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Notre Dame's Brey won't 'over-coach' against West Virginia

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey yells to players during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament against Princeton on Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y. (Photo by the Associated Press) 
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey yells to players during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament against Princeton on Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y. (Photo by the Associated Press) 

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Irish will face stiff challenge from 'Press Virginia.'

Friday, March 17, 2017 12:53 pm
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey entered his one day of preparation for West Virginia wary of over-coaching. “Press Virginia” brings full-court defensive pressure, a desire to push the tempo up and a style that offers an sharp contrast with Notre Dame’s approach.

West Virginia forces more turnovers than any team in the tournament. No team in the tournament averages fewer turnovers than Notre Dame. Something has to give when the No. 5 seed Fighting Irish (26-9) play the No. 4 seed Mountaineers (27-8) at 12:10 p.m. Saturday in Buffalo.

“I don't want to over-coach it," Brey said in a media session today. "We have a press offense that you work on back in October. You don’t want to over-analyze it too much. We need guys to be receivers. I think we can prepare in a day. I’ve got really pretty sharp guys and high basketball IQ guys.”

Brey talked also of his team's defense as a critical factor despite the conventional wisdom that the way Notre Dame’s offense handles the West Virginia defense will be the pivotal factor.

West Virginia has a balanced offense and doesn’t rely on one player to handle the bulk of the offensive role. Guard Jevon Carter leads West Virginia with 13 points per game and forward Esa Ahmad averages 11.3 per game. Forward Nathan Adrian and guard Tarik Phillip are just under 10 points per game.

“We can’t play man-to-man the whole game,” Brey said. “We’ve got to make them play against something different to kind of maybe change their rhythm, since they change your rhythm with full-court pressure.”

The team Notre Dame has faced this season that is most similar to West Virginia was Florida State, Brey said.

“Eleven, 12 guys, getting up and into you,” Brey said. “The game in Tallahassee we lost, we turned it over 18 times. We did not take care of the basketball. The other two times we did. We tried to make a comparison and get back to that kind of prep.”

The Fighting Irish have solid perimeter players, starting with Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia. They have veteran players, including Bonzie Colson and Fort Wayne's V.J. Beachem, who have been to the Elite Eight in consecutive seasons. They have strong three-point and free-throw shooters.

But Notre Dame is not a team known for its incredible quickness.

“We’re not the fastest,” Brey said. “If you look at our pace, we have been kind of a situational running team. I think what we do is we’ve gotten to do a good job when we don’t have numbers in transition, we kind of back that thing out and make you guard us for a while. And we’re going to have to be disciplined with that.

“Now, that’s easier said than done because they’re really good in the half court. They face guard you, they just run and trap you there. So, finding the rhythm in this game is going to be a feeling-out process for us in the first half.”

Notre Dame and West Virginia are former rivals from their time together in the Big East Conference. The Mountaineers are coached by Bob Huggins.

“Great games, great battles,” Brey said. “The last game I remember we had the (No.) 2 seed with Ben Hansbrough, we go down there and West Virginia beat us. Jerry West’s son is a walk-on. He throws him in the game. He bangs down a three across from our bench and I said, ‘We ain’t winning today.' ”



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