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Men’s Basketball: Team picks up a 5-seed, will face George Mason

Joe Meixell | Monday, March 17, 2008

Notre Dame’s hopes were a mile high Sunday after the Irish learned they will head to Denver for the regional portion of the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re gonna go to Denver and let it rip in the Rocky Mountains,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We’re not holding back. I think that’s how this group has played most of the year – attacking and going for it.”

The Irish are the No. 5 in the Charlotte region and will take on Colonial Athletic Conference champion George Mason – the No. 12 seed – in the first round Thursday.

If Notre Dame can defeat the Patriots they will move on to play Saturday against either Washington State or Winthrop. Last year, Winthrop knocked the Irish out of the Tournament in the first round of play.

“I feel like we’ll just approach the game a little bit differently [this year],” senior captain Rob Kurz said. “I feel like having played in the Tournament last year, I think we know what we need to do to be a little bit more successful and to win a first-round game…. I feel like our experience last year really helped us.”

Two seasons ago, George Mason gave new meaning to the term ‘Cinderella team’ when they made a run to the Final Four as the No. 11 seed.

“We understand with George Mason you have a team that has remnants of a Final Four run, a team that knows how to win,” Brey said. “Basically, it’s like a Big East game, preparing for this basketball team.”

The Patriots are led by senior forward Will Thomas, one of only 16 Division I players to average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.

But Irish point guard Tory Jackson said Notre Dame is more concerned with its own play than its opponent.

“We didn’t really want to worry about who we played,” he said. “We just wanted to worry about our mindset…. You gotta be hungry.”

Jackson’s backcourt-mate Kyle McAlarney will make his first appearance in the Big Dance after missing the end of last season due to a university suspension for possession of marijuana.

“I was very excited the whole day,” McAlarney said. “I was very excited considering where I was last year, missing out on this whole experience.”

The Irish are coming off a loss to Marquette in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, but sophomore forward Luke Harangody said their focus is squarely on the upcoming weekend.

“That was a disappointment for us to lose in our first game there in New York,” Harangody said. “But I think… it would be better to make a run in this Tournament than in the Big East tournament.”