Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sing it, Paul

Paul Simon told us "One man's ceiling is another man's floor". We're seeing a lot of that on The Pit these days.

What is Notre Dame men's basketball? What should it be? What can it be? Can it be that for a long time? What has to be to make "can be" into "is"?

All excellent questions whose answers depend on a lot of things. A couple of thoughts on the matter in no particular order of importance:

As I've said many times, I think comparisons to the "Golden Age" of ND basketball in the 1970's are odious. There are too many differences between the college basketball of that era and the college basketball we see now to make any kind of apples to apples analysis. I cringe when I read posts that compare Mike Brey's winning percentage to Digger Phelps' just as hard as when I read posts that compare Digger's recruiting prowess as compared to Brey's. Digger had to run his program in a completely different manner than Brey has to run his.

There are some factors ND cannot control, or would have to sacrifice too much of what it is to control. Notre Dame is not going to relax accountability for student athletes, either on or off the court. Notre Dame is not going to create special curriculum for its student athletes to maintain an illusion of classroom performance. Basketball players looking for the quickest route to the NBA most likely are not going to find the atmosphere at ND attractive.

But there are some factors ND can control, and it is important they do the maximum they can in those areas. This is why I continually beat the facilities drum. ND will not sell any part of its soul to have a nice arena, nor will it compromise what it is to give student athletes good infrastructure to improve their game. Considering it's been over 40 years since the last attention was paid to ND's physical plant for hoops, and considering how many other sports have received nice-to-have upgrades in time, such an effort is past due (although underway).

ND can also control what it pays its coaches. Charlie Weis is among the best-paid college football coaches for a reason. ND needs to have that same mindset for all of its sports, including basketball, and also needs to remember each sport supports its own market. If that means the basketball coach's salary approaches or exceeds Weis', that's what it means, provided that's what the basketball market can bear.

So what's the ceiling and what's the floor? The ceiling is a constantly changing thing, and we'll see what ND's new efforts at infrastructure do for it. But I do believe I can see the floor, so here are my ideas, which may or may not match anyone else's:

  • ND should always finish in the top half of the Big East. As much as it pains me to use it as a cite, they should never receive anything lower than a #9 seed in the EWSNBN.

  • ND should participate in the postseason every year.

  • At least three out of every four of those years, that postseason should be the NCAA tournament.

  • Regardless of postseason tournament, ND should not lose to a seed more than three spots below it.

I believe all these things can and should be done on a consistent basis right now, regardless of anything else going on. Does that mean I think that's what ND will always achieve? No. If ND dedicates itself to a quality program, they can certainly achieve more as a minimum expectation. But I want to see them do that before I demand more.


Anonymous Fuzzy Patters said...

Bonger, the only problem that I see with your article is that ND shouldn't lose to teams seeded more than three spots below it. The NCAA selection committee has been a farce in recent years, and the tournament seeds need to be taken with a grain of salt.

For example, Duke lost to VCU this year in a 6 vs. 11 game. Technically, Duke lost to a team that was seeded more than three spots below it. However, VCU had only lost 4 games all year, and Duke had a losing record in conference. It was really more of a 7/10 or 8/9 match-up than a 6/11 game, regardless of what the committee said.

3/20/2007 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing made me prouder to be a domer than when I read that several of the basketball players were taking finals at midnight the night before playing in the BE tourney. Being able to say that, being able to proclaim loud and proud that ND does it the right way, is worth 4-5 losses a year. I hope we never compromise in that area.

3/20/2007 06:54:00 PM  

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