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Men’s Basketball: Win and they’re in

Pat Leonard and Bobby Griffin | Friday, March 3, 2006

If they win, they’re in.

Notre Dame (14-12, 5-10 Big East) can clinch a conference tournament berth Saturday with a win over DePaul at the Joyce Center in its final regular-season game. With a loss, the Irish season is over.

“DePaul [is] going to be another battle we have to win – going against a team that already beat us earlier in the season, we have to get them back,” Irish forward Torin Francis said Wednesday night. “[We have to] get this win.”

DePaul (12-14, 5-10) walloped Syracuse Thursday night at home, 108-69, behind 27 points from forward Karron Clarke and 21 from guard Sammy Mejia.

A win Saturday would give the Irish the No. 12, 11 or 10-seed, depending on results from other conference games. It would be the sixth post-season berth in Irish coach Mike Brey’s six years at Notre Dame. But if Notre Dame loses, its five wins will not be enough to clinch one of the 12 spots in the league tournament.

Even if Notre Dame wins, there are several possible scenarios in which it could end up with the No. 12 seed in the Big East tournament. If St. John’s beats Rutgers Sunday, Louisville beats Connecticut Saturday and Providence loses to Marquette Saturday, the Irish will be the No. 12 seed.

That also goes for the scenario in which Rutgers wins and Louisville and Providence lose. Or it would apply if Rutgers, Louisville and Providence all win.

The Irish also could end up with the No. 11 seed if St. John’s beats Rutgers, Providence beats Marquette and Louisville beats Connecticut. Or, they could be the No. 11 seed if St. John’s beats Rutgers and Louisville and Providence win their respective games.

Notre Dame could grab the No. 10 seed if St. John’s, Providence and Connecticut win – a likely possibility if Providence can defeat Marquette on the Golden Eagles’ senior night.

DePaul beat Notre Dame earlier this season 73-67 on Jan. 7 at Allstate Arena. In that game, Irish guard Colin Falls led the Irish with 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting, his second highest single-game total this season.

On Saturday, Notre Dame will be playing on its home court during Senior Night – the final home game for Irish seniors Chris Quinn, Rick Cornett and Francis.

“[We want to] get our last home win,” Francis said. “And it’s going to be Senior Night for us, so it’s going to be a pretty good atmosphere back at Notre Dame.”

DePaul is 4-3 is in its last seven games but 4-9 in its last 13. The Blue Demons have defeated Seton Hall, St. John’s, South Florida and Syracuse during that stretch.

Mejia leads the Blue Demons averaging 14.4 points per game during the entire season, but forward Wilson Chandler is the top DePaul scorer in Big East play, averaging 14.6 points in 15 conference games.