Notre Dame Basketball: Please Back Away from That Bridge

Kevin PaulSenior Analyst IFebruary 8, 2009

It’s official—Notre Dame basketball has sunk lower than it’s been in quite some time. We’re talking somewhere in the realm of N.J.I.T. basketball and Temple football.

OK, so maybe that’s a bit extreme. But it’s bad—so bad that Charlie Weis should send Mike Brey a Thank You card for getting the media off his back.

Plain and simple, Notre Dame is the most disappointing team in college hoops this season.

After a severe 89-63 beat down at the hands of UCLA, Notre Dame (12-10, 3-7) has fallen in seven straight games. Future NBA draft pick Luke Harangody had arguably the worst game of his season, going 2 for 12 from the field, scoring only five points.

Harangody’s game against UCLA was so bad that the masons of the world were jealous at how well he was laying bricks.

Bear in mind that six of the last seven Irish opponents were ranked teams – but that point will only get you so far, because plain and simple – this Notre Dame squad should have escaped this brutal stretch with at least a few victories. They are just too talented.

Take a step back and look at this team for a minute. Notre Dame features the returning Big East Player of the Year in Harangody, the conference’s leading scorer and rebounder from last season (Harangody), the returning assist leader in the Big East (Tory Jackson), and the returning leader in three-point percentage (Kyle McAlarney). The Irish had four returning starters and a starting lineup featuring three seniors and two juniors – coming back from a 2008 squad that posted twenty-five victories, including fourteen within the conference.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Domer fans were supposed to be able to put all their frustration with the football program on the back burner, allowing focus to shift to a team that was supposed to be a headache for the rest of the Big East.

Now they’re instead a headache for the Irish faithful—so much that the Domers are popping ibuprofen like it’s candy.

Now, seven straight losses staring Notre Dame right in the face, five of which were by double-digits. Ouch. If there were a “Slam Dunk Jesus,” he would be cowering away in a secluded place in South Bend, waiting for the storm winds to blow over—louder than the deep sighs exhaled by NBC Sports, counting their blessings that they don’t have Notre Dame basketball signed to an exclusive contract.

Not only is the NCAA Tournament slipping out of the Irish’s hands, it may already be a distant memory. With Louisville next in line, this team may instead be staring .500 in the face in a matter of days.

Mike Brey is going to do all that he can to right the ship. But he's not really going to be able to fix it himself. Put him aside—this one needs to be on the players. This team needs to arrange a players-only meeting, if they haven’t already.

Sit down, hash it out, because there may be a faint glimmer of hope.

It’s real faint, because last week, Notre Dame had an RPI of 79 and SOS of 56, plus only two quality wins on their schedule—against Texas and Georgetown, two teams that are in a free-fall that competes with that of the Irish themselves. That simply won’t be enough for a team that’s hovering just above the .500 mark.

Over the next month, Notre Dame has three opportunities against ranked teams—Louisville on Thursday, plus UConn and Villanova down the road. Unless the Irish can do a complete 180, it may take a heroic and unblemished conference tournament run to get this team dancing in March.

In early January, Detroit felt like such a short trip from South Bend, too. Now, it feels like an eternity.

Today should start a new season for Notre Dame basketball. It’s back to square one, and a loaded Louisville Cardinals squad is on deck.

Until then, Domers, please back away from that bridge.

* First photo: AP / Jack Dempsey