Rothstein | Mike Brey believes Notre Dame’s defense is improved

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey directs players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. Duke beat Notre Dame 84-74. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Mike Brey has led Notre Dame to seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments thanks to fluid offense, great spacing, and timely shot making.

It’s a formula that has allowed the Irish to advance to back-to-back Sweet 16s in 2015 and 2016 all while cementing their place as one of the top programs in the ACC.

But the preseason talk right now in South Bend is about everything except offense. Brey feels like his team is getting defensive — literally.

“I think we’re better defensively than we’ve been,” Brey said Wednesday after his team’s afternoon practice. “With guys like T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger set to play more prominent roles, we’re a little quicker than we’ve been. Those guys fly around. And Bonzie Colson can also obviously get deflections. We’re a better defensive team than we’ve been.”

That’s not the only difference that Brey notices within his team.

The days of having guys like Matt Carroll, Colin Falls, and Steve Vasturia knocking down shots from the wing aren’t gone entirely, but they may not resonate with this particular Notre Dame team as much as they have for previous units.

“We’re driving it a little more than we have,” Brey said. “Our best shooter is Matt Farrell and we need him to look to fill that role for us. Guys like T.J. (Gibbs) and Rex (Pflueger) — they’re downhill guys. They attack. They’re going to kick and dump off to guys around them. We’re not as much of a spot up team as we’ve been in the past.”

Farrell made 5 of 10 3-point shots in Wednesday’s team scrimmage. He, along with Colson, should be one of the better players in the ACC this upcoming season.

With Gibbs, Pflueger, and veteran big man Martin Geben set to round out the starting lineup, and top 50 freshman D.J. Harvey ready to have a significant role, things appear to be business as usual in South Bend.

Well, that is at least except for the style.

Notre Dame is currently ranked 17th in the FanRag Sports Preseason Top 25.

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.

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