Did You Guys Know Notre Dame Football Went 4-8 Last Year?

Because in case you didn’t, the amateur comedians at SB Nation are only too happy to remind you, in any possible way — even if it’s completely irrelevant to the sports topic du jour.
Yes, I’m wading into this territory yet again. I already wrote an article like this last year, targeting mostly the same people. I think it’s safe to say I have something of a vendetta against SB Nation and their acolytes.

Anyway, we all saw Notre Dame football go 4-8 last year. It was a complete disaster that resulted, at least publicly, in a complete reshuffling of how things had been getting done in the program. We shall see what, if anything, changes on the field. Personally, I’m skeptical, but then, I’ve been on-and-off wanting Brian Kelly to be replaced since late October of his first season, so my opinion probably isn’t valid.

But this latest hot take isn’t about my opinion of the Notre Dame football program. It’s little more than a rebuke of the SB Nation portion of sports Twitter and their repetitive and unfunny jokes about ND’s 4-8 record. There was a quick resurgence of them this weekend, given St. Patrick’s Day and especially the Irish basketball team’s loss to West Virginia in the NCAA tournament.

You don’t need to take my word for it. Just do a Twitter search for “Notre Dame went 4-8”, with quote marks. You’ll get results all over the place going back months — some of them might even have been sparked by an actual occurrence related to the subject. Amusingly enough, just about everyone you’ll see in the results column, if you click their timeline, has an SB Nation retweet pretty close to the top. Some of the Tweets even @ SBN writers themselves, as if they are clinging to hope that THIS 4-8 joke will be so good that they too will be able to score highly-paying jobs as professional trolls.

Look, I’m not completely humorless. Making fun of ND for having a bad season is…whatever. If you want to do it, that’s your prerogative. I’m on record thinking you’re a giant stinking hypocrite if you constantly insult ND for not being good at football while also (as so many of these people do) calling its fans delusional if they want to throw out the coach that’s putting out the product you’re using as so much fodder for jokes. But hypocrisy has never been much of an issue for this particular group of sports fans.

In any case, either way, I get why ND’s poor season would be an easy punchline for a month or so following its conclusion. I’m on the thin-skinned side (this article wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t), but I at least understood a brief period of getting poked on social media.

Beyond that time frame, it became very obvious very quickly that the constant 4-8 jokes — many of which, again, have been devoid of any connection to Notre Dame or even college football — were symptomatic of the fact that these people despise the program. Very few of these trolls (except Spencer Hall, who I guess should get points for honesty while being a hate-spewing asshole) actually own up to the fact that this is the case, continuing to cling to their self-appointed position as the irreverent class clown of college football Twitter.

Of course, I have many, many problems with SBN even beyond their ridiculous treatment of ND football. I worked for their ND sub-site, One Foot Down, for 18 months or so, which is to say I crapped out a couple dozen articles for them. That’s really all they want out of anything — posts, regardless of their quality. After all, while you pay your writers $3 per post, you have to pressure the hell out of them to have content rolling in 24/7. That way, you can churn out those clicks and afford to pay Spencer Hall and his cohort of jokesters to embarrass themselves with pathetic attempts at ‘journalism’. Heavily, heavily ironic, too, that this business model of theirs — labor force doing a spectacular amount of the heavy lifting for peanuts while the guys at the top rake in all the money — sounds an awful lot like…hmm…what does it sound like? Oh, that’s right! The very organization that runs college sports, whom you hate and trash at every opportunity!

They now have a low-rent moron making a fool of himself in an attempt to run that ND sub-site, which is serendipitous for them because I’m sure they enjoy having such a person representing ND fans, whom they unanimously hate. (It would be a wonder they even allow ND fans a place to congregate on their holy site given their opinion of them, but that would require having some semblance of conviction rather than churning every cent they can out of people.) I doubt it was intentional that it worked out that way, but certainly a nice side effect.

As I said in my previous article on the subject, too, I don’t have a problem with people disliking ND football per se. Even aside from their rivals, there are reasons to hate them if you want, some better than others. I just have a huge problem with the people who despise the people that prevent college athletes from being rich turning around and lambasting a school that actually puts forth an effort to provide a meaningful version of the compensation the rules currently permit — an education.

Meanwhile, guys like Hall slurp their SEC schools that win a lot and don’t bother to muse on why that league provides so many of the worst graduation rates in the country, thereby performing a far larger disservice to their athletes (my opinion, anyway) than not paying the tiny fraction of them that have major market value beyond their scholarships. The major football powers yank scholarships from people whenever they want, leaving them forced to make decisions they’re ill-equipped to make, but as long as they win, no one — even Hall, champion of the marginalized — gives a rip.

While SB Nation lobs grenades at ND for everything from playing “three true road games” (if I had a nickel for every time I saw/heard that phrase in 2014 and ’16) to, yes, going 4-8 in football, they’re posting Graduation Success Rates of 98/100 in the category of black student-athletes. (I know you’re all sick of the talk of ND ‘doing it the right way’, and I wouldn’t bring it up if the people lambasting the school weren’t also attacking the NCAA constantly for not, in their view, ‘doing it the right way’.)

You’d think the champion of paying players and the kings of arguing for the marginalized would care about something small like equipping young minority student-athletes for success in life, but nah. Notre Dame went 4-8 in football and it’s funny (despite the fact that we consider them an irrelevant program for whom going 4-8 shouldn’t be unexpected) so let’s make jokes about it for the next 8 months! And by all means, no one say a word about the schools that actually do chew up and spit out their black athletes without preparing them in any way for the real world! I guess SB Nation’s desire to carry the flag for the most vulnerable in our society doesn’t extend far enough to intrude on their desire to hate, and make silly non sequitur cracks about, an institution basically because it exists.

Well, congratulations, SB Nation. You got the rise out of me and sparked me to write this probably incoherent response to your trolling. I’m probably not the only one. I’m sure somewhere in your little pamphlet on “How to Be a Complete Joke of a Sports Site but Who Gives a Shit, We’ll Get Paid”, there’s some small subsection on openly being dicks to entire fan bases for no reason other than to score social media points. This article is proof you’ve hit that section right on the nose.

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Did You Guys Know Notre Dame Football Went 4-8 Last Year?

The Junkies Break The Bracket Down! 

Midwest:

In my opinion this is the most boring of the four regions and headlined by the most fraudulent one seed. The Kansas Jayhawks have a talented roster, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed more often than not I was getting the “Close Game” alert on my cell phone when they played. Kansas also proved without Josh Jackson they are suspect, losing to the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Tournament. We are big fans of TCU basketball around here –  if only they would have stayed in the Big East, imagine the powerhouse they’d have become. I digress from my point and to help further it, a potential second round  matchup with Michigan State does Kansas no favors. I know MSU is down but you never sleep on a Tom Izzo-coached team in the Big Dance. The Midwest region is probably the most up in the air, especially if Kansas can’t make its way out of it. Louisville doesn’t really scare anyone and Oregon is banged up. Caleb Swanigan is a monster but is he good enough to help Purdue make a Final Four run? Lots  of intrigue in the Midwest.
Best Round One Matchup:

No.4 Purdue vs No. 13 Vermont
I got to be honest here, I was picking going pick  the 8/9 game but that’s a chump move. So I’ll take the game with the All-American Caleb Swanigan. The sophomore forward is in my opinion the best player in the region. So can the best player take down the best 13 seed in the tournament? According to ESPN Vermont has the best chance of advancing to the round of 32 for seeds 13-16. It’s not like Vermont is a stranger to pulling off major upsets. The Catamounts haven’t played many close games this season, pretty much destroying everyone in the America East Conference. It’s about time they get a challenge. I’m not saying they will pull off the upset, but damnit they sure will try.

Double Digit Seed With The Best Chance to make a run:

11 Rhode Island

The Fighting Lamar Odoms are hot right now – winners of their last eight games, including an A10 Championship. They matchup with Creighton, the Fighting Kyle Korvers, in round 1. The 3rd place finishers in the Big East regular season will be a tough out. That said, if the Fighting Odoms make it to the round of 32, a matchup with a banged up Oregon Ducks team is possible, and who knows how well the Ducks will play without Chris Boucher. Going on that magical Sweet 16 run isn’t that far fetched. Full disclosure, I have no clue how good Rhode Island is. I just wanted to mention Lamar Odom because #NeverForget. Plus, if I call this run I’ll look like a genius.

Potential Matchup I want to see:

1 Kansas Vs 9 Michigan State
MSU had a very un-MSU type season, but that’s what happens when you schedule as tough as Tom Izzo does –  which in part is to get his team’s ready for March. It’s nice to see out of a “Power 5”. Playing big schools anytime anywhere can hurt you if you don’t win those games, and the 9th seed is proof – they almost missed the dance. Injuries to their frontcourt have also been a big factor, especially to Eron Harris. On a positive note, Kansas lacks size, and Izzo can match up better with Kansas’ small lineup, which would make for a great game. Plus, l I’ll say it again – KANSAS IS A FRAUD! Honestly, Arizona had a better case than the Jayhawks for a #1 seed. Call me LaVar Ball but I’m standing by that.

West Region:

It was inevitable that whatever region housed Gonzaga as the 1 seed would roundly be considered the weak spot in the NCAA Tournament, and sure enough, here we are. It also doubles as the home for the Northwestern Wildcats in their very first tournament ever, which is a really cool story no matter how sick you are of hearing Mike Wilbon and his cohorts talk about it. Intrigue abounds in this West, because it has all the makings of a busted-up bracket once we reach the second weekend.
Best round one matchup:

3 Florida State vs 14 Florida Gulf Coast
THE RETURN OF DUNK CITY! You can’t not be excited to see Florida Gulf Coast back in the bracket. They were here last year too, of course, but this team actually has the looks of one that can do some damage. I watched some of the Atlantic Sun final and these guys are long and athletic, much like the Eagles that captured our hearts four years ago in wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. FSU will be the heavy favorite, of course, but the Seminoles have not done very well outside their own building and FGCU will be the sentimental favorite if they get going (it doesn’t hurt that they’re actually a few minutes closer to Orlando, where the game will be played, than FSU is).

Double digit seed with the best chance to make a run:

11 Xavier

I don’t really like any of the double-digit seeds in this bracket, but if the Musketeers can recapture their form from early in the season, the bracket lines up pretty well. I don’t think anyone is scared of Maryland in a 6/11 game, and Florida State (if they survive DUNK CITY) isn’t all that frightening either. The problem for Xavier is that they basically haven’t beaten anyone besides DePaul in like a month and a half. However, no program has accomplished more under the radar than Xavier in recent years, so maybe they have the ability to sneak up on us all once again.
Potential matchup I want to see:

Even setting aside my Notre Dame fandom for a moment — if I were to answer this question honestly it would be ND vs North Dakota in the Elite 8 — that potential second-round battle between ND and West Virginia does look pretty tasty, doesn’t it? The Irish and Mountaineers had some real battles in the few years Bob Huggins and Mike Brey were in the Big East together. Their styles align for an intriguing matchup, as WVU is all about trying to take the ball away and the Irish do a better job of taking care of it than just about anyone. And between the Mountaineers’ physical style and the attitude Bonzie Colson has been playing with of late, this game might just be the most likely of any to result in players getting in each other’s faces and chirping a little bit. As an ND fan I don’t want to see this game happen because it would be tough, but the hoops fan in me is kind of excited for it.

Final Four Pick: 

A-Rob: Arizona, over Notre Dame. But let the record show that I thought very hard about taking the Irish to the Final Four, which I’ve never done. ND got underseeded at a 5, but couldn’t have asked for a much more navigable path on paper. I’m excited to see where it goes

Bizzle: Arizona (He’s so long winded^)

South Region:

Even in a region with One and Done U and Paper Class Institute at the top of the South Region, they pale in comparison to the hurricane that has become the Ball family dynamic. In my opinion there is not bigger story than what the hell LaVar Ball will say next. With each passing round I hope the claims get crazier and crazier. The only story that would be bigger than Lonzo Ball being able to make.good on his dad’s claims would be if Texas Southern can pull off the first 16-over-1 upset in March Madness history. Speaking of Texas Southern, they are by record the best 16 seed in the field, so Roy Williams better not sleep on the Tigers the way his players sleep through classes.

Best Round One Matchup:

10 Wichita State vs  7 Dayton
This game has been decided by everyone who gets paid to make decisions. They all have picked Wichita State and I get it. The Shockers won 30 games, and I don’t care what league you play in, that’s mighty impressive. They beat Illinois State in the Missouri Valley finals, knocking them off the bubble. Got to love a team with a chip on their shoulder in the most unpredictable tournament in sports. This team is no slouch, as they beat 5 teams in this tournament.
Double Digit Seed With best Chance to Make a Run:

12 Middle Tennessee State
Holy crap did the bracket set up nicely for the Blue Raiders. Sure Minnesota had a great year in the B1G, but they arent the cream of the crop. When Minnesota loses, it isn’t pretty, but when they win, they win convincingly. I know, that’s a cheap take on Minnesota, but it’s Minnesota. Only people in Minnesota think they are Final Four bound, so if Joe Mauer wants to come at me that’s fine. After the Gophers, MTSU gets either Butler or Winthrop, both mid-major schools themselves. Sorry Butler, but Gordon Hayward and Brad Stevens ain’t walking through that door. A date with North Carolina in the Sweet 16 is very possible, and who doesn’t want to root for a kid named Giddy Potts? That name alone is worth a Sweet Sixteen berth.

Potential Matchup I want to see:

Easily, it’s Kentucky vs UCLA potentially meeting in the Sweet 16, and if I can be corny, what a sweet matchup that would be, with two of the most storied programs in college basketball history. This matchup would feature 5 of the projected top 16 picks in the upcoming NBA draft according to NBADraftNet.com, with Ball leading the way as the #2 prospect in college. I would pay good money to hear LaVar Ball and John Calipari have a conversation. I’m sure LaVar thinks he’s a better coach that Cal. I mean, this is the same guy who thinks he would have killed MJ one on one back in the day. If you call yourself a hoops fan and don’t get even the least bit pumped for a Malik Monk vs Lonzo Ball Sweet 16 matchup, you need to check your pulse, because it’s going to be a classic….If it happens.
Final Four Pick:

 A-Rob: North Carolina Bizzle: UCLA

East Region:

Every region can claim to be the toughest in this year’s NCAA bracket (well, ok, probably not the West), but only one boasts the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats: The East Region.
The East has teams that were arguably overseeded (hi, South Carolina!) and underseeded (tough break, Wisconsin), but it appears to be one of the easiest on paper to predict because everyone is going to have Villanova vs Duke in the Elite 8. Which means this is the odds-on favorite to be the bracket that jacks everyone up like the Midwest regional did last year. (I still haven’t forgiven Michigan State for losing to Middle Tennessee and setting off a chain reaction that resulted in freaking Syracuse, who had no business in the tournament, making the Final Four.)
Best round one matchup:

5 Virginia vs 12 UNC Wilmington
Damn right I’m picking a 5/12 as the best matchup of this bracket. Wilmington has the pedigree – they went 15-3 in the Colonial (29-5 overall) and last year they hung right with Duke in a 3/14 matchup. Four starters are back from that team. And this year, they have an offense ranked in the top 20 for adjusted efficiency by kenpom.com (I’m bringing analytics to the party, baby). UVA, meanwhile, is one of the most dramatically underseeded teams in this tournament by kenpom, which has the Cavaliers ranked 7th, and we all know how tough it is to score against that defense. However, UVA has been floundering a bit lately. They struggled down the stretch in the ACC, they barely escaped last-place Pitt in the ACC tourney, and then Notre Dame, which they’d owned for years, handled them. I don’t like the way the Cavs are trending, and this matchup looks like it could be very exciting. I picked the Seahawks to pull the upset.

Double-digit seed with the best chance to make a run:

12 UNC Wilmington
This is no surprise given what I just said about UNCW. I’m generally not sold on SEC schools that aren’t Kentucky, so if the Seahawks beat Virginia, I like their chances against Florida too. Keep an eye, though, on 11th-seed USC. The Trojans have talent, but haven’t gotten many chances to prove it in a top-heavy but not deep Pac-12. SC draws a good but beatable SMU team in round one, and in the second round they would likely get a Baylor team that dropped a deuce in their most recent game and has become accustomed to flaming out in March.
Potential matchup I want to see:

It almost feels like cheating to pick Villanova vs Duke in the Elite 8 for this answer, but no other potential showdown intrigues me even close to as much as this one does. The last two national champs taking the hardwood in Madison Square Garden, defending champs versus the team most believe to be the most talented in the field. Coach K and Jay Wright are two of the most respected leaders in the game. It’s too good to be true, right? Which is again why I say someone will probably screw it up.
Final Four Pick: 

A-Rob: Villanova Bizzle: Duke (Damnit)

The Junkies Break The Bracket Down! 

Tip Off Marathon Picks!!

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It’s the most wonderful time of the college basketball season!! Ok, that may have been a bit strong. It’s like the 4th or 5th best thing about the college basketball season, after March Madness, conference tournaments, Nathan Giese’s hot takes and Jay Bilas’ anti-NCAA rants. I’m talking about every college basketball junkie’s dream: 24+ hours of non-stop hoops action.

Tonight at 6 pm, starting with some ladies hoops action, going all the way until the final buzzer of Duke/Kansas on Tuesday night, that’s a whole lot of good basketball, and seeing as how, in the 9th year of this beautiful marathon, I am an adult with real world responsibilities, I most likely won’t make it all the way through. Sorry haters, but my boss won’t be understanding if I oversleep for work because I just had to see the Longwood/Stephen F. Austin slugfest.

That said, I got nothing but respect for anyone that can stay up for the entire marathon, and if you can and do I expect Tweets with updates on the action. So in true Bizzle fashion I will pick this entire marathon game by game even though I have no clue about the teams. I have no clue who is on Hawaii’s roster but I’m picking their game regardless. That’s the beauty of America – I can blindly pick college basketball games that start at 4:15 am! Keep in mind while reading these picks, I picked the game like two weeks ago and am only writing the open today. The ranked teams may not be ranked in the same spots anymore, and given that Kansas and Michigan State both lost on Friday it could take some shine off the Champions Classic. But it doesn’t take away from the excitement of wall to wall basketball to begin the college basketball season. As always feel free to pick against me and send in your thoughts on the Tip Off Marathon!!

 November 14th

6pm

No. 4 UConn over No. 15 Florida St. (Women)

8pm

No. 10 Standford over No. 6 Texas (Women)

10pm

BYU over Princeton

Tuesday November 15th

12am

Gonzaga over San Diego State

2am

Green Bay over Pacific

4:15am

Hawaii over Florida Atlantic

6:30am

Niagara over Hartford

8:45am

Winthrop over Manhattan

11am

Stephen F. Austin over Longwood

1:15pm

Dayton over Alabama

3:30pm

No.10 Oregon over Baylor

7pm

No. 3 Kentucky over No. 13 Michigan State

9:30pm

No. 1 Duke over No. 4 Kansas

Tip Off Marathon Picks!!

Why ND-Kentucky Was Special

Notre Dame-Kentucky was special. Even in the annals of special games, I felt like it was truly special.

After all, it was the most-watched cable TV broadcast of college basketball of all time, no small feat given last year’s national semifinals both aired on cable.

But merely talking about how many watched it does that game a disservice. And yes, I’m biased. I’m a Notre Dame fan. That Kentucky game was as close as ND basketball has come in my lifetime to really, honestly being a power program. It still stings that the Irish lost.

That game had so many layers to it. The most obvious layer to the outside observer was the dichotomy between the two programs.

Kentucky is known as the mercenary program, shuffling one-and-done players in and out each year and making a mockery of college basketball. (This year’s team doesn’t fit that mold as easily as past teams do, but for the sake of the narrative, few pointed that out.)

Notre Dame, of course, is the school that refuses to play ball in the cesspool of college basketball recruiting. Some may dispute the ‘do it the right way’ reputation the school has, but again, for the sake of the narrative, that’s how ND was portrayed. Their best two players were seniors. Three of their five starters had missed games for academic reasons during their career, something you’d never expect to hear at Kentucky. The roles in the morality play were clear.

The roles in the basketball game were clear, too. Notre Dame was small. They had no depth. Against the powerful front line of Kentucky, their move was clear: Bombs away from the outside and hope to catch fire. Kentucky was going to lock down the paint defensively, dominate the paint offensively and would need both a poor performance themselves and a near-perfect performance by ND to lose.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that narrative: The opposite was true.

It was Notre Dame who controlled the paint offensively, in a manner of speaking. By staying in constant motion with the ball and not putting anyone in the paint, the Irish kept UK from gaining a foothold there either. Their ball movement created attacking opportunities at the rim, and ND delivered. Time and time again the Irish went in for layups. They scored 20 of their first 26 second-half points on dunks or layups.

ND led for much of the way, as it turned out. At one point they got up by six. They did this all while shooting 4/14 from three-point land. There were a couple in there that were probably attributable to poor shot selection or UK’s defense, but many of the misses were the same wide-open looks ND’s gotten for itself all year. So much for needing to catch fire.

It turned out — and this really should be being addressed more — that it was, in fact, Kentucky that needed to play perfectly, at least over the last 12 minutes, to win. UK did not miss a field goal in that span. They hit their last six free throws. They did everything well when it mattered most, as you’d expect a championship team to do. It was very impressive.

My heart broke just a little bit when Jackson committed a blocking foul with six seconds left that allowed UK to hit the winning free throws, somewhat anticlimactically. It broke a little bit more when Jerian Grant’s desperation trey from the corner — a shot that if you watch it, it’s a freakin’ miracle he even got it off at all — went long. It didn’t break because Notre Dame missed out on what would have been the greatest win in its basketball history, and its greatest men’s sports win, period, in probably 20 years. It broke because I wanted to watch these guys play again.

Notre Dame was an absolute treat to anyone who loves basketball this year. While the ongoing media gripe this year was that college hoops is unwatchable these days, ND played a beautiful brand of basketball, one that I, for one, feel incredibly fortunate to have seen.

There was a sequence against UNC in the ACC title game that summed it up better than I ever could. ND was in the midst of rallying from down 64-56 with 8 minutes left when Bonzie Colson came up with a loose ball and batted it over to Jerian Grant in the left corner. Grant whipped it to Pat Connaughton at the top of the key, who whipped it to Demetrius Jackson at the elbow, who whipped it to Steve Vasturia in the right corner for a wide open three-pointer that tied it.

That whole sequence took 2 seconds. ND never looked back. It was dream basketball, beatiful hoops that would be seen again when the Irish eviscerated Wichita State in the Sweet 16 with the greatest 15-minute stretch of play I’ve ever seen from any team in my entire life.

ND really and truly reached a different level with me over the last few weeks. I loved those guys, and loved watching them play, so much that it honestly bummed me out just as much that I wouldn’t get to see them anymore as it did that they fell short of the Final Four.

These are guys that deserved every bit of love they got, and probably more. The best tribute I can pay them is that I couldn’t pick a favorite player for most of the year. At times, each of the five starters save Auguste had claims to the title (and, naturally, Auguste would start climbing that chart himself with incredible play in the second weekend of the tournament). Connaughton and Grant were the kinds of leaders college sports fans hardly ever get to see. And we got two in the same class? What had we done to deserve that?

More importantly, all were great kids. Outside of the academic missteps, none of the ND players have been involved in anything to suggest they’re anything less than great kids. It’s a tribute to Mike Brey that he has consistently attracted kids of high character to his program the last 15 years. Grant and Connaughton go in the books as probably two of my favorite four ND athletes of all time for everything they brought to us. And there’s plenty of time for Jackson, Auguste and Vasturia, along with Colson, VJ Beachem, and the next crop of Irish, to start building their own legacy.

The last thing that made that game such a treat was Kentucky, believe it or not. Make no mistake about it: John Calipari is a sleazebag. To his credit, he does appear to have his athletes’ best interests at heart, but he’s still a sleazebag. However, his players aren’t. I was struck after the game with how little ill will I held towards the guys wearing blue and white. Normally I find excuses to hate everyone on the other team after such a game. Maybe I’m growing, but more likely it’s that the UK players impressed me. I don’t remember one time seeing anything that approached what you might call dirty or cheap play. I don’t remember one time seeing a player whine for a call from the refs. Even Calipari, by his standards, seemed to be on good behavior. It was a good, clean, classic game played by two excellent teams. It was, between the lines anyway, everything college sports wants to be about.

That’s what made that game so special to me, and why, once the nagging pain from the loss subsides — eventually it will, I think — I will feel very lucky to have witnessed it and to have had a rooting interest.

Why ND-Kentucky Was Special