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Big East bid gives Irish hoops fans more hope

Karen Langley | Monday, March 6, 2006

After a frustrating regular season, Notre Dame fans found another reason to support their men’s basketball team after Saturday’s win against DePaul propelled the Irish into the Big East Tournament. On campus, students lauded the outcome to the team’s precipitous journey towards a Big East bid, but predictions of the team’s success in the tournament remain mixed.

Freshman Chase Smerdzinski contrasted Saturday’s game to many others throughout the season.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “It’s definitely nice to win a close game after so many tough losses.”

Smerdzinski applauded the student fans who attended the DePaul game, saying he was “pumped” to see so many students enthusiastic about the game.

Sophomore Amelia Ulmer, a member of the basketball band, was also glad to see a win after witnessing so many could-have-been victories.

“It was nice to see them pull off a win and not lose it in the last second or overtime,” she said. “[The games] are all exciting, but it’s definitely better when you win.”

Junior Brian Kelly said the Irish move to the tournament is especially impressive in the context of the conference’s quality this season.

“It was a tough Big East,” he said. “Just making it [to the tournament] was good.”

Kelly projected the Irish might go on to win at least a few games.

“I think they have a chance to do well,” he said.

Smerdzniski also said he has high hopes for the tournament.

“We’re capable of beating every team in the Big East,” Smerdzinski said. “You can see throughout the season we didn’t really get blown away by any teams in the Big East.”

Noting the need for consistency from the players, Smerdzinski suggested the team has a substantially mental battle ahead of them.

“As long as the guys on the team think we have a chance, I think we can do it,” he said.

Sophomore Nick Gergen dissented.

“It’s delaying the inevitable,” he said. “Obviously, they haven’t been able to win [throughout the season].”

While his loyalty remains, Gergen said the team’s performance thus far has prevented him from holding on to any high expectations for the postseason.

“I’m hoping they do well but I’d be surprised if they advance very far,” he said.

Freshman Diva Hira expressed unequivocal support for the team.

“Notre Dame boys’ basketball is kick-ass,” she said.

Nevertheless, she remained unconvinced that the team would proceed very far in the tournament.

“I think they will go into [the tournament] a little bit and then fall out,” she said – adding that throughout the season, “every good team they’d play, they would come close to winning and then lose.”

But even if Hira’s enthusiasm has not prevented her from writing off the tournament, she said students should not give up hope.

“There’s always next year,” she said.