Writing about Notre Dame basketball usually means web traffic death. I’m almost afraid to write about it now for fear of losing my audience. Well, at least this post is going up on the weekend, which are slow page view days anyway. And at night, when fewer people are online to begin with.
But here's a quote from a Chicago sports icon, hopefully that will get some eyeballs on this topic for once.
Chet Coppock is the voice of Notre Dame football on WLS radio.
“Mike Brey accepts it, even if Notre Dame won a national title this year, basketball would still be second fiddle at Notre Dame,” Coppock told me by phone.
I love Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, he’s a great regular season coach, tremendous recruiter, clever strategist, wonderful teacher and motivator of children, philanthropist and overall good guy. It’s just that no matter how much he wins, how much the media covers his team, people just don’t care. Certainly not en masse. And certainly not online.
They’ve stayed consistently in the top 25 since then, yet no one seems interested in reading. The reason this IS a story is because it’s so weird. For a losing team, or historically losing program to not elicit the page visits that I would expect.
No web traffic for a program lacking media coverage? Sure, that makes sense.
However, as I chronicled earlier, ESPN College Gameday came to visit South Bend this year. CBS Sports went behind the scenes with the Fighting Irish for a program of their own very recently. Maybe my Mom looked at those posts; I’m not sure. Maybe my girlfriend did. Probably no one else though. Neither story made a blip in my traffic report. And it's just so strange to me.
This program gets the media interested, but not the people. The Chicago media came out in full force to cover the Irish as they played just a 2 hour bus ride from home at the United Center; a #2 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The crowd turnout was quite poor. As Ben Hansbrough pointed out back then, having the early slot on the day after St. Patrick’s didn’t quite gel with a lot of their fanbase. He basically gave the politically correct version of saying that the Fighting Irish fanbase were recovering from their March 17th hangover and that's why they weren't at the game.
Chicago's UC was not a home court advantage at all, as ND grinded out an ugly win over #15 seed Akron and then totally choked and fell apart versus #10 seed Florida State. A Fighting Irish team that many had going very, very deep in their brackets couldn’t even survive the first weekend.
And they lost their first tournament game last year too.
Here’s what else ND has done in the Brey era.
– In 2010, the sixth-seeded Irish dropped a first-round game 51-50 to #11 seed Old Dominion. This was the year Brey REALLY led them to EWING THEORY. When Luke Harangody went down during the stretch, he switched to the burn offense and they went from barely on the bubble up to a six seed. Then got Gody back and were quickly dismissed from the tournament.
– In 2008, the fifth-seeded Irish defeated #12 George Mason 68-50 in the first-round, before losing a second-round contest 61-41 to #4 Washington State.
– In 2007, the sixth-seeded Irish were one and done, 74-64 to 11th-seeded Winthrop.
– In 2003, the fifth-seeded Irish defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee 70-69 and fourth-seeded Illinois 68-60 in a second-round match up before falling 88-71 to top-seeded Arizona in Anaheim, Calif.
– In 2002, the eighth-seeded Irish defeated Charlotte 82-63 in the first round. Top-seeded Duke, with Brey's mentor Coach K at the helm, beat them 84-77 in the second round.
– In 2001, sixth-seeded Notre Dame defeated Xavier 83-71 in the first round before getting knocked out 59-56 by third-seeded Ole Miss.
They will earn the 33rd NCAA trip in school history on Sunday (31-36 record). The Irish last played in the NCAA Final Four 35 seasons ago in 1978 in St. Louis. I will NOT pick them to survive the first weekend.
Therein lies the problem, in college basketball, March Madness results are everything. No one cares about conference championships and conference tournament championships; they only care about the NCAA Tournament.
And of course there’s the football factor. You've heard quite a bit about Fighting Irish football over the years. And spring football season conflicts with the back end of the basketball season. The Manti Te'o hoax overrode the middle of the basketball season, and football takes away from the beginning of the basketball season.
A Fulbright scholar, author and MBA, Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB)
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