It was quite a journey. A devastating overtime loss to Louisville put Notre Dame at 1-8 in the conference. The season of heartbreak added one more miserable moment when the Cardinals' Taquan Dean nailed a 23-foot three-point shot to send the game into overtime. As many Irish fans knew, the moment that ball swished through the net, fate was not on their side. But Notre Dame picked up the pieces and finished the season by winning five of their last seven games, including two this last week to clinch the 12th and final spot. Head coach Mike Brey thinks his team is already in tournament mode.
"We're certainly thrilled to be going to New York," Brey said. "We look at Wednesday as the third round of the Big East Tournament because when we went to Providence last Wednesday, we were up against it. We won there and then against DePaul. I'm proud of our group. We hung in there the whole Big East season. I know we play a great team in Georgetown. Our kids are excited about the opportunity to go to New York."
The big question: can the Irish make some noise? The Big East is not for the weak. The RPI has the league rated as the second best conference in the nation. Villanova and Connecticut are slated for one seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame's road to a miracle tournament championship would include Georgetown and Marquette and then probably the Huskies and Wildcats. The Irish were 0-4 against these teams in the regular season despite losing all but one by three points or less.
"We know we're the last guy in," Brey said. "We've had to scratch and claw to get there. We pretty much are in that position anyways. I just want us to be loose and that's the role of the non-favorite. I think that tone will come out. I'm not going to harp on it all day. I do want us to be confident. We've played pretty darn well and had chances to win to win all of them."
Another good piece of news for Notre Dame came out on Monday. Guard Chris Quinn was selected to the first-team All-Conference squad by the Big East coaches. Because of the expansion of the league, the first-team does not include just five players. Eleven players made it and Quinn's selection was no accident. The senior had a superb season, leading the Irish in scoring (18 points per game) and assists (six a contest). The assist total led the Big East. Quinn topped 30 points in four games this year and is the third player under Brey to make first-team all-conference honors.
"I think it's very well-deserved," Brey said. "I'm happy for him. He's been such a key for us. I think the coaches in this league really respected him going into the season. I don't think the coaches in the league are really that shocked with the year that he's had. He's been steady. He's been solid. He's set the tone for us. He has taken every big shot for us. I'm very proud of him."