But after Saturday afternoon's 72-64 loss at new #15 Marquette, the Irish are on the outside looking in, needing help to earn the coveted fourth seed and a four-day break and wait until next Thursday to begin in the conference's quarterfinals round.
Two simple scenarios must coincide to provide that opportunity, the former maybe less likely than the latter:
- Notre Dame must beat St. John's Tuesday in South Bend and win at #8 Louisville at the YUM! Center Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
- Syracuse has to lose. The Orange host DePaul tonight and travel to conference king and the nation's fifth-ranked team, Georgetown, next Saturday.
If you happen by Las Vegas this weekend, put your money on the Hoyas to handle the Orange giving Notre Dame hope…and for Rick Pitino's surging Cardinals to drop the Irish in a rematch of last month's five-overtime epic, knocking them back to sixth in the final regular season standings.
Winding DownA look at the final week of regular season play for each of the Big East's six contenders for a double bye in the conference tournament.
Georgetown (13-3): The Hoyas finish their road slate at Villanova Wednesday then host Syracuse Saturday, a game that could mark the last-ever regular season meeting between the Big East's flagship programs.
Louisville (12-4): Winners of five straight after the quintuple overtime defeat to Notre Dame, the Cardinals finish with home games vs. Cincinnati (Wednesday) and a Senior Day rematch against the Irish on March 9. The matchup vs. the Bearcats is key for Irish fans, as a loss by Louisville Wednesday night, followed by the same Saturday vs. Notre Dame, would give the Irish fourth-place due to head-to-head tiebreaker.
Marquette (12-4): Finishes with a pair of road traps, first at 4-12 Rutgers Tuesday then in Madison Square Garden vs. St. John's (8-8), though the Red Storm suspended leading scorer De'Angelo Harrison for the remainder of the season.
Pittsburgh (11-6): Loses in every tie-breaking scenario to Notre Dame (head-to-head or multi-team) but could earn the #4 seed if the Irish and Orange both lose a game and Pittsburgh wins its finale at DePaul.
Syracuse (10-6): Losers of three straight, the still-#17 Orange host DePaul Monday, but must travel to Georgetown to conclude the regular season. If Syracuse wins both, it beats the Irish for any seed by virtue of a head-to-head win in February.
Notre Dame (10-6): Notre Dame must beat St. John's Tuesday and Louisville Saturday, in conjunction with a loss by Syracuse and/or a defeat of Louisville by Cincinnati as noted above.
Conference Standings as of March 4
#5 Georgetown (13-3)
#8 Louisville (12-4)
#15 Marquette (12-4)
#20 Pittsburgh (11-6)
#17 Syracuse (10-6)
#24 Notre Dame (10-6)
St. John's (8-8)
Seton Hall (3-13)
South Florida (2-14)
*Note: 9-7 Connecticut is not eligible for the Big East or NCAA Tournaments due to poor academic performance. Of the 10 college basketball programs ineligible, the Huskies are the only team from a BCS conference.