Notre Dame believes that this is the week that can turn its season around, especially after wins over Louisville and South Florida.
"We've got opportunities here to make a move," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "It could be a great week for us if it plays out with what you have. You have a team ahead of you in the standings and a 13 in the RPI and another team that is about 60 in the RPI and ahead of you in the standings, so you have opportunities here."
Notre Dame stands at 14-10 overall and 5-7 in the Big East. The Irish play at West Virginia (17-8, 6-6) on Wednesday night before a noontime tip in Providence (16-9, 8-5) on Saturday afternoon.
Notre Dame is known for its high-powered offense, but it was the Irish defense that bailed them out of a recent seven-game losing streak. Brey did not use any tricks to get his defense going again, just good old-fashioned Cat Defense.
‘You've got that cat, I've got this cat.'
In 80 minutes of basketball against the Cardinals and the Bulls, the Irish played zone on just two possessions, both came in the first half of the South Florida game.
"My feeling coming back from UCLA was if we're going to dig our heels in, you've got to lock up and you've got a guy," Brey said. "Now can we do in a hostile atmosphere? We had our sixth man; we had our crowd here to kind of help us. Can we do it in Morgantown on Wednesday?"
The Irish have not played as well defensively on the road as they have in the Joyce Center and some of that has to do with the efficiency of the Notre Dame offense.
"I think we've gotten a little discouraged at times when we've turned it over or not gotten great offensive possessions," Brey said. "I think the biggest thing that's hurt us on the road is when we've missed a shot or turned it over, our transition defense was not good and people are coming down three-on-two, four-on-two."
Brey did not see that in the recent home stand.
"I think here these two games we did a good job of chesting people up as they forced a drive in transition and getting back and making our stand and getting some charges and having some hard fouls on people back in the paint," he said. "Those are things you have to do consistently, not just at home, you've got to take those on the road against good teams."
It works both ways too. The Notre Dame offense needs to rely on its defense to get open looks.
"Our group has to get into transition so you don't have to play against the set defenses in our league every time. We don't want to walk it up and grind it all of the time," Brey said. "To do that you have to get defensive stops."
Brey acknowledged that the Irish will need to mix some more zone in down the road.
"We have to change some defenses too, we won't play all man down in Morgantown," Brey said. "But coming out of what we were coming out of, you had to dig in and do it that way, bodies on people. I was very happy with what we did defensively these two games, playing as a unit. It was the best we've played as a unit, defensively, helping, talking, switching, knowing that your teammate's got your back if you got beat."
Brey will still have his guys prepared to play man-to-man all night though.
"They're in pretty good condition," he said. "It's important what we do in between games and how we get recovery time."
When guys get tired, Brey will call on reserves Tyrone Nash, Luke Zeller and Jonathan Peoples to come off the bench and play meaningful minutes. Nash especially, has made an impact on the defensive end recently.
"There's no question that he helps us defensively. Certainly there's a quickness of foot and hand there that improves us," said Brey. "That's one of the reasons that he's in the game, to help us defensively."