No. 23 Notre Dame welcomes in DePaul (16-11, 7-6) on Tuesday to the Joyce Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM and ESPN2 will have the television broadcast. The Irish go into the contest at 20-6 overall and 8-5 in the Big East. It's the fourth time in seven seasons that head coach Mike Brey has eclipsed the 20-win mark. The league record puts them in a tie for fifth place with West Virginia and Syracuse. Notre Dame has the tiebreaker over the Mountaineers and the Orange because of head-to-head wins earlier in the year and the Irish play fourth-place Marquette next Saturday. It's in their own hands and continued success in the final three games will award them a little rest in New York City.
First, Notre Dame has some payback to give the Blue Demons. It was back on February 8th at the Allstate Arena where the Irish wilted in the final 30 seconds to throw away a victory on the road. DePaul made the necessary plays down the stretch for the incredible and heart-stopping win.
Tory Jackson inbounded the ball back over the half court line to Colin Falls with Notre Dame leading 66-65 and 27 seconds to go. The senior guard tried to dribble past Draelon Burns but the DePaul defender knocked the ball loose. Burns tracked down the ball and passed it to a wide open Wilson Chandler for a power dunk to give the Blue Demons a 67-66 advantage.
On the final possession, Jackson drove the lane, passed out to Luke Zeller, whose three-point shot was woefully off. However, Rob Kurz rebounded the ball and had a final two-foot attempt for the win. But Chandler came out of nowhere and blocked the shot to preserve the DePaul win. There was contact on both Falls's turnover and Kurz's blocked shot. But the referees did not give the road team either call. Now, Notre Dame has a chance at redemption at the Joyce Center, where they are 16-0 this season.
The win over the Irish has propelled the Blue Demons back into the NCAA Tournament discussion. DePaul followed it up with a home victory over another top-25 team, Marquette. This past weekend, the Blue Demons did something Notre Dame was unable to do. They went on the road to South Florida and beat the Bulls by 13 points.
If DePaul can get the big road win in South Bend on Tuesday, it sets them up quite nicely for a possible invite to the Big Dance. The Blue Demons have home dates with Cincinnati, 1-11 in conference play, and South Florida, 3-10 in the league, remaining on the schedule. If they run the table, DePaul would be 19-11 overall and 10-6 in the Big East with quality wins over Kansas, Notre Dame (twice), Marquette and Villanova. It's safe to say a lot is on the line for the Blue Demons.
The Irish better find a way to guard Wilson Chandler. The 6-8 sophomore leads DePaul in scoring at 14 PPG and rebounding with 6.9 boards a contest. In the first match-up, Chandler torched Notre Dame for 25 points and 14 rebounds. They also outrebounded the Irish 38-33 back on February 8th and won the assist battle 19-14. Burns, a 6-4 guard, is averaging 16 PPG in the past five contests. Sammy Mejia, a 6-6 senior, is second on the team in scoring at 13 PPG and has scored 18 in both victories over Marquette and South Florida.