#2 Seed Notre Dame Looking to Make Noise in Tourney

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“Ben is our nuclear weapon in a lot of ways, and Ty is a nice offset to him,” ND college basketball coach Mike Brey told the media this St. Patrick’s Day during his turn at the United Center podium.

When his #2 seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish set to take on the #15 seed Akron Zips tomorrow in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, I guess point center Tyrone Nash would be the precision missile or the smart bomb to Ben Hansbrough’s nuclear blast.

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Everyone knows Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year and Irish leading scorer at 18.5 ppg; but “point center” Ty Nash flies a bit under the radar- despite his extraordinarily unique abilities and skill set.

“He can score it enough. He doesn’t score it like Gody (Harangody) did. That’s all right. We don’t need that. He can kick it out and find people from there. So when he gets a touch, it’s really good.

“I don’t know if anybody in the country is asked to handle the ball like he does, guard a center, and then you know what, we may get (Louisville’s Peyton) Siva or (Villanova’s) Maalik Wayans in a ball screen and guard that little guy too. He does a little bit of everything. I think he’s gotten more confidence in who he is as a player. I think his bar was kind of low,” Brey said of Nash who is averaging just under 10 points and six rebounds a game.

ND is a popular pick to reach the Final Four, but first they need to get past the MAC Champion Akron Zips and their seven foot MAC Tournament MVP Zeke Marshall.

“He’s a long body, athletic guy, and he can block shots. They’re a good defensive team, and they get good shots. They shoot the ball a lot from the three. We’re going to be on our toes,” Nash said.

“We talked a lot about having played against teams like this, like Louisville, a team that shoots the three well. We’ve just got to be ready and focused and locked in every defensive possession.”

The Zips have other weapons too in leading scorer Nikola Cvetinovic, an all-conference second team pick and Steve McNees, the school record holder in career games played.

Notre Dame enters fresh off a stunning last second loss to Louisville (a #4 seed who were bounced early from the tourney by #13 Morehead State today) after beating the Cincinnati Bearcats by the second most lopsided margin in BE Tourney history.

They’re 26-6 overall, but could have easily finished 28-4 had they possessed the services of Carleton Nash for two of the games they dropped back in January. Most importantly, they’re 4-2 on neutral courts.

And they’ve learned a lot from last year’s first round loss to #11 seeded Old Dominion. ND went on a late season surge in 2010 from NIT land to grabbing a #6 seed, but still had an unfortunate early exit from the tourney.

“I think it scarred us for sure. I think it’s been the driving factor. The way we ended the year, at the very beginning of our summer workouts, we were constantly talking about Old Dominion, constantly talking about getting upset,” Hansbrough said.

“It’s been kind of like a driving factor throughout the whole year, pushing us and always remembering that. So it’s been a good experience for us in the long run.”

Tip is at 12:40, and if the practice session attendance is any indication, expect the Chicago crowd to be overwhelmingly in favor of the Irish tomorrow.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com


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