Role Reversal

Notre Dame enters its noon matchup with longtime rival DePaul as a heavy favorite -- a first for the Irish in league play this season.

At least four constants exist during Notre Dame's five game winning streak, and each has played a role in the consistent, focused approach Mike Brey's squad has employed through each victory:

  1. The Irish have controlled the game's tempo and defended well as a team, holding each vanquished foe below 60 points and limiting the quintet to a combined 36.2 percent shooting effort from the field, including just 20.2 percent from long range.

  2. The Irish have rebounded well enough to win, dominating #1 Syracuse (37-24) and Marquette (32-26) at home, while successfully battling at Seton Hall (35-37), Connecticut (27-24), and West Virginia ( 29-29).

  3. Hot or not during the course of a given contest, Notre Dame has hit timely, clutch shots from long range. And finally…

  4. They've enjoyed the underdog role entering each contest.

The final point was true in 10 of the team's first 11 Big East games (the Irish were favored by 5.5 in an 11-point home win over South Florida in early January). Its a point that won't hold over many of the team's final seven contests, where only one matchup – at Georgetown on February 27 – is sure to feature a decided underdog role for Brey's Irish.

Notre Dame's remaining seven games feature five vs. the bottom six in the league's standings, a rematch vs. West Virginia in South Bend, and the aforementioned trip to D.C. The Irish will play four at home and three on the road in their chase for second-place at season's end.

From Hungry Hunters to the Hunted

At 16-8 overall and 8-3 in conference play, Notre Dame enters today's contest vs. long-time rival DePaul (11-12/2-9) as favorites of 13.5 points. Can the Irish thrive as the hunted?

"DePaul is a team that can give us problems because of how fast they want to make us play." Brey told UND.com. "They're the one team in the league that presses the whole game and wants the pace to be chaotic. One of our great strengths has been controlling tempo. We have to find a balance point there."

Notre Dame ripped the Blue Demons 83-58 last February, though unlike the 2012 crew, that Irish group employed Brey's "Burn Offense" on a limited basis. The current cast does it with defense, and though Scott Martin and Jerian Grant have done much of the heavy lifting, it's been a team effort to continually dig in deep on the defensive end.

"During this run, different guys have really been excited about (their defensive challenge)," Brey noted following the team's win at West Virginia. "‘I'm guarding this guy today.' They've really digested it and done a good job with it."

Through 11 league games, no individual has scored 20 or more points vs. the Irish defense. Big East leading scorer Kevin Jones (20.6 per game) was held to 14 in Wednesday's Notre Dame win at West Virginia.

DePaul's up-tempo style brings another threat, sophomore guard Cleveland Melvin, currently third in the Big East with 18.2 ppg. Melvin has launched 362 shots but hit at a near 46-percent clip.

Whether Melvin hits for 15, 20, or more, the key to a ninth Notre Dame league win and its continued battle with Marquette and Georgetown for runner-up status resides in its ability to finish off a staggering foe.

DePaul will make a run at some point; it's up to the Irish to again answer the bell.

"I think we're really become cruel competitors," Brey reiterated on Wednesday after another inspired win. "Showing the signs to put the dagger in when we have the chance."

Of Note

Notre Dame is 96-7 in its last 103 home games dating back to the start of the 2006-07 season; the third-best home mark in the nation. Brey's bunch has won 31 of its last 32 games in South Bend and is a remarkable 43-6 vs. Big East foes over the last six league seasons (2007-present) – the best effort by any Big East team on its home court over that span.

Today's game will be the 101st between the schools, the height of the rivalry existed during the mid 70s and 80s. The Irish have won six straight vs. the Blue Demons and hold a 57-44 advantage all time. DePaul is just 14-35 in South Bend (0-4 as members of the Big East) last winning in December 2004. Brey has won 10 of 13 matchups vs. Notre Dame's long-time rival.


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