Good job, good effort

Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.

Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.

We failed.

Well, at least we tried. After securing a photo with Mike Brey after the Notre Dame game Monday, we had high hopes of a repeat, three-peat or even up to a five-peat with getting photos with coaches on this trip. Alas, we couldn’t get a picture with Tom Crean after Indiana’s 72-49 cakewalk Wednesday against Penn State. The game itself was pretty miserable — a blowout from the start, paired with a lack of any consistent pace. It was slow and boring. But, Assembly Hall is one of the best college basketball venues in the country, so it was still a blast.

Nick's: Home of Sink the Biz

Nick’s: Home of Sink the Biz

But all was not lost. We had a great time in Bloomington nonetheless. The highlight, for me, was Nick’s English  Hut. We spent a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon before the game at Nick’s, eating and having a few beers while playing a classic Hoosier pastime, Sink the Biz.

Mike and Levin

Mike and Levin

We got to stay at Alex’s uncle’s house in Bloomington, and the family has a great dog named Levin (see above). He also told a wonderful story of his interview to become Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist’s clerk. We’ll touch on that in another post.

As for now, I’m being harassed by the other guys to wrap up the post so we can hit the road. We drove to Fort Wayne again last night, so the drive to Ann Arbor should only take about two hours. We’ve got a quick day planned in A2, so we should be checking in again tomorrow sometime. Until then, as always, you can follow us on Twitter @alexiniguez, @swernerpg, @bradymccollough and @msanserino to keep even closer tabs.

Cheers.

Washin' the ol' minivan.

Washin’ the ol’ minivan.

 

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No, Mike Brey, you can’t come with us. You have practice, and your team clearly needs it.

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Mike Brey: An honorary bro.

After conception of the BROad Trip idea, we gradually added important details other than “Let’s go to basketball games at all of our alma maters” to the mix. Like, we’ll make T-shirts. We’ll rent a minivan. We’ll bring an XBox and a small TV for said minivan. Maybe the most important addition was “We’ll get pictures of all of our head coaches.”

We did not know if this was possible, but, having covered college basketball for five years, I had a pretty strong inkling that it could. I don’t think I’m making a jump to say that college basketball coaches are by far the coolest and most down to earth in sports. Because college hoops is a bit of a niche sport (especially in the middle of January), coaches appreciate the fans who are crazy over it while most of the country is arguing about whether or not Manti Te’o knew that his girlfriend didn’t exist or which Harbaugh brother is better. I had a feeling that, if we just asked the respective contacts we have at our alma maters, we could get these pictures with Mike Brey, Tom Crean, John Beilein and John Groce, and hopefully Brad Stevens at Butler.

Well, you can imagine how we were feeling about midway through the second half of the Georgetown-Notre Dame game. Like, um, maybe John Thompson III would take a picture with us instead? Because Mike Brey, no, no way Mike Brey would want to stop and smile for the camera with us in his awesome maroon mock turtle neck after his team laid such a stinker (see below for Sam’s game recap).

But, after the game, the Notre Dame director of basketball operations remembered Sam’s e-mail and took us back to the basketball offices, where we waited for Brey. And, sure enough, after waiting for about a half hour, Brey emerged, smiling and shaking our hands and asking us about our trip. When we told him the itinerary, he said, “Can I come?” He seemed as if he could have used a beer or 18, but we still didn’t take him too literally. No, Mike Brey, you can’t come with us. Because you have practice tomorrow morning, and your team clearly needs it, and we need Sam to be happy at some point this winter and spring.

But, we love Mike Brey, and we are feeling better about the prospects of meeting the other coaches and telling them a bit about our journey.

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White Castle was a bad choice.

LOCATION UPDATE: We are now in Bloomington, Indiana. Tomorrow night, we will see Indiana demolish Penn State. Basically, all we did was party in South Bend until 3 a.m. while a snowstorm fell around Northwest Indiana. And then we drove Tuesday and somehow found room in our bellies for 30 sliders from White Castle. We’re still recovering.

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Purcell Pavilion

SAM’S GAME RECAP:

All season there have been little warning signs that this might not be the Notre Dame team many thought it would be coming into the season. With literally every player returning from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, why shouldn’t the Irish challenge for a top-four Big East finish, heck, maybe even a league title? Losses to Connecticut and at St. John’s were easy enough to write off (Notre Dame loses to UConn at home regularly and never plays well at Madison Square Garden). But last night’s loss and, more importantly, the way it went down, is troubling.

All the things that made last year’s Notre Dame team successful — toughness, grit and a firm identity on offense and defense — seem to be totally lacking this year. On offense, the Irish just don’t seem to know who they are. Sometimes, there a team that wants to run through Jack Cooley, who hasn’t been able to sneak up on teams the way he may have been able to last year. Cooley also hasn’t reacted well this season when opposing teams make him the focal point of their defensive game plan.

On defense, Notre Dame is — for the first time in a long time — athletic enough to play man-to-man against other Big East teams, yet is reluctant to do so. Working out of a zone defense last night, the Irish gave the Hoyas wide-open outside shots that, even for an offensively challenged team like Georgetown, were easy buckets.

In a more big picture sense, this team doesn’t have “it,” the way the Irish did last year. Last year, this team was written off by pretty much everyone when Tim Abromaitis went down with an injury, but powered through Big East play with a hard-working, defensive squad. In retrospect, that may have been the worst thing that could have happened to THIS year’s Notre Dame team. It looked like last year was the floor, and that this year’s squad could only go better. As the results have shown so far, the Irish have a long way to go to even get back to where they were last year.

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Notre Dame, home of the Cleanin’ Irish.

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Fort Wayne, South Bend and us.

To Whom It May Concern,

Sorry for not updating our progress until now. We are currently at the beautiful Inn at Saint Mary’s, on the campus of Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Ind. To bring you up to speed, we spent yesterday picking up our rental minivan and driving from Pittsburgh to Fort Wayne, Ind., where we stayed with the Sanserino family and took in the NFL conference championship games in a household of 49ers fans.

We hit up some of Fort Wayne’s finest establishments, the highlight being the Brass Rail. Alex even bought a T-shirt there.

Today, we woke up and left town around 10:30 a.m. and visited Fiddler’s Hearth when we got to South Bend. Good food, good beer, good company. We toasted to Sam, Lennay Kekua and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Clearly not in order of importance.

What we have on tap for the rest of the day: more food, more drinks, more shivering. It’s a balmy 12 degrees in South Bend today.

Oh — and we’re going to see Notre Dame vs. Georgetown at 7:30 p.m. The Irish are still ranked, and this game could be a grind. We’ve written a convenient preview below.

For now, we’re off to go walk around campus, see the sights and make Manti Te’o fake girlfriend jokes. Apparently, fake girlfriends is a Notre Dame tradition.

Sam’s Notre Dame/Georgetown preview:

We’re all set for the first game of the BROad Trip tonight with Notre Dame/Georgetown at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Fighting Mock Turtlenecks ended a two-game losing streak Saturday night with a closer-than-it-should-have-been win at home against Rutgers. The best news of Saturday night’s win was that Jack Cooley finally put together a decent game after two pretty bad ones against Connecticut and St. John’s. Cooley had 19 points and 10 boards against the Scarlet Knights.

Notre Dame has also gotten some pretty good guard play recently from Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. In general this season, the Irish have gone as far as their guards have taken them. When Grant and Atkins are both on, Notre Dame is pretty tough to beat (especially at home).

Georgetown could be without Greg Whittington, which could be some trouble for them matching up with Cooley and Tom Knight down low. The Hoyas looked OK in non-conference play (aside from some ghastly point totals in a few games), but haven’t looked too good against Big East opponents. They beat St. John’s at the Garden (something Notre Dame couldn’t do), but also lost to South Florida. No one should lose to South Florida.

This is more of an anecdotal note, but I feel like this is the first time Georgetown has had to play at Notre Dame with students in attendance for the first time in forever. Actually, it’s just the first time they’ve had to face the Leprechaun Legion since 2006. Still, this is a home game Notre Dame really shouldn’t lose if the Irish want to be in contention for a top-four Big East spot at the end of the season.

Sam’s pick: 69-61 Notre Dame

Mike’s pick: 62-54 Notre Dame

Alex’s pick: 67-59 Notre Dame

Brady’s pick: 61-55 Notre Dame

Thanks for following along with us. We’ll provide updates on here as often as we can, but otherwise, you can get more frequent updates by following us on Twitter: @BradyMcCollough, @SWernerPG, @msanserino and @alexiniguez.

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24 Hours of Hoops live blog

In what is my second attempt at live blogging ESPN’s college basketball marathon (and Sam’s first), we will both tackle all 24 hours. UNFORTUNATELY, WordPress is a pain in the ass, so the CoverItLive window can’t be embedded into this post. But, if you click the link below, it will open in a new window. Word? Word.

Click Here

Feel free to send us a comment in the CoverItLive console and share the link with friends.

-Alex

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Introduction

The idea was spawned, as most great ideas are, over beers. Five of us — Bill Brink, Michael Sanserino, J. Brady McCollough, Sam Werner and Alex Iniguez — would take a road trip. Even better, we would go to a college basketball game in each city we stopped. Ah, but which cities do we go to? Tough call. Or was it?

No, it wasn’t.

We would take a trip to each of our respective alma maters, taking in a basketball game at each. Bill and Sam went to Notre Dame, Michael (also known as Reggie) went to Indiana, Brady went to Michigan and Alex went to Illinois. For good measure, we added a trip to Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to fill in an open day on the trip. We toyed with the idea of a jaunt to Madison, Wis., but ultimately decided against it. Note: Bill has since informed us that he will not be joining, which makes us sad.

The schedule, as it came to be:

Mon., Jan. 21 — South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame vs. Georgetown, 7:30 p.m. ET, TV: ESPN

Tue., Jan. 22 — OPEN DATE — Probably Fort Wayne, Ind., for a free night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sanserino. Bloomington, Ind., TV: None

Wed., Jan. 23 — Bloomington, Ind. — Indiana vs. Penn State, 7 p.m. ET, TV: BTN

Thurs., Jan. 24 — Ann Arbor, Mich. — Michigan vs. Purdue, 7 p.m. ET, TV: ESPN/ESPN 2

Fri., Jan. 25 — OPEN DATE — Probably Indianapolis, Ind., TV: None

Sat., Jan. 26 — Indianapolis, Ind. — Butler vs. Temple, 6 p.m. ET, TV: ESPN 2

Sun., Jan. 27 — Champaign, Ill. — Illinois vs. Michigan, 5 p.m. CT, TV: BTN

Mon., Jan. 28 — Pittsburgh, Penn. — THE END, TV: None

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy eight days, but it should also be a great trip. Follow along here for updates leading up to the trip and stories from the road, and keep an eye on our tweets in the sidebar on the right side of the page. Thanks for reading.

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