Sunday, May 21, 2006

Home Improvement | by Pat

When Kevin White sat down with the media to give a mini-state of the athletic department address, he managed to get a few words in about the basketball program. Before talking about the long-awaited JACC upgrades, he did address his views on last season's struggles.
“Who isn’t frustrated?” White said. “The guy that is most frustrated is Mike (Brey) and our players. We have a very high set of expectations for all our programs and we’re not going to back down from that. Some days are better than others, but we’re not going to overreact.

“I think we’re going to continue to try and create a positive trend line and find a way to realize the expectation that is in play. None of that is subject to review and we’re not going to redo the calculus on that. That’s what we are committed to."
Now, the second paragraph is positively Willingham-esque in its ability to use a lot of words to say very little. It's pretty clear that this upcoming season is going to be a very important one for Brey's career, but the real question is; just how high are those "very high set of expectations"?

As for the long overdue JACC renovations, White spelled out some of the proposed changes as part of an overall athletic facilities overall. The "Athletics Master Plan" is a long-term $100 million investment in facilities for all of the Notre Dame sports teams. Already $21.25 million has been spent building the Gug for the football program and currently the golf teams are watching as a new $2.1 million indoor practice facility is being constructed.

White highlighted that $40 million has been earmarked to update the JACC, with $25 million going into the South Dome, the "hoops" dome for the directionally challenged, and $15 million for the North Dome, home of the hockey rink. The $15 million for the North Dome reportedly will mainly go into building a more permanent 4,000 seat home for the hockey team.

Many Irish fans (and players I'm sure) had hoped for a new practice facility to be built adjacent to the JACC, but that doesn't seem to be in the current plans. What White did reveal is that preliminary plans to modernize the aging basketball facility.
“We think it’ll represent a pretty significant face-lift,” White said of the proposed Joyce south renovation, which would include an expanded lobby, new chair backs, a new club room on the second level and state-of-the-art ticketing. “We’re working hard to make it our next project.”
I would hope that those plans also include a new centrally located video scoreboard and a new basketball court as a new ticket office and expanded varsity shop, while perhaps needed, aren't going to thrill too many recruits. Should the renovations interfere with an upcoming basketball season, at least one location is already hoping to host a few future Irish games. The Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne had great success with the Irish NIT game against St. Louis in 2004 and is looking forward to the next ND visit.

Memorial Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown said he hopes Notre Dame considers Fort Wayne as a potential replacement site for games, if necessary, while the Joyce Athletic Center is improved. No date has been announced for the renovation.

“We haven’t talked directly about it, but we’ve had some ongoing discussions,” Brown said. “They know they draw here, they really want to be here and they have a great Notre Dame presence in the marketplace. The relationship our staff has with their staff will also help.”

As the plans came about five years ago, I would hope that some modernization of the blueprints is one of the reasons for the delay in a publically announced start date. Whatever the reason, it is good to hear that things are moving forward. But as colleges are breaking ground all the time on new basketball facilities, hopefully ND will be able to join them soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

By the time I get to Arizona | by Pat

One transfer that Notre Dame won't be getting is former Duke big man Eric Boateng. He announced yesterday that he's headed to Arizona State.
"I just feel very comfortable with Coach Sendek's vision for Arizona State," said Boateng, who visited the Tempe campus within a few weeks after the announcement on April 3 that Sendek was leaving North Carolina State for ASU.
Had Boateng come to Notre Dame it would have resulted in a crowded 5-man freshman class, but his size would have come in very handy on a team a bit on the smaller side for Big East play.

Still no official word on Tim Morris or Dan Werner, but another possibility is out there in the form of Iowa State transfer Farnold Degand. Degand is a 6'3 point guard who redshirted last year as a freshman and is considering Notre Dame along with Michigan, UMass, and Rutgers.

Degand grew up in Boston and while he admits he likes Michigan, he's also partial to playing in the Big East.
"The lure to play in the Big Ten (at Michigan) is big, though there would have to be something special about those schools to make me consider them more than those East Coast schools. The Big East was a major part of college basketball for me growing up."
I can't imagine ND getting Tim Morris and Degand, but it could be possible as Morris would only have one year of eligibility left after sitting out a year and Degand would have three. Time will tell.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Basketball bits | by Pat

The off-season for basketball is far quieter than the football off-season so the updates don't come nearly as often. Still, it's a busy time for the Irish program this off-season with assistant coaches to hire and potential transfers checking out the program. Here's a rundown of some of the latest questions surrounding the program and what's been going on lately.

Who's the new assistant coach?

Everything is still quiet on this front, although one name did pop up in Mike DeCoury's Inside Dish column.
Expect Brey to take a good look at Utah Jazz scout Troy Weaver, who was an assistant on Syracuse's 2003 championship team. . . .
Of course, that article was posted over a week ago and there are rumors that Weaver is no longer a candidate. The silver lining though is that it appears that Brey is actively searching for an assistant with specific qualities -- Weaver is a noted aggressive recruiter and had a successful track record coaching Syracuse's big men -- and will not just settle to promote from within and hire a new Director of Basketball Operations.

What's the latest on the rumored transfer targets?

In addition to previously mentioned Tim Morris from Stanford and Duke's Eric Boateng, North Carolina State recruit, and New Jersey State Player of the Year, Dan Werner has asked for a release from his letter of intent and is now considering other schools. Notre Dame is one of those schools and Werner is visiting campus this weekend. Reports also have it that Boateng visited campus last weekend to check things out. News on where the three will end up should start coming out in the next few weeks.

When can we expect any news on the proposed facilities renovations?

Not much public news here, but it should be noted that the Board of Trustees had a meeting this past weekend and some of the internet scuttlebutt is that a renovation plan was officially approved. What that plan consists of is still up in the air and likely still subject to modifications to the final architectural designs. The most likely changes to the basketball arena are new seatbacks and more permanent seating in the upper level, a new scoreboard, and a new floor. Other enhancements like box seats on the south end of the arena and 30,000 square feet additions to either end of the JACC complex aren't quite as certain. Hopefully sometime soon a public announcement will be made with more specific plans and a general timetable for completion.

How is next year's schedule shaping up?

The newest bit of news on this front is the news that Notre Dame will be a part of the pre-season NIT tournament and will open up against Butler in the Canseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Should they win, the Irish will then face the winner of the Indiana-Lafayette game.

The Pre-NIT has changed formats this year and features four regional matchups of four teams with the winner from each bracket advancing on to battle it out at Madison Square Garden on November 22-24. Here's the breakdown of the four regions.
East - North Carolina, Sacred Heart, Winthrop, Iona
Midwest - Indiana, Lafayette, Notre Dame, Butler
South - Tennessee, Fordham, UNC-Wilmington, Belmont
West - Gonzaga, Rice, Baylor, Colorado State
Despite not playing each other since 1995, the Irish have faced the Butler Bulldogs 101 times with ND holding a 71-30 advantage in the series. However, Butler has the recent edge as they have won the past four matchups.

Battle for Bookstore | by Pat

The 35th annual Bookstore Basketball tournament is over and your champion is U Got a Bad Draw. As you may or may not have noticed, The Fieldhouse failed to really cover the tourney as we had hoped. Part of this was due to the fact that no one sent in any stories or pictures. It's almost as if they had been warned about sending pictures over the internet to a strange man. Is that the kind of thing parents are teaching their kids nowadays?

Thankfully, The Observer was front and center for the tournament and did a solid job as usual covering the event. The top-seeded U Got a Bad Draw pulled out a 26-24 over 10th-seeded The Saltines and grabbed a second Bookstore Championship for the team that features Notre Dame football players Brady Quinn, game MVP Chinedum Nduwke, and David Fitzgerald. Quinn missed the final so it was up to Nduwke and Fitzgerald along with captain Eric Laumann, Dan Shultz, and Chris Devitt to hold off the Saltines and surprise Mr. Bookstore winner, freshman Carl Anderson.

The Bookstore champsionship was the 2nd for the core members of U Got a Bad Draw who might have been gunning for a third straight championship if not for a semi-final round disqualification last year. You can read more about the final game at the Observer's website here. Congrats to all who played and helped put the tournament together.