Notre Dame coach Mike Brey spent part of the week leading up to the ACC tournament trying to educate his players on the meaning of the event.
The Irish, formally independent of a conference, joined the ACC as a full member in basketball last year, and Wednesday was their first time in the postseason tournament.
He just wished it would have lasted longer.
“Big picture here, forget the game today, we’re very honored to play in the ACC tournament,” said Brey, an assistant coach at Duke from 1987-1995. “For Notre Dame basketball to be part of one of the most historic things in college basketball – a rich tradition – I tried to educate our guys before we came down here on just what that means.
“We certainly would have loved to stay around a little bit longer, but we’re going to have other cracks at the ACC tournament.”
Brey called the season for his Irish a “year of adjustments.” Notre Dame adjusted to scouting a new crop of teams on its schedule, traveling to new venues and personnel losses.
The team’s leading scorer, Jerian Grant, left the school due to an “academic matter” in December when the team was 8-4. The Irish would go 7-13 without him.
“I would hope that we will be better at it next year in year two,” Brey said.
• All-Transfer team: The ACC media and coaches pick all kinds of all-star teams at season’s end, but the glaring omission has to be recognition for this year’s crop of transfers. There were enough quality players to fill out first and second teams.
Leading the way – let’s call him the Transfer Player of the Year – would be Duke’s Rodney Hood (from Mississippi State), who garnered second-team All-ACC honors from the media and coaches and was the highest-scoring transfer at 16.5 points per game. Joining him on the first team are Anthony Gill of Virginia (South Carolina), Trae Golden of Georgia Tech (Tennessee), Donnavan Kirk of Miami (DePaul), and Ralston Turner of N.C. State (LSU).
The second team comprises Michael Gbinije of Syracuse (Duke), Desmond Lee of N.C. State (New Mexico Junior College), Evan Smotrycz of Maryland (Michigan), Coron Williams of Wake Forest (Robert Morris), and Alex Dragicevich of Boston College (Notre Dame).
Surprisingly, Lee is the only junior college transfer in the group. Kirk and Williams are graduate students taking advantage of the NCAA’s transfer rule allowing immediate eligibility.
Jonathan Jones and correspondent Kip Coons