With the power of the Big East this year, Notre Dame knows that it cannot look past any team, especially on the road. When the Irish head to the Allstate Arena tonight for a matchup with DePaul (8-5), Notre Dame will be facing a talented team.
"I don't care what their record is, they're going to play great against us," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "They've got some NBA talent on their team. More NBA scouts went through their practices than our practices in the fall, I know that. So they've got players."
Sophomore forward Dar Tucker is from Saginaw (MI), home of Notre Dame point guard Tory Jackson, and leads DePaul with 19.8 points per game. Sophomore center Mac Koshwal is averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest while junior guard Will Walker is contributing with 10.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Brey is not as familiar with the Blue Demons as he is with other league teams, but sees similarities.
"They've got a lot of new faces, but athletic, driving our lanes and getting to our backboard concerns you," he said. "Here comes that athletic ability that can get second shots against you."
The Blue Demons have played a difficult non-conference schedule, but have lost just about all of their tough games. DePaul started the season with wins over Albany, Illinois-Chicago, Detroit and Indiana State before losing four straight to California, Northwestern, Morgan State and UCLA.
DePaul came back to win three straight over Liberty, Southern and Saint Louis, but has split its last two heading into conference play. The Blue Demons lost to Creighton before beating Alcorn State on Monday. DePaul is 6-1 at home, the lone loss coming against Morgan State.
The Blue Demons are averaging 69.0 points while allowing 66.9. They are shooting just 27.2% from three-point range, but the 272 attempts have Brey concerned.
"What scares me about them is they're not shooting a good three-point percentage, but they use the three-point shot a lot," he said. "I'm really worried about them getting on a run from the three-point line and the building going and then all of a sudden it's a different type of game. I think we have to be conscious of all of their perimeter guys being shot-makers on Wednesday."
Notre Dame senior guard/forward Ryan Ayers had some ice on his leg at practice on Monday, but he will be ready to go for the Irish.
"Just a slight knee in the quad," Brey said of Ayers' injury. "Should be fine. He'll definitely be full speed."
Playing in the nation's toughest league should prevent teams from looking past any opponent, but there won't be much time to prepare for the next one. Notre Dame plays against St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.
"The only thing I'm looking at is I know Wednesday is going to be really hard. It's going to be one of those Big East grind-it-out games," said Brey. "If we're fortunate enough to get it, we'll be thrilled busing back here, but real quick we'll have to throw a St. John's tape on about halfway back."
Brey even has a sinister idea of making sure his guys stay focused on the Big East and not New Year's.
"You know what you could really do because guys want to celebrate New Year's Eve and we have a game Saturday is fake a bus breakdown on the highway for about four hours and just put St. John's tape on," he joked.
"We could practice though, it would be the next day. We could legally get on the floor and practice."