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Men’s Basketball: Versatility gives Irish new edge

Eric Prister | Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike Brey’s tenure as basketball coach at Notre Dame, by the numbers, has been impressive. The Irish are 211-113 under Brey, have finished in the top four in the Big East five times and the NCAA Tournament six times. The major criticism of his 10 years with Notre Dame has been lack of performance in the post-season, a flaw with a particular root: teams based around a single player.

That root is not a problem that should face the 2010-11 Irish squad, which could mean good things to come.

Players like Troy Murphy, Chris Quinn and Luke Harangody garnered much of the attention of opposing defenses, and deservedly so. Players like that help teams have excellent regular seasons, because they can be counted on night in and night out to lead their team to victory. The flaw in this philosophy is that Notre Dame teams in the past became one-dimensional to the point of being predictable — and predictability will not win games in the NCAA Tournament. Murphy, Quinn and Harangody were great players, but they did one thing, and though they did it well, they could be easily planned against.

This Irish squad is anything but predictable. Brey said on media day that one of this team’s greatest strengths would be its versatility, which comes simply from the make-up of the roster. Four of Notre Dame’s returning starters are listed at 6-foot-8, and while each player has his particular strengths and weaknesses, each can also play multiple places on the court. Carlton Scott can play the post while Tim Abromaitis plays the wing. Or Scott can move to the wing and Tyrone Nash can play post while Abromaitis gets open for a 3-point attempt. Scott Martin, who because of his transfer status and an injury played his first game in an Irish uniform Monday night against Marian University, may be the most versatile of the group.

This versatility can only play to Notre Dame’s advantage. Against Marian, four Irish players scored between 13 and 15 points, and Nash chipped in nine. This shared scoring duty is a sign that opposing teams will not be able to focus strictly on a particular player, let alone a single aspect of that player’s game. This could cause some problems during the regular season, especially in tough Big East games if Notre Dame has no one to look to in a crucial moment.

But if the Irish can make it to the Tournament, their versatility has the potential to take them farther than expected.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu