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Men’s Basketball: Season opens against Briar Cliff

Greg Arbogast | Friday, October 31, 2008

Nobody will be surprised by Notre Dame this year.

After two consecutive years in which they began the season unranked and finished with NCAA Tournament appearances, the Irish commence the 2008-2009 season as the No. 9 team in the nation according to a USA Today/ESPN Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

The highest previous Coaches’ poll preseason ranking for Notre Dame was No. 17 in 2000-2001.

During the team’s media day on Oct. 14, Irish coach Mike Brey said he did not currently consider the team as a top-10 squad. Not much light, though, will be shed on the issue Friday night when Notre Dame opens their exhibition schedule against Briar Cliff at the Joyce Center.

The Chargers did go 22-12 last season. However, Briar Cliff is also a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics as opposed to the NCAA.

After Friday’s exhibition, it will not take long to find out if the 2008-2009 Irish are truly the best squad in some time to grace the JACC. After starting the regular season against USC Upstate and Loyola Marymount, Notre Dame’s schedule begins to look like a duplicate of the first Coaches’ Poll.

The top 25 includes six teams from the Big East not including the Irish – Connecticut (2), Louisville (3), Pittsburgh (6), Marquette (17), Georgetown (18) and Villanova (25). Notre Dame plays all six and will battle Connecticut and Louisville twice.

To take a break from its Big East schedule, Notre Dame has a road contest with No. 4 UCLA in February as well as potential match-ups against No. 1 UNC and No. 8 Texas in the Maui Invitational this November.

“At times, I’ve looked at [the schedule] during the summer and wondered what I was thinking when we did all this,” Brey said during his media day press conference. “The thing that’s crazy – in the midst of what the Big East is this year and the midst of what we’ve been given in the Big East – we’re just going to go to Pauley Pavilion one weekend. We’re just gonna take a break and just go play UCLA on the road. I should have my head examined on that one.”

Notre Dame only lost one starter, forward Rob Kurz, to graduation.

Notre Dame finished 25-8 last year and 14-4 in the Big East.

Friday’s game against Briar Cliff will begin at 9 p.m. at the Joyce Center.