Notre Dame has won three straight in the series dating back to Senior Day 2010 in South Bend and have won consecutive Big East games after dropping their opening conference road game at Cincinnati.
The Huskies dropped back-to-back Big East road games to begin the new year before bouncing back with a home win over West Virginia on Monday, 64-57.
Winners of 29 straight at home (the nation's fourth-largest active streak behind Kentucky, Duke, and Ohio State), the Irish enter the contest as slight underdogs (+2) vs. the defending champs.
Our pre-game player notes for the Irish are included below. For more on the matchup, click here
While Grant has on occasion played passively in the first half of contests; he's not yet shied away from an important late-game shot, especially from beyond the arc.
"That is one thing about the guy," Brey continued of Grant's knack for big shots. "Last year when we would do end-game situations (in practice), Eric (Atkins) and Jerian on the Blue team would be (the starters) pretty regularly in the first month.
"At the end of the game he's a fearless guy, but given where he's played and how he's grown up and his bloodlines – there's a lot of good stuff."
Shabazz Napier in last year's first matchup with the Huskies though Atkins' on-ball defense has since improved (Napier poured in 18 off the bench missing just two shots)…Needs to be more consistent attacking the rim as he was vs. Louisville and Pittsburgh as the sophomore's two other Big East outings included one free throw attempt (USF) and none (Cincy)…Has played every minute in six of the last eight games and 39 of 40 vs. the Bulls Tuesday night.
"He feels so good about himself and a conditioning (issue) has not been a factor," said Brey of his junior center who logged 31 minutes vs. USF on Tuesday and played a whopping 43 of 50 in the double overtime win at Louisville last Saturday. "As I always say, he's one of the more underrated ball-handling big guys and right now I think he's playing as well as any big guy in the league."
Since missing the Maryland game on December 4 due to illness, Cooley has averaged 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. He's shot 65.8 percent from the field (50-76) and 76.2 percent (32-42) from the free throw line during the 8-game stretch.
"If you were to watch him on defense, how he helps his teammate rotate, there's not a better team defender in our league–and maybe in college basketball– this is an old guy that really knows how to play, and help, and anchor (in the post).
Brey offered a bit of advice to the scattershot Martin prior to the South Florida contest: "The one thing I talked to him about was maybe not to hunt his three as early; to try to get some shots inside the arc."
Martin has hit for double figures in two straight but its his work on the boards that's been invaluable and buoyed the Irish to consecutive conference wins – his 25 boards over the last two games matches the most for any player at the program since Luke Harangody in 2010 with the Valparaiso, Ind.-native posting career best rebound numbers in successive games: 12 and 13, respectively…Martin's drawn charge at the rim vs. Louisville's Peyton Siva last Saturday forced the game's first overtime period in a 67-65 double OT win for the visitors, their first win outside of South Bend this season.
Pat ConnaughtonThe team's best athlete provides a spark of the bench with his weak side rebounding ability, finishing skills and baseline jumper…Excels in the open floor and in scramble situations…Likely to be the most improved Irish player from 2012 to 2013 conference seasons…Hit six three-point shots en route to a career-high 24 points vs. Sam Houston State in mid-November…Hasn't been to the free throw line in just 44 league game minutes – an indication he's become a bit less aggressive with a decrease in playing time…Connaughton's contributions will be mandatory vs. the more athletic teams in the conference as the winter progresses.
Jeremy Lamb…Brooks' minutes are sporadic but you can bet he'll play often vs. the league's better shooting guards and small forwards…Played the best game of his career with 13 points and nine boards for a short-handed Irish team in a contested win over Detroit…Has a knack for getting to the foul line but the Irish would be better off if the junior could elevate his 63 percent effort a bit…Hustle points, offensive boards, and the ability to defend multiple positions guarantees Brooks a role in the rotation but his ability to hit open mid-range shots and be under control on forays to the bucket will be key entering 2012-13.
Notre Dame 60 Connecticut 58Notre Dame has won a remarkable 21 of its last 26 regular season Big East contests, 94 of their last 100 home games, and 41 of the last 46 vs. Big East foes (best of any league team during that span).
It might be time to afford Brey's group the benefit of the doubt in an otherwise even matchup.
Season Prediction Record: 7-3 straight up; 6-4 against the spread