Notre Dame has yet to make a conference finals since joining the league in 1995-96. They've finished as a semi-finalist in two straight and three of the last six seasons.
"Well I immediately started talking about and making comparisons to last year's team because they're competitive with that group before them," said Irish head coach Mike Brey following Friday's win over the Friars. "They won nine games in a row and last year's team only won eight. Last year's group only got to Friday (the Big East semis) and we couldn't get to Saturday (Championship). We've been to the semis, and we'd love to get over that hump and get to Saturday night."
At present, the Irish would face either Cincinnati (#6) or the winner of the St. John's (11th) vs. Villanova (14th) matchup. If that holds, the Red Storm and Wildcats will play Tuesday; the winner advancing to face Cincinnati Wednesday; the winner of that second round contest to take on the Irish Thursday night in the quarterfinals.
However, ample movement in the conference standings is likely as teams vie for both double and single byes in next week's conference tournament pending this weekend's outcome. (Georgetown for example could finish as high as #2, possibly #4 or #5, or even as low as #6 pending today's game at Marquette and games involving Cincinnati and South Florida.)
Notre Dame will finish in third place regardless of the weekend's events. They'll take on the survivor of the #11/#14/#6 games as described above and cannot face conference champion Syracuse unless the two square-off for a rematch in the league title game Saturday night. Notre Dame handed the 29-1 Orange its only loss this season on January 21 in South Bend.
Inside the Final WeekendBelow is your weekend guide as the Big East Tournament approaches. A Georgetown loss coupled with wins by South Florida and Cincinnati would cause the greatest change in the standings as described below.
- Syracuse (16-1) has wrapped up the regular season Big East championship. The Orange host Louisville (10-7) today at the Carrier Dome. The seventh-place Cardinals can neither fall nor rise in the conference standings, the latter due to a head-to-head loss vs. Cincinnati (11-6) in February. The Bearcats will finish either fifth or sixth and are an NCAA Tournament lock.
- The conference's Game of the Weekend will be played at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee as second-place Marquette (13-4) hosts fourth-place Georgetown (12-5). With a win, the Hoyas would force a three-way tie with the Golden Eagles and Notre Dame and would thus climb to second in the final regular season standings by virtue of tiebreakers (Georgetown would finish 3-0 vs. Marquette and ND). Brey and the Irish would finish third due to a 1-1 mark vs. the pair and Marquette would finish fourth at 0-3.
Georgetown defeated Marquette 73-70 in early January.
- A Marquette win would wrap-up second-place (they cannot fall below a fourth-place) and drop Georgetown to No. 4, possibly No. 5 pending current fifth-place South Florida's contest vs. West Virginia Saturday afternoon. The Bulls are a surprising 12-5 while the Mountaineers have scuffled over the last month and stand at just 8-9, tied with Seton Hall for eighth-place.
- Should both Cincinnati (at Villanova) and South Florida win, the Hoyas could drop all the way to 5th place, even 6th – the position that feeds into a Thursday date with the Irish - pending complicated league tie-breakers that include wins vs. the top tier teams in the standings.
- Both Cincinnati and Georgetown defeated Notre Dame this season. The Irish beat South Florida in early January. The Bulls have flourished of late, winning six of seven, two straight vs. Louisville and Cincinnati, and seven of eight conference home games.
- A top four finish affords teams a double bye (Thursday start) while a fifth through eighth-place finish results in a single bye (Wednesday start). Thus, two teams in a Seton Hall, West Virginia, or current 10th-place Connecticut trio will be forced into a Tuesday start – no bye by virtue of a ninth-place finish. (After top four, anywhere in the top eight is preferable to #9). The Pirates travel to DePaul (2-15) in search of a 9-9 mark and greatly enhance their chances at an NCAA Tournament bid.