Midst Of The Gauntlet

The Big East schedule will be difficult all season and Notre Dame is in the toughest part right now. Head coach Mike Brey talked about the stretch during his teleconference on Wednesday morning. Brey also talked about Luke Harangody as an NBA prospect and the process of deciding whether he will come back next season.

The Notre Dame basketball team is in the midst of a stretch that have the Irish playing eight Top 25 teams in their next 10 games.

"Has Notre Dame basketball ever had a stretch like this before?" head coach Mike Brey asked rhetorically. "If they have I'd like to see it."

Four of those games come on the road, including a Jan. 31 date at current No. 1 Pittsburgh, but next up for the Irish is a trip to the Carrier Dome for a Saturday matchup with Syracuse (16-1).

When you are in the middle of the toughest string of games in school history, a game against the nation's eighth-ranked team actually represents the lightest portion of the lineup in a sense.

Notre Dame will have four full days off between Monday's loss at Louisville and Saturday's game against the Orange and the Irish will not be back in action again until next Saturday when they host No. 4 Connecticut.

The Irish opened Big East play with three games in a week before a Saturday-Monday turnaround that served as their second segment of conference play. The time off before and after Syracuse allows Notre Dame to treat the game as an entity of its own.

"We look at this as a one-game shot here for Saturday. We just ended that last segment; we went 1-1," Brey said. "You've got a one-game shot and then you've got a chance to get some guys to recover.

"You have a chance next week to maybe work on some things that have been slipping and you maybe haven't been able to spend as much practice time on because you don't want to wear guys out physically. I look forward to that stretch and then you have another Saturday-Monday stretch on the horizon."

Per NCAA rules Notre Dame was off on Tuesday after the Louisville game and the Irish will go light on Wednesday before getting in two hard days of practice before Saturday.

"You have two days to certainly tune up for Syracuse," said Brey. "I don't need a two-hour win the battle practice today, I need the war to be attempted to be won on Saturday."

Reserve guard Jonathan Peoples had two turnovers in two minutes of action against the Cardinals while sophomore forward Tyrone Nash played less than a minute. Brey will use this week to try to get those guys ready to play.

"We've gotta get Nash ready to go again, gotta get Peoples ready to go again," said Brey. "That's hard to do when they haven't played or haven't played many minutes, but that's coaching. You've got to keep those guys ready and get their heads up because they could get extended minutes Saturday."

Brey also addressed junior forward Luke Harangody's stock as a NBA prospect, saying that Harangody's growth as a shooter and a passer makes him more attractive as a player.

"But I think the most impressive thing that those next level guys see now are the rebounding numbers," he said. "The rebounding numbers kind of translate from college to pro. Think about Troy Murphy who was a double-digit rebounder guy here, I think he's in the top five in the NBA.

"Guys that can go get that ball, no matter how big they are, are really valuable and I think that's always been something where we people have gone, ‘Wow, he just gets that thing against NBA length and bounce.'"

The plan is for Brey to sit down with Harangody and his family after the season to decide whether it would be best for the reigning Big East Player of the Year to return to South Bend for another season next year or enter the NBA Draft. But Brey stressed that everyone is focused on the season now.

"The great thing about this kid is that he is so locked in, way more so than other guys I've had in the past here. ‘I'm here, I'm with my teammates and I love college,'" said Brey. "The family and I talked last spring, we'll sit down. We have plenty of time to evaluate all of it in the spring and we have to thoroughly evaluate it, business is business. But no one is getting ahead of themselves and that's great."

Brey also noted that guard Kyle McAlarney will be healthy and ready to go on Saturday. Brey thought that McAlarney had turned his ankle against Louisville, but a teammate actually kicked him in the calf.

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