Confetti didn’t drop from the ceiling Friday night. No self-congratulatory roar was be heard by students passing by the Joyce Center. A fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship for the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team was expected accepted in a businesslike manner.
For the program’s fans eager for a deeper run, Notre Dame earning a No. 7 seed doesn’t exactly stack the odds in Brey’s favor. But success in March is about clearing individual hurdles, and Brey’s not about to look past or talk about anything else other than what his team must do to get by No. 10 seed Iowa State Friday in Dayton, Ohio, in the West Region.
Though, he was reminded that the last time the Irish advanced to the Sweet 16 was through the West bracket in 2003.
“That has crossed my mind,” Brey said. “Is that karma? I don't know.”
Despite exiting the Big East Championship in the semifinals for a fourth straight year, Notre Dame (25-9) pocketed some confidence with a 73-65 win over 12th-ranked Marquette in the league quarterfinals March 14 and hanging with a hot No. 4 Louisville squad the following night before losing by 12 points.
Giving the Fighting Irish an extra boost was sophomore Pat Connaughton’s 3-point barrage over three games (15-of-24), which led to a spot on the Big East All-Tournament team. Defending the arc will be the difference between a one-and-done run a la 2007 and 2010 and making a deeper push.
The Cyclones (22-11) have hoisted 878 triples this year, making 325 (.370), out of 2,000 field goal attempts. All five starters have the green light to fire.
“I compare them to a Villanova, Pittsburgh or a Marquette,” Brey said. “They shoot the 3-point shot so much I made a little bit of a comparison … I’m thinking in my mind when we played Villanova here, they were coming off the two wins off Louisville and Syracuse and they were shooting the heck out of the ball. We really had to defend the arc and we did. I think we’re going to have to be really ready to guard the 3-point line against a very explosive team.”
Brey had no qualms with a seven seed or playing in Dayton.
“I never want to take these days for granted,” Brey said. “This senior class, all they’ve known is the NCAA tournament. Quite frankly they’re spoiled. They have no idea how other programs live.”
Check back at BlueandGold.com for much more from Brey and Notre Dame players.
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