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  • Irish Heading Southwest with a Layover in Chicago

    by Kevin O'Neill

    Notre Dame’s 26-6 season earned a #2 seed in the Southwest region of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  The Fighting Irish will play their first game of the tournament Friday in Chicago.

    Irish fans hoped for a #1 seed, but that honor went to Ohio State in the East Region, Kansas in the Southwest Region, Pittsburgh in the Southeast Region, and Duke in the West Region.  Ohio State is the tournament’s overall #1 seed.

    “I’m proud of our group to earn a 2 seed,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey.  “We haven’t been in 2-seed territory in our program in a long, long time.  Not only is it great for this team, I think it’s great for our program, and I think it’s a little bit of a — maybe an exclamation point on the consistency that this program has been for 11 years.  We’re thrilled that we get to go to Chicago.  You know, I think that could become a little bit of a Joyce Center West, Purcell Pavilion West for us.”

    ND’s first round opponent will be #15 seed Akron (23-12) from the Mid American Conference.  In line to be its the second round opponent will be the winner of the match between #7 seed (Texas A&M (24-8)  from the Big 12  and #10 seed Florida State  (21-10)  from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    The Irish are still feeling the sting of losing a 16-point lead and the game to Louisville on Friday.  Brey vowed that his team would be ready for next weekend.  “One of the things this group has done is stayed pretty hungry all year,” he said.  “You know, after big wins they’ve come back in a pretty even keel demeanor and felt what do we need to do for the next one, and after losses I think we’ve had our best practices, and that’s kind of the mode we’re in now.”

    “We stumbled,” Scott Martin added, “but we’ll get back up, and we’ll keep fighting.”

    Brey is pleased to be playing in Chicago.  “I think Chicago was very important, and we knew we were going to have a really good seed.  You know, a bus ride over there was great.  I mean, when we played at DePaul each year and this year not too long ago we had a great ND crowd, so I just think we’re going to have a heck of a following over there, and I think we’ll be comfortable there.”

    A record 11 Big East teams made the tournament.   The Big East has a total of 16 teams, so it isn’t the highest percentage of a conference’s teams to be invited to the dance; but it’s a well earned reward to a deep group of programs that provided one of the most entertaining conference seasons ever.

    The Southwest Region

    Kansas is the #1 seed in the region, the most likely team the Irish will play if they’re fortunate enough to make the regional final; but there is lots of quality in the way of that quest.  If they advance to the round of 16, #3 seed Purdue is the most likely opponent, and a rematch against Georgetown is a possibility.  Either team would be a substantial challenge, especially Purdue because the Boilermakers can match ND’s size and probably have an edge in athleticism.

    The Kansas side of the region’s bracket includes its own challenging opponents to assure that the Jayhawks earn a trip to the regional final.  ND fans are familiar with the difficulty #4 seed Louisville presents, and #5 Vanderbilt is tough and athletic in its own right.  Kansas will have to worry about underachiever Illinois, which plays the occasional great game, on Saturday if the Illini are able to get past UNLV.

    The Rest of the Tournament

    The East region is loaded.  #1 Ohio State, #2 North Carolina, #3 Syracuse, and #4 Kentucky all have enough talent to win the region; and several teams down the seeding – West Virginia, Washington, Georgia, Villanova, and Marquette – have those can’t-miss games where they’re capable of beating anyone once in a while.

    The Southwest region appears to be the one most likely to send its #1, Pittsburgh, to the Final Four largely because the region’s #2, Florida, was seeded surprisingly high and #3 BYU lost a starting forward to an honor code violation.  I wouldn’t call any region with the explosive Jimmer Fredette, Wisconsin, and Kansas State a cake walk, but Pitt will be a solid favorite if it has to play any of those teams.

    Duke’s road to the West region championship will be hindered by both quality opponents and geography.  The Blue Devils won’t have better athletes than #2 San Diego State is it comes to that match-up in the regional final, and the Aztecs will be playing virtual home games up I-5 in Anaheim that weekend.   #3 Connecticut showed its capabilities this week winning 5 games to capture the Big East Tournament crown, and #4 Texas was on top of the polls just a few weeks ago.

    Miscellaneous and Sundry

    • I’m willing to have my reckoning corrected, but I count 20 Notre Dame games against teams in the tournament field.  The Irish were 14-6 in those games.
    • 5 Big East teams are top 4 seeds in their regions.  Pittsburgh is #1 in the Southeast, ND is #2 in the Southwest, Syracuse is #3 in the East, Connecticut is #3 in the West, and Louisville is #4 in the Southwest.
    • There is a new broadcast format for this year’s tournament.  All games will be televised in their entirety on CBS or one of three Turner channels – TNT, TBS, and TruTV.  CBS’s college basketball teams and Turner’s NBA broadcast teams will share the duties, and they could show up on any of the channels.  The studio show will be a joint effort as well, so we’ll get join Charles Barkley’s world throughout the tournament.
    • Games will also be available online via the networks’ and the NCAA’s websites and will be free to users across all platforms, including the full versions of the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch apps over Wi-Fi and 3G.
    • Some intriguing second round games – In the West, #5 Arizona vs. #12 Memphis and #6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Missouri; in the Southeast, #6 St. John’s vs #11 Gonzaga and #7 UCLA vs. #10 Michigan State; in the Southwest,#5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Richmond; and in the East, #6 Xavier vs. #11 Marquette.  In each case, the lower seed is eminently capable of engineering the upset and the higher seed is vulnerable to it.

    When and Where

    The game is at the United Center on Chicago’s west side.  Game time is 1:40PM EDT, 12:40 in Chicago.  That leaves you time for an early lunch and a couple of Bloody Marys at Wishbone before you head to the game.

    TBS will have the broadcast.  I’ll post a game preview Thursday evening.

    – Kevin O’Neill

    17 Responses to “Irish Heading Southwest with a Layover in Chicago”

    1. Scranton Dave says:

      Joke that Duke got a 1 seed over Notre Dame. Typical Duke favoritism. They also put Notre Dame in Kansas region. Typical of the committee because they stick it to us year after year.

    2. JOE CHAMBERLIN says:


      • El Kabong says:

        Joe, don’t count on it. I’m a season ticket holder and I haven’t heard anything.

    3. I can understand the claim about Duke favoritism. They certainly receive quite a bit of preferential treatment from the sports media. However, the same could be argued about the Big East this year and by association the Irish. I, for one, think ND is better off as a 2 seed. If they were a 1 seed, then they’d be the lowest of the ones and would consequently be grouped with Ohio State and people would still be upset about the draw.

      Notre Dame’s grasp on a 1 seed always seemed to be flimsy. Most of the pundits only began to entertain the idea of ND as a 1 after Duke lost to UNC. Then, Duke went and won their conference tournament (against UNC), whereas ND didn’t make it to the final of theirs.

      All that aside, I think ND has a real shot at making it out of this region. Granted, KU is a tough out. But, the Jayhawks road won’t be that easy either; they have potential match-ups with UNLV and Louisville. Before they begin worrying about KU though, ND better concentrate on making it passed the first couple of games. And, they’ll need to get by a surprisingly good Purdue team.

      Regardless of what happens, it’s definitely going to be an exciting tournament … it always is. Go Irish.

    4. irishmark says:

      Duke won their conference tournament convincingly and are the defending National Champion. We’ve never won a title and didn’t win either our regular season or tournament title.

      Tell me how we got screwed?

    5. Notre Dame receives a very limited allotment of tickets for the NCAA men’s games in Chicago, and there will be no public sale. Student sale information will be e-mailed to eligible students Sunday night. Tickets to the Chicago games may be available through Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or go HERE. Full (three session) ticket packages are $243 each. The $243 price includes one ticket to all three doubleheaders – which is a total of six games. Cost is $225 plus a $15 service charge and a $3 Good of the Game fee. Single-session tickets will be sold only if seats remain available March 17.

    6. martinjordan says:

      At least we’re not playing the number one seed in their home state in the second round.

      A win against Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen might go a long way toward landing this 2012 five star recruit.

      SG 2 Gary Harris
      (Hamilton Southeastern HS)
      Fishers, IN 6-4/190

      Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Xavier

      Kansas lost twice to Texas. Texas lost at home to UCONN. ND beat UCONN twice.

    7. The Gipper says:

      Puke is always a committee and media darling but ND had a 1 seed in its sights and did not get the job done while Puke routed NC and the committee had no choice but to give them a 1 seed.

    8. Scranton Dave says:

      What does Duke winning it last year have to do with anything? Its about what happened this year. We didnt win our conference tourney but our conference tourney was much more difficult than the one Duke played in. Duke or North Carolina would also lose to Louisville.

    9. I thought ND had a good case over Pitt. Very comparable resumes, ND has a better rpi, and the head to head road win.

      Duke does have less losses, but still not the better profile. Please don’t bring up last years title as a reason for present seeding.

      RPI top 25 wins- Duke- 3 ND- 7 Top 50 Duke- 8 ND- 11

      Duke’s best road win was at Miami, ND took down Pitt and Uconn.

      • I agree on Pitt. You would think with them also having an early exit from the Big East tournament, more losses down the stretch, and losing the head-to-head, that ND would get the #1 seed for a Big East school over Pitt. Oh well, now I just want to see the Irish live up to a #1/#2 seed – no early exit!

    10. Scranton Dave says:

      Great post Jay!

    11. I have a hard time getting worked up over #2 seed vs. #1. I would prefer the #1, of course; but any team bumped to #2 in favor of ND at #1 would be having the same kinds of conversations as those above.

      The Fighting Irish controlled their own destiny. The loss to Louisville made the #1 seed a question when it could have been a lock. If they had won that game and still landed at #2, I’d be POed; but they didn’t, and I’m not.

    12. Quit looking to the past! Even recent past where we (or they) coulda, shoulda, woulda. Now it’s time to play ball like a #2 seed. GO IRISH !!

    13. ND probably should have got the #1 seed over Duke. If you check out some tournament predictions at you’ll see ND is projected to win the championship at a better percentage than Duke.

    14. Well it doesn’t matter now. I think ND had an arguement for 1 seed over Pitt and Duke but Duke winning out sealed it.

      I think the path to the sweet 16 sets up nicely. Then it is going to be all quality teams so it makes no difference what your seed is. Purdue and Kansas are good teams but are they really any better than teams we have faced all year?

      This is about will to win and impose your style of play….we were in no way screwed by the comittee. Appropiate seed, sent to Joyce West and easy 1st and 2nd round matchups. Not much more we could ask for.