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ND Men’s Basketball: Tip-off Tuesday

Bobby Griffin | Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Notre Dame point guard Kyle McAlarney was relaxed, coach Mike Brey was ready and senior guard Colin Falls was simply relieved before practice Monday outside the Irish locker room.

Because when the Irish open their preseason schedule Wednesday against Rockhurst at 7:30 p.m. in the Joyce Center, it will be their first opportunity to display the results of a full offseason of improved conditioning, toughness and physicality.

And more importantly, it will be the official beginning of Notre Dame’s season.

“We’ve been practicing against each other for long enough,” Falls said before practice Monday. “It’s time to get going [against other competition].”

Rockhurst University is a Division-II school in Kansas City, Mo., and is a member of the Heartland Conference – which it founded in 1999. But despite the two programs’ disparity, the Irish will treat their preseason opener like a regular season matchup.

“I think we’ll take it and prepare like a game,” Brey said. “We’ll sub like a game, yeah you’d like to get a look at everyone but not at the expense of [establishing] a flow.”

Establishing this flow, or offensive rhythm and substitution patterns, will be important for Notre Dame in its preseason and early season schedule.

With the graduations of guard Chris Quinn (17.7 points, 6.4 assists per game in 2005-06) and forward Torin Francis (11.6 points, 9.4 rebounds per game), there are clear voids in the starting lineup. But at the same time, there are also opportunities for younger players to take advantage of increased roles.

McAlarney will assume full-time point guard duties this season after being a backup last year. But the sophomore from Staten Island, N.Y. is ready to fill Quinn’s shoes, currently playing for the NBA’s Miami Heat.

“[I’m] not feeling any pressure at all,” McAlarney said. “I’m very comfortable right now, we’ve put a lot into this.”

McAlarney, combined with Falls, combo guard Russell Carter and forward Rob Kurz are expected to be the nucleus of the team, while setting examples for the nine freshmen and sophomores on the roster.

“It’s clear those guys are the most experienced guys,” Brey said. “All of them are doing a few new things. Those guys are going to have to be our rocks.”

Outside of Carter, Falls, Kurz and McAlarney, Wednesday’s preseason game should begin to shed light on who else will be in the mix. Falls credited freshman Luke Harangody Monday for establishing a definitive post presence during practice, and Brey said sophomore forward Zach Hillesland and freshman guard Tory Jackson have impressed him early.

But above all else, the opener will let Notre Dame run its motion sets – the primary offense which the Irish use – against an opponent other than themselves.

“It would be disrespectful to say we’re going to blow them out,” Carter said Monday. “We want to [work on improving] but at the same time we want to win.”