Over the last six games, Mike Brey has gone Nip Tuck on the Irish basketball. Wallowing at 17-10 and barely holding on to a bubble watch spot, insult added to injury when the face of ND basketball, Luke Harangody hurt his knee versus Seton Hall. After a fast paced horse race of a game against Louisville, Brey decided to make some changes
He adopted a Dean Smith like style of basketball. Focusing on making extra passes and hitting the open man, the Irish found many three point shooters and beat Pitt at South Bend 68-53 nailing ten long balls.
The Irish grinded out victory after victory even though they were scoring in the fifties. They showed their NCAA tournament worthiness with a win against inconsistent Georgetown and beat Marquette on the road with some clutch free throw shooting from upper class man Tim Abromaitis.
Another reason Notre Dame has revitalized themselves into a Big East contender is dedication to defense.
Against Pitt tonight, the Irish held the Panthers to 16 points in the second half. Their experienced but undersized bigs Tyrone Nash and Abromaitis held Pitt's McDonald's All American center McGhee to zero points and allowed him to shoot twice with their stifling defense.
On offense, the Irish were patient like Job. They held the ball for 20 seconds giving it to their ball handlers at mid-court while the posts cut to the hoop. This led to 14 assists on 18 field goals. One highlight included a sweet 'Gody dish for a Tyrone Nash reverse slam.
Notre Dame will have to continue to play efficiently in Mike Brey's new system to win in the later rounds of the Big East tournament, and Tory Jackson and Harangody must continue to show senior leadership and make some more what the @#%^ shots.
The Irish remind a lot of Duke: lacking in athleticism (except for Nash), experienced, and great shooters.
Brey's coaching strategies can take subpar athletes and help them upset more athletic teams like Pitt and Georgetown. If the Irish can avoid extremely athletic teams in the NCAA tournament like Kentucky, they could make a run to at least the Sweet 16.