– Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey
The Notre Dame team Brey referenced above lost to Maryland, 78-71 on December 8 in its last trip to the Verizon Center. Those Irish were 5-4 with the arrow pointing directly down. They bottomed out at 8-5 without a quality win to speak of in non-conference action.
There's no doubt the Irish are the nation's most improved team over the last two months, but the key to tonight's contest vs. #12 Georgetown is that Brey's now 19th-ranked, NCAA-bound Irish must also be a lot different from the team that showed up in Manhattan two days ago, when it hit just four of 31 three-point shots in a three-point loss to St. John's.
Tonight's battle between Notre Dame (12-4, 3rd place) and the Hoyas (11-5, 4th) could clinch a top three finish in the regular season standings for the visitors, though all is not lost in defeat as the Hoyas must travel to second-place Marquette (13-3) to conclude their regular season.
Both Georgetown and Notre Dame could finish as high as No. 2 and as low as No. 6 pending their final two contests as well as those played throughout the conference.
It's likely, however, that both will join Marquette and the top-seed Syracuse Orange as double-bye recipients for the conference tournament that begins on Tuesday, March 6. (Teams with double-byes begin to play in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 8 while eight remaining teams battle Tuesday and Wednesday for the right to advance.)
The Hoyas began the conference slate 6-2 and have been fairly consistent (5-3 since) with the exception of an unforeseen blowout loss at Seton Hall last week, 73-55. Georgetown bounced back to destroy Villanova 67-46 on Saturday.
Notre Dame saw its program-best nine-game Big East winning streak snapped Saturday in a 61-58 loss at Madison Square Garden. Head coach Mike Brey was realistic about the end of his team's wild nine-game ride from middle-of-the-pack (at 3-3 in mid-January) to second-place in the conference standings.
"The law of averages catches up with you a little bit," Brey said. "We have stolen some wins, banking down 3s on the road, and we really couldn't today."
The teams rank #2 and #3 in scoring defense (Notre Dame allows 58.6 points; Georgetown 59.5) and #3 (ND) and #4 (GT) in scoring margin in conference play. The Hoyas are the top field goal percentage defense in the league (38.5 percent) while Notre Dame ranks fifth, 39.8 percent.
The Irish lead the Big East in three-point field goal percentage defense (25.4 percent) while the Hoyas rank third, 29.3 percent through 16 games.
A low-scoring, deliberate affair in which each possession should be valued is likely.
Series/Game NotesTonight's game is the 28th between the teams. Notre Dame has won three straight though the Hoyas still hold a one-game edge, 14-13 all-time and 13-11 in conference play. The Irish won 69-55 in South Bend in December 2010 – the conference opener for both teams last season.
- Notre Dame won in its last trip to the Verizon Center as well, blowing out the heavily-favored 11th-ranked Hoyas, 78-64 in February 2010. The Irish are 7-4 in the building all-time under Brey with additional wins against No. 9 Maryland and No. 2 Texas in November 2002 and a loss this season to the unranked Terrapins in December.
- Brey is 9-8 vs. Georgetown while at Notre Dame.
- The weekend's road trip (Saturday at St. John's; tonight at Georgetown) is just the second Saturday/Monday turnaround of Notre Dame's conference season. The Irish dropped both ends in their first such challenge, losing to Connecticut and then at Rutgers in mid-January.
- Four members of Notre Dame's traveling squad will return near their hometowns tonight: Guards Eric Atkins (Columbia, MD) and DeMatha, H.S. product Jerian Grant (Bowie, MD), as well as assistant coach Rod Balanis and head coach Mike Brey, both of whom also played at the famed basketball factory. Brey later served as an assistant at DeMatha (Hyattsville, MD) under coaching legend, Morgan Wooten.
- Notre Dame junior center Jack Cooley recorded his fifth conference game double-double in Saturday's loss to the Red Storm, finishing with a team-high 18 points and 11 boards.
- Notre Dame has never won six Big East road games in a season but can finish 6-3 in 2012 with a win tonight at the Verizon Center. Tip-off is set for 7 PM on ESPN's Big Monday broadcast. Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery, and Sean McDonough (play-by-play) have the call.
- Notre Dame will clinch a double bye–which would allow the Irish to begin their Big East Tournament in next Thursday's Quarterfinals–with a win over either Georgetown or Providence on Friday, March 2 in South Bend, the regular season finale.
- Tonight's game is Senior Night for Hoyas starters Jason Clark and Henry Sims. Georgetown has been installed a six-point favorite for the contest.