Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is not too concerned with his team's loss to Ohio State in The Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase impacting its tournament seeding because he believes that the Buckeyes will be recognized as a solid squad come Selection Sunday.
"I think they're going to be a team that is going to be there at the end," said Brey. "I think the two L's that you have on your schedule are not hurtful right now."
Notre Dame's only other loss came to top-ranked North Carolina in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. The Irish will be following the Buckeyes and the Tar Heels for the rest of the season.
"Obviously, you cheer like heck for all of those teams that you've played," Brey said. "Carolina, I think is going to take care of itself, but I don't think (Ohio State) is one that is going to hurt you."
But that is not going to stop Brey from making an appeal to the selection committee to consider what his team's out of conference schedule looks like.
"We play 12 non-league games this year. I don't think anybody is playing half of them away from their building in our league," he said. "Six of our 12 are away from our building. It's all by design with this group. I think it can help with the committee that you didn't just sit tight at home and play the games at home."
When Notre Dame put together the 2008-09 schedule it took the committee into consideration.
"That's been kind of the theme coming from the committee to keep challenging yourself and playing away from home," Brey said. "You hope you get some credit for that at the end of the day because I look around and it could be really close with bids in our league with some many people fighting and trying to survive."
The Big East is easily the toughest conference in the nation this year and could send a record nine teams to the NCAA Tournament. Brey has no illusions about going unbeaten in the conference and said that it will come down to who responds best to losses.
"We're not going unscathed through the league. To survive this league it's going to be how you bounce back from a loss," he said. "Whoever does that really well in the league is going to get a bye in the league tournament."
The Irish did that well last year and did not lose consecutive games after back-to-back losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech in November.
TY'S TIME: Brey and his staff used the team's preseason exhibition tour in Ireland to get a look at which players would be able to round out the Irish rotation. A knee injury prevented sophomore guard-forward Tyrone Nash from showing what he could do.
"It was very hard to evaluate him in Ireland," Brey said of Nash. "Quite frankly coming out of Ireland, he wasn't on my mind because I couldn't really fairly evaluate him because he couldn't move and bounce."
But Nash has solidified his spot as the eighth man in the rotation and Brey has been pleased with his minutes.
"When he comes in, he gives us what we lost in (Rob) Kurz. Some of the stuff we lost, a physical body to guard in the post, a rebounder," he said. "I love that he's come in games and he's had a putback offensive rebound within the first minute of a bunch of games that he's been in."
Those minutes will be even more valuable when Notre Dame starts league play.
"We're going to need him. I know I'm very confident and his teammates are very confident. The older guys know that we need him and I think he sees that," Brey said. "He's never going to be a big scorer. He's not a shooter. He's not going to be a guy that puts up numbers."
But it is the older guys in front of him that will prevent him from putting up numbers, not his play.
"If a Zach Hillesland wasn't around or something you'd probably see extended minutes and great production," said Brey. "But Zach's got the upper hand because he's older and been through it more."
Nash is just the latest example of a young Notre Dame player understanding his role and embracing it.
"That's kind of been our program, with some young guys they've had to kind of hang in and wait their turn," said Brey. "Thankfully, we've had guys that have pretty good attitudes and understand it and when they've gotten their chance maybe as older guys have been very productive for us.
"We'll need him more and more as the year goes on. I love his basketball IQ. He knows how to play and pass and screen and cut. I'm happy with his progress."
HARANGODY'S HEALTH: Luke Harangody played great against the Buckeyes, scoring 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in his first game back after sitting out two with pneumonia. Brey said that Harangody is getting healthier everyday and should be back at full speed soon.
"I think he's close. I'm hoping by Saturday he's 100%," Brey said. "I don't think he was (against Ohio State), but my gosh, an amazingly valiant effort given the circumstance. Each day he's feeling a lot better and I think by the end of the week we'll have him all of the way back."
The next step for the reigning Big East Player of the Year is to get his conditioning back.
"The weight is starting to pick back up," said Brey. "The biggest thing is the wind right now and recovery time and I think each day it gets better."
MOVING McALARNEY: Notre Dame does have some solutions to getting guard Kyle McAlarney involved when teams are doing everything they can to take him away.
"Get the ball in his hands and let him handle the ball some, to move him around and let him become our point guard by either taking Tory (Jackson) out or just moving Tory off the ball and kind of flipping those guys," Brey said. "He becomes a playmaker then as you've seen in the past and it kind of gets him in different situations. He drives a little bit, maybe gets fouled, he gets to the basket and shoots his runner and he's not just hunting the three-point shot.
"You also try to do stuff on a lot of out of bounds situations because those are different ways of getting him a look."
Brey complimented the way Hillesland has gotten McAlarney open looks off of screens and dribble-exchanges, but knows that there will be times when other guys just have to step up.
"There's going to be nights, there's no question, Harangody and McAlarney are going to be taken away. They're the first two guys to try to take away or to really take one of them away in the scouting report," he said. "A Zeller, a (Ryan) Ayers, a Hillesland, a Jackson, can we get more of that nightly? Yes. Those guys are going to be really needed to do it, especially as we get into the league because people are going to really concentrate on those two guys."
TOUGH REBOUNDING: Brey was not thrilled with the way his squad hit the boards against Ohio State, getting outrebounded 43-36 and giving up 11 offensive boards. The coach is confident that the team will see the difference on tape and it gives the staff a chance to address it early.
"Maybe to have their face rubbed in it occasionally like that (is good)," he said. "That's the great thing about basketball, you can lose a game or two or three or seven and still get your NCAA Tournament bid, but you can really make a point about sticking their nose in there like they did against Texas, but not so much against Ohio State."
Brey said that it will be on the coaches to put the players in good position to block out on the defensive end and that he would also show the team evidence of what happens when they do rebound.
"I'm always a guy that's trying to show some positive stuff before we leave the film room," he said. "I think as coaches we have to continually try to put our guys in the right positions defensively to help block out great athletic ability."
RECRUITING REBOUNDING: The Irish hope to add more rebounders to the roster next season when they bring in Mike Broghammer, Tom Knight and Jack Cooley who signed National Letters of Intent with Notre Dame last month.
"We probably have addressed that in our recruiting class because we've got three big guys coming," Brey said. "We need some beef and that's why I feel good about Broghammer and Cooley. Those two guys are ready physically to compete and we need some more bangers."
Notre Dame is also expecting a presence from guard Ben Hansbrough, who is sitting out the season after transferring from Mississippi State.
"The other thing is the guy getting eligible in the backcourt is physical, Hansbrough is very physical," Brey said. "When you look at toughness and physicality we're hopefully not giving up too much skill stuff."