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Irish announce 2004-05 season schedule

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, September 8, 2004

The 100th anniversary season of Notre Dame men’s basketball will be a cause for celebration, and the media knows it.

The team released its 2004-05 schedule Tuesday that includes 11 games on national television, including three on CBS, and conference series against Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Georgetown. The Irish return four starters from a 19-13 team that advanced to the quarterfinal round of the National Invitation Tournament.

“Having 11 [nationally] televised games says something about the credibility of this program and what we’ve done here,” fifth-year coach Mike Brey said.

Brey is 85-44 over the past four seasons at Notre Dame for a .658 winning percentage.

Notre Dame opens its schedule against Harvard on Friday, Nov. 19 at the Joyce Center, the first of 17 home games on a 27-game schedule. The first and only other meeting between Notre Dame and Harvard was on Jan. 3, 1942, when the Irish prevailed 39-31.

Harvard is the first of three straight home games. Then the Irish go on the road for their first major test of the season, visiting non-conference foes Michigan and Indiana before returning home to host DePaul.

“That will be a tough stretch for us,” Brey said. “It will be a big week.”

The Michigan, Indiana and DePaul games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2, as will a Feb. 27 non-conference home game against UCLA.

“We’ll continue to play a great non-conference schedule,” Brey said. “Kentucky rotated off this year, so we add Michigan. If UCLA rotates off [next season], we’ll probably rotate on Georgia Tech or some other program of that caliber.

Last season, Kentucky pounced on Notre Dame at the Joyce Center, 71-63, but the Irish went on the road to defeat the UCLA Bruins, 75-60.

“You have to schedule for RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] and strength of schedule to be considered for an at-large bid,” Brey said. “That’s if you don’t win an automatic bid.”

After the DePaul game, students go on winter break and miss five home contests, including four non-conference games – Army, Marist, Western Illinois and Samford – and two conference games against Villanova. Syracuse comes to the Joyce Center Jan. 10 – the day before classes start for the spring semester.

“We have no control over when we play league games, only non-league,” Brey said. “You’d like to have your whole crowd there [against Villanova and Pittsburgh]. [People who schedule] work with everybody on things. They know students [want to be there for the games], and usually you have to play one game like that. But we’re gonna have to play two. TV plays a big part in this thing, also.”

The Big East conference schedule could not get any tougher for Notre Dame, as the Irish play three of the toughest teams twice in Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Notre Dame also plays Providence at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Feb. 19 and Boston College at home on Feb. 8. But Brey has confidence his team can withstand the storm.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve never been 8-and-8 or worse in the league,” Brey said. “Only two teams have had a winning record in the Big East [in each of] the last four years. And it wasn’t the national champion [Connecticut]. It was us and Boston College.”

Playing the conference’s top teams twice – for two consecutive seasons – is questionable, but Brey believes playing the best conference teams can only be a plus.

“If we were to go 8-and-8 in the league, we’d have enough power games out of conference to get into the [NCAA] Tournament,” he said.

That was not the case last season.

The Irish played a similar conference schedule in 2003-04 but did not receive what would have been the seventh bid from the Big East conference to the NCAA Tournament.

Brey still has a bad taste in his mouth.

“To go 9-7 against who we played last year, even with [an early season loss to] Central Michigan, and not make the tournament, that was a disappointment,” Brey said. “With each month, I’ve gotten more pissed off that we didn’t get a bid. We did everything we could have done.”