Random Thoughts-- End of the Season Edition
by Taxman (2017-03-19 13:21:28)
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The disappointment will wear off. I suspect everyone will realize this was a pretty good season. This year's team was probably just as good as last year's team. It's just that the tournament match-ups broke a little differently and this year's team did not have the same luck as last year's team. Whoever in the Round of 32 played WVU yesterday was going to lose. They played that well. I doubt WVU will be able to replicate that result against Gonzaga, so this loss might end up looking worse than it really was. I would hate for history to judge this year's team more harshly than last year's team. They were much closer in ability than tournament results would otherwise suggest.

If you look back at the conventional wisdom at the start of the year, no one would have predicted how this season turned out. Vasturia was a known quantity and probably performed as expected. Beachem was sort of a known quantity, but his ceiling turned out to be lower than what last year's tournament performance might have suggested. Colson was a known quantity, but it turns out his ceiling was much higher than most expected. Colson ended the season as a true college-level superstar. He and Beachem probably evened each other out in terms of expectations versus results. Farrell pretty much came out of nowhere. If we had known what he would have become, I think we all would have had expectations that came closer to matching the ultimate results.

What about next year? Four of the five starters for game one next year will be Colson, Pflueger, Gibbs and Farrell. I honestly think those are carved in stone. Those are the four guys who pretty clearly fell within the circle of trust. The fifth starter depends on a number of things.

One of those things is that Ryan needs to understand that his competition for playing time is Geben, Burns and Mooney, not Gibbs, Djogo and Harvey. Ryan needs to be able to defend the interior reasonably well and rebound reasonably well. If so, he will get plenty of minutes and we will be much better for it. At the end of the year, Ryan looked more like what he needs to become, so there is hope in that regard.

Here is why I think we can be better next year. For one, we will have all world-level Bonzie Colson for the whole year. He was good last year and earlier this year, but he really improved as the year went on and he is now one of the ten best players in college. That can take a team a long way.

Second, I agree that playing two PGs will help Farrell. He is probably our best three point shooter, especially in a catch and shoot situation. It is important to help him get good looks next year, because opponents are really going to focus on him. I figure they will realize they can't stop Colson, but they can survive Colson if they can control Farrell. It will be more difficult for him to get to the rim. It will be easier to get him looks from the arc and he will always be able to get a mid-range shot.

Third (and admittedly this is an intangible one), our two leaders next year are badasses. They play with a serious edge. Frankly, there is a greater risk they will burn the team out emotionally (like Hansbrough supposedly did) than that we will ever come out flat for a game. Vasturia and Beachem are great kids, very good basketball players and I suspect strong team leaders, but Colson and Farrell burn a little hotter (probably a lot hotter). Gibbs and Pflueger also have a fire and I think Colson and Farrell will stoke that.

Fourth, next year our depth really will come into play. By that, I don't mean we will play a 10 man rotation with minutes spread evenly. We will still play 7-8 guys 95% of the minutes. However, our depth will allow Brey to award playing time based on production. Someone asked how we replace VJ and Vasturia. The answer is "I don't know, but there are at least six realistic possibilities."

No one who hasn't watched practice has any real basis to conclude that Burns is going to be any good. We just haven't seen him play enough to judge one way or the other. Mooney showed a couple of flashes, but again he got so few minutes that you can't say for sure (I really wish we had redshirted him and I'll bet Brey does, too). In brief appearances, Djogo looked like a real athlete with energy to burn, but who knows how strong his basketball skills are. Harvey is very highly rated and comes from an elite program that makes it likely he can contribute right away, but he will be a freshman. Will he be a special freshman? Who knows. Ryan has proven he can shoot lights out. Can he defend and rebound? What can Geben do to improve?

The good news is we don't need all six of those guys to take a huge step forward, so we have lots of "room for error." If one or two of those guys can contribute meaningfully, we will really be in business. That is perhaps the biggest reason for optimism.

Admittedly, I have no idea where the offense will come from next year. Gibbs and Pflueger are far better on the defensive end than the offensive end. Having said that, I am pretty convinced that Brey could take just about any five guys and turn them into the 75th most efficient offense, so that will probably work itself out. Our defensive efficiency has been trending in the right direction and our improved athleticism should only enhance that.

Over the last three years there has been a natural progression. In 2014-2015, our two best players (Grant and Connaughton) left and we thought the world would end. In 2015-2016, our third and fourth best players from the previous year (Jackson and Auguste) became our two best players and then left and again we thought the world was coming to an end. This year, the third and fourth best players from the prior year (Vasturia and Beachem) become (at least for the beginning of the year) our two best players and then left. We should have learned by now that the world doesn't come to an end. Our third and fourth best players at the beginning of this year (one of whom became our best player during the year and the other of whom became at least our third best player) will be our two best players next year. And the cycle goes one. We'll be fine.

This may seem strange, but I think the entire key to next year is John Mooney (at least what I think John Mooney can be). It is no secret we really need a big for rebounding and post defense purposes. Colson needs help on that end of the floor. However, given Colson's unique offensive skill set, I think what we really need is a true stretch four who can spread the defense. Geben's presence doesn't allow Colson to maximize his ability on offense. If you keep Geben down low, it clogs things up. If you move him to the perimeter, it makes it easier for the opponent to double team Colson in the post. Ryan could serve the stretch four role on offense, but does he have the size and strength to handle the post defense and rebounding roles? For all I know, Mooney doesn't have those abilities or won't be ready. I don't mean to put pressure on Mooney, and perhaps it would be fairer to say that the key to next year is finding a legit stretch four. Having one of those would really raise our ceiling.

The bottom line for next year is anyone who slots us below fourth place in the ACC does so at their own peril. We may not finish that high, but the smart money wouldn't bet against it.

About recruiting. It was suggested below that we need better, more athletic players. And that we need big men. No shit.

As Kayo has consistently noted, the biggest recent failure of Brey's recruiting is bigs. Just look at the gap in time between Auguste and what I hope Mooney becomes. If we had recruited someone better than Geben, it would have made a huge difference both this year and next (giving Mooney time to develop), but sometimes the plan doesn't work perfectly.

Having said that, the strategy of recruiting 3 and 4 stars is the right one (preferably more 4's than 3's, but a lot of our 3 star guys have developed nicely, thank you very much). People have short memories, but Brey recruited three McDonald's AAs (5 star guys) during his first few years-- Thomas, Francis and Zeller. How did that work out? I'm not so sure that 5 star guys who are not one and done's are any better bets than well scouted 3 and 4 stars who fit your system.

I think Brey now knows exactly what he is looking for. He and the staff appear to have an eye for talent and there is no question Brey can develop talent. I agree that 2018 is a key year for recruiting and I'd love to have a 6'10" athletic big man, but they don't grow on trees and everyone else wants them, too. I'll live with a bunch of highly rated wings and point guards, with three star development-type bigs. That will work. We just can't miss on the bigs like I think we did with Geben. In that regard, Mooney's and Burns' development may be the most important factor in our future success.

In summary, we are going the right direction. Not every top recruit is going to buy into our program. The ones who want immediate playing time will likely end up somewhere else. I'd rather settle for a lesser rated recruit than change a system that pretty clearly is working.

I hope people don't take this the wrong way, but we have become an "elite mid-major program" playing in a major conference. Our raw talent level isn't even in the top half of major conference talent. Academic requirements, lack of support from the administration and the absence of a rabid fan base really, really hamstring recruiting. No matter how good Mike Brey is, that's a reality we have to deal with. In 17 years, we have never, not once, beaten Duke for a recruit. As long as K is there, that will continue to be true. Similarly, when you see a kid list ND and then any combination of schools like Arizona, Michigan State or Kentucky, you can cross them of the list because it is really unlikely the kid is willing to deal with the academic rigors of ND. We are Butler. We are Gonzaga. But so what. So are Villanova and Virginia. It can work. We can eventually reach the Final Four. We just need to keep chopping wood.


I disagree on your athletic big men don't grow on trees
by JBrock18  (2017-03-19 21:54:41)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

comment. Almost every other team I see has them, many times 3 or 4 of them. It doesn't matter if it's a small or large school either. I don't know if ND doesn't recruit that type of player as hard or what but it's a major deficiency of the program. If we can target and get high 3 and 4 star guards and wings why can't we get a couple of 6-10 6-11 athletes every couple of years? Do big men not want to deal with academics like a guard? Do Big men want a nice practice facility more then a guard? I simply do not think that type have player has been the focus for the program for whatever reason. ND needs to start aggressively pursuing talented size, or the ceiling for the program will
never be a final four.


Can those big men pass?
by lucid  (2017-03-19 22:41:35)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Do they understand offensive spacing? Will they be a liability because their game is limited to athletic ability rather than having actual basketball smarts? The pool of athletic big men that also have those traits and can hack the academic rigors if ND is incredibly small.


Excellent! I like the trend of our program too. *
by Cbo86  (2017-03-19 20:14:45)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Solid analysis
by HoyaDomer  (2017-03-19 20:10:40)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

In a very simplistic way, I'll just observe that our teams, like I think most teams in most sports, take on the characteristics of their senior leadership. I loved Vasturia and VJ, but the team ended up being as good and as consistent (or inconsistent) as they were. When our senior leadership is good, the team tends to be the same.

I hope our recruiting improves, but overall, I've been really impressed by how Brey and his staff develops the kids.


extremely well said and a great summation of the
by OCdomer78  (2017-03-19 19:27:51)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

state of the program.

my only quibble is why anyone would think it will be difficult to replace VJ. His sole contribution is to shoot open threes. Ryan can already do that. Replacing SV and all he does is another story. That said, you are still dead on with where we are and,more importantly, where we are going.


Thanks for another season of your insights. I really enjoy
by NH74Domer  (2017-03-19 18:27:43)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

reading your posts.


Thank you Taxman!
by TRIRISH  (2017-03-19 17:34:11)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Taxman, Just want to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your thoughts all season!! Thank you for taking the time!

The future is bright for ND Basketball!


Excellent analysis!
by Redmack  (2017-03-19 17:06:32)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Thanks Taxman for all your thoughts. Always enjoy reading your comments!


Thanks for the insight all season.
by vankelly  (2017-03-19 17:01:29)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I agree with your comment re Mooney. I was actually thinking the exact same thing yesterday. He very well may be the key. I'm excited to see more of his game.


Agree with everything except Ryan
by PortND  (2017-03-19 16:47:53)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

In my opinion Ryan's issues were he tried to get bigger and become a stretch 4, add this to his foot injury and it took till a March for him to be in proper shape and move with the proper agility.

Ryan is not a stretch 4, he is a 3 and will need to actually slim down and improve his agility.


Thanks for your thoughts, always look forward to them *
by kgreen04  (2017-03-19 16:29:33)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Geben is much better than you think.
by bleedsgreen04  (2017-03-19 16:11:30)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I'd wager a lot of money we will either see him or Ryan as a starter. And that will be good for a lot of reasons. Putting Colson out there on the jump ball basically just gives the other team a free possession.

Not that Geben should be put in there solely for the jump ball, he brings a lot to the table and people didn't notice his minutes this year simply because he doesn't have the offensive output we are used to seeing. Geben is the player you put in there when you're players are cold and you aren't getting the calls. The problem is we need about 2 Gebens because his style of game leads to a lot of fouls. But he is the best interior defender (specifically against other teams' centers) and offensive rebounder Brey has had in quite some time.

And again, I disagree that Ryan will be competing with the bigs for playing time; he'll be able to defend a position similar to Beachem, he might not have the flash to get awesome blocks, but he's athletic enough to cover a lot of ground and has a better frame for it, not to mention the height. But offensively he can handle the ball well enough and shoot the 3 well enough to be a wing/guard combo in the vein that we've used Connaughton/Beachem and even Colson at times.

Colson's game will be that much more effective on a court that has that kind of size on it... Farrell is too much of a defensive liability and Gibbs doesn't have enough offense yet, I just don't see them out on the court together too much when Colson is in there, except in very specific packages against small teams.

Pflueger's offense will really come around, in my opinion, he just passed up a lot of good open looks in these last 2 games, often for a much worse shot or even a turnover. I suspect that watching film from those and gaining a little more confidence in his long shot will work wonders for his game.

I do agree that we need Mooney or Burns to step up, preferably both. Even if Geben is a starter that cleans up his fouls without sacrificing too much on defense I don't see him playing more than 20 minutes a game. I have confidence in Brey. Next year's team will be every bit as good as the team that took Kentucky down to the wire a couple years ago. Maybe not in terms of complete quality across the board, but it'll be much deeper, which good be good news for a team that needs to improve a lot on defense.


Best analysis on any site, thanks we all appreciate *
by NDRON  (2017-03-19 16:05:37)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Regarding the programs we most resemble...
by IrishGeek  (2017-03-19 15:52:35)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

which you mentioned, they all are more committed to winning, systematically, be it recruiting, admissions flexibility, and facilities than ND, and they've all experienced greater success than ND in the last 10 years. Mike Brey has taken a Boston College caliber program and gotten us to the upper half of the ACC, which is a fantastic accomplishment. I wonder if you could stick him at Boston College (or perhaps a Georgia Tech or a Wake Forest) and turn them into what ND is now. We are a Mike Brey retirement and another John McCleod hire away from sliding back to being a Boston College.

I'd like to think we could be a Butler, Gonzaga, or Villanova type program, but I don't think even Mike Brey can accomplish that completely on his own given the pieces around him at Notre Dame.


thanks for passing along your BB knowledge and thoughts! *
by discNDav  (2017-03-19 15:51:57)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Thanks Taxman for Analysis/Thoughts *
by irish3inaz  (2017-03-19 15:18:09)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Really appreciate your insights throughout the year *
by celtic745  (2017-03-19 15:15:16)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Your final para. sums up the state of this program...
by Scoop80  (2017-03-19 14:45:32)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Last 3 years have been highly satisfying, and 7 of last 8 years, on balance, have featured far more positives than negatives.

Chris Collins saying that he wants to build a program like ND's spoke a lot about the current state of the program.


I think Pflueger improving his handles/finishing will be key
by Keough09Roos  (2017-03-19 14:44:32)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

He's quick enough to get a first step and get to the rim, but i feel his dribbling is still a little loose/high in traffic and he doesn't finish that well at the rim yet.

If he can approach Vasturia's ball handling and finishing prowess, then we'll be in business.


Thank you, Taxman.
by bruuce  (2017-03-19 14:43:10)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I look forward to your insights after every game. You make "the ride" that much more enjoyable for many of us.


How effective do you think Harvey can be in 2017/18?
by JACC1203  (2017-03-19 14:32:18)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

He is the highest rated recruit since DJ and DJ seemed to take a year to get used to the college game before having a breakout season as a Sophomore.

Without using google, I tried to think of the best season a Freshman has had while Brey has been the HC. The only one that came to mind was Harangody and he wasn't very highly recruited (I think IU was the only other school of note that offered him)

I'm not trying to imply a successful season depends on Harvey's play, but if he can score/handle the ball/etc it will help alleviate losing SV & Beachum.


Best freshman seasons under Brey
by KeoughCharles05  (2017-03-19 15:01:07)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

#1 - Chris Thomas
#2 - Tory Jackson


People forget that Thomas had a triple double his first game
by athlete37  (2017-03-20 09:12:42)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I'm not sure if we had one before or after Chris Thomas. He was very close to bearing Melo and Warrick at the Dome


Still the only one in ND hoops history *
by El Kabong  (2017-03-20 12:52:05)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


#2 Harangody, without question
by lucid  (2017-03-19 23:18:11)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Tory only became a starter because McAlarney was kicked out. Harangody had the better season as a freshman - Kurz came to Brey in December saying he should start. And it was the right call.


I can handle being Villanova or Virginia.
by G.K.Chesterton  (2017-03-19 14:10:10)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

As always, thank you for your thoughtful insights.


How about Gonzaga? *
by irishhawk49  (2017-03-19 14:13:06)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Great analysis of this & past years
by rhodyjack  (2017-03-19 14:09:22)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Would love to hear your in-depth points of view about the 5 star players (Jackson, Thomas, Francis, Zeller) we have recruited under Brey. What happened to each of them at ND; what could have been if... and how do we make any adjustments, if any, to future recruitments of them.


Here you go
by Taxman  (2017-03-19 14:20:17)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Francis was overrated as a recruit. We fell in love with the 5 star part and didn't focus on the "can't play like a five star" part. He was stiff and mechanical.

Thomas blew out his knees. Before that, he was a very good player.

Zeller was a shooting guard trapped inside a 7 foot body (non-Kevin Durant division). We got the wrong Zeller.

Jackson was an important contributor on the best ND team of the last 30 years. I'll take more guys like him. If only the South Bend area would grow more like him.


Thanks - Enjoy Your Work *
by rhodyjack  (2017-03-19 18:26:50)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


Well-said, thanks *
by Stonebreaker9  (2017-03-19 14:04:08)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post


As always, thanks for the insights throughout the year
by ndnjlaw  (2017-03-19 13:54:30)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

If you are as good a "taxman"as you are a hoops analyst, you can do my taxes anytime.


About recruiting
by beattherush  (2017-03-19 13:53:55)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

There's a difference between "we need McDonald's AA's like Duke Brey sucks !!!1!" and "recruiting is not where it needs to be"

Recruiting is not where it needs to be.

I completely agree that recruiting 5 stars is not a good idea, both out of ability to recruit them and out of system fit. Chris Thomas is a fine data point for that.

Sure, we can develop 3-stars into great players. But it's hit or miss. We need a half-notch better recruiting -- more 4's than 3's is not a trivial point, it's a necessary component of system success. It's not an accident that Brey's had players the last three years who are pro-caliber (NBA or Europe) as seniors and that we've done well overall in those years. You've said yourself that Brey has needed athletes who can generate plays for a long time and now finally has them. Well, those guys are disproportionately four star kinds of guys. And there's enough of them that are academically interested that we should be able to recruit them.

That's a program issue, not necessarily a Brey issue. We need better facilities, we need better academic support, we need the University to give a damn about the program. And we need program consistency and public regard. We may play like a mid-major, but we can't be thought of as one. We can get to Virginia or Louisville's level of regard. Brey's on the right track. But it's not a knock on Brey, or on your excellent eye for the program, to think that recruiting needs to improve.


Agreed
by garbageplate  (2017-03-19 14:04:24)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Although I would not categorically exclude 5 stars even though it is unlikely that any would attend. There's a reason why Brey tried to recruit Thon Maker last year. If a big time recruit shows an interest, then I think we would be foolish not to pursue him vigorously.

I also think the point below about Huggins going to Columbus after a NCAA Tournament game is valid. I'm not sure that our coaches put the same effort into recruiting as some of the other elite programs.


Next year's schedule and roster
by jonathanames  (2017-03-19 13:51:38)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

The nonconference schedule includes road games at Delaware, DePaul, and the Big 10/ACC challenge (my uneducated guess is OSU), three neutral site games in Maui, and the crossroads against Indiana. That should give Brey plenty of opportunities to tinker with the rotation prior to the conference slate in more difficult situations than our typically heavy home cupcake schedule allows. An added bonus should be a higher RPI with more road games and less home dregs.

I agree with your point that Geben isn't exactly the best fit along side Colson. If any of the Burns/Mooney/Ryan are able to take on that role, Colson becomes almost impossible to defend. Conversely, I actually think Geben could be a solid player in the right situation, I just don't see any minutes for him especially with Torres returning. I'm curious whether Brey will consider red shirting him to preserve a year of eligibility and have him available in 2018/2019 when the roster really looks devoid of front line depth.

Always look forward to Random Thoughts. Look forward to them next year.


For Colson to be effective
by D8NDomer  (2017-03-19 13:40:27)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

and reach his great potential and for the team to be competitive ND must get physical, shot blocking and rebounding production from the unnamed fifth man/position. In other words, a Shumate for A.D.


Nicely thought out, nicely stated. The first sentence of
by KevinPS  (2017-03-19 13:34:06)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

your last paragraph is a brilliant description of our program.


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