Tough Waters Ahead

At least admittedly so publicly, Mike Brey has finally taken a look at it.

However, he's not quite ready to zero in on what is certainly the toughest stretch of games in his nine years at Notre Dame, and perhaps in the program's basketball history.

Seton Hall comes first for Brey, before he and his 13th-ranked Irish team begin to focus on a eight-game stretch that starts and ends with No. 21 Louisville. Notre Dame puts its nation's best 44-game home winning streak on the line against the Pirates Saturday afternoon.

"We've not won two in a row in the league yet, so maybe we can try that," Brey said during his Thursday morning Big East teleconference. His team is off to a 11-3 start, 2-1 in the conference.

Coming off the heals of a bad loss at Madison Square Garden to St. John's last Saturday, a 73-67 win over No. 10 Georgetown three nights ago has righted the ship. A victory over the Pirates on Saturday will give the Irish positive momentum heading into the eight-game gauntlet.

Next Monday night, Notre Dame travels to Louisville. Then it's a trip to No. 9 Syracuse, followed up by a home game against No. 5 Connecticut. No. 15 Marquette follows the Huskies into town two days later. Then it's at No. 1 Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at No. 7 UCLA, and then back home for Rick Pitino and the Cardinals on Feb. 12.

"I glanced at it the other day," Brey said. "I think it is pretty powerful. But I just think, we really tried not to look too far ahead, and try to segment the season, and we're in a segment now when you're trying to play Saturday Monday again like we just did. And then you have some time again to try and get your legs underneath you and regroup a little bit before you play Saturday.

"I think any coach in this league has glanced at their tough stretches, and probably the coaches are saying they're more than five or six games like the media is saying. You're looking at it saying, boy it's more like 10 or 11.

"For us, we have to see if we can get two wins in a row in the league, just a little goal for us, see if we can do that."

Part of doing that, winning two in a row, is making sure the team is up and ready to play for every game.

In the Big East, where almost all 18 conference games are a grind, and where teams sometimes have to play every two nights, it's hard to be on point physically and emotionally for every contest.

"I think when you're in league play, I think it becomes a lot more psychological and maybe doing it with film instead of having a two, two-and-a-half hour practice where you're beating the heck out of each other," Brey explained. "I know that wouldn't be good for us and the group that we have. You're going hard, but you know when to shut it down so you have fresh legs.

"I felt good that (Luke) Harangody (31 points and 11 rebounds against the Hoyas) told me Monday, he said god coach, I felt really good Monday, so I felt we did the right thing Sunday if the guys feel good Monday physically.

"But human nature, and there is a cycle too. You're going to rotate in and out of that edge at times, and you just want try and stay on the front end of it as much as you can, and address it, and hope that you could have it most of the time. But I do feel it's tough because it's a long stretch and there is going to be nights where you invest everything you can and you're going to play well in this league and you're not going to win, and you have to turnaround again and get ready."

Win or lose, the turnaround over the next month is brutal.


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