Conversation with South Bend Tribune's Tom Noie

Conversation with South Bend Tribune's Tom Noie

Illinois and Notre Dame used to be regular rivals — at least until the early 1970s. The Illini and Fighting Irish have played just twice since 1973. They'll make it twice in four seasons when they square off in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. South Bend Tribune beat writer Tom Noie weighs in all on things Notre Dame:

How does Notre Dame go about replacing guys like Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell?

It's going to be really hard. For as long as Mike Brey has been the head coach at Notre Dame — now in his 19th season — his teams always have been able to stay old. Veteran guys. Experienced guys. When guys graduate, they've got others ready to rotate into those roles. That's allowed Notre Dame to be so successful, first in the Big East and now the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Irish may not be as old as they need to be this year. They have only six returning guys to go with six new faces. That's a delicate balance for Brey. He prefers not to play young guys. Let them grow their games and figure it out away from the bright lights and expectations for the first year. But the freshman class — ranked among the top 15 in the nation — might be his best. Deepest. Most talented.

It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Is there one or more freshmen that might make an immediate impact?

Four of the five will get early looks. Prentiss Hubb was recruited with the sole purpose of stepping into Farrell's role as a true freshman. Like, from the first practice of the season. Hubb then underwent reconstructive knee surgery and missed his entire senior season. He won't play next week during the team's foreign tour of the Bahamas. He could be a full go by Sept. 1.

The Irish plan to be patient, but they really, really need a second handler to pair with Gibbs to be good. Hubb's going to get an early look.

Shooting guards Robby Carmody and Dane Goodwin give Notre Dame what the Irish didn't have last year — two guys who can just go and get a shot. And make a shot. From three. That's been a staple in Brey's system. That nobody could do that last year was a crusher. And power forward Nate Laszewski is considered by some the top stretch 4 in this recruiting class. If he can make shots, he's going to play.

What would you credit for Mike Brey's rather consistent success in South Bend?

Brey just gets it. He knows where basketball stands in the pecking order at Notre Dame. Football is Priority One and often Two and Three. Next is spring football. Brey's OK with that. Just give him a place to work and he's fine. He's done it all these years without a stand-alone practice facility, which finally will open in the fall.

He also understands the type of recruit that can make it at Notre Dame — the one that wants the TOTAL college experience of basketball and books. Guys that want to be there and want to get a first-rate education. Then, if they can get to the NBA, that's a bonus. He gets guys who fit the fabric of the place. Some guys that have to stay five years. He's fine with recruiting three-star guys who aren't known guys. It allows him to do what he does best — teach.