Our first pandemic distraction moves on inexorably into Week number four. The Big Wins in ND Men’s Basketball History adds seven more seeds to face the Week Three winner, and this week will determine which win makes it to the final-eight-except-the-one-we-all-know-is-number-one competition next week.
We’re getting into the creme de la creme at this point, so instead of being introduced to the seeds in competition order, you’re going to meet them before you see the polls, and you’re going to meet them in seed order rather than matchup order. And we’ll start with our representative from the lower 22, our Week Three Champion:
#21 Seed: #7 Notre Dame 66, #3 UCLA 63
December 11, 1976 — Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Like he did that day against Ohio, AC’s 61 points blew away the competition to win Week Two, and based on the first two rounds in Week Three, looked like it was going to be our representative here. But the Prevailing at Pauley (yeah, I know, but you do better if you can) took a solid lead from the off, and made it into this final week.
What Happened: Irish guard Rich Branning put in four points in the final 45 seconds, and Notre Dame not only won for the first time in Pauley Pavilion, they also broke a 115-game non-conference Bruin win streak and gave UCLA their 4th home loss in 12 years.
#15 Seed: Notre Dame 71, #3 Marquette 69
January 13, 1973 — Milwaukee, WI
What Happened: Although he’d do so more famously later, Dwight Clay wore the Iceman mantle for the first time in an Irish uniform against the rival Warriors. Marquette had won 81 straight games at home, but Clay’s jumper with two seconds left put an end to that streak.
Why It’s Here: The foreshadowing of what would happen the next season is cool, and as I’ve said before, ND defeating their biggest rival in the days of Al McGuire is a great thing to those of us fans who are of a certain vintage.
#14 Seed: #25 Notre Dame 104, #11 Louisville 101 (5OT)
February 9, 2013 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: 11 years after ND played in the longest regular-season game in Big East history, two teams known for taking each other to OT turned it up to 11 and broke that record. Jerian Grant led a 12-4 run in the final 51 seconds to force the first OT, and it didn’t end until Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton sank free throws in the last 20 seconds.
Why It’s Here: There were so many memorable OT games against Louisville, I felt this is the one that had to be included. It didn’t lead to post-season glory, but it did set a record that still stands today even though neither team is in the Big East anymore.
#13 Seed: Notre Dame 95, #9 Duke 91
January 16, 2016 — Cameron Indoor Stadium
What Happened: A career-high 31 points from Bonzie Colson led Notre Dame to their fourth win against Duke in five tries and their first victory against them on the road.
Why It’s Here: ND’s only win at Cameron so far is worthy of lofty inclusion, especially when it’s a top-10 Duke team with no one encumbered by back issues. There are a lot of ND home games on this list, so anything happening outside the confines of South Bend gets a boost.
Speaking of which….
#12 Seed: Notre Dame 79, #7 Duke 77
January 4, 2014 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: Eric Atkins scored 19 points and ND put together a 20-4 run in the second half to upset the seventh-ranked Blue Devils in their first game as a member of the ACC.
Why It’s Here: It’s difficult to overstate how much disarray the program was in. Jerian Grant had been suspended days before due to an academic violation, and the team spent most of the season falling just short against quality teams. But they put it all together against K, and started their ACC record 1-0. That felt reeeeeeeeally good.
#11 Seed: #8 Notre Dame 67, #23 Butler 64 (OT)
March 21, 2015 — NCAA Round of 32, Pittsburgh, PA
What Happened: Hours after his mother died of a heart attack, Mike Brey coached the Fighting Irish to their first Sweet 16 since 2003. Steve Vasturia was the high point man for the Irish, while Pat Connaughton’s shot block to force overtime will live in Irish history forever.
Why It’s Here: Brey’s teams tended to lose momentum in the NCAA tournament, and following up an ACC championship by advancing in the NCAA tournament was a must. Doing it in the wake of Brey losing a parent makes it even more amazing.
#10 Seed: #20 Notre Dame 68, #10 Illinois 60
March 22, 2003 — NCAA Round of 32, Indianapolis, IN
What Happened: Transfer Danny Miller scored 23 points and frosh Chris Thomas added 17 as ND beat the Big 10 champs to advance to their first Sweet 16 since 1987.
Why It’s Here: After the black hole that was the 1990’s, getting back to the Sweet 16 was incredibly important. Mike Brey’s team needed to follow up the two good seasons (and one total rooking in the NCAA tournament) by showing progress, which they did.
#9 Seed: Notre Dame 93, #1 San Francisco 82
March 3, 1977 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: In an for-the-time relatively forgettable season, the major bright spot near the end was the upset of #1 San Francisco and later-NBA-champion center Bill Cartwright. Toby Knight grabbed 14 rebounds over Cartwright and Duck Williams scored 25 points. But the big story was the Notre Dame student body, which was named MVP of the game by NBC sports after creating a raucous atmosphere with chants of “Twenty-nine (clap clap) and one (clap clap)”.
Why It’s Here: In addition to being an upset over #1, no other student body has ever been named an MVP before or since.
Week Four Round One Voting
Definitely some recency bias this week, and due to the seeding two of our OG entrants unfortunately have to duke it out in the first round. Some things can’t be helped, I guess.