ND Skid: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

When you lose four out of five games to end the regular season, what's a few thousand follicles? Notre Dame, obviously hoping for a reverse Samson and Delilah affect, will be sporting buzz cuts in its NCAA Tournament opener with Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Team unity was the goal, said Matt Carroll. Team defense will be needed for advancement, said coach Mike Brey. IrishEyes Magazine Managing Editor Alan Tieuli reports from the RCA Dome.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

March 19, 2003

Irish Skid: Hair Today,
Gone Tomorrow?

By Alan Tieuli
IrishEyes Magazine

INDIANAPOLIS (IE) – You're wondering what they look like, right?  OK, Matt Carroll, at least according to Chris Thomas, has an uncanny resemblance to Pittsburgh sharpshooter Donatas Zavackas. 

That didn't go over real well with Carroll, as you might suspect. 

Torrian Jones, true to his number 20, is a dead ringer for Gary Payton.  Red-shirt freshman Omari Peterkin is a stunning likeness for Forest Whitaker's character in Good Morning Vietnam.  Everyone generally agreed that the person who looked most natural – and appropriately intimidating – was freshman center Torin Francis. 

When they came running through the tunnel promptly for a 6 p.m. practice time Wednesday, if not for the baggy shorts and tattoos, Notre Dame could have been mistaken for Milan High, circa 1954, even though the fifth-seeded Irish will be significant favorites Thursday night versus No. 12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Yes, the Notre Dame men's basketball team did indeed collectively shave and/or buzz cut their heads late Tuesday night in Thomas' downtown Indianapolis hotel room.  "It was CT's Barber Shop," the sophomore point guard said.  "There were follicles everywhere." 

And who did Thomas' perfectly shaved head, with nary a nick. 

"Hey, I got skills man," Thomas said, taking proud ownership of the work. 

All 12 Irish who dress – including walk-on Dan Lustig and the seemingly forgotten Jere Macura – were shorn.  There was even some talk that the coaching staff might be convinced to follow suit if the Irish were two win two games here this weekend and advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen next weekend in Anaheim, California. 

While it may be fun to ponder Mike Brey bald, the head coach realizes that the only way his team will defeat sharp-shooting Wisconsin-Milwaukee Thursday night is by playing significantly better team defense.  If less hair makes the Irish feel quicker, stronger and more motivated to lock down the opposition, the coach is all for it.  A reverse Samson and Deliah affect would be nice. 

Brey and his staff were not consulted in advance about the coiffures, and Brey was caught a bit off-guard when he saw his team Thursday.  "So what is the thinking on that?" Brey asked them collectively. 

"When they explained it, I said, ‘I respect that,'" Brey said. "Any thing Matt Carroll comes back with from this team, I have no problem.  If they are doing something together as a group, it's a positive." 

"We talked about and realized it could bring negative attention," said Carroll. "But we look at it as we starting new and we're all in this together.  We're a team, and we all look the same and we're on the same page together.  And with everything that is going on with the war, this could be something good for the soldiers. 

"We need to come together," Carroll continued. "We have gone through some adversity.  We are wiping out what happened in the past.  It's a new team coming out here." 

The Irish looked loose and confident – if not particularly sharp – during a 60-minute workout at the RCA Dome.  One troubling element:  Sophomore forward Jordan Cornette is nursing a sprained left big toe.  He basically took the day off, icing it and enduring a painful cortisone shot.  

"I should be good to go," said Cornette.  The sophomore played 25 active minutes in the Big East first-round loss to St. John's, and if he is at less than full strength it is a major blow to Notre Dame's thin front court.  Junior Tom Timmermans wore the white shirt in practice and looks to be back in the starting line-up, replacing Jones, who started with limited success against Georgetown and St. John's. 

Cornette wants to be on the floor Thursday in the worst way.  His brother Joel played 38 for Butler in the Bulldogs' lopsided 69-52 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Horizon League championship game.  "I'd love to tell you what he gave me for advice (Wednesday night)," said Cornette. "But there were too many expletives.  Needless to say, he wants me to get revenge, and so do my parents.  They sat through that game." 

And the Cornettes saw first hand how dangerous the Panthers (24-7) can be.  Ranked the sixth-best "mid-major" team in the country by collegeinsider.com, Wisconsin-Milwaukee has been performing like the big boys all season.

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