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Men’s Basketball: Louisville slugfest

By Chris Allen | Thursday, March 7, 2013

After the Notre Dame senior class ended its home career with a win Tuesday night, the No. 24 Irish will try to end their regular season with a win over No. 8 Louisville on the road.

Irish coach Mike Brey’s squad will take the court in Louisville with a chance to earn a double bye in next week’s Big East tournament. But the Irish (23-7, 11-6 Big East) must take down the top-10 Cardinals (25-5, 13-4) without freshman forward Cam Biedscheid. Brey confirmed Wednesday that Biedscheid will serve a one-game suspension for his role in a fight during Tuesday’s win over St. John’s.

With or without Biedscheid, Brey’s focus is squarely on Louisville. Notre Dame defeated the Cardinals 104-101 on Feb. 9 in a five-overtime thriller.

“Maybe we’ll say, what about three [overtimes], let’s go three,” Brey said. “To [Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick] I said, well, ESPN got the show and now CBS wants the show. It’s awesome, though. There’s so much anticipation. I think our guys are excited, I think Louisville is [excited.]”

The two marquee programs have a remarkable recent history of overtime contests peaking with February’s instant-classic contest at Purcell Pavilion. Five of the last six games between the two teams have gone to overtime. The Cardinals have also eliminated the Irish from the Big East tournament the last two seasons. The postseason implications on the line Saturday will give the contest added importance.

“They’ve just been dramatic games. There’s certainly a great storyline off the last one,” Brey said. “I think it’s a ‘red-out,’ so we’re going to have to wear our gold down there. Do you think [Louisville coach Rick] Pitino will have a red suit? Because he wears a white suit when they have a ‘white-out.’ Maybe I should wear a gold suit to match our uniforms.”

The Irish were able to get a win at the hostile KFC Yum! Center in Louisville last season – but not before playing two hard-fought overtimes in a 67-65 win. Current Irish starters, senior forward Jack Cooley and junior guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, were critical in that win. Brey said he is pleased with his team’s familiarity with Louisville’s home court.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere down there,” Brey said. “Obviously, we were fortunate enough to steal a win down there last time, so this group has played well there. But we know we’re going to get the shot of a real good team Saturday.”

After the final whistle against the Cardinals on Saturday, the veteran Irish will enter postseason play with a berth in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York before hoping to secure a selection in the NCAA tournament.

With a squad featuring many of the same players from last year’s group that fell to Louisville in the Big East semifinals and Xavier in the NCAA first round, Brey said he is confident this team is ready for postseason play.

“It’s a confident group that’s excited about playing in the postseason together,” Brey said. “And you know what? They should be. They really should be. We’ve got a heck of a group. I love my team, and I love the fact that they are really excited about doing this thing in March.”

Notre Dame, No. 20 Pittsburgh and No. 17 Syracuse are all in contention for the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament and the accompanying double bye. In the event of ties in conference record, Notre Dame holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over Pittsburgh while Syracuse holds a tiebreaker over the Irish. The Orange would hold the tiebreaker and earn the double bye in the event of a three-way tie.

Notre Dame and Louisville will tip off Saturday at 4 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS.

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu