SOUTH BEND – Mike Brey never envisioned he’d be where he is as he enters his 14th season as the Notre Dame men’s basketball coach.
The former Duke assistant is returning to the Atlantic Coast Conference as the Irish start their first year in that league after spending the last 18 in the Big East.
Let’s be honest, I never thought I’d be coaching in the ACC at Notre Dame, Brey said during Wednesday’s basketball media day. That’s how crazy conference expansion is. We’ve really landed on our feet to get in this league. It’s a great fit.
Notre Dame coaches and players may be happy that they landed in the ACC when the Big East dissolved, but they are not going to change what they do to fit into the new league, in which the Irish open play Jan. 4 at home against Duke.
Notre Dame has made the NCAA tournament in nine of the last 13 seasons, including the last four. The Irish are coming off a 25-9 season.
Going into this new league, there are going to be a lot of teams that don’t know much about us, guard Jerian Grant said. You really don’t think basketball when you hear Notre Dame. I feel we are going to be a surprise team, because we are a new team and because we are not one of those big-name basketball schools.
The ACC, a lot of people say they score a lot more points, and Notre Dame is going to score a lot more points. Hopefully, we do that. But at the same time, we are still going to be the same team that we are.
Part of what Notre Dame will bring to the ACC is the willingness to slow the pace.
While the Irish can play quick, they have found success by switching gears to a methodical offensive pace the team refers to as burn.
I think the ACC has their own style that they are comfortable with, but we are bringing our own different style to it, where we kind of slow down the pace and make people play at our pace, guard Eric Atkins said.
To get a quick view of them, it seemed like it is always going up and down for 40 (minutes), and we can slow it down. I think that is going to be different for them.
The conference switch has also changed some of the focus for Notre Dame in the offseason. Instead of overanalyzing a third NCAA tournament appearance in the last four years that ended after one game, Brey said the focus has been how to reach the postseason in a new league.
Our goal is, can we earn a bid in the first year in the ACC? Brey said.