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ND Men’s Basketball: Carter focuses on one goal

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Notre Dame guard Russell Carter has just one goal for the last five regular season games of his senior year – “Five wins.”

Carter and the Irish are riding a two game losing streak, which dropped them to 6-5 in the Big East and 18-6 overall.

Carter, who is averaging 17.3 points per game to lead the team, has had break out senior year. He has improved his scoring average by almost six points per game and is being looked at by NBA teams.

But none of that will matter to him if the Irish do not finish this season on strong note.

Notre Dame is currently sixth in the Big East standings, tied with Syracuse and half a game behind West Virginia. The Irish hold head-to-head tiebreakers with both the Mountaineers and Louisville, which is in fourth place at 8-4.

Experts at ESPN.com believe that the Big East would get six teams in and that the Irish would be slotted in the 7-10 seed range if the NCAA Tournament began today. A Big Dance bid would be the first for the Irish seniors.

But Carter said that he and his teammates are focused on more pressing matters.

“Getting there my senior year would be big since we haven’t been there before,” he said. “But that isn’t what we’re focusing on right now.”

The Irish face Providence Thursday, DePaul Feb. 20 and Marquette Feb. 24 in games that will be tough but could also provide Notre Dame with more quality wins to impress the tournament committee.

Those games are also key in the race for a bye in the Big East tournament. Providence is just a half game behind the Irish at 5-5 and DePaul is a full game back at 5-6. Both teams would suddenly be contenders for a bye again with a win over Notre Dame.

“We’re in contention for the fourth spot,” Carter said. “We have to worry about our next few games. They’re going to be tough games.”

The Irish also have trips to conference bottom-feeder Cincinnati (10-14, 1-9) Sunday and Rutgers (10-15, 3-9) March 3, both of whom would fall into the “bad loss” category if Notre Dame were to drop a game to either one. However, both games are on the road, where the Irish are just 3-6 this year.

Carter said that hard work will help the Irish win away from the Joyce Center, which will be important at neutral sites of the Big East and NCAA Tournament.

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “We need to improve as a team and as individuals to achieve our goals from the beginning of the season.”

As for the teams competing with the Irish for the fourth first-round bye, the Orange have four games left before the conference tournament. They play at South Florida Wednesday, then host Connecticut Saturday. They have a week off, then a trip to Providence, and finish with second place Georgetown.

The Mountaineers have only three games left. They also have a road game with the Friars, but they get to host Seton Hall, who is only 3-7 in conference. West Virginia finishes its season against first place Pittsburgh, who may have clinched the Big East title or at least a bye in the tournament by the time that game is played.