Irish face toughest test

A road weary Irish squad travels to Charlottesville to take on the 14th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. Winners of nine straight, head coach Tony Bennett's squad hammered Notre Dame in South Bend less than a month ago, 68-53.

Atop the Athletic Coast Conference Standing at 13-1 (22-5 overall), the Cavaliers haven't lost since dropping a 69-65 nail-biter to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 13.

The Irish, 5-9 in ACC play and just 1-6 in true road games this season, limp into John Paul Jones Arena after a 71-64 loss at Miami, a contest that marked the Hurricanes (4-9) first home conference win of the season and it came on the strength of a 62 percent first-half shooting effort that forged a 15-point advantage.

Head coach Mike Brey's defensively challenged squad might settle for yielding such a percentage to the machine-like Cavaliers over today's first 20 minutes. Virginia connected on a remarkable 14 of its first 18 shots en route to a 32-12 lead in South Bend in the teams' first meeting.

Virginia likewise forced 20 Irish turnovers on the evening including 14 steals that

Brey enters the contest one win short of the 300 mark at Notre Dame but today's outing ranks among the season's three toughest for the reeling Irish with Virginia opening in Las Vegas as a favorite of 12.5 points.

The game will be shown on ESPN2 at 2:00 p.m. (ET).

Minimal opportunities ahead

Notre Dame returns home for a pair of games before concluding its regular season in Chapel Hill, facing another uphill struggle against one of the nation's hottest teams, North Carolina.

The Tar Heels ran the Irish out of the Purcell Pavilion less than a month ago, winning 73-62 on February 8 due largely to a 44-24 advantage in the paint including a series of dispiriting dunks during a nine-minute run that bisected the first and second-half and took the visitors fro a 23-18 deficit to a 44-30 advantage.

North Carolina has won eight straight, it's only loss over the last 10 games a 76-61 defeat at Virginia.

Prior to facing the Tar Heels, Brey's Irish will entertain Georgia Tech on February 26 in South Bend. The Yellow Jackets (13-13, 4-9), defeated Notre Dame on January 11 in Atlanta, 74-69. Former Big East foe Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-5) hits South Bend three days later. The Panthers have lost five straight to Notre Dame, four as a ranked foe.

At 14-13, Notre Dame needs at least two wins over its last four regular season contests to guarantee eligibility for an NIT bid. The Irish will then play at least one game in the ensuing ACC Tournament in search for a .500 record or better, the minimum to be considered by the NIT selection committee. Top Stories