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Supporting the team

Andrew Owens | Thursday, February 10, 2011

Notre Dame is home to a top-ten men’s basketball team this year, but judging by the buzz on campus (or lack thereof) you would not guess it.

For whatever reason, this campus continues to ignore one of the top teams in the country, which is in contention to win what is easily the toughest conference.

While Notre Dame students typically embrace the Irish football team as their own when they become a student, that same support is not afforded to the basketball team.

But why is this?

It is understandable that the football program receives the unconditional support of the student body, as this university is a football school. But it is not as if the school is consistently fielding a men’s basketball team of the same caliber as the bottom-feeders of the Big East, such as DePaul, Providence or Seton Hall.

Since head coach Mike Brey took over the squad, the Irish have earned a berth in the NCAA tournament six times (this season will be the seventh). Prior to his arrival, Notre Dame had been shut out of the March Madness festivities for more than a decade.

Reaching the NCAA tournament seven times in 11 seasons at a school not known for its basketball is not exactly mediocre, especially in the Big East.

But as Brey and the Irish continue to win, students continue to feel a deeper allegiance to the teams they grew up rooting for — Michigan State, UCLA, Louisville — and the list goes on and on.

It gets old to turn around and see that half the student section is empty, as was the case on Sunday against Rutgers. There is no such thing as a bad Big East home game. And, oh by the way, the team is ranked No. 7 in the nation.

While this article was written before Wednesday’s game against No. 15 Louisville, I suspect the student section will be full now that an elite opponent will show up at Purcell Pavilion. Students will work their way out of the woodwork after realizing that it is a top-25 matchup between teams contending for a Big East championship. Some will have to pick up their ticket booklets that have gathered dust over the past three months.

So, Notre Dame, continue to support your team back home over the next six weeks. I’m sure UCLA is much more exciting in the vaunted Pac 10. But you will only have yourself to blame when this season is over and the accomplishments of this team are even more evident. The Irish could win the Big East, have the conference’s player of the year, and earn one of the top seeds in the NCAA tournament, and much of the campus still won’t be paying attention.

But I bet you can tell me how many days until football spring practice begins.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu