GameDay Won't Distract From Game Day

The hoopla surrounding Saturday's game against Connecticut will be great for the students and fans, but the Notre Dame basketball team will treat it the same way it treats every other game.

While the presence of ESPN's College GameDay crew on Notre Dame's campus for this weekend's game against Connecticut will be exciting for students and fans, the basketball team will go about its business like any other Saturday night game.

"I don't think it's going to be that different. Coach is going to have us on our regular routine so we don't get that out of character," Luke Harangody said. "We're old enough to understand that just because GameDay is coming, it's just another Big East game that we have to win."

Other than having a shootaround at 1 p.m. rather than noon to allow for the broadcast of the national pregame show, the schedule for the Fighting Irish will be the same as any other winter game night.

"We're going to do everything how we do it. I may have to do some other things with GameDay and I want to do that. It's a great infomercial for your program and you want to handle that right," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "But our guys, we will have the same routine Friday evening, Saturday, shootaround, pregame meal."

Brey understands the importance of this weekend's game, but he has to keep the program's long-range future in mind at the same time.

"I know we've lost two in a row in the league and we're 3-3 and we're dying for a win, but in the midst of that I want to make sure I'm out there because it is a privilege, an honor, it's great," he said. "We're going to have some recruiting situations here with key kids here, we want to handle that the right way. You can't go into your bunker and say, ‘I've got to focus on it.' You've got to do what you've got to do and think big picture."

Brey believes that his older group has earned the chance to grab the national spotlight and is mature enough to handle it.

"I think it says a lot about the consistency of this group over the last couple of years and it says a lot about our home fans. We've had great energy in this building, especially when our students have been here," he said. "Of course our students haven't seen us play since the BU game so they should be juiced up. I think it's an endorsement of your basketball program to have them here and you want to deliver when they're here.

"I think our kids will handle it great because they've just got beaten two in a row."

While the Irish will try to avoid distractions leading up to the game, they will not ignore the presence of ESPN on campus.

"I'll probably watch it on TV," said Harangody. "It'll kind of be neat to turn on the TV and see GameDay from the JACC. That'll be cool."

Kyle McAlarney hopes to feed off of the energy from the home crowd before and during the game.

"It's going to be very exciting. I think it's going to spark a lot of excitement around town and with our students, which will help us in the game and leading up to the game," said McAlarney. "But once you're in the game, you're in the game and ESPN and the cameras really don't mean anything. But I think for our fans it's really going to help us out a lot."

Harangody has already noticed a buzz.

"It's great. Walking around campus everyone's asking for tickets, everyone's asking about everything," he said. "The campus is so excited. We talked about how far the program has come since the seniors were freshmen and I was a freshman, it's kind of crazy to think about it."

Tory Jackson also recognizes the attention that Saturday will bring, but is more worried about stopping Notre Dame's losing streak.

"That's exciting but we really just want to get back to being the team that we were before the last two games, the last two losses. It's tough losing two in a row," said Jackson. "Having ESPN here, that's an honor, College GameDay, all of that, that's all great, but for us it's about bouncing back."

Zach Hillesland is not worried about the extra attention one bit.

"I'm a senior at this point, it's just another game really. We need to win, we're on a two-game losing streak," he said. "They could have CNN, ESPN, whoever they want. They could bring the whole media entourage out and we still have to take care of business.

"It's a great thing for our fans, it's a great thing for our students, but as far as the team goes, we're just interested in going out and playing."


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