On the Road Again

The Irish played the role of dragon-slayer Saturday in a nine-point, wire-to-wire win over previously undefeated and No. 1 Syracuse. A bigger challenge waits this week with a two-game road trip, the first contest in East Rutherford vs. 15-4 Seton Hall.

It took seven days and one game for Mike Brey's 2012 Irish to take back their home floor. A 14-point defeat at the hands of Connecticut on January 14 ended Notre Dame's 29-game home court win streak.

A win over #1 Syracuse one week later righted the ship, giving the team 30 wins in its last 31 South Bend matchups and the program 95 victories in its last 102 games inside the Purcell Pavilion.

That's a nice feather in a team's cap, but tonight's 8:00 p.m. tip-off (ET) happens to be inside Newark's Prudential Center against the surprising Seton Hall Pirates.

Brey's Irish have struggled mightily outside of northern Indiana this season, dropping three of four true road games and all four neutral site tilts they've encountered.

"I told (his players) normal teams are supposed to lose on Wednesday," Brey told ESPN's Dana O'Neil of the team's upcoming contest. "They just are. If you're normal, an average Joe, you take that bullet because you're not supposed to get that one. So that's the thing? Are we just normal? If we can bounce back and get this one on the road, that's showing signs of being something special."

Notre Dame is 6-6 all-time at Seton Hall, their most recent game a 90-87 defeat in February 2010. The Irish last won at Seton Hall in February 2008, a 95-69 blowout over the Pirates. Brey is 11-4 vs. The Hall while the Irish are 16-7 overall.

Both teams enter the contest 4-3 in league play with Seton Hall losing last week against South Florida and Villanova. Tonight's game will be the first in seven days for the Pirates who haven't played inside the Prudential Center since January 10. They've defeated both West Virginia and Connecticut among their home victories this league season.

"I guess what I've always focused on is trying to be consistent in league play, trying to get to double digit league wins," Brey noted following the upset of the Orange, though he preceded his comments with a nod toward the weight beating the nation's No. 1 team could carry with the NCAA Selection Committee in March.

For the Irish to regain the consistency that previously defined the program they'll have to contend with a pair of Pirates familiar to Irish hoops fans: Herb Pope (16.7 ppg., 10.5 rebounds) and Jordan Theodore (16.3 ppg., 7.5 assists, 2.2 steals). Pope is in his third year among the league's top rebounders. He ranks second through seven games this winter while Theodore leads the Big East in assists and is second in steals – the latter a constant threat through his four-year Pirates career.

Wednesday's winner moves into the upper half of the conference standings one game from the season's midway point. The Irish travel to Connecticut for a rematch with the Huskies on Sunday before hosting a talented Marquette squad next week in South Bend.

With home battles vs. Marquette and West Virginia remaining, the Irish will likely need two more road wins to feel safe on Selection Sunday. Wednesday's battle ranks as one of the two the most likely from a remaining selection of trips to Storrs (UConn), Morgantown (West Virginia), Philadelphia (Villanova), Madison Square Garden (St. John's), and Washington, D.C. (Georgetown).

With a win, the Irish would be 5-3 and well-positioned; without much pressure for league game No. 9 at Connecticut Sunday. At 4-4 after defeat, the struggle to remain above water would begin anew – just seven days after beating the nation's best.

That's life in the Big East.


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