For the first time in five seasons, Notre Dame did not reach the NCAA tournament. With Jerian Grant readmitted to the university and Pat Connaughton given permission to play his final season on the hardwood before joining the Baltimore Orioles organization, the Fighting Irish could be on their way back to the Big Dance.
The ACC as a whole should be in store for a better season with Louisville joining perennial powers Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse while programs like Virginia look to remain near the top of the standings after winning the regular season and conference tournament titles last season.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey wants his new conference to improve on the six bids it received this past season. His solution? Play each other more.
From Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated, who was in attendance at the Positive Coaching Alliance event in Chicago on Monday:
“One of the things I actually floated at the ACC meetings that’s been getting shot down, but I’m going to stay with it, is 20 league games,” Brey said. “You remember the Big East, we were the first league to go to 18 league games, from 16 to 18. And in the league meetings, I’ll never forget the argument, the Georgetown athletic director said, ‘We can’t do that, because in those 32 games, our teams will be 16-16, instead of in the non-league games we would be 28-4. It’ll kill our RPI.’
“What it did was just the opposite. And you could almost say conspiracy theory a little bit in some of those years when we got 10 or 11 bids. It gave bubble teams yet another shot at a lot in league play in February. So I’ve actually said, ‘Let’s play 20, man.’”
It’s a model that Brey saw work for the Big East when the conference went to 18 league games in the 2007-2008 season. Notre Dame earned tournament bids in five out of six of those seasons with the Big East getting no less than seven bids each year, including a record 11 teams in the 2011 NCAA Tournament field.
This past season, the ACC had eight teams in the RPI Top 100, four of which — Duke, Virginia, Syracuse and North Carolina — were in the top 25. Pittsburgh had a poor out-of-conference resume, but the Panthers punched their ticket when they knocked off North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. N.C. State was also on the bubble, but the Wolfpack upset a struggling Syracuse in the conference quarterfinals, and ended up in the First Four.
“If we can’t get this thing to eight bids, it’s going to be hard on coaches,” Brey said.