Monday Morning Briefing

Our weekly Monday Morning Blog turns its focus to a potential post-signing day commitment, considers the most hotly-contested position battle this spring, and examines a basketball winning streak not attained since Digger's last top tier team.

Weekend Wrap and Peek Ahead

Coupled with Saturday night's 20-point rally, Notre Dame's improbable eight-game winning streak has gathered enough late-season oomph to propel the Irish firmly inside the Top 20 in both polls (to be released later today).

Look for Mike Brey's nine to hit at least #20 if not #19 with a Wednesday night ESPN battle against West Virginia carrying additional weight by next Monday's rankings release. The Irish will likely pass both Gonzaga, who beat Notre Dame by 20 in December, and Indiana, who held the Irish without a field goal over a 16-minute span when the teams met on December 17, further illustrating the Irish improvement...

Irisheyes.com will stream Scottsdale, Chaparral wide receiver/cornerback Davonte Neal's long-awaited announcement regarding his college of choice Tuesday afternoon. Said Neal's father Luke of his Irish recruitment: "They haven't really disclosed whether it would be offense or defense, so they're kind of in limbo. They are telling him that he would play where they have a need for him, and that could be on offense or defense."

The Irish lost a 5-star cornerback prospect a month before signing day; a 5-star wide receiver the day of, so need exists in both spots and Notre Dame could use a touch of recruiting momentum after their early February thud…Neal could at some point in 2012 on offense and/or in the return game; he'd likely have to wait until 2013 to compete for a game day role at cornerback. The staff has actively sought taller cornerbacks since hitting South Bend, to boot…

Three positions remain to be evaluated in our Spring Position Competition series: #3 wide receiver; rotation (#4) wide receiver, and quarterback. But after digesting a sextet of others, the most intriguing spring battle might be at cornerback where any of five players could pull ahead heading into and through August camp. Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson is the safest bet to start vs. Navy in Dublin – I just wouldn't wager a healthy sum on the 2010 special teams star's behalf before further evaluation…

Future Favors Upstart Irish

Notre Dame's 11-3 Big East conference mark ties the best ever start at the program. The Irish have a pair of home and road outings remaining and will be underdogs just once – at #9 Georgetown, February 27. Brey's Irish have a one-game lead on the Hoyas (10-4) who will travel to Seton Hall then host Villanova prior to entertaining ND.

In search of their ninth straight win, the Irish welcome West Virginia Wednesday in what should be a chippie, hotly-contested rematch of a stunning late-game Notre Dame comeback win February 8 in Morgantown. Notre Dame hasn't won nine straight games after January 1 on a season's calendar since the 1987 squad won 11 straight before losing to North Carolina in the Sweet 16 that March…

ND will head to Madison Square Garden for a bit of a trap game vs. a struggling St. John's team two days before the Big Monday battle in the Nation's Capitol. Notre Dame ends its season with last-place Providence on March 2 in South Bend…

Should the Irish win both road tilts (St. John's and G'Town) to conclude the regular season, their 7-win conference road effort would be the best in program history. (Notre Dame has never finished with more than five Big East road games in a single season. The Irish began conference play in 1996)...

The Magic Number for Brey's 11-win crew to attain *double-bye status in the upcoming Big East Tournament is likely two: with 13 wins its seems unlikely any of the trio of nine-win teams–South Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati–will win out, and the Irish hold tiebreakers vs. both the Bulls and Cardinals. The Bearcats play both USF and Rick Pitino's Louisville unit, as well as 11-3 Marquette in an unfortunate murderous finish to their bottom-heavy schedule…

(Note: *A double bye means the Irish would need to win just twice in New York to reach the Big East Tournament finals Saturday night, March 10).

Tied with the Irish heading into the final two weeks, Marquette's final three games bring trips to West Virginia and Cincinnati, as well as a home finale vs. Georgetown; another ending slate far more challenging than Notre Dame's, who ripped through the most challenging part of their schedule (January 7 to February 8) with wins in seven of nine games...

Should the Irish defeat Georgetown to end the month, they'll have scored victories vs. every team in the conference's Top 12 with the exception of Cincinnati, who hammered ND 72-55 in early January…

Finally, Notre Dame will push its Big East home record to a head-shaking 46-6 over the last six seasons if the Irish defeat both West Virginia and Providence to end their South Bend slate.


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