Notre Dame (26-5, 14-4) will participate this week in just its 20th conference tournament since joining the Big East in 1995-96.
Post-season/conference-tournament success has been difficult to come by. The Irish are 11-19 in 19 conference tournaments and have never played in a championship game.
Yet Notre Dame has gained some momentum in recent years. Seven of those 11 conference-tournament victories have come in the last six years with the Irish participating in the semifinals – the Final Four, so to speak – in each of their last four trips as a member of the Big East.
Unfortunately, the Irish kept running into Louisville. The Cardinals eliminated Notre Dame three straight seasons after West Virginia tripped up the Irish as they went to their first semifinal in 2009-10, following wins over Seton Hall and Pittsburgh.
The Irish won at least one Big East tournament game five straight seasons before their first foray into the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. last year ended with an 81-69 loss to Wake Forest.
Mike Brey is a respectable 10-14 in conference tournament games, including a 7-5 mark during Notre Dame’s last five years in the Big East. It wasn’t until his 10th try, however, that the Irish won as many as two games.
“We’re really excited to get down to Greensboro,” Brey said. “The previous four years, we got to the semifinals of the Big East tournament, so we’ve had some success in league tournaments before.
“You don’t want to overanalyze it, but you do have to take it up a level. The accountability of it has to be ratcheted up one more level.”
John MacLeod was 0-4 in Big East tournament games while Matt Doherty – in his one season with the Irish – defeated Rutgers and then lost to Miami, the latter of which is Notre Dame’s likely opponent Thursday night.
Notre Dame has played 15 different programs in conference-tournament play. The Irish have a winning record against just three foes – Rutgers (3-1), Cincinnati (1-0) and South Florida (1-0).
Louisville has won all three of its conference-tournament games against the Irish while Syracuse and West Virginia have won two-of-three. Georgetown and Connecticut tagged Notre Dame in both of its battles with the Irish.
Notre Dame is 0-1 versus Providence, Miami and Wake Forest. The Irish have split two games with Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, St. John’s and Marquette.
In order for the Irish to claim their first conference-tournament title, they’ll likely have to defeat No. 6 seed Miami Thursday, No. 2 seed Duke Friday and No. 1 seed Virginia in Saturday’s championship tilt.
Notre Dame defeated Miami at home, split the home-and-home series with Duke, and lost at home to Virginia during the regular season.
“It would be really powerful to hang a banner with the ACC on it,” Brey said. “We had such a respected identity in the Big East, and we yearn to develop that in the ACC. We’ve done a heckuva job of starting back that road after a tough first year.”