The losses among the major college basketball national powers piled up last week- BYU, Purdue, Duke. Opening the door for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to grab that final #1 seed. To quote ’80s one-hit wonder Spandau Ballet, “we know this. much is true.” Ohio State is the overall top seed; Kansas and Pittsburgh will join them on the top line.
The final #1 however, is up for grabs, and ND, with a RPI of #9 can take it if they reach the Big East Tournament Final game, something the Irish and Mike Brey have never done. They don’t have to win it- just get there. Having a double-bye in the conference tournament will help.
The current No. 4 ranking is Notre Dame’s highest since being fourth in December 1980. The last time they were a #1 seed was 1979, when they lost to Magic Johnson’s national champion Michigan State Spartans. And this year, they once again have a top line resume.
By Paul M. Banks
They’ve beaten the top 25 at home: Gonzaga, Louisville, St. John’s, UConn and Villanova. They’ve beaten Pitt and UConn on the road. The Irish also won the Old Spice Classic championship Thanksgiving weekend; taking down now #13 Wisconsin and a bubble team in Georgia.
Their only real blemish is the three game road losing streak at the start of conference season, but that is explicable as they were missing starting forward Carleton Scott. As is the loss at Kentucky. How many teams actually win in Rupp Arena in the non-conference?
But the Irish are peaking at the right time.
“I think with March here now, and a lot of teams going down and banged up- I think we’re really coming together and really having a flow now,” said star swingman Tim Abromaitis.
The Irish have a Big East Player of the Year front-runner in Ben Hansbrough and a conference (and national) coach of the year candidate in Mike Brey. Hansbrough was the only player to be a consensus all-first team league pick on Sunday.
“Ben was born with a chip on his shoulder,” as ND Coach Mike Brey glowingly said after the Irish senior night victory.
“And we have certainly felt that vibe a little bit. You know what’s great about this group? The old guys as I refer to them, they all played on the blue team and kind of roughed it through our program and played against the starters. Nash’s comment was ‘we’re the blue team all-stars.’ They all think we’ve got to ‘fight through this thing,’ as nothing was given to them early.”
All five former “blue team” Irish starters are seniors. (And they’re the winningest class in ND history) Three (Scott Martin, Abro, Carleton Scott) are eligible to return next year.
What’s been the key to a team unranked in the preseason, shooting up to become one of the top four teams in the nation?
“Our focus, the way we prepare everyday, the way we come into the gym and practice everyday. The way we just go out and handle our business everyday,” Hansbrough said.
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