Notre Dame ready to chase Big East hoops title
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 8:28 p.m.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After two months of playing mostly lightweight opponents and two weeks off for Christmas break, No. 21 Notre Dame is ready to begin its quest of trying to win its first Big East title before departing for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Coach Mike Brey and his Irish players set that goal in March after they squandered a 10-point lead midway through the second half and lost, 67-63, to Xavier in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Winning the league title has been their goal ever since, and they're happy to be finally starting their 18th season in the league.
“I think collectively our group's antenna has risen,” Brey said. “They've been waiting for this, to play through this league schedule. I think the attention to detail has just naturally gone up.”
The Irish (12-1), who have won 10 straight, are among three Big East teams who have yet to play a league game.
“We're just ready to get started,” guard Eric Atkins said.
The Irish, who were picked by the league coaches to finish third, open the Big East season noon Saturday against Seton Hall (12-2, 1-0 Big East), a team that was picked to finish 14th in the 15-team league. They then play Monday at No. 14 Cincinnati (13-1, 1-0), where the Irish have lost three straight.
Atkins said it is important the Irish set the tone for the league season immediately against Seton Hall.
“We need to start strong to even think about winning the Big East being one of our goals,” he said.
A win Saturday over the Pirates would give Brey his second-longest winning streak at Notre Dame, a game shy of the 12-game winning streak set by the 2006-07 team. Brey said because the Irish return five starters from last year's 22-12 team, he hasn't had to remind the players about the goal set last spring.
“One of the great strengths of this group is it has ownership of itself,” he said.
But Brey did meet with some players individually Wednesday to let them know that as well as the Irish have played, with their only loss coming in overtime against Saint Joseph's in New York, they need to be even better in league play.
“Just to set the tone of, we need more now,” Brey said.
Brey wasn't always pleased with the play of guard Jerian Grant, who came off the bench against Kennesaw State after a lackadaisical performance against IPFW.
“I was upset with him that week because maybe he wasn't as engaged. But he has been a big-game guy for us, and every game on the schedule is big now,” he said.
Brey also said Jack Cooley, who is leading the Irish with 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, is back at full strength after missing several practices with an illness.
The Irish started the season ranked No. 22, fell out of the rankings after their loss and jumped back to No. 22 after beating then-No. 8 Kentucky. But that victory looks a lot less impressive now that the Wildcats are unranked at 9-4, and Notre Dame doesn't have any other quality wins. That explains why it hasn't moved up much in the poll during its winning streak.
“At this point we don't care that much because we know we'll move up pretty quickly if we do what we have to do in the Big East,” Atkins said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NHL notebook: League adjusts Devils’ penalty for signing Kovalchuk
- NHL notebook: Canucks ship Luongo to Panthers
- Blackhawks’ Hossa injured in game versus Penguins
- Florida Panthers call up Upper St. Clair’s Trocheck