Transcript: Lineups, scheduling, recruiting and upcoming Notre Dame men's basketball year
Tom Noie: And....we're back. Another college basketball season is here, and not a moment too soon. There's a lot to wonder about this year's Notre Dame men's basketball team, and a lot to get to - from staff changes, to player additions to recruiting. Let's do it all today. Here. Just make sure to include your hometown and name with your question/comment. And with that, you know the rest - let's light this chat candle!
Patrick: What role will Robby Carmody have on this team?
Tom Noie: Patrick: It's been a rough road for Carmody his first three years, each of which have been cut way too short by season-ending injuries - a torn labrum, an ACL tear and a kneecap crack. He's a senior academically, but really a freshman athletically. It's going to be a really long road back for Carmody to become anything close to a rotation player. He might not ever get there at Notre Dame. Mike Brey has been realistic with him, saying earlier in the fall it may happen next month or next year or not at all. It's not a knock on Carmody in any way. He first has to stay healthy past Christmas. Just go through a year where he practices and maybe gets some leftover minutes at the end of games. Can we start with that? There's no way he's going to be in the rotation this year, and that's really OK. Stay healthy and show a little something that he can carry into 2022-23. Maybe it happens for him at Notre Dame. Maybe it happens for him somewhere else. But it's simply too much to ask to expect Carmody to be a main guy.
Mike,New jersey: Hey Tom a lot to be excited for going into the season …..how’s the progress going for Elijah Taylor ? If he can step up it would be a huge relief to have some real front court depth for the first time in years
Tom Noie: Mike: We media dopes have only seen one offseason workout, but there was a lot to like just from a see-that-guy standpoint with Elijah Taylor. He looks more like a defensive end than a power forward, which offers some optimism. The Irish sure could use that body to bang around in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but, and here comes the but - how will he respond for having not played in basically two years? Can he shake all that rust accumulated from sitting out last season after undergoing ankle surgery? His path to the rotation is a little clearer than Carmody's, but is kind of the same - baby steps this season for Taylor. Prove that he's ACC-caliber. If he is, that's a really good start.
Dave from DC: Hey Tom! Great to have hoops season upon us. In his ACC tip-off comments, Brey mentioned having confidence in a 7 player rotation if they were to start play today. Can Elijah Taylor join that group? I can't envision the Irish playing most minutes with Nate L. at the 5 - rebounding would be a question mark - and Paul Atkinson will need a breather here and there. Taylor appears to have a high ceiling for being a great rebounder.
Tom Noie: Dave: Great to hear from you. A lot of your Taylor info is in the previous question. Elijah Taylor will be a wait-and-see/bring-him-along type of rotation guy. Some nights, he might be needed and get 8-10 minutes. Other nights, it will be hard for him and for Matt Zona and to an extent, Tony Sanders and J.R. Konieczny to get significant minutes. What does that do in terms of rebounding? Paul Atkinson will get most of the time at the 5, Nate Laszewski at 4 - often together. Mike Brey isn't averse to going with four guards when one of the bigs needs a break. It all depends on a certain 'D' word - defense.
Mark Kruz from Mishawaka: Tom the question I have going into this season is how does coach Brey handle his bench minutes being that this might be the deepest bench he has had in quite awhile? Looking forward to seeing the team in person. Thanks
Tom Noie: Mark: Great to hear from you, but have to offer this disclaimer for you and for others who follow in the chat with this question - don't get caught up in the whole "deepest bench in years" narrative with this team. Could Mike Brey go eight or nine or 10 deep? Perhaps. It's one thing to have depth; it' s another to have quality depth. Reliable depth. Depth with guys you can trust. Bench minutes this year will go mainly to the sixth and seventh guys. There might be nights when they have to go eight deep, perhaps nine. But that will be the exception rather than the rule. It just will.
joe from the south side: In a recent interview, Brey referred to one of his FR as "JR KON-OH-SHEV-SKI." Do you feel it detracts from his credibility as a coach when he doesn't even know the names of his recruits?
Tom Noie: Joe: Whoa! Starting early this year with the criticisms? lol Think Mike Brey might have La-SHEV-Ski on the brain for that one. Have heard him pronounce J.R. Konieczny's name right plenty of times, so we'll let that one slide. As long as he can guard, don't think it will matter, right? lol
joe from the south side: Tom, Three parter. Early word is Sanders has been a positive surprise. If you go back to Brey's comments about "7 guys to start", where does that leave him? Next, the first 8 (counting Sanders) are all essentially backcourt guys, save PAJ and Nate. He'll need to add one more big to the mix like Big Zone or Taylor. I do not see him rotating 9 guys after the first few games, do you? Finally, let's say Zona is the first big off the bench, is Taylor so buried on this team that he is likely to pull an Elijah Burns? Taylor reminds me of Torres. Bulky, a bit undersized, grab a couple of boards, don't hurt the team, get back on the bench.
Tom Noie: We've hit the Joe from the South Side section of the chat....lol. Early word on Sanders? I'll go the slower route on that one. The scrimmage that we saw, Sanders had a nice steal in the backcourt, then missed a breakaway layup. That's not going to get him on the floor (i.e. earn the trust of the coaching staff) anytime soon. The back end of the rotation if the season started today is any combination of Konieczny, Sanders, Zona and Taylor. Those guys will be more situational guys this season. Need a shooter? Konieczny? Need a perimeter defender? Sanders. More bulk around the basket? Taylor or Zona. I don't know about the "buried on the bench" thing with Taylor - let's remember, he hasn't played a minute of college basketball. To expect him to hit the court running and look more like Atkinson and/or Laszewski is a big ask.
joe from the south side: Tom, Seems like more excitement this year than in a long time. COVID is down, the team is up, slowly returning to normal etc......Has that translated into local fan interest and ticket sales, or is it just when Duke or NC are in South Bend?
Tom Noie: Joe, Part III: Think interest will be up this year naturally because Notre Dame has two local kids on its roster in J.R. Konieczny and Blake Wesley. That will help. It also should help that this team can make some sort of move/noise in the ACC because it's kind of a down year in the league. And that people missed hoops. Yet there are mask mandates (mandatory) that are in place for home games, so it will be a hard read as to how that impacts attendance. I know of at least one season-ticket holder who declined to renew his seats this season because he'd have to wear a mask for home games.
Guest: Hi Tom! I may have missed this, but who is taking Jack Nolan’s place as the radio voice of ND men’s basketball?
Tom Noie: Notre Dame announced on Wednesday that Tony Simeone will replace Jack Nolan as the radio play-by-play voice of Irish basketball. At least for now, he will work without a color analyst. Here is a link to the official release from Notre Dame: https://tinyurl.com/v6fs6dfe
Kevin: Asked an answered. Reader's Digest version of it? No. Not anything against Carmody, but three season-ending injuries in three years have torpedoed his Notre Dame career before it ever got off the ground.
Eric g: What role do you see for carmody this season? Sixth man?
Tom Noie: Eric: See previous comments on Carmody. Thanks!
Tony,: Tom, do you think Cormac, Nate, and Dane will be back again next year? If we do not get Allen Lubin I would think they will watch the transfer portal. Other than Xavier, are there any other visitors this weekend?
Tom Noie: Tony: Seven current Irish are on track to graduate in the spring - Paul Atkinson, Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski, Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz, Cormac Ryan and Robby Carmody. Everyone but Atkinson has eligibility remaining. Hubb and Laszewski, if they have good years, likely will be ready to try pro ball at some level. Goodwin indicated last year that he'd ben open to returning for an additional year. If I had to guess, I'd think Ryan and Wertz also would lean toward playing one more year. Carmody? He may decide that if he's ever going to play - like, really play - he might have to transfer down a level if he can make it through this season and his body holds up....
Tom Noie: ...As for recruiting, Notre Dame is basically down to one target in Ven-Allen Lubin, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward from Orlando, Fla. The staff really, really likes/wants him. Notre Dame is the only northern school on a wish list that has a lot of southern schools. If Lubin looks elsewhere, it will be transfer portal/current bigs moving forward. As for this weekend, Xavier Booker from Indianapolis is the main visitor. Notre Dame may have as many as 12 prospects on campus for visits. Still efforting some of those names.
Guest: How big of a role will Wesley play this coming season? Is Carmondy ever going to be able to play meaningful mins again?
Tom Noie: Guest: Do you have a name? Hometown? Cough 'em up if you can....thanks! Blake Wesley is going to be a main guy this year. Already is with his athleticism and length and ability/willingness to defend. I can see him maybe sliding into the starting lineup at some point to see if he can take off. He's that good. We're less than an hour into the chat, but I'll have to ask for no more Carmody questions if you can....asked and addressed. Thanks!
Dave from DC: The last couple of years the offense has run into trouble at the end of shot clocks and halves, lacking anyone who could go and get a bucket when the defense takes away passing lanes. Even Hubb had difficulty getting to the basket and getting a (unblocked) shot off. Could Paul Atkinson's post game help on that end?
Tom Noie: Dave: Good observation, and the early answer is, I don't know. Atkinson looks way more comfortable and fluid in the post than Juwan Durham, who always looked as if he was thinking through all the different scenarios he might have to deal with when he got the ball. Atkinson's older and wiser and just better. But how will that translate to the size and athleticism he's going to see in the ACC? He'll be an option early in the non-league, but will have to wait and see what league play challenges await. Not just with Atkinson, but really everybody. There's a lot of potential, but a lot that we don't know - and won't know - for a couple more months.
Matt Riley: Since they got a big time commitment from Starling, what are the chances he helps bring in another big recruit with him
Tom Noie: Matt: Slim, because they Irish coaching staff was already way down the recruiting road with the only guy left in power forward Ven-Allen Lubin. In fact, the first day that coaches could go out on the road and recruit in person, Mike Brey's first stop was La Lumiere to see JJ Starling. He then hopped on a plane to go and see Lubin in Orlando. Starling might not bring additional star power in this class. But the next one? Stay tuned...
joe from the south side: Tom, Obviously understand the reasoning behind Coach Slo's return. What was the driving force behind choosing Coach Wyche and what does he bring to the table, strengths/weaknesses?
Tom Noie: Joe: Easy. Notre Dame graduate who always wanted to return to the alma mater and coach. He's paid his dues. Here's a column I did with Wyche on his return - https://tinyurl.com/rrmdzd5e. He'll work mainly with the guards. He's not very vocal, and that's OK. He'll hold guys more accountable than a certain former Irish guard did. And he's respected/known on the recruiting trail. Wyche has ties to the Albany (N.Y.) area, which likely helped in recruiting Starling, who played for the Albany City Rocks AAU program.
Andrew from Plymouth, IN: How do you think Zona and Sanders (and Taylor to a lesser extent) reacted to not being named as "in the rotation" by Brey the other day? Are they back on the 5-year track and plan to redshirt this season, what's the plan for the Sophomore class this year?
Tom Noie: Andrew: I don't think it affected them one way or another. If it did, it would be more along the lines of, Oh, yeah, just wait....I'll do some stuff to the point where Coach has to play me. Don't think they'd react any differently. And why would they? Remember, this is a program that has been built on the slow and steady progress of guys to the point where when they're juniors and seniors, they're really good. Confident. Consistent. Tim Abromaitis wasn't ready early to do what he did late in his career. Same for Jack Cooley. And John Mooney. Tony Sanders isn't ready. Same for Elijah Taylor and Matt Zona. This is a program that invests in guys. Grow your games, grow up but stay ready.
joe from the south side: Tom, Have you had the pleasure of watching Starling live? Your thoughts? On film, if he continues to progress, that is NBA level talent.
Tom Noie: Joe: I have not, which will change Friday when I head to La Lumiere to watch Starling practice and spend some time getting to know him. I'll get a better read on his skills/future, but man, let's get him on campus and go up and down the court at Rolfs once or twice first, right?
joe from the south side: Tom, Sorry about the amount of questions, but we haven't had one of these in quite some time, and much has happened in the program. Call it pent up demand. At this point in your career, would you rather cover ND Hoops or FB? Much as being at Cameron Indoor is a bucket list item, I would think Blacksburg, VA on a SAT Night ain't too shabby either.
Tom Noie: Joe: No need to apologize. You keep asking, I'll keep responding. On anything. Great question. This is Year Five for my additional duties of covering Notre Dame football on top of starting Year 24 on the hoops beat. I'll always be a hoops guy. That's never going to change. Once you've been to Cameron, and have had students' spittle splatter your laptop screen while taking elbows to the back of the head, it's been there/done that. As for Lane Stadium, one of the most OVERRATED aspects anywhere. Enter Sandman is like the culmination of the entire night. Once that happens, everyone just kind of exhales. I'd much rather cover a game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles or Sanford Stadium. Now THAT was a night I won't soon forget. But if I'm choosing one sport for the long haul, I'm choosing basketball. Every time.
Dave: What impact to do you see Coach Solomon having on this team? I don't see any Brey team being defensive-minded, but will Coach Slo at least add some toughness?
Tom Noie: Dave: On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of the impact Anthony Solomon has had/will have on this team, I'd say it's about a 12. No joke. This staff needed the one "bad cop" if you will. Mike Brey couldn't wear both hats, but tried to do it in seasons past and we saw the results. Woof! Now, this team isn't going to turn into Virginia defensively, but they can be a whole lot better just from want-to. The practice we saw last week, Solomon stopped it to point out how one player relaxed after the ball moved away from his side. Can't do that, Slo said, or this and this and this will happen. It was a such a small point in the bigger picture, but it's a point that probably wasn't made last year. It matters. Slo will as well. Watch.
Jeff from Schererville, IN: Hi Tom. I have a comment or two that will later morph into a question. I'm a season-ticket holder who did choose to renew his seats, and during the pre-sale for single-game tickets in advance of single-game tickets going on sale to the general public tonight, there were plenty of seats for Kentucky, Duke, UNC and all other games at various price points. It's a shame students won't be there for Duke and UNC but that's the way the schedule worked out. With that said, can you recall a better home schedule than this year's with the 3 historically great programs plus the likes of Virginia, Louisville, Syracuse and others? Hopefully having those opponents visit plus an improved ND team will make for the kind of home-game atmosphere many of us have wanted for a long time. Thanks and keep up your great work.
Tom Noie: Jeff: Great stuff, and you're so right. Like, look at that home schedule. What's there NOT to like about it? Still, Notre Dame basketball always has been a tough sell for the students/fans, and I've historically been tough on them. I remember 10, 11, 12 years ago when we were going through the same fan attendance issues. The biggest response I got in terms of student/casual fan turnout was that Notre Dame never played anybody good in the non-league. Play someone good and we'll show up everyone shouted. Notre Dame scheduled a home game against Gonzaga that year. Didn't sell out. Sigh...
joe from the south side: Tom, Just a guess but Robby C looks a lot like a future grad transfer, that is IF there is any tread on those tires. I would guess he would graduate and kind of go along with his brother's schedule. Then, move on. Might be a good fit in the A10 for Duquesne. From a BBL standpoint, tough outcome for a good kid from a good family.
Tom Noie: Joe: Violating the Carmody rule....just kidding, but you're right. Nothing against Carmody the kid or the family or anything else, but you have those three major injuries the way he has, eventually, the staff has to move on. He's not going to climb over Konieczny or Wesley on the depth chart. It's just not going to happen. He decides to transfer down a level where he can just go and play, the staff will do everything they can to help him. His body betrayed him. Happens all the time in every college sport.
joe from the south side: Tom, I see someone mentioned Ven-Allen Lubin. Reading the tea leaves (just a hunch) , I think the SEC schools lead. FLA and ALA out front. ND is in the next tier with GTECH. CLEM is on the outside looking in. I hope I am wrong, but the info that is out there kind of leads you that way.
Tom Noie: Joe: Lubin doesn't choose Notre Dame and it won't be because of a lack of effort from the staff. Brey might be close to establishing Orlando residence he's spent so much time down there. His staff too. Getting him up here to deal with the snow and cold might be too high of a hurdle when he can get everything he might want in terms of athletics and academics closer to home.
joe from the south side: Tom, This goes to Dave from DC. Watch film on JJ Starling. The minute he steps on campus, he starts, and the shot clock issue goes away. Not saying he'll make every shot, but he will threaten the DEF in a way that ND hasn't had since DJ and Grant. We need to be patient on that one.
Tom Noie: Joe: Good stuff. And yeah, there's no question that JJ Starling gets the ball (and the keys to the Irish Ferrari, too ....lol) the minute he steps on campus. I'm curious to watch him practice Friday. More on him coming down the line.
Justin, Ft. Wayne: Tom, how often and if at all do you stay in contact with former Irish players?
Tom Noie: Justin: I'm not on any group texts with former players, but have numbers for just about every player who's played at Notre Dame since I started on the beat - 1998. And some who were way before my time. There are guys that I haven't talked/texted with since they left, but a core group (Pat Connaughton, David Graves, Tory Jackson, LaPhonso Ellis, etc.) that I can text and get them if I need them. Good guys. Really, ALL of them. That group just gets it.
Andrew from Plymouth, IN: Can you explain the dynamic between Brey and Solomon. It's not normal for someone to come back for their 3rd go around at a program and there must be a reason he left twice before. Obviously being a head coach didn't work out, and maybe he wasn't given a fair shake on that, but do you expect he'll be here this time until Brey retires?
Tom Noie: Andrew: The relationship between Mike Brey and Anthony Solomon just works. They're like an old, married couple (no, seriously) who have been together for so long that they just know what the other is thinking or feeling or needs. First time Anthony Solomon left, he wanted to take a swing at being a college head coach. Second time he left, after the 2016 Elite Eight, he may have thought he should be a head coach after those two really good seasons. Instead, he needed a change of scenery, or so he thought. He's exactly what this program needs at this time (and maybe what Brey needs). Notre Dame has never gone to a Sweet 16 without Slo on the sideline. He matters, because he gets Brey and he gets that place. He's here for as long as the head coach.
Mike from Rochester NY: Tom, what can you tell us about the grad transfer (can’t remember his name) and how he’ll fit into the team?
Tom Noie: Mike: That would be Paul Atkinson, a graduate transfer from Yale who is a plug-and-play guy. He was the Ivy League player of the year at Yale in 2019-20 but didn't play at all last season after the Ivy League canceled its season because of COVID. He's old and experienced and confident around the basket. He'll bring a different dimension than Juwan Durham. Atkinson's not going to block a lot of shots at 6-foot-9, 230, but he'll hold his own. How he does against the size/length of ACC bigs remains a wait-and-see scenario.
joe from the south side: Tom, While we are on the topic of recruiting, nobody has mentioned Dom C. Any thoughts? Reminds me of RaiQuan Gray. Hear me out. If you watch film, and see the body type, the skill set does not match. I am not saying Campbell is NBA level guy like Gray, but I like his upside and I think he is going to present matchup problems in the ACC. Needs a little work in the weight room. Gonna be fun to watch him.
Tom Noie: Joe: Fair points, but I usually like to wait to see kids/prospects in person before formulating opinions. Highlight tapes want you to see only the good stuff. How does he play when he's not the focal point of the offense? When he's not the tallest or most skilled guy on the court? Summer usually has been the time to see how the adjustment from high school to college will go - and that's with anyone. Same will hold true for Starling. First few times they go up and down with actual guys who've been there, you can see, yeah, this kid's good or, whoa, it's not going to happen right away. Let's see on Dominick Campbell, but given his pedigree, he should be a keeper.
Victor K.: Big fans of yours here in Salem, Tom. It's my usual pre-season question. I like to come up for an early non-conference game around the holidays. Obviously, Kentucky is the marquee matchup. What's #2 on the non-conference slate. Does it tie in with a hockey game?
Tom Noie: Vic: My man! Knew you'd find time from your other duties to swing by today. Unfortunately, after that home game with Kentucky on Dec. 11, it's rather slim pickings in terms of non-league home games. Western Michigan might be the best of the bunch on Dec. 20, if only because it will be the third or fourth or fifth time Notre Dame has tried to get it here for a game. Western was the ultimate fill-in game last year during COVID (and actually was on the schedule but bailed because of positive tests). After that, don't think Texas A&M Corpus-Christi moves the hoops meter for you.
Victor K.: And Tom, speaking of JR, my friend Roman wonders if can he guard? How does he fit in this year, or will it be another year before his impact is felt?
Tom Noie: That would be local product J.R. Konieczny, who lit up the Northern Indiana Conference the last few years right down the road from Notre Dame at South Bend Saint Joseph High School. He has a chance to contribute this season, but maybe not on the level of fellow freshman/former NIC standout Blake Wesley, whose game is further along. The adjustment for Konieczny right now is pretty normal. He could dominate in high school just because he was taller and better than a lot of the guys around the NIC. That's not the case. It's big-boy basketball. Give him time. Roman will be happy with the finished product!
joe from the south side: Tom.....This is off to the side. At times, there is a large delay between when I ask the question and when it gets posted. In the past, sometimes as much as 30 minutes. Today about 15. Hence the Carmody thing. I submitted it well before you put the rule in. I apologize but you never know how long it is going to take to get posted. In the future, just kill the question. Thanks
Tom Noie: Joe: Understood, but you're also not the only reader submitting questions. I try to get to as many as I can as quickly as I can, but I can't work THAT quickly. Still, don't go anywhere. This chat needs you! Seriously.
joe from the south side: Tom, Now that the full schedule is out, any road trips you look forward to? Any that disinterest you? And, since the Maui Invitational is now the Las Vegas Invitational, better, worse, not attending?
Tom Noie: Joe: Still wish for the days where we made every single road trip every single season. But priorities change in this business and now we're only hitting the big ones - at least until the program gets good again. Maybe? Hopefully? There's no such notion as a bad road trip after all those years of traveling the Big East cities. You crave the rhythm of it. I miss those days of out and back and out and back again. There's no way that having the Maui Invitational anywhere but Maui would be better. One of the best places to go for hoops. Glad to have made that trip in 2008. Going to skip this year in Vegas because (understandably) football takes priority during football season so I'll be at Stanford to hopefully see a one-loss Notre Dame team wrap the regular season. Once ACC play starts, the better the Irish, the more road trips we make.
Jeff from Schererville, IN: Did you have a vote in the ACC preseason polls for predicted order of finish, all-conference teams and player and freshman of the year, and what did you think of the results of that voting which had ND 8th and Hubb on the 2nd team?
Tom Noie: Jeff: The Tribune did not have a vote (we're too far from Tobacco Road, I guess) for the preseason all-league teams, etc. I would've slotted Virginia Tech higher. And maybe Notre Dame seventh instead of eighth. You get past the top five in the league - Duke, Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Florida State and the 6 on down is a little murky. Hubb would've been a first team guy on my ballot. If you know, you know.....lol
irishway- denver: Any plans for an open scrimmage on Saturday in the Joyce before usc game? I promise to wear a mask!
Tom Noie: Think those early-afternoon scrimmages/practices for hoops before home football games aren't coming back anytime soon given the climate of where we are in 2021.
joe from the south side: Tom, Not to shift gears, but can you tell me what exactly does Kyle Brey do and why IMG lists him and Pepper Johnson as Head Coaches? Why can't he swing a little of that talent our way? LOL
Tom Noie: You've run out of hoops questions, so it's on to....football!!! IMG Academy has two football teams - a national squad and a varsity squad. Johnson is the head coach of the national squad, which means Brey's son is the head coach of the varsity squad.
Bob: Make that two season ticket holders who declined to renew because of mask mandates. I can watch at home without a mask.
Tom Noie: Ouch. We in the media have to wear masks to cover any event indoors at Notre Dame. I wouldn't ever think about declining that for my couch.
Sam from chicago: do you have an update on the Ryan Ayers situation?
Tom Noie: Sam: It's been rather eventful recently as the case against the former Irish assistant coach/player crawls toward a possible trial date, which could be as soon as Monday but probably pushed to the middle of November. My SBT colleague/courts reporter Marek Mazurek has an update of where it stands in today's paper - southbendtribune.com - but it's behind our pay wall. Give it a read.
joe from the south side: Tom, I thought the preseason slot of 8th was about right. On the one hand, this group of players hasn't proven much in 3 years. And, that swiss cheese defense that they play keeps inferior teams in the game. On the plus side, the ACC is down this year. Every team, maybe except ND, has huge question marks about how do recruits AND transfers mesh together. There is more of a wide open, not sure who is the favorite, feel to the league this year. That said, Top 6 would be over achieving. 7 thru 9 feels about right. 10th or worse is a bust. Not sure finishing 7th in ACC gets you to the NCAA Tourney. What do you think?
Tom Noie: Given Notre Dame's schedule strength, at least on Oct. 21 with non-conference games with Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and maybe (likely) Oregon, coupled with its league schedule, seventh absolutely gets the Irish into the NCAA tournament. Maybe eighth, but you're entering sweat Selection Sunday territory there.
Tom Noie: It's 11:55 and you've delivered a solid round of questions for the last two-plus hours. What else you got? I may slow down for a few minutes for the next 20 while I monitor Brian Kelly's 15-minute Thursday presser. Keep the questions/comments coming. We're nowhere near done!
Dave from DC: Tom, do you think the team will utilize Nate L. in pick and rolls? He seems like someone who could be a demon shooting off those sets.
Tom Noie: Dave: Yes, times 10. He could and should be better in that area. Not a big fan of sticking him in the corner and waiting for the ball to find him. Nate Laszewski's at his best in a pick and pop (and shoot) situation. He seems to struggle when he has time to think about it. Just set the screen, pop, get the ball and shoot it. He is who he is by now, but there's also stuff that he hasn't shown yet. Why not now?
Tom Noie: Tight end Michael Mayer expected to be back in starting lineup Saturday for USC. There's your Notre Dame football fix for the day. Time for more hoops!
Tom Noie: Joe from the South Side has exited the building....who's going to jump in and take his question-asking place? Anyone? Hello? Does this work? lol
joe from the south side: Tom, What do think about how the Balanis situation was handled? Seems like he was made to be the fall guy and left on a bad note, especially after 2 decades. Was that the case? Odd that they play Howard this year too.
Tom Noie: Rod Balanis worked on Mike Brey's staff for the previous 21 years - he was the only guy that had been here from the beginning through the early years, some tough years, and then the good years. He still had the chance to remain on staff, albeit in a different capacity. The coaching staff needed some new juice and a new directions and different (albeit old) voice. At the end of the day, Rod Balanis decided that, you know what, I still want to be a coach. I want to work with guys on the practice floor and recruit and not be stuck behind a desk at Rolfs Hall while practice was going on. That was a big reason why Balanis left - he's now an associate head coach at Howard. Don't think he ever was a fall guy, he was caught in a restructuring. It happens. To all of us. Happened to Rod. Wish him the best. He's one of the good ones.
Jeff from Schererville, IN: We've talked about schedules in this chat and I'm wondering if you've heard anything more about possible future home and home matchups with old Big East foes like Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown and DePaul and maybe even Dayton. :) I thought I heard Georgetown was scheduled but it's now off. And in a hypothetical sense, what would be your dream home-and-home non-conference matchup in terms of they would be good games, you want to see that opposing team's gym, and so on?
Tom Noie: Jeff: Awesome topic. Let's jump into it. There remains the wish to do something with the schools from Notre Dame's Big East days - mainly, the four that you mentioned in Marquette, DePaul, Villanova and Georgetown - probably in that order. Notre Dame thought it had a home-and-home with Georgetown couple years ago but Patrick Ewing pulled the plug. A home-and-home with Marquette rotates back on the schedule next season, starting at Fiserv Forum. Now that the Crossroads is set to expire (about time!) that will open another non-league slot for a possible home and home. Notre Dame and Kentucky will play this year and next, and then another opportunity becomes possible. I've pushed Mike Brey for years to consider doing something with Dayton. Maybe - MAYBE - that becomes an option. And rekindling the UCLA series is always an option that Brey doesn't want to get too far away from. Who would I schedule? Well, Dayton for selfish reasons...
Tom Noie: ...If you have a senior-heavy team with some serious swagger, why not do something with Kansas and start that home and home at Allen Fieldhouse? You need the right mix of guys to go into that circus, though. Remember, for as good as and veteran as that 2014-15 Notre Dame team was, it still went to Cameron that season and looked like kids in losing by 30. But yeah, something with Kansas or Texas with its new arena in an area Notre Dame generally doesn't get to would be a nice change of pace. Good stuff.
Wadelite: Tom, for ND to have a season that exceeds expectations which rotation guy has to make the biggest leap in their level of play? IMO we have seen the ceiling with Hubb, Laz and Goodwin (none of whom I believe are average on defense). They just need to be more consistent on offense over the course of a season. I'd also like to see Goodwin's minutes reduced slightly as I believe he would be more effective. Not quick enough to guard wings or strong enough to guard bigs.
Tom Noie: The easy answer is, well, everybody. But we're pretty sure what we're going to see from Prentiss Hubb and Nate Laszewski. They are who they are. What the Irish need are better/more consistent versions out of the Goodwin-Wertz-Ryan spots. Each of those guys have been good at times, really good at a few, but then have disappeared for key stretches. They have to be there every night in some way, shape or form. If this team has to lean too heavily on Blake Wesley, man, that's a red flag. Can't expect a freshman - no matter how good that freshman might be - to shoulder that load on a veteran team. Wertz and Goodwin and Ryan are veterans. Deliver like one.
Jeff from Schererville, IN: A national two-parter, after I comment that I'm surprised the hometown paper of an ACC team doesn't have a vote in the conference media polls. What opposing player(s) are you most excited or most curious about seeing in action against ND this year, and what player(s) on any other team (ND opponent or not) would fit in with this group the best and help get the Irish not just into the NCAA tournament but also give them a good shot at the second weekend or beyond? Thanks for hanging out with us today. As you said a couple times earlier in this chat, it's been great stuff!
Tom Noie: Jeff: Surprised at no ACC vote? Me too, but not so much. We're not exactly in ACC country in Northern Indiana...and maybe the email/ballot was lost in the Notre Dame email shuffle. But that's OK. I'm most intrigued at what Indiana looks like this year under Mike Woodson. Can he coach college guys? Will they finally look like a cohesive, together group? What does it mean in terms of long term success in Bloomington. So it's definitely IU in terms of curiosity. As for players, can you imagine a talented/experienced/nasty (in a great way) big on this team? Like say, Kofi Cockburn at Illinois? A future pro with this collection of experienced guys? Man, that would realllllllly make this season interesting.
Tom Noie: A question from Chris Kosiak on Twitter, who wants to know if the season started tonight (and really, it should..lol) who would be the top seven in Mike Brey's rotation?
Tom Noie: The starting lineup would be Nate Laszewski, Prentiss Hubb and Paul Atkinson (all locks) and then some combination of Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz and Cormac Ryan. Just a guess, but it might be Ryan more of a lock with the final spot up for grabs between Wertz and Goodwin. Guy that doesn't start would be the sixth man with the seventh man (and maybe ascending a little more every day) freshman Blake Wesley. Spot minutes/roles for the other guys. Not to say they're out of the mix, but their path to consistent minutes/defined roles may take longer to figure out.
Kevin from Indy: Tom- you mentioned earlier Starlings recruitment might bring in some top recruits for the class of 23. Who else besides Booker are they targeting? Seems to be a lot of front court minutes open in the near future.
Tom Noie: Kevin: All bigs who want to play might want to take a long look at Notre Dame. That has to be Priority One in the 2023 class, but then again, does it? Recruiting now is in this funky/fuzzy world because of the immediacy that is the transfer portal. If you're a college coach, what do you do? Allocate a lot of time and resources to recruit a kid that you may or may not get, or simply cherry-pick a ready-made contributor from the portal? Tough call, especially for a program like Notre Dame that likes to develop guys over four and five years, but also wants/needs to stay old to compete in the ACC. That's where the Irish find themselves with Ven-Allen Lubin. He's just what they need/want, but if they don't get him, they might get someone similar in the portal. It's the ultimate quick fix/fallback.
Bill from Stone Harbor: Just an observation, but I find it interesting that over the past 5 years, the ND football and basketball teams have reversed course. For most of the 2000s, football would never live up to the hype and basketball would outperform their expectations and now the opposite seems to be happening. What would be a development that would occur before conference play that would give you confidence that this team could finish in the top half of the ACC and challenge for a 6-8 seed in the NCAAs?
Tom Noie: Bill: Great observation - the resurgence of Notre Dame football is a result of Brian Kelly knowing he had to change the way he ran his program, or he wouldn't be around. So he changed. Look at the results. Same now goes for Mike Brey, who changed more than I ever thought this offseason with reshuffling his staff and bringing in some new voices. Let's see how it works. What would have to happen to give you hope early? Easy. Notre Dame just flat-out rolls over a few non-league opponents. Goes up 20 in the first half and just keeps tightening the screws. Would mean there's more of an edge to this group than previous teams. Also, beat Kentucky. Or Illinois. Or Indiana. Or two of three. Or all three. Don't get one, man, it's going to make it really hard to see anything changing in league play. Opportunity will knock for this group. They have to answer.
Jake from a small town in Washington State: Tom, there has been lots of talk on improving defense, rightfully so. Has there been any work done on the offensive side of the ball to make sure Hubb isn't stuck dribbling while the others just watch as the shot clock winds down? (Question coming from a previous Hubb critic that you convinced me otherwise)
Tom Noie: Jake: I knew you'd see the Prentiss Hubb light! Took you some time, but you came around! lol They look a little different offensively in this regard - the first shot might just be the best shot. Like Nate Laszewski - how many times did he have an open look, only to ball fake and reverse it. Kind of threw everything out of whack. They had to readjust on the fly and were left in late clock situations where the ball became a hot potato - you take it, no you take it, no I'm not going to take it - until Hubb is left with the grenade seconds before it blows up. Now if they reverse the ball - or even when they don't - and Laszewski or somebody is open, shoot it.
David: Good morning Tom. A little off topic but hopefully you can answer this or maybe one of the readers can. For younger fans we have not had the chance to watch Notre Dame games back in the glory days of 74-81. I tried to watch some games on YOUTUBE but the content pretty much only has games we lost. In fact there's not one NCAA tournament game available that we won besides the last 2 minutes of the 76 win over Cincinnati. It would be nice to watch the victory over DePaul in 78 as that was the only win in our programs history that put us in the final four. It would also be nice to watch Adrian Dantley play in the tournament. Are any of Notre Dame's tournament wins under Digger available anywhere?
Tom Noie: David: Only in Digger's mind, or VCR collection. And you know he's not parting ways with any of those! lol I wish I had better news or suggestions. And no, I wasn't on the beat back then. I was still in grade school.
Dan - Chicago: Tom, do you think Ryan could develop into the 'main man' for ND this year? I just have a feeling he might...
Tom Noie: Dan: I'd like to see Prentiss Hubb or Nate Laszewski be the main guys, mainly because so much is on their shoulders. Cormac Ryan has something about him in that he was named a captain even before he played a game so there's a start. But consistency is an issue with Ryan and Wertz and Goodwin. As good as you are one game, you better be better the next. That hasn't happened. Would be nice this year.
David: Tom do you know much about St. Mary's? I know they usually come in second in the WCC and sometimes make the tournament. Do you like Notre Dame's chances against them in the opening game of the Maui Classic. IMO this is a huge non conference game as a loss will most likely put us in a meaningless second game against Chaminade since they are not a division one program. If we can beat St. Mary's we will then most likely play Oregon who is ranked in the top #15. A victory over St. Mary's is important as it will help our OCC schedule rating.
Tom Noie: David: A little early to dive deeply into Saint Mary's just yet, but you know what you're going to get with a veteran team with old guys who know how to play. And win. Saint Mary's was picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga and BYU. That's going to be a sneaky tough game out of the gate for Notre Dame in Vegas. Goes back to the earlier question about what needs to happen for the Irish in non-league to ensure a good ACC run. Beating Saint Mary's and Oregon early in Vegas would be one of the first signs that this isn't the same Notre Dame team.
Justin, Ft. Wayne: Tom, I’m happy that LaPhonso got picked to go into the Ring of Honor. Was there any other former player that was considered or did they have there mind set on LaPhonso Ellis?
Tom Noie: Justin: LaPhonso Ellis will be the next former Irish players inducted into the program's Ring of Honor at halftime of the Dec. 11 game against Kentucky. Mike Brey has the strongest say on who goes in and when, but surely he also considered the gotta-have guys in John Paxson and Pat Garrity and John Shumate and well. Phonz is certainly right there as well. Have said it often that you can't find a nicer human being than him. He was an NBA lottery pick as a player, but as a person, first-ballot consensus Hall of Famer. He's the best.
Erik (Granger, IN): Thanks for being here! Now that there’s been some shifting on the coaching staff, will you please break down who is here and what their roles are?
Tom Noie: Erik: All right, everyone gather around and we'll lay this out for all to understand. Mike Brey has added two new assistant coaches and one new administrative assistant to his staff this year. That also includes moving former swingman Scott Martin back from his role last year as an assistant coach to an administrative spot this year. So the staff, in order, is associate head coach Anthony Solomon, who's in charge of the defense, player development. Ryan Humphrey, who tutors the bigs, former Irish guard Antoni Wyche who works with the guards. Martin is in the Director of Basketball Operations role vacated by Harold Swanagan, who joined Jack Swarbrick's staff. Also in an administrative role is Patrick Rogers, a Notre Dame graduate. who also has been a student manager/video assistant with hoops before working the last five years with Martin Ingelsby at Delaware. Whew, that's a lotta change for a staff that rarely had....
Erik (Granger, IN): Mike Brey has always done well with old teams. Well, they don’t get much older than this team. Is this the year they finally break through, or is the fact they never witnessed success while riding the pine make the difference compared to previous Brey old teams?
Tom Noie: Erik: Whooooooaaaaa. The core of these guys never did ride the pine as freshmen. Remember, that was the year Rex Pflueger blew out his knee and T.J. Gibbs was, well, T.J. Gibbs and the young guys had to play way before they were ready. But yes, you're right in that they never have had success, which is a red flag that kind of lurks in the background. These guys have to go and do it now having not ever done in before in the past. Talk about some blind faith, right?
Erik (Granger, IN): With all the transfer portal movement around the country, has Brey done anything specific to keep these guys around? Or are they just “ND” guys at heart? Or has their lack of success the last few years lowered their free agent value and no one would pick them up anyway?
Tom Noie: Erik: Remember late last year when Notre Dame lost four in a row and five of seven and six of 10, including that ACC tournament game when it trailed by 52 at one point? There were moments when myself and a couple of other guys on the beat would watch and think out loud, yeah that guy's leaving. He's leaving too. And maybe him. Heck, maybe everybody. Anybody. Then what happened? Nobody who was going to be a key part of the plan this season left. Everybody came back. That says something about the program, and about these guys. That they're about more than just chasing the elusive playing time. They get it. They're in it for the long haul and they believe they can do it here. Now they have to go and do it. And don't be mistaken - if you jump into the portal with Notre Dame next to your name, somebody's going to be interested.
Mike from NYC: Tom, what are your expectations for Goodwin this year? It would be great to see that 3 point % get close to or over 40%...
Tom Noie: Mike: Continue in his evolution of being a really good college guard. That means shooting a higher percentage from 3 (.352 last year). And stringing a few big shots together. He always seems to be a guy who's going to make one 3, then miss his next two or three, even though they're wiiiiiiiiide open. So knock down a few more shots at big moments and be a better defender. That's across the board, though. Not just with No. 23. He's been a guy who wants to be coached hard, and he's been coached hard this offseason. Let's see it pay off.
Jenn (Chicago): Did John Mooney receive any interest from the NBA after his first season overseas?
Tom Noie: Jenn: Not enough to seriously consider making a run at it while bypassing several really good offers overseas. The pandemic really hurt Mooney's chances to make a name for himself, be it at the Portsmouth Invitational, where he would've crushed it, or the NBA combine, again, where he would've shined, or just any individual/small group workouts for NBA teams in the runup to the 2020 draft. All of that got wiped out, so he really had to grab the first real good offer overseas (which he did in playing in Australia). It was only a little different this offseason, where he played one summer league game with the Bucks after having already agreed to a deal in Japan. He might get a longer look if everything gets back to normal next summer.
Andrew from Plymouth, IN: Since someone brought up the Ring of Honor let's hear who you think the next few guys to get in will be. I'd love to see Ryan Hoover get in.
Tom Noie: Andrew: Phonz going in this year is a natural. Then you have, have, have to get to John Paxson and John Shumate. Then Pat Garrity and Chris Thomas before you look hard at the more recent Mike Brey guys before Mike Brey leaves (he's signed through 2024025). Of that group? Matt Carroll, Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant, Bonzie Colson. There's my short list. Who goes first? Second? The whole order to everything was thrown out the window when Luke Harangody went in first. Never should've happened in that order - never before Carr or Dantley. Ever. But I get it. Even though it was awkward with a capital AWK....
Tom Noie: Looks like our question queue finally has run dry after five hours. That will do it today, but we'll be back again next month (we'll go monthly until league play gets rolling in January. Thanks to all who dropped in for a few minutes (or a few hours) today. Let's do it again in November!
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI