December 27, 2006
Role play keeps Irish rolling
This roster won't rank as Mike Brey's most talented. But when it comes to the Notre Dame coach persuading his players to stick to their scripts, it's hard to imagine Brey doing a better job convincing a rotation to stay in character.
At 10-1 with two very winnable home games before opening Big East play against Louisville at the Joyce Center on Jan. 3, Notre Dame is primed to not only bounce back from last year's maddening series of close losses, but the Irish look more and more like an NCAA Tournament side every time out. To understand how Notre Dame is doing more with what most figured would be less, look no further than the 81-74 win over Maryland on Dec. 3.
While most Irish fans were obsessing over BCS bids and plane tickets to New Orleans, Brey watched his players accept their roles in his free-flowing system and thrive in them.
"For me, the great thing is second half of Maryland is a little bit of a reference point for us," Brey said. "We can endorse roles because it's working. The sales job is not as hard when you're winning."
That meant point guard Kyle McAlarney knew when to lead and when to follow. The sophomore also understood how to run the offense and move off the ball when point guard Tory Jackson entered. For Russell Carter, role play meant maintaining a scorer's attitude but finding an even keel on defense. Freshman Luke Harangody grasped how to make the most of spot minutes. Colin Falls accepted that the offense wouldn't always run through his veteran hands.
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