie: Joe: No coach will ever completely close the door to options. It's always good to have options. Mike Brey was intrigued with Maryland, but it doesn't seem that Maryland was all that intrigued with Mike Brey. He was the ultimate fall-back guy. Brey was on Maryland's short list, but Kevin Willard was basically the guy ever since Mark Turgeon walked away early in the season. Every single coach in every single sport believes he/she has that one more career move left. Mike Brey's no different. Jack Swarbrick knows that. 

Matt from MA: Tom thanks for all your coverage what a ride. Two questions; first, with this little mini run and hanging with TT who is a great team in a rugged Big12, is the juice back in this program now? Brey talks about staying old. If everyone returns they are old, but if not it feels like all that is gone. Second, what is the national perception of ND hoops right now? was it shocking for people to see ND knock off rutgers, bama and hang with Tech? It seemed like it nationally, so curious to hear your thoughts. All the best Tommy! 

Tom Noie: Matt: Good question. You hope it would be after what the Irish did over the last week. Notre Dame now has to build on that, which is a tricky proposition. How do you build on setting the program record for wins/finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference? You do have to stay old, and the transfer portal will allow for that if that's the route they have to go. National perception? Still a tired narrative of Mike Brey being the loosest coach in America. That's an easy storyline for the national media who parachute in only at this time of year, but the collective growth of this group, the recruiting, the determination to make it back to the NCAA tournament, the face that it went 15-5 in the ACC, that gets lost in the wow, Brey's such a great guy slant. Brey may be a good dude, but this program became so much more than that this season. Would like to see THAT narrative pushed as much as Texas Tech really defends. Watching Texas Tech up close, they were good, but not THAT good. 

joe from the south side: Tom, Anything you can share with us about 2023 recruiting?  Any news on Holloway or Booker? I note that they are also recruiting Rice from Dayton and Ames from Chicago.  Counting Holloway, that makes 3 PGs.  Is it safe to assume that Wesley and JJS are both gone after 2023?  If Wesley returns that is? 

Tom Noie: Joe: It's still too early beyond the names you mentioned. That may sound strange, but this program first has to figure out what next year's roster will look like before zeroing in on its short list. IF Blake Wesley returns - and that's still a massive IF - it's hard to imagine it's for more than just one year. Starling has the skills/talent to also be a one-and-done but let's see how everything translates to the college game. Recruiting may focus more on the transfer portal in the coming years than a wish list that runs a half-dozen deep. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Any chance Wertz transfers?  JJS makes one G.  Let's assume CMAC and Goodwin are telling the truth and they both return.  That is 3.  What if Wesley stays?  Or even Hubb?  Would Wertz settle for being the 5th G?  I could see him transferring to the SEC or ACC to get closer to home and playing for a 2nd tier school just to get playing time. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Absolutely there's a chance, especially given that Trey Wertz was the seventh man in a seven-man rotation and may have been the eighth man had Elijah Taylor not been bounced academically. He shows flashes of being a key guy, but also shows flashes of being a guy that is just kind of there. He wants more of a role and more minutes, but that's a hard sell right now given what the guard rotation might look like next season. He had said way back when he arrived from Santa Clara that he wanted that extra year to chase a Master's degree, but priorities sometimes change. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  A few years ago, I asked you about the friendship between Brey and Cronin.  I said I found it odd since Cronin worked for Huggins.  Next thing you know, you write an article about it.  On the last chat, I said that ND was lucky to be 15-5.  You said no, that this team has turned the corner.  It wasn't luck.  I said it was luck because they had 10 league games against the bottom 1/3 of the ACC.  Again, this stat shows up in your next column.  I think I deserve a little shout out LOL 😀 

Tom Noie: Joe: Sure, but Mick Cronin and Mike Brey share the same agent, so that's really not a scoop. Sorry, my man. Think the stat I used was that 12 of Notre Dame's 15 league wins came against the bottom seven of the league. All 12 of their repeat games came against the bottom of the league. Still, luck or whatever, 15 league wins is 15 league wins and not deserving of an 11 seed. 

Paul R from Clifton Park: If atkinson does not return, how big of a priority for Brey is it to find another transfer big with a polished low post game? Nate is a good big but does not really fill that Cooley/Mooney/Atkinson role for the Irish that really seemed to help the team take the next step this year 

Tom Noie: Paul: That's near the top of the priority list. Notre Dame certainly has plenty to sell for grad transfer or even a traditional transfer big man with experience. Like, look at what one year in the Atlantic Coast Conference did for Paul Atkinson. Come to Notre Dame and you can be a plug and play and major minute guy. Notre Dame has to proceed with the notion that the NCAA will not green light an additional year for those Ivy League athletes. 

Danny: Does the whole senior class get an extra year of eligibility because of the covid year? If so, who is going to come back? I would imagine the whole roster potentially especially if Atkinson can get cleared. 

Tom Noie: Danny: Yes, the entire senior class (six graduating seniors) have the possibility of returning. Not everyone will. Who's coming back? If I had to guess, since most of the guys were asked about it at one point or another this season, and all but Cormac Ryan deflected any definitive decision, I'd say it shakes out this way - BACK (Cormac Ryan). NOT BACK ( Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski, Robby Carmody, Trey Wertz). MAYBE BACK (Dane Goodwin). Goodwin indicated that he would be open to a fifth year, but that was waaaaaaaaaay before he had the type of year he had. Maybe he decides this was as good as it will get for him and its best he goes and makes some money somewhere. 

Matt: Any key transfers that catch your eye? 

Tom Noie: Matt: I know I've got some spare time now that hoops season ended, but the current transfer portal as of 9:59 a.m. has 727 players in it. It's dizzying, and will probably grow to twice its size before everything settles down. 😃 

Linas from Aliso Viejo, CA: Hey Tom, Loved your columns this season. I was at Viejas Arena for the game and was surprised at how many Texas Tech fans were on hand. I assume it was a big 12 thing since two of the teams involved last Sunday were from the Big 12. So my question: Is there a deadline for "seniors" and grad students to declare for an extra year? I assume we'll be getting announcements from Notre Dame's seniors throughout the spring. Any news about the extra year of eligibility for Paul Atkinson and other Ivy Leaguers? Thanks! 

Tom Noie: Linas: Texas Tech does travel well. That said, Notre Dame's fan section was better than some home games at Purcell Pavilion. But I digress. There is no "timetable" for players declare. And they really don't have to "announce" anything. There's been no movement either way on the current/former Ivy League players getting their COVID years back, which isn't great news for Paul Atkinson, Jr. It's almost as if the NCAA would rather this just all go away than address it, which means, extreme longshot of Atkinson returning for 2022-23. 

Tom from Dowagiac: Hi Tom:   I must say I couldn't have written the piece you did right after Sunday's game.  You were a lot more sanguine than I was that night.  Normally during the season some player or two has a good game--you just never knew who it would be from night to night.  Unfortunately on Sunday no one had a good game.  Each had a good play or two but that was it.  So it was a team loss and I'm not blaming any one player.  That said, I do wonder about the strategy in the last one-to-two minutes.  Do you know from talking to Brey if he told Wesley to take over or did Wesley take it upon himself to try and force the action? 

Tom Noie: Tom: Thanks for the kind words. The last game of the season always is tricky in terms of a column because you want/need to address certain aspects of the game, but there's also the end of it all, and you have to hit on that as well. Mike Brey touched on the Blake Wesley decision in the post-game press conference. There was little chance Notre Dame could run any semblance of offense against Texas Tech. It couldn't feed Atkinson in the post, so it was down to Wesley creating. Get to the rim and finish (which was a huge issue) or kicking out for a quick open look. It's worked at times this season (see Kentucky). It didn't work against Texas Tech. Blake Wesley delivered countless times this season. He didn't against Texas Tech. That happens. 

Guest: Will Brey decide who. Returns or will he let each player make a decision ? 

Tom Noie: It's more of a collective decision. Not necessarily a head coach sitting behind his desk in his corner office and saying to a player, you're back, or you're done. Same with the player saying I want to return or I want to go. Mike Brey will sit down with each of the players who can return - and really, the entire roster - and discuss the roles he sees for each in 2022-23. Some will have bigger roles. Some may not. Based on that, it's usually then up to the player to decide that yeah, that sounds good, or you know what, I may want to look elsewhere. So it's a collective decision between player and coach. Some decisions are easy. Some aren't. 

Tony: Tom, who do you think will come back out of the senior class? Also, do you see Tony, Matt, or Elijah transferring? 

Tom Noie: Tony: Mentioned this a little earlier, but I think Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski, Robby Carmody and Trey Wertz will decide to move on, either to other schools (Carmody, Wertz) or other career paths (Hubb, Laszewski). Cormac Ryan admitted during the post-Pittsburgh presser that he'd like another Senior Day opportunity at Notre Dame. Dane Goodwin is a tough one to figure. He had a really good year, and may decide to ride that into playing professionally somewhere next season. Or he may choose to return and earn a Master's. You get a different kind of kid at Notre Dame. It's not always about basketball. 

Mike: Have you heard if Brey is looking at any players in the transfer portal yet? We could use a big that can rebound and protect the rim. Sort of 

Tom Noie: Mike: Mike Brey and his staff are ALWAYS looking at the transfer portal for help. Three years ago, Cormac Ryan was in the transfer portal for all of about 10 minutes before Brey called him up. So they monitor that hour to hour and sometimes minute to minute. You just have to - it's college basketball's version of free agency, and it can help you get old and stay old, but also get good and stay good. So it's always going to be an option. Sometimes, it's a better option than going the traditional high school recruit route. 

Anthony: Hi Tom, which Notre dame players ( with a year of eligibility) do you think will be returning ?  I hope all of them, it was a terrific season.  Do you think Wesley will return as well? 

Tom Noie: Anthony: Not everyone is coming back. They just aren't. For myriad reasons. I mentioned earlier what players I believe are staying/going/deciding. As for Blake Wesley, he's going to face a pretty massive decision. Whispers have been for weeks that he's going to leave school for the NBA, but I don't put too much stock in that - for now. There's a LOT of work to be done on that end. A lot that the family and the player just don't know yet about the NBA. He may WANT to go, but all you have to do is hold up Jaden Ivey as a reason to return to school. I wrote in January that Blake Wesley has the skill and talent to go to the NBA right now. But another year in college will give him the tools to STAY in the NBA beyond his first contract. That eventually will be a deciding factor. I believe he puts his name into the draft, goes through an extensive pre-draft process and learns that as good as he is now, he'll be even better with another year. Even then, that's no guarantee that he's back. 

Nick from Goshen, formerly South Bend: If you had to take a stab at what next years roster looks like what would ya say?  Thanks & Go Irish. 

Tom Noie: Nick: That's for the question, my man...but it's the most popular one of the day. See above, or below depending on how these answers roll out, for more. 

Brian: Thank you for your coverage this season.  Aside from the St. Bonaventure game, are any other non-conference games or tournaments likely or confirmed for the 2022-23 season? 

Tom Noie: Brian: Great question. Notre Dame is scheduled to play Saint Bonaventure at the new UBS Arena - the building basically built net to Belmont Park in New York - the day after Thanksgiving 2022. There's still a question/possibility that there would be another game there on the Saturday, but that's TBD. Notre Dame also starts a two-year series with Marquette. That first game, in 2022-23 was supposed to be at Fiserv Forum but it looks like the series will start at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame also will have a home game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That's usually announced in late May or early June. There will be no Crossroads Classic, so that opens another non-league spot. Also, the third and final game of the Kentucky series will basically be dissolved (by mutual agreement). Honestly, John Calipari is tired of being saddled with a non-league loss the last two years so he wanted out. There are some gaps/flexibility next season. Will be interesting to see how it fills in. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Wondering if you could pull together some stats?  ND played 35 games.  Break it into 3 segments, first 11, then next 12, then final 12.  The first 11 would cover the time when Wesley did not start.  The middle section would cover his breakout freshman campaign, and the last 12 would cover the end of the regular season and the post season.  Would like to know his ppg, overall shooting %, 3 pt shooting %, and assist to TO ration in each segment.  My guess is there is a big drop in productivity in that last segment.  As a result, the NBA guys are going to question his strength and stamina.  While there is a ton to like, huge upside potential, I believe he is perceived as a little green and needs work.  Accordingly, he looks like a low end 1st round pick.  What do you think? 

Tom Noie: Joe: One thousand percent correct, though I was told there would be no math in this profession...lol. I'll save the deep dive on the numbers for later in the spring when I have some more time, but here are Blake Wesley's last four games (Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Alabama, Texas Tech) - 17-for-53 from the field, 0-for-11 from 3, 10 turnovers. He was good in stretches this season, but often struggled against size/athleticism and finishing at the rim. That has to eventually be a really big red flag, because that's all the NBA is - size, athleticism and finishing. And late-first round sounds right, but not necessarily good for Wesley. Late first round means you're going to a better team that doesn't need much help. That means bench time. That means G-League stints. Sometimes, another year in college outweighs a year in the league, regardless of the paycheck. 

joe from the south side: Tom, Now that the season is officially over, what do Brey and his staff do for the next 5-6 months?  Scouring the transfer portal?  Watching summer league games?  Evaluating their performance and looking for ways to improve?  Play golf? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Stay, far, far away from that SBT beat writer. I kid, but not completely. It's a little of everything, except for the golf part. It's portal exploration, recruiting, spring workouts, AAU tournaments, more portal, more recruiting, more player development. Those five months go way quicker than you might imagine. Summer school starts in mid-June. That's really when the 2022-23 season starts. We're not THAT far away from it. 

wes st louis: ND had a heck of a season, great turn around from how it started. i have always been impressed with Coach Brey. When ND is flowing on offense is fun to watch. Sunday's final game was heartbreaking. i read Coach Brey's comments about the last 3 plays of having Wesley drive to the basket and  Wesley had a great freshman season but he is still a freshman and from what i saw wasnt able to make a play all three drives, Lost the ball on a turnover, threw the ball away and tried to drive on 2 defenders and missed a crucial free throw. Hopefully he comes back for his sophomore year. 

Tom Noie: Wes: Well said. Agree. 

Tom: The obvious question has to be what does next year’s team look like? Thanks, Tom. This turned out to be a very satisfying season. 

Tom Noie: Tom: See above (or below). Understandably a popular topic today that we've addressed. Thanks my man! 

Matt from Fairfax: Hey Tom, thanks for a great season of coverage. If you had to pick just one, what was the moment that ND blew the Texas Tech game? I would say it was Cormac missing the front end of a one-and-one that could've put us up 4. Or was it Dane's missed free throw? Or the consecutive turnovers? Painful. Lastly, I know we don't know who's coming back, but is it likely we'll be even better next season? What needs to happen for ND to take the next step? 

Tom Noie: Matt: Not being able to secure the defensive rebound that led to two free throws that I believe made it 53-52 Texas Tech with 1:10 left. Get that rebound and you're still up one with the ball. The clock runs under a minute and you make a shot, then you're up three and probably going to the Sweet 16. The missed free throws also hurt. Notre Dame had plenty of chances to close that one out and didn't. There's no guarantee that they're better next season. How do you build off 15-5 in the ACC? You're not getting that kind of repeat schedule again. So what has to happen? Whoever returns has to move forward with the belief that this season was a starting - not a stopping - point. There's more to do, so why not be the guys to go and do it. Add a few more pieces, keep the resolve and take it a step further next season. Maintain/improve the roster by whatever means needed. If it's retaining the veteran guys, retain them. If it's tapping the portal, tap it. Don't waste what was this season. 

Victor K.: Tom, enjoyed reading your coverage here in Salem. Who do you think is most likely to transfer from the bench mob? 

Tom Noie: Victor: Great to hear from you, my man. Now the chat is official when you wander over. It would have to be Trey Wertz or (technically) Robby Carmody. I can't see J.R. Koniecnzy leaving. This was discussed on the front end of his recruitment - he might sit early, then not sit for a bulk of his career. He's probably primed to take that proverbial (ugh) next step. The three sophomores, who knows? In some ways, this was more of a freshman season for Tony Sanders, Jr., Elijah Taylor and Matt Zona than their true freshman seasons. That was the wacky COVID year of 2020-21 when nothing made sense. This was their first true taste of what college basketball/league play really is. Their first true summers in the offseason program. Honestly, none of the three still don't know what they don't know. But the portal's the portal. If any of the three land in it this month, it won't be a shock. Very little about college basketball is these days. 

Brendan, TN: Tom, I know there are a ton of questions out there about who's returning, who isn't, and what the transfer portal might look like. Right now I'm assuming the door is closed on an Atkinson return. With that said: What do you expect the timeline to be for Wesley's decision to return or head to the draft? What do you expect the timeline to be for everyone else on the current roster to make their decision about returning or not? And when would you expect transfers (if we were to pick up any) to become official? Put another way, on what date do you believe we'll have a full view of what the 22-23 roster will look like? 

Tom Noie: Brandan: Whew, there's a lot there. Understandable. Mike Brey said it the other night in San Diego at the end of his post-Texas Tech presser. How this roster takes shape is a process, one that he believes his program might be in until right up to the start of summer school. That would mean Blake Wesley declares for the draft and works through the entire process (which he should do to get the best accurate feedback) before deciding his future. Other guys, like Cormac Ryan, I wouldn't expect a big "announcement" in terms of them declaring that "I'm, Back!" It's also a process with potential portal guys. Do they want to make official visits? Or do they just jump in with both feet? We won't know what the roster looks like until maybe Father's Day weekend (start of summer school). There's also the chance of adding/subtracting guys after that, maybe right up to start of fall semester. It's a door that will remain open. That's college basketball 2022. 

Charlie, MI: Thanks for doing this, Tom. Loved following you and the Irish this year, and the run through Dayton and San Diego was as fun a 5 days as we've had since probably 2015. Blake Wesley has a chance to be a really special player if he returns next year, but I could also fully understand why the NBA might make sense for him right now. IF Blake comes back, what does his offseason look like in South Bend? What would you expect him to work on from now until the fall? Who is in his ear about what he needs to be doing? How much of it is on Blake himself vs. his teammates vs. coaching staff? 

Tom Noie: Charlie: He first has to make sure his academics are in order. Then, live in the weight room. Add strength that will allow him to finish better at the rim. He was able to get there this year, but left too many shots there. Then, refine  his jumpshot, which became less reliable as the season wound down. He's  too darn talented to be a .404 shooter from the field, .303 from 3 and .657 from the foul line. Those are G-League numbers. Somebody in his camp has to show him that. And again, all he has to do is look at fellow South Bend native Jaden Ivey. He was good as a freshman, but had a lot of holes in his game. He worked on his game, and now he's a Top Five pick because he embraced the work. Wesley can do the same. He's good enough now for the NBA, but good enough's not enough. 

Mike from Rochester NY: Tom, it was a hell of a run and sad that it ended the way it did. With Starling coming in, do you think Hubb may stay and Wertz transfers out?  If Atkinson can’t come back (and that appears to be almost certain), who’s the big guy in the middle next year? I don’t think that’s ever been Laszewski’s game, so is it Zona? Or a grad transfer? Thanks, really happy that you got to enjoy covering this year’s team after the past few difficult years. 

Tom Noie: Mike: The runs you don't see coming often are the best, and this one was right up there. Prentiss Hubb is ready to to move on, so returning really isn't an option for him. It's an extreme longshot to expect Atkinson to return. Even if the NCAA did green-light his return, he's 50-50 on whether he even wants to return. Some guys are ready for their next phase of life, basketball or otherwise. Next year's big man isn't yet on the roster. Stay tuned. 

Mike, Rochester, NY: Asking the obvious here:  who do you expect to return next year? 

Tom Noie: See above. Or below. Been addressed already my man 

Mike, Rochester, NY: Does Starling project as a PG or more of a SG?  It seemed like the offense ran more efficiently through Hubb than Wesley at PG, but I think an upgrade is needed at that position.  I'd rather see Wesley on the wing. 

Tom Noie: Mike: It remains to be seen how J.J. Starling fits. I've seen a lot of him at LaLu this season, and he plays more off the ball than ball dominant. There are possessions where he'll go and get something for himself, but it's been Jeremy Fears, Jr., and Aden Holloway who are more the traditional point guards. Maybe he's part off-guard part point guard next year. A lot of that will be determined by Blake Wesley and if he returns. If not, maybe Starling and Cormac Ryan share of the main PG duties. However it unfolds, Starling already is a starter. Put him down for 30 minutes a game. He's special. 

Mike,New Jersey: Hey Tom, really sick over the tech game but I'm definitely proud how this team played in the tournament.  I saw a grittiness and toughness that really wasn't at this level all season.  I truly believe ND was the tougher team Sunday against maybe the toughest team in the country. My question is can this level of grit be carried over to game one next year? Obviously playing in the tournament brings everyone's energy to another level but if we had this in MAUI there's no way in hell Notre Dame is an 11 seed. 

Tom Noie: Mike: Understood, but what this team did in league play and particularly in the NCAA Tournament, it wasn't mentally or physically prepared to do in November. Or even early December. It had to take its collective lumps in Maui and at Boston College to get to where it got to. This year was relatively easy - you had a lot of old guys who were driven to get to the NCAA Tournament. It was hard in some respects, but it also was kind of easy. Everyone can unite to chase something one time. Now, the tough part is going and chasing it again. That Cormac Ryan did what he did late in the year and is likely to return provides a solid foundation. Now build in around it and chase it again. 

Mark Oliver, Oil City, Pa.: Hi Tom, Great to join the chat here. Obviously way too early to know who will and won't be back, but do you see any of that wave that includes J.R., Sanders, Zona or either of the Elijahs making a jump next year for quality playing time. Hopefully some of them will return instead of hitting the portal. Still letting Sunday's disappointment soak in...would have been great to battle the Dukies tonight. On another note, I know you've written often in these chats about some of your favorite players to cover over the years....anyone from this group, particularly the senior core, stand out to you. They all seem to be quality guys to me. 

Tom Noie: Mark: You never know with the transfer portal and what guys really want out of their college careers. Not having to sit out that mandatory season like years of old makes leaving more attractive. But those guys at the back end of the rotation don't know what they don't know about college basketball. It's hard to definitively say, yeah, they're NEVER going to play meaningful minutes here. Well, maybe you can say that about Elijah Morgan. He's a walk-on guard with a lot of others ahead of him on the depth chart. As for this group, it was good to sit and talk one-on-one with each of the guys - Hubb, Atkinson, Ryan, Goodwin, Laszewski. Just wish those opportunities were more. COVID and all the protocols that we were required to follow made it hard to really get to know these guys away from the court. 

Mark Oliver, Oil City, Pa.: One more from me today Tom. Just wondering if you watch much of the ACC Network and if so, what are your thoughts and what do you watch. We finally got it on Comcast here in Oil City back in December and I have really enjoyed it. I've become a big fan of the Packer and Durham show in the morning and the Nothing but Net shows. Lots of praise for both ND hoops teams the last couple of weeks. 

Tom Noie: The Atlantic Coast Conference is an acquired taste. I'll just leave it at that...😃 

Brian K, South Bend: Hey Tom, here is the easiest question you'll get all day: which Seniors (that have a Covid year remaining) will come back and which ones will head off to the real world?  Now, a tougher Bonus question: what's your gut telling you about Blake Wesley, is he coming back for his Soph year, or heading to the NBA? 

Tom Noie: Brian: First question has been most popular question. See above or below for my thoughts on that. As for Blake Wesley, I believe he really wants to be a one-and-done, but really needs another year in college. The NBA (and more importantly, the G League) is filled with Blake Wesley types with where his game is right now. Another year allows him to separate himself from the pack and be special. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Popular question today - see above or below for my thoughts. Thanks, my man! 

Guest: Aside from the seven who played the majority of minutes this season, who should we expect to make the biggest contribution next season? 

Tom Noie: Not everyone from that seven will be back, so there are positions available. You have to start with J.R. Konieczny. There has to be a spot for him somewhere next season. He gets the first push for possible breakout performer. 

Tom: The more I think about the last two minutes of the Texas Tech game, the more I think ND just finally ran out of gas. Missed free throws are often a symptom of that. Am I oversimplifing 

Tom Noie: Tom: Yes, yes, yes. At no point during the Alabama or Texas Tech games did I look out on the floor and see a tired team. I saw a better team. In both games. Seriously. Texas Tech? Please. 

Steve Duff: A couple of possibly unoriginal (or common) questions here Tom. Who’s coming back? Mainly Blake Wesley but I believe most of the seniors have a “super senior” year. Maybe good to start fresh (other than Blake), which leads to a second question. What do you see from the new group of freshman and who can contribute immediately (JJ obviously)? Seems like a good class and this probably depends on who stays (if any) and who goes. Keep up the great work Tom - love Irish football but your coverage of hoops is why I subscribe. 

Tom Noie: Steve: Good stuff. I'll keep writing if you keep reading. And speaking of reading, roll through this transcript to find the answers to your questions. 

Phil Omaha: Does ND have a timeline on the NCAA Decision on Atkinson? 

Tom Noie: Phil: Short answer: No.😃 

Jim Copler: Will Blake Wesley be back for 2022-23 season? What Seniors will be back next year? 

Tom Noie: Jim: He should. See the transcript for the seniors. 

Adam - St. Louis: Tom: any predictions on which of the seniors will utilize their COVID year next season? How does that impact the incoming freshman class? Have to assume that Starling is going to get Wesley type minutes next season. 

Tom Noie: Adam: It matters very little what seniors return or even if Blake Wesley returns for 2022-23. J.J. Starling will play - and play a lot - from the minute he arrives on campus for summer school in June. 

Bret: Hey Tom this is Bret from Southern California.  What's the chances in percentages that Goodwin, Wertz, Ryan, Hubb. Laszewski, Wesley, and Atkinson come back.  I know Atkinson needs NCAA approval so when you respond to him please assume that the NCAA gives him an additional year.  Thank you for another solid year of writing about the Irish. 

Tom Noie: Bret: Hubb, Laszewski, Atkinson all are longshots to return. Wertz maybe in that group as well. Goodwin could be a coin flip. He had indicated he'd be interested in a fifth year but that was before this season, which may have surpassed his expectation.  Wesley? Who really knows? Ryan might be the only sure thing right now. Stay tuned. 

Chris , DC.: Tom,  This has been a fun ride this year.  As we turn our attention to next year, let’s assume no Hubb or Atkinson.   ND is able to get a transfer to replace Atkinson.   How good could ND be next year in this scenario.   Thanks ! 

Tom Noie: Chris: The bar was raised this season to a point where it really always should be - double-digit league wins, a top five, six conference finish and trip to the NCAA Tournament where you push for a Sweet 16. Almost got there this year. No reason to think they can't dream that dream next year. 

Bret: Bret from Southern California.  How excited should Irish fans be about JJ Starling?  In you opinion will he be a more productive and valuable player this upcoming year than Wesley was?  Is he most likely a one and done player or can we realistically hope that he plays at least two seasons? 

Tom Noie: Bret: J.J. Starling may be the most highly-ranked prospect to play for Mike Brey. So, there's that if you're into that recruiting rankings (hint: don't be). Let's see where/how he Starling fits before we go any deeper with him, or start wondering about how short a career he might have in South Bend. 😄 

JD: sorry if it’s already been discussed, but what does the front line look like next year? Chances of each of Atkinson and Lazewski returning? Is Elijah Taylor expected to be on the roster next season? Transfer portal? 

Tom Noie: JD: To be determined. Don't expect Paul Atkinson or Nate Laszewski to return. Elijah Taylor needs to show something of substance. The transfer portal may be Notre Dame's best friend in terms of bigs. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  If Wesley stays, IF, the 5 spot is meaningless to Brey and ND.  He will go to the Jim Larranaga model of 5 guards, or 4 guards and one big.  If the 4 are CMAC, Dane, Blake and JJS, Brey will view the 5 spot as 10 rebounds and 10 fouls.  Set some picks and don't turn the ball over.  Those 4 guards could easily average 50-60pts/game.  Easily. 

Tom Noie: Joe: And get absolutely smoked on the backboard. That lineup will work well in some games, not so well in others. You need at least one big to keep teams like North Carolina honest. 

Tim fromPittsburgh: Hi Tom great coverage and information as always. Do you know what pre- season tournament they will be in next year? Also do you think Taylor would be able to step in and start at center? Thanks 

Tom Noie: Tim: There was talk earlier this year that Notre Dame might be in one of the tournaments at Barclays Center (Legends?) but that was before the possible Saint Bonaventure game at  UBS. Do they spend the entire week in New York? We'll see. Elijah Taylor hasn't played/been healthy for two years. Starting next season is too big of a bite. Can he first be a rotation guy? That has to be his first step. Small steps with him. 

Steve from Cincinnati: When do you expect decisions to be made on this senior class , where they stay or go? I know Brey mentioned he was doing individual talks this week. Do you expect them to go after a guard in the portal since Wertz and Hubb are pretty much gone or are they putting there eggs into JJ Starling ? 

Tom Noie: Steve: All TBD. There's no set timetable for decisions. All options are open with the transfer portal. 

joe from the south side: Tom, You know what is interesting is that throughout the chat, all of the key guys get mentioned.  Naturally.  Also, we touched on Taylor and Big Zone as possibly being the 5 man next year.  JR gets a shout out for local flavor.  I even brought up Wertz.  Nobody, but nobody, ever mentions Sanders.  Is he that much of a forgotten man? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Yes. There's nothing there where you point to him and say, yeah, Tony Sanders is going to play more because of this and this and this. On the flip side, there's nothing there where you point to him and say, no, Tony Sanders is never going to play because of this and this and this. The ultimate project. So too, to an extent is Matt Zona. Both are blank canvases. Never was there a time this season when you thought, man, if only Sanders or Zona could offer them something. Now they have a chance to change that. Will they? 

Steve from Cincinnati: With Hubb, Wertz and Carmody gone … where would you put the odds that Dane and Laz return? I know Paul is a long shot to get that waiver. 

Tom Noie: Steve: Longshot at best for Nate Laszewski. Longer shot for Paul Atkinson, Jr. Coin flip based on the year that Dane Goodwin had. He may decide to parlay that into a run in Europe. He may decide he wants another year. 

Tom Noie: Mickey: Hope to one day take you up on that offer, my man! GIbbs? Whew, having flashbacks right now...make them stop. The hint was hinted at because the transfer portal is the transfer portal and it's waaaaaaay easier for guys to jump in it and find a new place than to go through the sit-out process. Nobody was in the portal last year. Odds that that happens two straight seasons? About as good as Prentiss Hubb returning for a fifth year. 

PortND, Upstate NY: Tom, as always appreciate the coverage.  Do you happen to know how ND compares to the rest of the ACC with regards to budget for the hoops program as well as regarding support staff.  Also, do other hoops programs use analysts similar to football programs?  If so, do you know where ND is with these things? 

Tom Noie: Port: Figure that Notre Dame's budget/support staff is middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The resources allocated just aren't there. I was floored when I was doing Texas Tech research to see 47 individuals included in the team picture. That included an advisor to the head coach, a chief of staff, a director of scouting, two player development coaches, six graduate assistants and nine student assistants. Maybe that's standard operating procedure for state schools/Big 12 programs, but Notre Dame never would allocate that amount of resources for basketball. Never. Figure some ACC teams do something more than what Notre Dame does, but it's pretty much a bare-bones operations in terms of analytics/support staff. Why? Easy. It's not football...😃 

joe from the south side: Tom,  What with some open slots in the schedule, the 2024 ACC Tourney is in DC.  If Ewing won't schedule ND, tell Brey to schedule his alma mater.  Then the Irish could have a game under their belt in the site which will host the league tourney.  Plus, it is a fertile recruiting territory anyway. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Good call, but Notre Dame did that non-conference dance in DC this past season, and almost got burned because of it. No, you don't go out on that limb two straight seasons. They had to this season. They don't have to next. 

Cowboy Mike: Brey seems to bench Atkinson late in crucial games so that he can go small. It makes no sense to me. He can rebound and score so why take him out. 

Tom Noie: Wasn't Atkinson on the floor at the end of the second overtime against Rutgers? Had a pretty big rebound and basket, too. 😃 

Joe, Chicago: How much did Hubb's ACL injury in high school affect the type of player he became in college? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Don't know. I never saw him in high school, though all indications are that he was similar in college as he was in high school. He wasn't an attack the basket, finish in traffic guy before he got to Notre Dame. He played his role pretty darn well - find guys, make a few shots, play with no fear and take care of the ball. He might be the only player in NCAA Tournament history to have the line he had against Rutgers with seven assists, no turnovers in 43 minutes. He could drive you nuts with his shot selection, but he'll be missed. Watch. 

Joe, Chicago: Obviously this was a down year for the ACC, but not as down as the national media would make you believe. Which programs do you see bouncing back next year? Any other than the obvious in FSU and UVA? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Louisville has to be right there at the top of everyone's list. How far/fast the Cardinals fell this year was frightening. That's an elite program that looked like a mid-major almost overnight. Like, what happened to all the talent???? Florida State just had one of THOSE seasons. Virginia needs more guys that fit its style. 

Joe, Chicago: Goodwin definitely slowed down the last half of conference season - was that a product of being the focal point of scouting reports or something else? Injury? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Welcome to the top of the scouting report, Dane Goodwin, who didn't handle the added attention all that well. When teams looked to take him away, he didn't have much of a counter. That's one reason why I wonder about him returning. He had an all-league type of year that will be tough to top. Does he want to try? 

Joe, Chicago: What took so long for Cormac Ryan to become a critical member of the offense? Felt like he did not do much between his great game at Duke last year and the latter half of the conference schedule this year. Those Ben Hansbrough comparisons finally made sense 

Tom Noie: Joe: Sometimes it just takes that - time. For a player to find his voice, to figure out where he fits, to believe that, yeah, I can do this and this and this. He was their most valuable player down the stretch. I didn't know if he had it in him. It reached a point where every time he shot it, you figured it was going in. 

Joe, Chicago: Slo got all of the headlines for the difference he was able to make defensively, but what was some of the feedback from Wyche's first year on the staff? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Solid. Slo was in charge of the defense overall, but Wyche added some new principles to the zone that really helped. And he's another guy who won't allow guys to settle. He's a younger version of Slo. The tweak to the staff cannot be understated. Mike Brey knew he needed to make a change and that change worked. For all involved. 

Joe, Chicago: How does the idea of playing with Sterling factor into Wesley's decision? Do they have much of a relationship? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Less than zero. Wesley and Starling have talked about playing together, but I've asked J.J. about the possibility of not being able to play with Wesley. His response? Just wants what's best for him. If it's best for Wesley to go to the NBA, then go to the NBA. 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Hi Tom, really enjoyed your coverage from San Diego. The loss to Texas Tech was particularly painful because that game was right there to be taken and a season of redemption could have become truly one for the ages. A missed opportunity to say the least. But that aside, this was a fun team to follow and watch. One thing that struck me throughout this season was the genuine bond and chemistry that existed among the players. Their kinship and connection was real and tangible. Would you say that since you've been on the ND basketball beat, the closeness of this group rivals just about anything you've seen from any other Irish team? I would value your opinion on this. Many thanks. 

Tom Noie: Jim: It's hard to say. Usually you really have a chance to gauge that in postseason during the media availability sessions where the locker room is open and you have a chance to talk to guys in their setting. We didn't get that this year because of COVID. That made it difficult to really see how guys interact away from the cameras and the bright lights of the interview dais. It would be hard to beat that 2015 team, and even the 2016 squad in terms of togetherness. Both those teams had it at different levels. 

Ryan from Notre Dame: Hi Tom. First time, long time. Want to get lunch sometime? 

Tom Noie: You buying? Never known a reporter to turn down a free meal, right?😃 

Kyley from Virginia: Hi Tom, really loved your content this season. Despite the unfortunate end to ND's tournament run, I am wondering what you think Notre Dame needs to have an even more successful March next season? 

Tom Noie: Kyley: Do it all again. Now, winning 15 Atlantic Coast Conference games and finishing second might be a little too much to ask (given that we don't know how the conference opponents shake out), there's no reason to think this team can't A) win double digit league games, B) finish in the top five or six C) go back to the NCAA Tournament and D) challenge for a spot in the Sweet 16. This season should be a starting point, not a stopping point. Go build on it. 

P. - St. Paul: Re: Wertz - He started delivering some amazing assists by the end of the season, and has the ability to be a great 3 pt shooter.  I believe his ceiling is much higher than we've seen and he just needs another year to develop. I would opt for him and Ryan to return among the guards. (and Wesley of course) 

Tom Noie: P: Trey Wertz went for a career high 27 points in his first game (Purdue) and we've not seen anything close to that guy since. Why? There's more there. He hit a key 3 Sunday against Texas Tech, but his deliberate foul was disappointing. Young guys make those kind of plays. Old guys can't. He seemingly became a different (better) player in early February, then slid back to the shadows. It's hard to see how he really fits next year. 

Greg, Las Vegas: What are 3 (non conference) opponents you would love to see on the schedule in the coming years?  Also, why are bugs so elusive to Brey?  With Humphrey, a free flowing offense and ACC opponents to battle against, what more do you want? 

Tom Noie: Greg: A road game at Dayton, a road game at UCLA and home and home against Gonzaga. As for bigs (bugs), the game's changed. It's not so much a bigs game as it is guards/small forwards/stretch fours. 

Joe, Chicago: I thought the prospects of Laz coming back was more 50/50 a few weeks ago - what has changed to make him likely to depart? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Honestly, my question to Nate Laszewski and Cormac Ryan post-Pittsburgh when I asked both if that was their last Senior Day. Ryan tackled the question head on, saying he'd love to make another Senior Day speech. Laszewski turned beet red as if he'd just been caught doing something he shouldn't. Some of us media dopes read that reaction to be, yeah, he's done. Honestly, though, he's always been a longshot to return from those in the know. 

Mike,New Jersey: In your opinion which was more of a bigger miss in recruiting, Jaden Ivy or Hunter Dickinson? Just having Dickinson's size took a Michigan Team that had no business in the tournament to the Sweet 16. He would be unstoppable in Brey's offense 

Tom Noie: Mike: Hunter Dickinson, because you still could've gotten Blake Wesley for one year to pair with him. Wesley was more of a realistic get than Jaden Ivey. He just was. And Mike Brey had Dickinson. Had him. Like, commitment. He was coming. Then he wasn't. Dickinson would've been a game-changer. 

Joe, Chicago: Something or nothing that no one transferred from the core senior class during the some really low times over the last few years? Also, how many other teams did not have a positive COVID test over the last two years - not sure if that translates to the court at all, but that was pretty impressive 

Tom Noie: Joe: Two facts that also go overlooked from a national perspective. Nobody in the portal and no COVID stoppages. Even when it wasn't going to the NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame still was doing everything right within its program. That matters. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Brey has always been willing to trade 2 for 3.  Always.  And always will.  If he said it once he said it a 1,000 times.  He'll sacrifice something on the DEF (rebounding, shot blocking) end if it creates the OFF flow and mismatches he desires.  As proud as he is/was of how Slo improved the DEF, he is way more enthusiastic about "how hard it is to guard us when we share the ball".  You are right.  NC will kill them on the glass.  So will Duke.  Mainly because they get NBA talent at those slots and ND gets "projects".  But if Wesley returns, I find it hard to believe anyone will be able to defend him, JJS, Dane and CMAC at the same time.  Honestly, their least effective (read sluggish) OFF this year was when he played Laz and Paul at the same time.  Not that you won't do that in spurts, but I think he would go all in on averaging 80+ pts/game and let the chips fall where they may. 

Tom Noie: True, but full transparency. I did vote Nate Laszewski for all defense this year. He was the guy in terms of making it all work. He rebounded. He guarded. He talked. He drew charges. We've seen that "just score 80" mentality. It doesn't hold up in the long run. Notre Dame's not Virginia in terms of defense but it played it well enough this year to win. And to sustain/expect that effort in the years to follow. 

Ryan from Notre Dame: Bru Burger on me, Tom. You name the time. 

Tom Noie: Done! Email me for details...😃 

Jake: I can’t believe we’ve made it this far into the chat without a question about the bench/rotation lol. But do you think Brey is going to finally go beyond 7 deep next season? It seems like he will almost have to. 

Tom Noie: Jake: I can. Nope, no, no way, nada, zilch. Any other term you want to use. Mike Brey says that every year and every year the fan base falls all over its collective self when it doesn't happen. It still will be seven, but what will change is the seven. Maybe it's JRK for a stretch, or Taylor, or maybe even Zona. But eight, nine, 10 deep. Not happening. Like, ever. 

Kyley from Virginia: Thanks, Tom. I agree. I am also curious to hear your opinions on mixing up the starting lineup at the end of the season? I.e. not starting Dane at the ACC tournament. How much do you think this impacts games? 

Tom Noie: Kyley: Might have been one of the worst decisions ever this season from Mike Brey. Totally unnecessary. Dropped Dane Goodwin into such a funk. They flushed that Virginia Tech game because of it. It was a week or two or maybe even three early when Brey mentioned that there was no way they were switching up the starting lineup. He liked how everyone flowed in their roles. Then we get to Barclays and see the change and it's like.....huh???? Brey admitted afterward it was a mistake and a decision he shouldn't have made. 

Joe, Chicago: What are the odds the coaching staff stays intact for next season? Slo and Wyche would seem to be long shots, but Humphrey would seem like a strong candidate for a mid-major 

Tom Noie: Joe: it's the old never say never adage. I expect it to remain intact, but if an offer that Ryan Humphrey really likes, maybe he takes it. But he's smart enough to know that you don't take a job just to take it. Everything has to fit. Because, why not Ryan Humphrey when Mike Brey decides it's over? 

The man: Who might we see coming back Tom? Are there any definites or probablys? Sorry I just arrived if you previously answered this. 

Tom Noie: Gotta get here earlier, my man. Scroll through the chat. You'll find a plethora of answers... 

Joe, Chicago: Any word on Ryan Ayers' future? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Hard, hard pass on this one. 😃 

PortND, Upstate NY: Brey clearly seems to have the juice again to continue coaching, how close do you think he was to either stepping down or retiring?  Also, how much longer do you think he'll be around? 

Tom Noie: Port: Not close. He always believed he could get this group to where it got to this season. He was frustrated to no end not being able to reach them the last few years, but one really good year has energized him. Jack Swarbrick has said Mike Brey can coach here for as long as he wants. Does he want to? We'll see, 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Tom, as much upside and undeniable talent that guys like Wesley and Starling possess, isn't there a risk of disruption within the program if you keep bringing in potential one-and-done players who might leave quickly and thereby create possible roster upheaval? This approach seems to be the very anthesis of the big-picture, veteran-laden approach that Brey has long embraced and advocated. I'm not saying don't go after players of this ilk but isn't there a potential long-term downside to going down this route? 

Tom Noie: Jim: That's a risk you have to take in this day and in college basketball. Wesley wasn't even a Top 100 kid coming out of high school and was right down the street. Do you not recruit him? Yeah, that would've gone over well (see Ivey, Jaden). Same thing with J.J. Starling. A kid that talented who WANTS everything that Notre Dame can offer. You going to tell him, nah, we'll pass? Do that and you're soon out of a job. 

Joe, Chicago: I know you mentioned every coach is intrigued by offers, but Brey's recent flirtation with MD is really surprising for a guy who seemed drained over the last few years and with such a strong recruiting class coming in. Seems like if Brey had showed similar interest the previous times MD opened up, they would have welcomed him with open arms 

Tom Noie: Joe: It's all about timing. Everything has to align. It did for Brian Kelly. It hasn't (yet) for Mike Brey. 

Joe, Chicago: Do you see ND participating in a similar regional round-robin like the Crossroads? Maybe Chi? Or are they avoiding that type of concept to get more freedom with non-conference scheduling 

Tom Noie: Joe: Nope. Not happening anytime soon. Let the Crossroads rubble smolder for a few years while you explore some different scheduling opportunities, then maybe revisit something along those lines. 

Steffie: Wouldn't the easiest way of knowing if Wesley plans to return is by looking at his attendance in the classroom now? Just saying, that's a huge indicator. On Senior Day, Dane's speech implied he will be back. I also heard his girlfriend is entering ND for her masters. 🤔 

Tom Noie: Steffie: Absolutely, but that's generally not the kind of information we have easy - OK, ANY - access to. Kind of like calling up Notre Dame and saying, yeah, can you let me see his transcript while we're at it? 😃 

Joe, Chicago: Early prediction for Big Ten-ACC opponent? 

Tom Noie: Joe: uh-oh...wheelhouse question for a rant coming. Sorry, not sorry. Notre Dame will have been in the Atlantic Coast Conference 10 years this coming season in 2022-23. It has played in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge nine times (yeah, nine) against a whopping FIVE opponents - one-offs against Maryland and Ohio State and home-and-homes (and sometimes home again), against Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois. Not having the Crossroads opens the possibility of playing Purdue or Indiana, but the ACC/Big Ten will find a way to screw it up again and have a home game against Maryland. They've shown zero creativity when it comes to that matchup. My wish? Wisconsin for the first visit to Notre Dame since 1968. 

Bret: Bret from Southern California.  Notre Dame should have beat Texas Tech.  We just needed to make our free throws and not turn the ball over so much in the last 5 minutes.  If we had won how do you think the Duke game would have turned out?  Do the Irish get blown out again?  Do we play them tough and lose in the last minute?  Do we win?  What's your opinion if the game did take place tonight.  Duke would have been a 7 to 8 point favorite.  Who covers? 

Tom Noie: Bret: Notre Dame beats Duke in the Sweet 16 and Mike Brey sends Mike K into retirement. Can't script that story any better, especially how the game in late January unfolded. Duke's the one team that Notre Dame wanted another crack at. The Irish should've gotten it tonight. 

Clare Wertz: Which of the boys do you think are coming back next year? 

Tom Noie: Cormac Ryan is the only automatic. You can make a case for/against any of the others. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  ACC Big Ten Challenge.  Should be Iowa every year.  Let Fran come back to South Bend.  No shot clock (not needed).  No game clock.  First team to 100 wins.  Since neither team fouls that much, it will still fit in a 2 hour TV window. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Fran's my guy, but no. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  BTW, how are your brackets holding up? 

Tom Noie: Joe: I never fill one out. Ever. That's what so few people understand about what we do and when we do it. You're so consumed with the team you follow and the work you need to do getting to San Diego on a few hours notice and  the game that's next that you seldom have time to actually watch the tournament. The days are a blur. You don't know who's playing when or where or winning. Then the team you cover wins and Saturday-Sunday are like Thursday-Friday. I honestly didn't look at a bracket until I was at San Diego International Airport on Monday waiting to work my way back toward South Bend. Like, how did Miami (Fla.) win? What happened to Tennessee? I saw end of Arizona game in Viejas, but the rest of the tournament, outside of where you are, might as well be on the moon. 

Tom Noie: Even now, it's hard to decompress. There are four games on tonight and the couch is just calling you to chill and watch both, but you see Duke play Texas Tech and can't help but think, that's where Notre Dame should be right now, so that's where you should be. Sometimes the ride is so wild and wacky and crazy that you don't ever want it to end. That's  how those eight days were when you went from South Bend to Dayton to Chicago to Sand Diego to Minneapolis to South Bend. It all was a blur. And all so worthwhile. Like, can we just have another week? Please? 

joe from the south side: Tom, Most likely to reach the Final Four first, Brey or Ivey?  Next, best ball handler / PG at ND?  Hubb?  Nope.  Wesley? No.  Ryan?  Not.  Olivia Miles.  Shout out to the WBB team and Miles.  A very exciting BBL player at ND. 

Tom Noie: Joe: Easy. Ivey. And the next best ball handler/point guard at Notre Dame? J.J. Starling. Olivia Miles can't be next - she's right now...😃 

Joe, Chicago: I know it's basketball so projects take forever, but are there any long-term conversations about tweaks or changes to Joyce? I believe it's been close to 15 years since the renovation 

Tom Noie: Joe: Notre Dame went 50 years without making a single change to the Joyce Center. Any conversations about any tweaks is still at least 35 years away. There's nothing left to do but implode it. They're out of options. Campus has changed a lot over the years, but the Joyce Center is so multi-functional, it will live forever. 

The man: Do you think Elijah Morgan deserves a chance, sort of like djogo in his senior year? From what I’ve seen he is a smart guard with great impact in the team, I say why not give him a chance? 

Tom Noie: Uhhhhh....nothing against Elijah Morgan or Alex Wade, both walk-ons, but a college coach - any college coach - isn't about to give a walk-on any sort of meaningful chance. That means he's basically saying, yeah, I didn't recruit the right guys for scholarship slots, so I'm going to go with the guy who isn't on scholarship. Never going happen Ever. 

Bret: Bret from Southern California.  Lots of questions including one of mine on the potential seniors returning.   Here is my best guess and I'm pretty confident I will miss no more than one of them.  Atkinson- gone, Wesley- will return, Goodwin- will return, Laszewski- will return, Ryan- will return, Hubb-gone, Wertz-gone.  If that happens and Brey can get one solid tough big from the portal we will have a Sweet 16 caliber team. 

Tom Noie: Bret: We'll see, but Prentiss Hubb and Nate Laszewski have been in the "extreme longshot" category for months from those I trust. Something may change, but it would be a surprise if it did. 

Ed, Greensboro: Tom, hope this finds you well. Allow me to be the cynic for a day. We made the tournament-yay! First time in five years. Everything is ok right? So now we settle back into the Irish basketball routine-have a decent season, make the tournament, win a couple of games, and go home. Seems like we will be having this same chat five years from now.I do not see how it ever changes. If you are ever back in Greensboro, BBQ is on me.Thank for all your coverage during the season. The Tribune is lucky to have you. 

Tom Noie: Ed: You mean like every other team in the country except for a handful, right? Right? Get to the tournament, win a couple games every year. Yeah, sign me up as long as every few years we get a run like 2015 where Notre Dame is right there at a possible Final Four. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  See, the TT loss didn't bother me.  First, I said they looked like a Top 40 team so an 8-9 seed.  If that were true, they would not have beaten a 1 seed.  They are not that good.  Next, they won 2 games in the tourney.  If I said before the season, 15 conference wins and 2 NCAA tourney wins you would have said Brey rubbed the lamp and the genie granted him his wish.  All in all, after what the last 3 years looked like, this was a huge turnaround for this program.  And with the recruiting class coming in, things look very positive.  I'll accept a tough loss to TT by a team that just this year "learned how to win."  Now, let's keep the momentum. 

Tom Noie: Joe: At some point, you have to get greedy. This was the year to get greedy. I was less than impressed by Texas Tech - it has guys who defend, sure, but guys who can't make baskets. Seriously offensively challenged. It's easy to dismiss the loss if that was like the 2011 Florida State tournament game or 2015 Iowa State or 2018 West Virginia game where Notre Dame was just smothered. But, man, that game was right there for the Irish. They had it. Fifteen league wins and two tournament wins aside, you gotta close that out. Then you at least get a chance at Duke. You might get boat-raced in Chase Center, but at least you're one of only 16 still playing. Forget the "wait 'til next year" motto. 

Jack: I see next year being - JJS, Blake, Dane, cmac, and paul/lubin/transfer. Maybe JR off the bench or wertz, maybe another transfer. Know you’ve talked about it but this looks like a sweet sixteen starting five to me. 

Tom Noie: Noted 

Jack: side note, want a rematch vs st Mary’s, we should’ve won that game. Gimme that game in February and it’s notre dame by ten. 

Tom Noie: Nope...😃 

Joe, Chicago: Do you see ND's success this year resulting in a better TV schedule next year? More Big Mondays, less ACC Network games, Saturday afternoon games on ESPN with marquee crews - maybe Gameday for a big matchup? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Think a lot of that depends on who's coming back. Duke and Carolina and to an extent Virginia will always be ahead of Notre Dame in the pecking order. But after that, Irish are must-see TV. 

Jack: What do the Irish do over the spring, summer, and fall? Are they on campus or do they go home? What about Brey where is he? 

Tom Noie: Jack: Spring workouts will start next month for the returning guys. They'll get couple weeks at home after the semester ends before returning for summer school in June. Then, couple weeks home in August before start of another school year. Brey and the staff are recruiting in spring and summer. 

Clare Wertz: Tom who is your favorite player? 

Tom Noie: Is this a trick question? You gotta know I don't/can't/won't play favorites.😃 

Ed, Greensboro: Tom, problem is the run in 2015 is an exception , not the rule. It’s  like watching the same movie and expecting a different ending. 

Tom Noie: Ed: We've only seen that movie once. 😃 

Joe, Chicago: What aspect of Wesley's game can the Irish staff take credit for developing throughout the year? 

Tom Noie: Joe: Understanding that he can create havoc by getting to the rim and putting the defense on his heels. In high school, Wesley was fine with just chucking from deep, even if the shots weren't falling. He learned this year - don't settle. And trust your teammates. He'd try passes to guys as a high school senior that they couldn't handle. They handled them this year. 

Jimmy: Do you have any comparisons, either nba or former college, to the potential Blake Wesley JJ starling combo? Would we have the deadliest backcourt in the country with them plus Dane and Ryan? 

Tom Noie: Batman and Robin, duh....😃 

Ed, Greensboro: Tom, would like to see that movie more often. 

Tom Noie: Wish it was on as often as The Godfather. Or Die Hard. Or (pick your favorite Bravo rerun) 

Tom from Gary, Indiana: I hope Wesley returns to school.  His parents are well off and well known people in South Bend. Not like he's living in poverty now. Question: Why did he seem to play hero ball in the last few minutes against Texas Tech? Everybody knew he was taking it to the basket come hell or high water. Why not a pull up? Or a dump off to an open teammate? 

Tom Noie: Tom: The freshman picked the wrong time to play like a freshman, which is why he needs to be a sophomore 

Tom Noie: Good enough to win in the ACC. You also have to look at body types. Paul Atkinson was listed at 6-9 but maybe closer to 6-7. That body type won't hold up well against guys in the league (and outside of it) who are legit 6-8, 6-9, 6-10. 

Pat, NJ: Tom, everyone keeps making the Wesley/Ivey comparison in terms of how they'd like to see his freshman to sophomore year jump. How about someone who's actually been in our program and made that jump? I just don't see how Blake looks at the history of players here and says I'll be better served playing another year for ND than getting 100% full-time development in the NBA without the pressures of ND academics. Sure we've had guys who have progressed nicely from freshman to senior year, but is there anyone who's been as good as Wesley was as a freshman who got that much better in year 2? 

Tom Noie: Troy Murphy....but the list begins and ends there because Notre Dame historically doesn't get guys who are NBA ready after one year. Or, let me say, NBA hopeful after one year. And he's not ready. It's not necessarily a Jaden Ivey comparison. It's a commentary on going back to school, working on your game, caring about your craft, understanding your weaknesses and doing what's needed to make them your strengths. Are we sure guys get "100 percent full-time development in the NBA?" Because I'm pretty sure if you're in the NBA, you're a pro and that development - or a big part of it - has to come from within. The NBA is a business, and if you don't want to treat it as such, there are a dozen other guys coming up in the next draft who will. 

Tom from Gary, Indiana: Do you think the transfer portal has changed high school recruiting? A school would rather get an older guy and not go through those freshman moments? Does it change the role of a college coach like Brey. Is he more of a manager than coach? 

Tom Noie: Tom: Absolutely. Would you want a guy who's been around the college basketball block for a year or two or three or a kid who was in high school last year? It also is roster management. How you manage the portal in the offseason might dictate the success you have during the season. 

Ed, Greensboro: Tom, good enough to play in the ACC, but not win a championship, or play deep into the Tournament. ha ha-just feeling grouchy today. 

Tom Noie: Ed: That's what you get when Notre Dame supposed to be playing in the Sweet 16 tonight. Can't convince me otherwise. 

Pat H. Springfield Illinois: Great reporting and insight, as always, about an entertaining and special team. What will the non inference schedule look like next year? Is there another November tournament planned? 

Tom Noie: Pat: Thanks, and stay tuned. Notre Dame was penciled in for something at Barclays (Legends Classic maybe) but also has a non-conference set for UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. for the day after Thanksgiving against Saint Bonaventure and maybe one other team. 

Jim Tal, Valley Center, CA.: Tom, any plans for having additional hoop chats sometime in the near future or will this be it for awhile? Also, If you had to assign a letter grade as it relates to Brey's tenure at ND, what would it be? Given where the program was at when he took over and given the inherent challenges that he has faced throughout the years, I have to give him a strong B-plus. If he had made it to a Final Four or a couple more Sweet 16s, then I think he might have might have even made it into the A category. Your thoughts? 

Tom Noie: Jim: At the LEAST it's B-plus, maybe at times, an A-minus. I've said it often over 22 years that there would be only a select few (maybe, maybe three or four) coaches who would've been able to do what he's done at Notre Dame in the manner in which he's been asked to do it. Playing in two different leagues, one of which, the Big East, kept changing from two divisions to one to expanded. All the while having no practice facility and a dump of a home arena, but no, you still have to go win. Recruiting limitations and still no practice facility to where you finally establish an identity in the Big East where you're respected and then, bang, go jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference and go against Duke and Carolina every year and then Virginia gets good. Do it all under the Notre Dame football shadows. Yeah, B-plus at worst. Remember where Notre Dame was for the 1990s. Irrelevant. Forgotten. Now back on the map. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  What the transfer portal has definitely done is create a tsunami effect for the lowest levels of D1 right to the top.  Just go into the portal and you will see how the kid who averaged 16 pts for Stony Brook is going to move up to the next level and so on.  As chaotic as it is at the top tier, the guys roster managing at the low and mid majors really have their hands full.  They have become farm systems for the big boys. 

Tom Noie: Joe: So true, but also so relative. The high-major guys worry about their elite talent jumping early to the NBA. The low-, mid-majors worry about their elite talent jumping early to high majors. Welcome to college athletics, 2022. Not going to change anytime soon. 

Ed, Greensboro: Right you are. Sorry I am not there to buy you some beers tonight. You more than earned them today my friend. 

Tom Noie: 👍👍👍 

joe from the south side: Tom, The difference being that if you recruit Holmgren or Banchero, you know it is one and done from Day One.  You don't know that about the guys transferring out of the MAC or MEAC. 

Tom Noie: Truth! 

Mike, Rochester, NY: Any chance that one of the sophomores will make a big jump next year? 

Tom Noie: Mike: Always, but it's up to them. You want more minutes? Fine, prove it. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  Any thoughts on Sean Miller at Xavier? 

Tom Noie: Compliance office going to have a few sleepless nights, that's for sure. Tell me that's wrong...😃 

Mike, Rochester, NY: Thoughts on the remodeled UD Arena as an alum?  I went to the game and loved it, except for the small seats.  Great venue, great game. 

Tom Noie: Mike: Awesome, though I liked the way the exterior of the building looked before the remodel. The true sense of the arena having wings has been dulled a bit with some of the extensions on the exterior. But a great place with so many great memories. 

joe from the south side: Tom,  I get that with Barnes at TENN, with Pearl at AUB.  I guess I was dumb enough to believe Xavier was a little better than that. 

Tom Noie: It's what you get when you get Sean Miller. It just is. There's a history there. Not all of it necessarily good. Win at all costs? At X? We'll see. 

Mike, Rochester, NY: One more:  do you see the need for more investment in the S&C program for hoops?  We rarely have many of the "first guy off the bus" types.  Thanks for doing this, Tom. 

Tom Noie: Sure, it can always be better. But the first guy off the bus types are always going to be at Duke and at North Carolina and Louisville and Virginia. That issue runs deeper than just the strength and conditioning program. Notre Dame basketball isn't Notre Dame football. Never claimed to be. Once you get that, you get that. 

Tim: I know I'm late here and didn't have a chance to read everything yet, but any changes expected on the staff? 

Tom Noie: None....Mike Brey likes where it's at right now. No reason for it to change. 

Tom Noie: That will do it for today. Many thanks for everyone who participated. We'll circle back next month and see where everything with the roster, the transfer portal and the offseason stands. Have a question or comments that can't wait, drop me a note at tnoie@sbtinfo.com. Take care and have a great rest of the week. 

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