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Men’s Basketball Commentary: Notre Dame not looking past Big East tourney

Chris Hine | Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not only is Mike Brey Notre Dame’s head basketball coach, but he also acts as the team’s press secretary.

Brey jokingly sidestepped questions after No. 17/22 Notre Dame’s 85-73 win over Marquette Saturday about his team’s chances of earning its first NCAA Tournament berth in four seasons.

“We are playing for Big East seeding,” Brey said.

He also won’t let his players speculate past the Big East tournament.

“I’m glad you tried [asking the players]. Hopefully, you didn’t break anybody in the locker room. I threatened them,” Brey said. “Certainly I’ll say this, our profile is very solid, but we’re trying to chase a bye down.”

The Irish have a couple days off before their final conference matchup against Rutgers. A win Saturday in New Jersey would clinch a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament.

“We feel like we were fighting for a spot, for a first-round bye in the Big East tournament,” Irish guard Tory Jackson said after Notre Dame’s win over Marquette. “That’s what we’re really fighting for.”

With a bye in the first round, the Irish will most likely face Syracuse, No. 20/21 Marquette or West Virginia in the second round depending on how the final week of the season plays out.

Notre Dame defeated the Golden Eagles Saturday, the Mountaineers 61-58 Jan. 9 and the Orange 103-91 Jan. 30.

That means if Notre Dame finishes with the same record as any of the above teams, the Irish will get the higher seed.

Marquette, West Virginia and Syracuse are within one game of each other in the standings, and any of them could end up in fifth place in the conference during the final week of play.

Since the Big East tournament has 12 teams – with the top four getting a first-round bye – the No. 5 team plays the No. 12 team in the first round. The winner of that game then plays the No. 4 seed in the second round.

As of now, Syracuse would play St. John’s in the first round, with the winner earning a date with the Irish.

The Red Storm defeated Notre Dame 71-68 Jan. 23 in New York.

But Brey said there is one team in particular he does not want to face in Madison Square Garden.

After Notre Dame’s 66-63 victory Jan. 27 against Villanova, Brey said he was happy his team did not have to face the Wildcats for a third time in Big East play.

“I’m glad we’re done with them,” Brey said in his press conference after the game. “We don’t play them a third time. We’ll probably see them in the [Big East] tournament knowing my luck.”

As things stand right now, Brey’s luck does not look that bad.

The Wildcats, who currently sit in eighth place in the conference standings, will have to wait until the semifinals for a possible third meeting with the Irish.

Villanova would have to win its first-round game against either DePaul or Providence, then a second-round game against Pittsburgh or Georgetown before facing the Irish in the semifinals.

Should the Irish make it to the semifinals and finals, they will most likely face the Panthers or the Hoyas. Georgetown defeated the Irish 66-48 Jan. 6 in Notre Dame’s worst offensive output of the season, while the Irish did not have to face Pittsburgh during the regular season.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu