The traditional Mike Brey-coached Irish teams usually consist of the following, year in and year out: a high-scoring offense that lives or dies on the three-pointer, mediocre rebounding, minimal-to-average athleticism, and a glaring weakness on the defensive side of the basketball.
While the '08-09 Irish had the looks of a top 10 team to start the season, they failed to miss the NCAA Tournament for that same glaring weakness.
A major knock on Brey's coaching abilities in the past were the players he had recruited and his commitment, or lack thereof, to focus on improving the defense his teams played. This year, Brey has already proven his team isn't like those in the past.
On the floor, you will find the face of the program in All-American Luke Harangody. But who else makes up this team that has started the season 6-1 going into Tuesday night's matchup with Idaho State?
Any follower of basketball would assume that there would be four 6'4" Caucasian three-point specialists surrounding Harangody on the arc. However, you won't find any specialists this year—unlike the past (think Kyle McAlarney and Colins Falls).
Instead, McAlarney was replaced by Ben Hansbrough, who has so far brought a combination of skills, including finishing around the rim and being a three-point threat—something Brey sees rarely. Not to mention little Hansbrough brings tough defense to a team that looks to have improved since last year on that side of the ball.
Other rare sights that can be seen in the Purcell Pavilion this year come in the forms of Carleton Scott and Joey Brooks.
Scott, a forward, is an athletic freak. He is still very raw but has as much potential as anyone on this basketball team. If Brey can get him comfortable playing 25 to 30 minutes a game, the Irish will be a better team.
Instead of the typical Brey senior lovefest, the coach should find more playing time for freshman guard Joey Brooks. Jon Peoples has started at the third guard slot but isn't a starter on any Big East team. Brooks brings athleticism, versatility, and defense to a team in need of all three.
Notre Dame started the year off on a five-game winning streak before falling to Northwestern in the semifinals of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
Don't get too worried, Irish fans. Brey's teams always seem to find at least one mishap in their OOC games, and this team is still trying to find the right starting lineup.
The main thing Brey has reiterated is that this team has many question marks still, even after five games. In some cases, this could be a bad thing.
But if you're optimistic, like the Irish head coach, you can say that this Notre Dame team has more room for improvement than any team Brey has coached during his time in South Bend.
Which will it be?