Hoops Notebook

The notebook takes a closer look at Senior Night, the postseason and changing defenses. Also, how many wins in the Big East Tournament does Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey think it will take to get the Irish back in the NCAA Tournament discussion?

NOTRE DAME, Ind.- Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller have been a part of many memories in the Joyce Center and on Friday night they added one more.

Notre Dame's four seniors were honored before the final regular season game and were able to capture a 74-55 victory in their final regular season game at the Joyce.

"It's a little surreal," McAlarney said. "It didn't feel like four years, it really didn't. It flew by way too fast."

Together, the four-man senior class has combined for eight Big East Academic All-Start selections. Ayers was joined by his mother and brother while Hillesland's mother and sister were in attendance. Zeller was joined by both of his parents as was McAlarney, who also had his brother and sister in attendance.

With spring break for the students starting on Friday, the Joyce Center student section was smaller than usual, but the students along with the rest of the arena showed their appreciation for a group that was a major part of the 45-game home-win streak.

The blowout win allowed Brey to pull all four seniors in the final minute and give the crowd one last chance to show its appreciation with a standing ovation. The seniors thanked the Joyce Center crowd on the microphone following the game before running through the student section.

"That was a little spontaneous," McAlarney said of the jog. "They deserve it. They've stuck by me, they've stuck by us and we're thankful for a great student section. They helped us during that winning streak we had here at home and they helped us win tonight, so they deserve a lot of credit."

The seniors finished their careers by winning 24 of their last 27 Big East contests at the Joyce.

"Just the energy they have when we're on defense, we're on offense," said Ayers. "When the shot goes in, you can really hear the crowd and when we're going on runs the crowd is amazing. That's what I'm going to remember the most."

Senior managers Mike Sullivan and Jared Zink were also honored during the pregame ceremonies. The senior members of the Notre Dame band, eight senior cheerleaders, two pom squad members and the Leprechaun, Juan Muldoon, were honored during the game's first timeout.

DON'T SHUT OFF THE JACC LIGHTS JUST YET: Friday might have been Senior Night, but whether they want to or not, there is a good chance that the foursome's career at the Joyce is not done yet.

Unless, Notre Dame pulls off a miraculous run in the Big East Tournament than its postseason destination will be the National Invitational Tournament where the Irish are likely to be seeded high enough to get a couple of home games.

The 32-team NIT field will be announced after the NCAA selections are made on Sunday with first-round games being held on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18 at the sites of the highest-seeded teams. Second-round games will be played between March 19-23 with the quarterfinals on March 24 and 25, again at the highest remaining seeds' sites.

The NIT semifinals will be played on March 31 at Madison Square Garden with the championship to follow on April 2.

Hillesland made his preference clear during his postgame speech to the crowd.

"Hopefully this is the last time we play here and we go take care of business in New York," said Hillesland.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK: The Irish have known since Monday that they would be playing on day one of the Big East Tournament. Friday's win clinches the 10th seed for Notre Dame and means that it will be playing 15th-seeded Rutgers at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

If the Irish reach the second round, they will face the No. 7 seed and a rematch with either Syracuse or West Virginia. Should Notre Dame get by that game, the Irish would be lined up for a matchup with the tourney's No. 2 seed, either Connecticut, Pittsburgh or Lousiville in the quarterfinals.

Each of the first three potential games for Notre Dame in New York will be scheduled for 7 p.m. A Notre Dame semifinal game would be held at 9 p.m. as is Saturday's championship.

Ayers was asked if his team could win five games in five days and responded simply, "Yes."

But his head coach is not sure that's the only way to get there.

"Two puts you back up on the board I feel like," said Brey. "Three really puts you back up on the board. Four, it's over baby."

GETTING THOSE LEGS READY: As Notre Dame tried to make their case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament down the stretch of the regular season, Brey said that he felt his team needed to do it by playing man-to-man defense. Now, with little chance at gaining an at-large spot in the field of 65, Brey has reversed his course of action.

Notre Dame played almost entirely zone against the Red Storm, which should help save their legs for the conference tournament and get them ready to play zone there which is almost mandatory if they are going to make a serious run.

"A little bit of both," said Brey. "We rebounded well out of it and we can run out of it. It's certainly something you want to have ready if you're going to play a lot of games in New York City."

The approach worked well against St. John's, who shot 29% and just 13% from beyond the arc, but the Red Storm had plenty of open looks that just did not fall, which will not be the case in New York.

LOOSE BALLS: With Zeller starting in place of Tory Jackson on Senior Night, Luke Harangody took Jackson's place as chest-bumper during pregame introductions… Carleton Scott unveiled a new hairdo, coming out Friday with a mohawk… Ben Hansbrough, who is sitting out this year after transferring from Mississippi State, missed his team's Senior Day so that he could travel to North Carolina for his older brother Tyler's Senior Day in Chapel Hill on Sunday.

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