Observer Sports Writers | Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Senior Sports Writer
When it comes to Madison Square Garden, common sense and recent history say don’t put too much faith in Notre Dame. The sight lines simply mess with Irish shooters’ mojo.
This year won’t be any different in that regard, but what will differ is the quality of opponent.
Notre Dame does not need to shoot all-that well to beat the likes of South Florida and even Marquette. If the Irish play solid, fundamental basketball, they will advance to Saturday.
As for next weekend, it will likely be the last of the year for the Irish. It all depends on the draw, but if a Long Beach State or a Drexel appears opposite Notre Dame, such as it ends.
BOTTOM LINE: Syracuse 74, Notre Dame 59
Senior Sports Writer
It has been a magical season for Notre Dame in a completely different way than it was last year. Last year, five senior starters came together, nearly won the Big East and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. This year, one senior starter and a multitude of new faces fought through early-season struggles and did something no Notre Dame team had ever done before, winning nine straight conference games.
The postseason will not be as kind to the Irish and getting past Marquette will prove to be too much.
Unless they earn a very favorable draw, the NCAA tournament will prove to be much of the same, as the Irish will struggle to get through the first round before losing in the second. Despite this, the season should be considered a success.
BOTTOM LINE: Marquette 63, Notre Dame 59
It’s one of those things that makes no sense, but is fact nonetheless: Notre Dame is no good in Madison Square Garden.
Maybe it’s the bright lights, maybe it’s the perfect circularity of the arena or maybe it’s the gigantic Reese’s billboard underneath the scoreboard. Whatever it is, the Irish always struggle in the Garden.
I don’t think this team will flame out in its first game of the tournament — they’re too solid for that — but I don’t see them reaching the title game either.
The Irish will fall to Marquette in the semifinals due to some untimely cold shooting, but it won’t derail all hopes of a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
BOTTOM LINE: Marquette 68, Notre Dame 60
Associate Sports Editor
Once again, Notre Dame enters the Big East tournament with high expectations. Once again, Notre Dame faces questions about its futility in the Big East tournament and at Madison Square Garden in general.
What better way for the Irish to celebrate the last year of the Big East as we know it than to exorcise their demons and make it to the Saturday final for the first time ever?
Unfortunately for Irish coach Mike Brey’s squad, I don’t see it happening. Despite being the beneficiaries of the easiest path possible to the championship game, I expect Marquette to exact revenge against Notre Dame in the semifinals.
With two or three wins this week, the Irish can transform a memorable season into a magical one.
BOTTOM LINE: Marquette 75, Notre Dame 67
The Irish, who have overcome obstacle after obstacle, feel like a team of destiny. Lose the reigning Big East Player of the Year? No problem. Lose your senior captain and best player to a season-ending injury? No problem. Lose road games by 20 points? Not an issue, either.
But I don’t think all the intangibles are enough to bring home Notre Dame’s first Big East championship. I do think the Irish overcome their shooting woes in Madison Square Garden and slip by Marquette in the semifinals. But I do not see them taking a conference title from a deep Syracuse team that will have stalwart center Fab Melo this time.
Think Jim Boeheim hasn’t shown footage of the Orange’s only loss of the year over and over and over again? Think again.
BOTTOM LINE: Syracuse 68, Notre Dame 57
The Irish were not supposed to get a double-bye. They weren’t supposed to go on a nine-game winning streak. They weren’t even supposed to be considered for the NCAA tournament.
But something tells me this Irish team has peaked and it isn’t entering the Big East tournament on the best of terms with two losses and an unimpressive Senior Night win.
Meanwhile, No. 9 Marquette looks poised to win its first Big East title. With All-Big East first team seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, this may be the only shot at the title for a while. Also, the Golden Eagles remember how it felt to be blown out on national television by the Irish. But if the Irish can knock down shots at a decent rate, watch out. They aren’t supposed to win, but that hasn’t stopped them this season.
BOTTOM LINE: Marquette 62, Notre Dame 54