Remarkably, Miami (12-13, 3-9) has lost each of its six home tilts to date but has proved capable of rising to the occasion with road wins over North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. Four of the Hurricanes home losses were played to the wire including solid efforts vs. Virginia Tech (an overtime defeat), Syracuse (49-44 in early January), Pittsburgh (59-55 overtime) and most recently North Carolina State, a 56-55 loss two weeks ago.
Miami hasn't played at home since that February 8 defeat at the hands of the Wolfpack, winning 77-73 at Florida State and losing 52-45 at Virginia Tech. (Both of the Hokies ACC wins came at the Hurricane's expense.)
Irish head coach Mike Brey and his depleted roster know well the rigors of ACC road play. After five consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, Brey is impressed with his team's daily resolve as they march toward the bitter consolation prize of the post-season NIT.
"I was talking to my son (Kyle) who's in coaching," said Brey prior to his team's road trip. "He said, 'You guys just keep playing.' We just keep playing. I think that's kind of a good theme for us: Just Keep Playing.
"There's really no time to dwell…we don't have time for that. Let's just play."
A win tonight would provide Notre Dame a 15-12 mark heading into a difficult matchup at top tier Virginia Saturday afternoon. Winners of 10 straight, the rock-solid Cavaliers bundled Notre Dame in South Bend in late January. They've not lost since a 69-65 defeat at Duke on January 13 and at 13-1 in conference play, trail only No. 1 undefeated Syracuse in the ACC race.
The Irish finish thereafter with a home date against Georgia Tech in a rematch of a 74-69 defeat on January 11 in Atlanta, then host fringe Top 25 foe and former Big East combatant Pittsburgh on Senior Day. Notre Dame travels to Chapel Hill for a rematch against North Carolina (winners of seven straight including an 11-point home humbling of the Irish in early February) to close the regular season.
With a 2-2 mark the best reasonable forecast for the season's final four games (and 1-3 far more likely a reality than 3-1), a win at Miami tonight could prove crucial as a .500 final record (including the ACC Tournament) is mandatory for NIT consideration.
"Kids are amazing resilient," said Brey of his squad. "They get onto the next thing. They get a chance to play again (and respond to it)."
Teams finishing among the league's bottom six (#10 through #15) play opening round ACC games pitted against each other (#10 vs. #15, #11 vs. #14, #12 vs. #13) to open the bracket. Teams seeded #6 through #9 begin play on Day Two though it's unlikely the Irish can climb to that status with losses against three teams ranked immediately ahead of them (Florida State, NC State, and Maryland).
As first reported by ESPN.com basketball analyst Andy Katz, Notre Dame freshman guard Demetrius Jackson is expected to be available after a two-game absence due to academic issues.