Notre Dame’s style is Notre Dame’s style on the basketball court. But what exactly is that style?
For the most part in recent years, it’s been a half-court, slower pace to take advantage of big men with scoring prowess such as Luke Harangody and Jack Cooley. And yet when Mike Brey was tabbed as head coach 14 years ago, he brought with him a three-point shooting attack that a big man like Troy Murphy benefited from on both fronts.
But when the Irish had difficulty staying up athletically against teams like Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse and Cincinnati, Notre Dame often resorted to its “burn” offense, particularly when Harangody went down with an injury, which forced Brey’s hand to more of a half-court approach.
So who has the bigger adjustment with the Irish joining the ACC - Notre Dame or its new conference?
“Everyone asks, ‘Are you going to change your style of play now that you’re in the ACC?’” said Brey Wednesday at media day. “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. The last time I checked, we’ve got a style of play that’s been really consistent and effective, and really effective in this building.
“We want to make people adjust to us. One thing we’ve also done here the last couple of years is that when we have to make an adjustment on the fly, we’ll do that. Do we need to play more zone? Do we need to play more four-around-one?
“I’m hoping to be flexible if we have to change some things as we get into league play. With a core of veteran guys that are accustomed to playing a certain way, we’re going to play our way.”
We put the same question to six veteran players returning for the Irish in 2013-14.
Who has the bigger adjustment - the ACC to Notre Dame or Notre Dame to the ACC?
GARRICK SHERMAN: “Hopefully, they have to make more adjustments to us. We’re not going to change a whole lot from what we do. What we’ve done has been successful for us. We’re going to screen and play intelligently with each other and with good spacing. That’s something we’ve been able to do throughout the years.”
PAT CONNAUGHTON: “In my opinion, I think the ACC to us because a lot of the best teams in (the Big East) moved to the ACC, and we’ve had success against those teams. It will be cool to see the style of play and how we go up against different teams.”
JERIAN GRANT: “I think it’s the ACC to us because we’re going to play our game regardless. Whether we slow it down or speed it up, we’re going to play our tempo and we’re going to make other teams play our tempo like we did in the Big East.
“We’re not going to change our identity. But with me, Eric and Demetrius (Jackson) being in the game together, we’re going to run a little more. Teams don’t know every play you’ve run for the last 10 years, so it’s going to be a little different.”
TOM KNIGHT: “The ACC to Notre Dame. We know who we are and we’re going to play the same, regardless who we play. The ACC hasn’t seen us play, although we’ve played some of the teams. But they don’t exactly know our style of play. It’s going to take a lot of different skills to adjust to the way we’re playing.”
CAM BIEDSCHEID: “I really think the ACC is going to have a harder time adjusting to our style of play. A lot of teams in the ACC don’t play like we play. We’re a team that can really play in the half-court effectively, but also stretch it with the athletes that we have now. I think the ACC has to be ready for our team.”
ERIC ATKINS: “I think the ACC to Notre Dame because we play our own style of basketball. The ACC has its own style of basketball that they’ve been comfortable with, but we’re bringing our own style to it where we can slow down the pace and make people play at our pace.
“Given a quick view of (the ACC teams), it seems like they’re always going up and down for 40 (minutes). We can slow it down, and I think it’s going to be different for them playing us. We can speed it up at any point, but it’s my job to tell everybody to slow it down when we need to. To keep teams off-balanced, that would be a big advantage for us.”
One significant difference will be at the four-position, or traditionally, the power forward position. If the Irish choose to play big with two of their three big men on the court at the same time - a combination of Knight, Sherman and Zach Auguste - Notre Dame will have a strength advantage on the offensive end but a quickness disadvantage on the defensive end.
Brey will combat the disadvantage at times by playing Connaughton at the four spot, which makes for a better match-up on both ends of the court.
“One thing they tell me is the four-man in the ACC is more of a face-up guy -- kind of like how we played -- instead of that brute force four-man in the Big East that maybe wasn’t a great basketball player, but just pounded you.
“An ACC writer mentioned to me, ‘God, you guys are really big.’ It was interesting to hear how they thought of our team. We have those three big guys all 250 pounds that can pound a little bit, and hopefully we can take advantage of that in spots.”
Notre Dame’s biggest adjustment likely will be on the defensive end of the court.
“The one thing we’ve tried to do more defensively is contest passing lanes and pressure the ball a little more,” Brey said. “We’ve been more of a position team. I think we have some ability to get out and do that.”
Notre Dame’s first crack at a team from its new conference comes Jan. 4 against Brey’s old boss and mentor, Mike Krzyzewski, when the legendary coach brings his Blue Devils into Purcell Pavilion for a 4:00 p.m. clash on CBS.