Before Big East Conference play began Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said that a one-game winning streak in the league is a good one. At the time it sounded like Brey was doing his best to downplay expectations, but about three weeks into the league schedule and it is obvious that the coach was not exaggerating.
Brey and his staff break the 18-game conference schedule into segments and after the first three portions of the league slate, Notre Dame stands at 3-3, tied for eighth in the conference with West Virginia.
The Irish have held serve at home, but after a win at DePaul in the Big East opener, Notre Dame has dropped its last three road contests. The first was a disappointing loss to St. John's at Madison Square Garden, but the Irish rebounded with a huge home win over Georgetown before taking care of business against Seton Hall.
But Notre Dame left South Bend for a pair of games last week at Louisville and at Syracuse. The Irish lost both and were sent tumbling down the Big East standings.
Brey has offered no illusions about his team's personnel and style, acknowledging that defense and rebounding will be issues all season and admitting that there comes a point when instead of addressing those issues, the Irish will have to just outscore their opponents.
Luke Harangody leads the conference with 24.8 points per game, Kyle McAlarney is ninth with 17.1 per outing and Irish are third in the conference with 81.2 points per game. In Big East games only, Harangody is even better, topping the conference with 28.0 points per.
McAlarney has made a league-best 25 three-pointers in conference games and Notre Dame is first in the league in three-pointers made (50). Tory Jackson is third in the league with 5.9 assists per game as Notre Dame leads the conference in assists (18.5) and assists-to-turnovers (1.9-1.0).
Scoring has not been a major problem, outscoring the opposition has.
Notre Dame is 13th in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 70.2 points per game. The numbers are worse in conference where the Irish are actually being outscored 79.8-77.5. The 79.8 points against ranks 15th in the league and the Irish have allowed an average of 83.7 points in their three losses.
Rebounding has not been a major issue with Harangody leading the conference with 12.9 per game, again better with 14.0 in Big East contests, and the Irish have held their own in the conference in rebounding.
Clearly the Irish need to continue putting points up and being competitive on the glass while becoming a bit more stout on the defensive end.
Just as Brey talked about a one-game winning streak being a good one in this league, he spoke of how a two-game streak can be a season-changer. The Irish will certainly get that opportunity in the fourth segment of the season which represents the most difficult three-game stretch on the schedule this season.
Notre Dame will host Connecticut (15-1, 4-1) on Saturday and Marquette (16-2, 5-0) on Jan. 26 before traveling to Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-1) Jan. 31. Two wins in three games will not send the Irish shooting up the conference standings, but they will definitely serve as confidence-boosters.
And it needs to start on Saturday because as good as one-game win streaks are, three-game losing streaks are crippling.