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NCAA Committee Does
By Alan Tieuli
(IE) – In the end, the NCAA Tournament selection
committee didn't give a darn that Notre Dame has allowed an average of 87.4 points in
its final five games, limping to the regular season finish line with four humbling losses.
In the final tabulation, it didn't matter that the Irish
finished fourth in its Big East division, tied with a Seton Hall team that didn't
make the Big Dance. The committee also turned
a blind eye to a 13-point loss to moribund
Thank goodness for tunnel vision.
A big smile broke out on Mike
Brey's face when he heard Jim Livengood,
the selection committee chairman and athletic director at
"Nobody plays a tougher schedule than we do," said Brey. "We are rewarded for the message we received
(from the NCAA) a couple of years ago. It's
Indeed. Is there any card
carrying member of Notre Dame Nation who is not happy to be seeded fifth in the West
Region? To be playing a first-round game
Thursday at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis? To
be matched up with Horizon League champion Wisconsin-Milwaukee (24-7)?
Most thought Notre Dame would be a six-seed at best, with some
respected bracketologists predicting a seven or eight.
Since Feb. 1, the Irish are 1-5 against teams with records better than .500
and lost in the first-round of the Big East Tournament to
As a result, the 22-9 Irish – who go through
"There is a God," said one member of the Irish traveling
party, weary of the constant travel this team has endured all year.
A victory over the 12th seeded Panthers (betcha didn't
know that nickname before tonight), will match up Notre Dame with either #4 seed
The first-round game also represents a homecoming for point guard and
"I hoped for this," said Thomas. "Even though we ended
slowly, I just got this feeling we'd be there in
Brey is happy to have Thomas playing in front of friendly faces, but
will also be pulling a curtain around the sophomore as week progresses.
"I do have concerns," said Brey. "I talked to him
about tickets, his cellphone. I will talk to him more about shutting down communication
For the rest of the squad, it's up to Brey to convince his team
of the value of playing aggressive team defense. The
Irish have gone 87, 95, 92, 80 and 83 in points allowed the last five and that type of
defense won't beat the last place team in the Horizon League consistently (that would
be Cleveland State), never mind the champions.
"It's something we've been talking about," said
senior guard Matt Carroll, making his third
straight NCAA appearance. "We realize that defense wins championships, we're
going to focus on that. We have to be more
aggressive from the start."
Saying and doing are two different things, but this night is for
celebration, not negative analysis. Notre Dame
is the only Big East Conference team to make the NCAA's the last three years, a
tremendous accomplishment for Brey and his players.
"I think it's funny we are talking about are you happy for
the seed, when not long ago we were on an 0-for-11 drought," said Brey.
Notre Dame has come out like a house of fire the last two years in
post-season, blasting Xavier (83-71 in