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Puts Solid Irish Season
In Proper Perspective
By Alan Tieuli
(IE) – Isn't it nice that a 22-8
record in some circles is considered a disappointment?
The complete body of work for Notre Dame's 2002-03 regular
season is in, and while a conference championship was lost down the stretch, the effort
has to be considered a solid success. Despite
losing three NCAA Tournament starters to graduation, the Irish earned their most victories
pre-tournament since 1986-87, a third straight 10-victory Big East campaign, and a final
RPI that will hover around the 15 range.
"Our guys, I don't want them to be down," said Brey.
"But they have such high standards, they're disappointed. I've never been one to coach from a negative
standpoint. We're more of a positive
And there is plenty of positive news to spread around. Perhaps the Big East was lost with the three-game
losing streak leading into the Georgetown game, but Notre Dame in 2002-03 put another
brick in the foundation of a program that Brey says is championship driven. The Irish succeeded in November and December with a
world-class non-conference schedule and then earned double-digit conference victories.
How difficult is it to win 10 or more games three years in a row in
the Big East? Well, three charter members of
the conference –
Brey puts so much stock in conference play, in fact, that his pick
for Notre Dame's best week of the season will surprise you.
"Everybody talks about the week that was," Brey said,
referring to the stretch between Dec. 2-8 when Notre Dame beat three powerhouses,
Notre Dame now enters conference and NCAA Tournament play having
tasted success and disappointment. Unquestionably,
the victory over
Point guard Chris Thomas finished
the conference season eighth in scoring (19.7) and first in assists (6.75). He gives the Irish an opportunity to win every time
Carroll is a lock for All-Big East, and scored in double figures every game this
season. He's suffered more bumps and
bruises than any Irish player this season, and if he has any fuel left in the tank, there's
an opportunity for a storybook finish to his career. (Wouldn't
it be special to see Carroll matched up against his brother Pat and
Torin Francis looked like
he hit the wall against
A revised rotation that featured Torrian Jones (29 minutes) and Chris Quinn (27) earning quality time versus
The defensive lapses were most evident in the three-game losing
streak, where the Irish surrendered 87 points to
"I think not winning in the Dome took some juice out of us,"
Brey said. "We put so much on the line, emotionally and physically, and it showed
itself (down the stretch). That was one we
really counted on, thought we earned, and didn't get it."
Troubling also going into tournament time is the fact that Notre Dame
is only 1-5 in calendar year 2003 against ranked teams.
Brey said for Notre Dame to get to the next step, it has to raise its
percentage of success in such games.
"We've played in a lot of big games and probably been good
in half of them, where the
"I believe we are on the verge of that at our place in setting
When that standard is reached, a 22-8 record and third place
conference standing may very well be considered unacceptable. For now, though, despite the glitches down the
stretch, a Notre Dame fan should be quite pleased with the season.
BIG EAST AWARDS: With all results now in, here are IrishEyes' annual
predictions for the major Big East Awards. One
conference precinct will be most pleased with these:
Coach of the Year –
After Louis Orr stopped whining about the
officiating, he did a masterful job of turning around the Seton Hall season. Al Skinner also deserves serious consideration for
earning the top seed in the East Division despite having only seven able-bodied, capable
players. But the nod has to go to Jim
Player of the Year – IrishEyes absolutely agrees with Brey's
assessment that this award should go to a player who has kept his team in the championship
hunt all season. We'll go with co-Players
of the Year – freshman Carmelo Anthony of
Rookie of the Year – Carmelo Anthony in a landslide, though
seven others deserve close consideration for All-Rookie team: BC's Craig Smith,
Connecticut's Rashad Anderson, Notre Dame's Torin Francis, Providence's
Donnie McGrath, Kelly Whitney from Seton Hall, Gerry McNamara of Syracuse and Kevin
Pittsnogle of West Virginia.
Most Improved Player –
Defensive Player of the Year
– Did you happen to see what
All Big East First Team – The Big East chose seven for the first team last year,
but had chosen five the previous six years. Our
top five are: Carmelo Anthony, Troy Bell, Matt Carroll, Emeka Okafor and
(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes Magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For subscription information on IrishEyes Magazine please visit www.irisheyes.com or call 888-501-5752)