Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Midnight Madness | by Pat

Lost in all of the football hype this week is the fact that a few hours before ND kicks off to Reggie Bush and the entire Notre Dame Stadium holds its breath, Notre Dame hoops season officially will begin.

This Saturday marks the start of regular season practices for college teams across the country even though a new NCAA ruling made it possible for the traditional Midnight Madness practice to follow the route of Midnight Mass and actually start at 7pm on Friday evening. Of course, that is around the same time as the pep rally for the football team, so the ND team will be holding their practice at 10:30am in the JACC on Saturday. The practice will be open to the public. In attendance as a part of his official visit will be 7'0" recruit Tom Herzog, who supposedly is down to Notre Dame and Michigan State with his choice coming soon after the ND visit.

Speaking of recruits, with the shot-blocking Herzog a definite possibility, Brey is on the verge of landing a second straight stellar recruiting class. One that provides excellent balance with the class of new freshman. The class is already solid with Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson, but the addition of Herzog would push it over the top to excellent. The past few years, ND would put together a quality class one year, only to follow it up with a class limited in number or national acclaim. According to RSCI, which takes the averages of multiple recruiting services, Brey has landed 4 Top 100 recruits (Zeller [34], Ayers [97], Harangody [66], Jackson [84]) in the past two years with Herzog [58] being a potential 5th. Of course, all ratings come with a grain of salt, but the ranking process in basketball has an advantage over football in that the best players all tend to play against each other in AAU tournaments and various shoe-company sponsored summer camps.

Getting back to the present though, Brey's work for the '05/06 season does appear to be cut out for him. Two straight NIT appearances haven't done much to sustain the good will earned during his first few seasons. And while I'm still very positive on Coach Brey, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed by the end of last season. This upcoming season will be a shakeup from the past few seasons though if only from the lack of Chris Thomas running the point, as he has for the past 4 years. Also new will be the addition of DePaul, Marquette, Louisville, South Florida and a Huggins-less Cincinnati to the new Big East. Here's a link to the 2005/2006 schedule. It does seem a bit light on quality out-of-conference opposition, so the onus will be on the team to win enough game to avoid the bubble if they want to stop the recent NIT streak. And, as Mike pointed out to me, for the 3rd year in a row, we get Syracuse at home over winter break when the students are gone.

We'll present a more complete preview a bit closer to the start of the season, but until then here are a few big questions we're wondering ourselves. Will Quinn, in addition to running the point, be able to the emotional on-the-floor leader of the team they appeared to lack at times last season? Will Torin Francis be able to mirror Maurice Stovall and have that stellar senior year that everyone has been waiting for? Which fresman will make the biggest impact? What is our starting frontcourt going to look like? Can anything possibly top the Dancing Grannies as half-time entertainment?