Notre Dame looks to make history at Florida State
Greg McKenna | Wednesday, March 2, 2022
No Notre Dame team has won 15 conference games in a single season.
Not Mike Brey’s 2014-15 squad, which won the ACC Tournament and came within a bucket of the Final Four. Not the group that returned to the Elite Eight a year later. Not his 2007-08 or 2010-11 teams from the Big East days, who, like the Irish in 2014-15, also amassed 14 league wins.
Brey’s Irish will have a chance to do one better Wednesday night as Notre Dame (21-8, 14-4 ACC) travels to take on Florida State (15-13, 8-10 ACC) at the Tucker Civic Center, where the Irish have never beaten the Seminoles.
“I felt we could be really good,” Brey said of his attitude heading into the season. “We’re better than I thought we’d be.”
If the Irish can’t set a new program mark in Tallahassee, they will get another shot at home vs. Pitt (11-18, 6-12 ACC) Saturday afternoon.
The Irish clinched a double bye in the ACC Tournament with a 90-56 demolition of Georgia Tech on Saturday, Notre Dame’s biggest league win since joining the ACC in 2013.
Four Irish put up double figures in an offensive masterclass. Notre Dame shot over 56% from three and recorded 21 assists.
“Everyone seemed like they were in a groove, and that’s always a good feeling,” said senior guard Cormac Ryan, who led the Irish with 10 rebounds to go along with eight points.
Ryan has started the last five games after replacing Nate Laszewski when the senior forward missed the Louisville game due to injury. Ryan has averaged 12.0 ppg and shot over 47% from three in those games.
Brey said starting Ryan has jump-started his confidence on offense and said Laszewski is fine playing starters’ minutes off the bench.
“For now, we’ll do it that way,” Brey said. “Who knows if we ever go back the other way.”
Senior guard Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 17 points against the Yellow Jackets, all of which came before halftime on 6-of-7 first-half shooting.
Senior guard Prentiss Hubb led the Irish with six assists. The senior, whose turnaround jump shot with five seconds left at Pitt snatched a 68-67 Irish victory in December, said he does not have to hunt for his shot as much as last season.
“We all stepped up to the plate and are able to make plays,” he said. “And it just opens up the floor for everybody when everybody is playing as well as we are.”
Guard Blake Wesley had 15 points and four rebounds Saturday, becoming the only true freshman in the country to record 400 points, 100 rebounds, 50 3-pointers, 70 assists and 30 steals so far this season. The only true freshman to accomplish that last year was Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said Wesley, who received pleas from the student section to stay “one more year” while shooting free throws in the second half, is a first-round draft pick.
“Wesley changes their whole team,” he said. “I mean, he’s a pro.”
Florida State is 2-4 in its last six games, but the Seminoles are coming off a dramatic 64-63 win over Virginia on Saturday. Matthew Cleveland won ACC Freshman of the Week honors for a second time this season after downing the Cavaliers with a game-winning three at the buzzer and leading State with 20 points.
Regardless of what happens Wednesday, the Irish are a relative lock to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2017.
Notre Dame is still unranked, but Brey said his team’s resume speaks for itself. Since Jan. 1, the Irish have gone 14-3. The only other major conference teams with as many wins are No. 2 Arizona and No. 4 Duke.
“I think we are in an amazingly strong position,” he said. “And man, we’ve missed it. I’ve missed it.”
Tip-off Wednesday is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will air on ESPN2.