at least since WW II.
We have not demonstrated an ability to consistently perform at the levels of Digger's teams. Digger had back to back seasons that were Final 4 and Elite 8; he had a streak in which ND's final AP rankings were 5, 14, 7, 10, 6, 4, 9, 7 - pretty consistent top 10 nationally. Those years included 2 years in which we were ranked no 1 in the AP weekly poll at some point in the year and two years in which we were ranked no 2. I've got to believe that the Athletic and Convocation Center at that point was considered a pretty top notch facility. The program is in very good shape, but I don't see us yet at the level of being a perennial national power - I still think we need better talent. Brey relies on a system that maximizes the talents of the players he recruits, but he has certainly never had a combination of talent on one team like Dantley, Shumate and Brokaw. During the Digger years I was optimistic of being a top 5 program; currently my optimistic outlook is consistent Sweet 16.
had four guys who played 10+ years in the NBA, two of whom made multiple NBA All-Star teams, another of whom made 2nd team All-NBA defensive team and the fourth of whom had four years of averaging 20+ ppg in the NBA. That year, they lost in the Elite 8 to Magic Johnson, and the year before that they made the Final Four.
Two other guys on that team played in the NBA.
So...um...yeah...we're not there. Yet.
No disrespect to Magic - but our team was awesome that year and it was probably tha best chance to win a NC. We just happened to run in to the best player in Basketball that year.
All this meant that I had to take solace in the year that the Pistons beat the Celtics and the Lakers for the NBA Championship (the last time I paid attention to the NBA)
he chose to have Hanzlik guard Greg Kesler while Al McGuire was pining for him to guard Magic. "Cut off the head and the body dies" Digger made a defensible choice that didn't work out.
'80 team had 3 of same 4 players plus Paxson. '78 team also had 4 players who spent at least 1 year in NBA. Those were my last 3 years at ND.
'79 team spent about 4 weeks ranked #1, and it was only 1 seed in program history.
Truth is, as talented as those 3 teams were, '74 team will always be my gold standard. Dantley was its only long-term NBA star, but it went 3-1 playing 4 games against F4 teams in a period of about 2 weeks.
As much as I've enjoyed last 3 years, program was at a different level then.
Yes, that team had four players that had long NBA careers. Laimbeer and Tripucka were the best NBA players, but Woolridge and Hanzlik also had decent NBA careers.
On that team though, the leading scorers were Dave Batton and Duck Williams and Rich Branning also scored in double figures as the soph point guard. Batton and Williams had short NBA careers (under 80 games each) and Branning was never drafted.
Of the NBA players on that final four team, Tripucka averaged around 11 as a freshman. Bruce Flowers and Laimbeer split time and Woolridge and Hanzlik were young, role players.
that the George Keogan era may well have been ND's best on the hardwood, including National Championships in 1927 and 1936.
I wasn't around for the Phelps glory years, but perennial Top 10 probably is a bit lofty. We've been a top four seed twice since 1981. I think we've finished in the top ten twice under Brey. Facilities-wise, we're really only now on the same planet as programs at that level and likely still lagging a bit.
Certainly there are some good external factors that are falling into place, but perennial top 20 to top 10 is a significant leap. The former is where we've been more or less for the last few years and likely more realistic.
I am interested to see how the program looks as it gets more talented and, inevitably, younger. I think Coach Brey would be the first to admit his handling of "better"(on paper) teams was not as good as his older, less star-laden teams.
The program is in a good place.
That's where we are giving up ground to some other teams, it seems to me. A guy like Shittu would really be the ticket, especially to go with the very talented Durham.
I'm sorry, but when you,re pushing 80 and followed Nd basketball going back to Kevin O'Shea, you have watched a lot of ND basketball, I must disagree. While this is the best shape the program has been in since the 1980's, I still think Digger's had some squads in the 70's that were extremely talented. The problem that kept them from doing even greater things was Digger's constant tinkering with playing time hurting morale and the overall effort. There was also a short time in the late fifties that John Jordan put a couple of outstanding squads featuring Tom Hawkins,, one of the best ever at ND. What Brey has done is build his program with minimal support until recently and overcoming some personnel problems that could have impacted his coaching, certainly deserves praise. Hopefully, the good times will continue.
Is Digger had teams with starters logging low minutes and big minutes.
When Tripucka was a frosh, fairly sure no one played heavy minutes. There was so much depth/talent and they were blowing a lot of teams out.
When Tripucka was a senior, the core 4 played between 31.7 and 36.6 mpg.
IMO the tinkering problem was much more about over coaching and going into stall ball WAY TOO EARLY in games.
Agree that Digger had talent at his disposal in the first half of his tenure that Brey doesn't, at least not yet. However, graded on a pound-for-pound basis against today's game with greater parity and competition for recruits (not to mention a longer path for deep tournament runs), we're getting to a point where the original question posed isn't an entirely unreasonable one.
(1974) of Shumate, Dantley, Brokaw, Clay was talent-rich, and the (1978) final four team with Tripucka, Lambier, Hanzlik, Williams was right there with it.
But program wise, I think we are in a better place now. Conference, Facilities, consistency of coaching, an expectation of winning come March... we're in a better place overall now in my opinion.
Digger had some real talent in a couple of those years. Maybe a slight nod to those teams (I'm not sure... maybe). But I think Coach Brey has his players playing better. And although Digger scheduled some marquee games, he did not have to contend with the ACC, where you get a steady diet of really, really good teams. Also, I think Coach Brey gets the nod as a likeable, selfless, ego-free guy. I like the position of today's basketball program better, personally.
As I said, for a few years Digger,s recruiting was off the charts. He also gave ND a national persona for basketball. Plus he had support from both Hesburgh and Joyce. Later, in the eighties, both he and his bosses enthusiasm waned including Dick Rosenthal, who Digger feuded with. ND men's basketball, notice I said men's, lacked support for years due to dislike of the college landscape. The last two years it seems to be coming back abit. It even appears the Rolf will get done and Brey has been fortunate to have smart players who respond to his laid back approach. Obviously, Digger was the opposite end of the spectrum. And, yes, he had an ego. And, somewhere in the eighties his love for his job slipped. But his love for Father Hesburgh and ND has never gone away. He's still here supporting both basketball and the university. He brought ND to the forefront of college basketball. For that, ego and all, he deserves a lot of credit.