There's a reason they call it The City That Never Sleeps. Looking at the Madison Square Garden calendar of events, you've got to wonder if they ever even turn the lights out in the World's Most Famous Arena. On Sunday afternoon, the Boston Bruins met the New York Rangers in an NHL matchup. Tonight, MSG hosts four of the best tennis players in the world. The BNP Paribas Showdown features Maria Sharapova against Caroline Wozniacki and Roger Federer versus Andy Roddick, beginning at 7 pm. Tomorrow at noon, the BIG EAST conference kicks off five straight days of men's basketball action with four first round games. The tournament championship will be played on Saturday at 9 pm, before the New York Knicks return home on Sunday at noon to host the Philadelphia 76ers. It's safe to say the people in charge of MSG's logistics, planning and arena changeover are earning their paychecks. - Josh Flynt ('11)
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Conventional wisdom suggests a 16-team bracket plays out just like any of the four regions within the NCAA tournament - #1 plays #16, #2 plays #15, #3 plays #14, etc. Such is not the case however, for the BIG EAST tournament, which started on Friday in Hartford for the women, and begins tomorrow in New York for the men. Beginning in 2009, the conference started including all 16 conference teams in the postseason tournament, while prior to that, only the top 12 in the regular season standings qualified. Often considered the toughest basketball conference in college basketball, the current tournament format rewards teams who make it through the 18-game regular season schedule with few battle scars. The top four seeds, which include Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati this season, receive a double-bye to the quarterfinals. Teams #5 through #8 are awarded a bye to the second round, while the bottom half of the league, teams #9 through #16 must play on the opening day. Last season, Connecticut (#9 seed) won an astonishing five games in five days to win the conference championship, before winning six straight in the NCAA tournament, on its way to a national title. Given Notre Dame's position as a #3 seed in this year's tournament, the Fighting Irish will play Thursday at 9 pm ET on ESPN against #6 South Florida or the winner of #11 Rutgers and #14 Villanova. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Jack Cooley must have heard the criticism following his 2-point, 0-rebound night in Monday's loss to Georgetown. The junior forward responded in a big way, tallying 21 points and 10 boards in the first half alone, lifting Notre Dame to a 75-69 win over Providence in the regular season finale. It was a special night at Purcell Pavilion, as Notre Dame honored seniors Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin. Abromaitis and Martin applied for sixth and fifth years, respectively, but it remains to be seen how that plays out with the NCAA. Abromaitis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this past fall, did not play, but suited up for the first time since November. The Irish struggled offensively early, but held a three-point lead at the break, thanks to Cooley's dominant first half performance. At halftime, Irish great Adrian Dantley became the fourth inductee into the Notre Dame Basketball Ring of Honor. The 1976 national college basketball player of the year and a member of the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame joined Ruth Riley, Luke Harangody and Austin Carr being recognized with the program's highest honor. Notre Dame opened the second on a 26-5 run to build a 24-point lead over the first 10:05 of the half. The huge run was incredibly similar to last Wednesday's home game against West Virginia, when the Irish used a 28-7 run over the first 9:59 of the second half to open up a 23-point lead. Providence battled back, using a 12-0 run to cut the lead. For a while, it looked like the Friars would not get much closer, but a late 10-1 run cut the lead to just six with under a minute to play. Cooley led five players in double figures, finishing the night with 27 and 17. Martin added 11, while Alex Dragicevich (12), Eric Atkins (10) and Jerian Grant (12) also paced the Irish offensively. In the closing minutes, the student section chanted "One more year" as Martin checked out of the game, and "Thank you Abro" as Abromaitis watched from the bench. Throughout their careers, Abromaitis and Martin have not only led the Irish on the court, but have also been exceptional representatives of the university, away from the game of basketball. Let's hope they'll be back for one more season. With the win, Notre Dame closes out the regular season 21-10 and 13-5 in conference play. Head coach Mike Brey's squad locks up the #3 seed in next week's BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden and the Irish get a double-bye to Thursday's quarterfinals, where they will play at 9 pm ET on ESPN, against a to-be-determined opponent. Stay tuned to UND.com and Irish UNDerground for more coverage from the Senior Night win, and follow the Irish right here as they head to the Big Apple next week. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Notre Dame concludes BIG EAST Conference action this evening at Purcell Pavilion when it takes on Providence at 7:00 p.m. (ET). It's an extra special night, as the Irish honor seniors Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin, and also induct ND basketball great Adrian Dantley into the Ring of Honor. The game will be broadcast on the BIG EAST Network (WMYS Ch. 69 in the South Bend area), but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
Play on repeat. Very loudly.
If Marquette had won last night, Notre Dame's Catholic neighbors to the northwest would have improved to 14-3 in the conference and wrapped up the #2 seed for next week's BIG EAST Tournament. Had that happened, the Irish still would have been in control to earn a coveted double-bye, with the #4 seed being a likely option. But this is BIG EAST basketball, and we would be foolish to expect anything less than a chaotic conclusion. After all, the calendar turned to March last night. Instead, the Golden Eagles dropped to 13-4 with a 72-61 loss at Cincinnati. And perhaps more surprisingly, South Florida won at #18 Louisville, 58-51. With one game to play, Notre Dame sits in a three-way tie with Georgetown and South Florida for third place, controlling its own destiny for the #3 seed. Third place would be a great position for the Irish to be finish because it means they would not have to play top-seeded Syracuse, the nation's second-ranked team, until a potential BIG EAST championship matchup. If the Irish beat Providence tomorrow on Senior Night at the Purcell Pavilion, it will not matter what happens when Marquette and Georgetown square off in Milwaukee on Saturday. If the Golden Eagles win, they will be back where people thought they would be at the beginning of the week - second in the conference. In addition, if South Florida beats West Virginia, Georgetown will drop out of the top-4 and the Bulls will get a bye to Thursday's quarterfinals. On the other hand, if the Hoyas win, we could be looking at a four-way tie for second place with Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame and South Florida all knotted at 13-5 in the conference. Georgetown would get the #2 seed because the Hoyas have already beaten the Irish and Bulls once, and would also have a 2-0 record against the Golden Eagles. Notre Dame has wins over both Marquette and South Florida and would secure the #3 spot, while the Golden Eagles would take the final spot due to their 67-47 victory in their only meeting with the Bulls. If you're still reading, you're probably confused. Put simply: With a win on Friday, Notre Dame will be the #3 seed in next week's BIG EAST Tournament, an achievement no one in America expected of a team picked to finish ninth in the league. If the Irish do, in fact, lock up the #3 seed, they would play next Thursday, Mar. 8 at 9 pm ET on ESPN against the winner of Wednesday's 9 pm second round game. Sit tight. It's only March 1st, but the madness has already begun. - Josh Flynt ('11)
- The names of three former Notre Dame football all-stars--Dave Casper, Raghib Ismail and Jim Seymour--appear on the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A) ballot . . . The Hall of Fame class will be announced May 15 and then inducted at the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Here are details on the three former Irish players on the ballot: * Dave Casper - Offensive Lineman/Tight End - 1973 consensus first-team All-American . . . Notre Dame co-captain and offensive MVP in 1973 on national championship team . . . 1973 Academic All-America selection . . . received post-graduate scholarships from NCAA and National Football Foundation . . . received NCAASilvery Anniversary Award and is member of Academic All-America Hall of Fame. * Raghib Ismail - Wide Receiver - Two-time first-team All-American earning consensus honors in 1989 and unanimous honors in 1990 . . . Walter Camp Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1990 . . . led Notre Dame to a Fiesta Bowl and two Orange Bowls . . . set NCAA record by twice returning two kickoffs for TDs in a single game (Rice 1988, Michigan 1989). * Jim Seymour - End - Two-time first-team All-America selection in 1967-68 . . . set Notre Dame career records for receptions (138) and receiving yards (2,113) and for pass receptions in a game (13 vs. Purdue in 1966) and still holds record for receiving yards in a game (276 in that same game). Notre Dame has 43 former players and six former coaches already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, providing more inductees than any other institution. The most recent addition is former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, who was inducted in 2009 and enshrined in July 2010 in South Bend. - Consecutive losses dropped the Notre Dame men's basketball team to a projected #7 seed in two bracketology versions, with both versions sending the Irish to Greensboro. SI.com projected the Irish against #10 Harvard; CBSSports.com projected theIrish against #10 Southern Miss. In both cases the other half of the bracket featured #2 North Carolina. - Notre Dame's quarterfinal game in the BIG EAST Women's Basketball Championships at 2 p.m. Sunday in Hartford will be against either #8 DePaul, #9 USF or #16 Pittsburgh. - For the third time this season, Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week, it was announced Tuesday by the conference office. Diggins joins Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers as the only three-time BIG EAST Player of the Week selectionsthis season, with the Fighting Irish floor general adding four other BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll citations to her current resume. In addition, this marks the 75th time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (44 Players of the Week, 31 Freshmen of the Week), the second-most selections in conference history despite the fact Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, a full 14 seasons after the league began sponsoring women's basketball (1982-83). Both fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) and senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) also have been named BIG EAST Player of the Week at some point this season (Novosel on Dec. 19, Peters on Jan. 23). What's more, rookie forward Markisha Wright (Des Moines, Iowa/Des Moines East) was chosen as the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Jan. 2. . . .
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