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Sports

Wake up the echoes: Brey’s boys are back

| Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Maggie Klaers | The Observer

Every self-respecting Irish fan knows the Notre Dame fight song.

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

That’s the request of Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey. For the second time in two weeks, Brey invaded the campus dining halls to implore students to come out for upcoming games. The last time Brey pulled this stunt was prior to Notre Dame’s clash with Clemson in a key home conference contest. Irish students responded, flooding the Purcell Pavilion student section to create a resounding home court advantage. Notre Dame won 72-56.

Now, Brey stands on dining hall tables in hopes of creating a similar advantage. The Irish face a three-game stretch that could make or break their season. A trio of ACC battles against NC State, Virginia and No. 9 Duke await the Irish in six days. Three wins should elevate the Irish into the projected NCAA Tournament bracket. It could also put Brey’s squad firmly in contention for the ACC regular-season title. And that brings us to the next stanza in the Notre Dame fight song.

Wake up the echoes cheering her name

Mike Brey and Notre Dame basketball are back. The energy, the buzz surrounding the team right now is unmatched during any current undergraduate’s time on campus. The Irish are 5-2 in conference play, 12-6 overall and they’ve won eight of the last nine.

Wake up the echoes, indeed.

The swagger, poise and confidence of this Irish squad taking to the hardwood every contest is something not seen in one of Brey’s squads since their dominating runs of 2015-2017. Then, Notre Dame won an ACC Championship and made consecutive Elite Eights.

During that span, Notre Dame beat the likes of No. 9 Louisville, No. 14 Florida State, No. 2 North Carolina and No. 4 Duke at home. The blue bloods came knocking, and Brey’s boys knocked them out.

Then came the drought.

In 2018, the Irish fell in the Round of 32, trailing wire to wire against West Virginia. And then, from 2018 to 2021, there were no NCAA Tournament appearances. Purcell Pavilion was witness to exactly zero top-10 Notre Dame wins. The Irish, with a few exceptions, looked thoroughly outmatched on any type of big stage. Home games became somewhat quiet affairs with low expectations. Last season, Notre Dame went 4-4 in home conference games. The past two seasons, the Irish went 1-5 against ranked conference opponents within the friendly confines of Purcell.

This year, the Kentucky game began to change things. Despite a disappointing start to the season, such a high-profile opponent drew the students in hordes to Purcell. The energy was unlike anything in recent years, and the Irish rode the wave of momentum to a victory over the tenth-ranked Wildcats. December 11th’s surge in energy for that post-Kentucky court storm has proven to be no mirage. The Irish sustained some of that momentum by winning three ACC games over break, including a home upset of North Carolina. When students returned to campus for the Clemson game, the expectation, for the first time in recent memory, was a win in a key ACC game. And the Irish delivered in dominating fashion, blasting another team firmly on the bubble of NCAA Tournament contention.

The Irish went on the road for three games and won the final two contests of the trip. That has them sitting tied for third in the conference standing. No longer can this be called a hot start. It’s late January, and the Fighting Irish are firmly in tournament contention.

Send a volley cheer on high, shake down the thunder from the sky

Let’s not mince words. This is the biggest, most-hyped and most important stretch for Notre Dame basketball since 2017. They’ve got the attention of the student body, and Brey is running around campus dining halls to sustain that momentum. It’s the first time in Notre Dame’s tenure in the ACC that they’ve had three consecutive home conference games. And it comes at a crucial moment in the season.

The Irish start with NC State on Wednesday night. It’s a winnable game as the Wolfpack are 3-6 in ACC play. It’s the type of game that a tournament-caliber team should win with relative ease. The Irish mark the occasion with superhero night, encouraging students to come out in their best costumes for the 9 pm tip. Winners of the costume contest get courtside priority for the Duke game. Following the Wolfpack are the traditionally stingy Virginia Cavaliers, 5-4 in the ACC with their trademark vaunted defense. That’s a Saturday evening tip-off, and Purcell should be bouncing — dare I say thundering?

And then it’s the Blue Devils. It’s an Irish Wear Green night and despite the Monday night game, Purcell should — and must be — an absolute madhouse. Truly, if Notre Dame wins those first two games, it’ll be time to shake down the thunder from the sky. The Irish are unbeaten at home and have soared from ACC afterthought to conference and NCAA tournament contender. The energy is palpable, and it’s going to stay that way with every win Brey and Co. bring home. Brey has already discussed crowd surfing the student section. What better way to spark that than a 3-0 homestand, punctuated with a top-10 win, in the biggest week for Notre Dame basketball in almost four years.

So get loud. Get proud. Send a volley cheer on high and make Purcell thunder.

Because Brey’s boys are back — and they’re looking for trouble.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Aidan Thomas

A junior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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