Saturday, March 10, 2007

Nice Guy Finishes First—
Brey, Coach of Year; Big East Tourney Summary

This year, a nice guy did finish first, as Mike Brey won the Big East Coach of the Year Award. The award which was voted upon by Brey's peers, was awarded to the quiet Irish coach when his team (which was picked in the pre-season to place eleventh in the Big East) instead finished fourth in the league with a regular season record of 23-6 and an impressive rank of twentieth in the nation.

Meanwhile, in the Big East Tournament, the Irish beat Syracuse 89-83 in the quarterfinals Thursday before losing a heartbreak to Georgetown in the semis. In the first game Notre Dame found themselves down by double digits early, but behind the best all-around game from senior Russell Carter (who led the Irish with 24 points) since January, the Irish stormed back. Up eleven on a three-pointer by Kunz with under three to play, the Orangemen stormed back, getting to within four several times. But another key three by Colin Falls, who finished with twenty-three including seven from behind the arc, plus clutch free throw shooting, put the Irish into the semis. In Friday's semi-final, the Irish lost 84-82 in a heart-stopping back and forth affair. In this game it was the Irish who were up by fourteen early, but then the tenth ranked Hoyas tightened up the defense, as the Irish, who were 8-14 from three-point land in the first half, could hit only two of twelve from downtown after the break.

The game seemed lost for the Irish when, with the scored tied 69 all, Russell Carter missed two free throws, then Georgetown stole a pass for a breakaway and sudddenly the Irish were down by seven. But it was at that moment that Irish 5'10" freshman point guard Tory Jackson came into his own, scoring seven straight points on some sizzling shake-and-bake drives to tie the score at 76.

After that, it was nip and tuck the rest of the way. In the end, Georgetown's Jeff Green (30 points) proved too much for the Irish, as his rolling hook with eleven seconds left was the difference. Still, Notre Dame's Russell Carter, who led the Irish with twenty-one points, had a chance to win it at the end, but his three-pointer clanked off the rim at the buzzer and Notre Dame was left to wait 'til Sunday, to find out who their first-round NCAA opponent would be. "When we beat Marquette (Feb. 24th), I told our guys to dream big dreams," said Coach Brey. As for himself, "In the Brey house, selection Sunday is really Christmas. It has not been a great Christmas (with no NCAA invitations) the last three years, but this year we're going to have a Christmas party and get the tree out." And, while Brey's dreams are always for his team, if the Big East Coach of the Year went on to win National Coach of the Year honors, I'm sure that would translate into a great finish for his Irish as well.

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