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Daily Dish - 2.14.12

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Junior men's basketball forward Jack Cooley (Glenview, Ill.) has been named the BIG EAST Player of the Week after registering back-to-back double-doubles for Notre Dame in wins last week against West Virginia and DePaul. He averaged 21.5 points and 13.0 rebounds to earn his first career player-of-the-week honor. Cooley, who is averaging 11.5 points and 8.8 rebounds this season, had previously been named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on four occasions ... In Notre Dame's 55-51 win over the Mountaineers in Morgantown, Cooley played 33 minutes and scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds ... Against the Blue Demons, he matched his career best with 22 points and also grabbed 14 rebounds ... In addition, he equaled his career high with four blocked shots ... He leads the Irish with eight double-doubles that includes six in BIG EAST play.

Jay Bilas' "Bilas Index" this week on ESPN.com has Notre Dame rated 45th nationally. The Irish men's team made the polls this week for the first time this season--23rd by AP and 25th by ESPN/USA Today. CBSSports.com's Top 25 (and one) poll had the Irish rated 18th this week. SI.com's Seth Davis lists the Irish 21st this week. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Bracketology this week projects Notre Dame as a #7 NCAA seed playing #10 Purdue in Greensboro. Another projected bracket on CBSSports.com by Jerry Palm (before the DePaul game) had the Irish at a #8 NCAA seed playing #9 Illinois in Louisville.

The Notre Dame Bengal Bouts--the University's 82nd club boxing event--continues with quarterfinals Feb. 22 (6 p.m.), semifinals Feb. 28 (6 p.m.) and finals March 3 (7 p.m.). All proceeds benefit the Holy Cross Missions of Bangladesh.

The Notre Dame men's golf team advanced into the semifinals at The Match Play, earning wins over Loyola Chicago and Villanova Monday at the Reunion Resort Watson Course in Orlando, Fla. The Irish took down the Ramblers 5.5-0.5 in the opening roundbefore defeating the Wildcats 4.0-2.0 in quarterfinal action. Seniors Chris Walker (The Woodlands, Texas) and Tom Usher (Baildon, England) as well as sophomore Niall Platt (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and freshman Tyler Wingo (Fairfax, Va.) paced the Irish through their opening two matches, winning each of their respective contests to notch the maximum two points on the day...

Following Flynt - Six In A Row

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It took the crowd (and the team) a little while to get going this afternoon at Purcell Pavilion, but the Notre Dame men's basketball team won its sixth straight game, a 84-76 victory over the DePaul Blue Demons.

After a 34-34 halftime tie, the Irish outscored DePaul 50-42 in the second half to improve to 9-3 in the BIG EAST and 17-8 overall. A team once left for dead, at this point it is probably safe to say Notre Dame controls its own postseason destiny. With six games to play, the Irish are tied with Marquette for second place in the conference, behind #2 Syracuse.

Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant led the Fighting Irish with 22 points apiece. Cooley also grabbed 14 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. He blocked four shots and drew a key offensive foul in the closing minutes.

Eric Atkins also finished in double figures for Notre Dame, tallying 14 points.

The Irish have not lost since Jan. 16 in Piscataway, N.J. against Rutgers. Interestingly enough, they will look for a seventh straight win on Wednesday against, who else? The Scarlet Knights.

The game begins at 7 pm ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU. Follow the live blog right here on Irish UNDerground and stay tuned to UND.com for highlights from today's contest and post-game presser.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. DePaul

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Notre Dame continues BIG EAST Conference action this afternoon at Purcell Pavilion when it takes on DePaul at 12:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today'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.

Hear It From a Student - Shattering Expectations

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martindunk.jpg Things were looking rough with just over two minutes to go in the second half last night as the men's hoops squad struggled to get some momentum going on the road against a tough West Virginia team. Notre Dame was 2-for-18 from three-point range, and it seemed like a young Irish team was going to have a rough loss in Morgantown.

It could have been one of those difficult losses that conventional wisdom says every young team has to undergo as a "learning experience" when you play in a incredibly tough conference like the Big East.

Bang. Eric Atkins drains a three pointer.

Bang. Jerian Grant, who before was just 1-of-6 from three-point range, calmly strokes a trey with 25 seconds on the shot clock.

Bang. Scott Martin buries a three.

Suddenly, Notre Dame had a six-point lead with less than a minute remaining, and the team never looked back. The Irish defeated the Mountaineers, 55-49, and once again went against the script and shattered expectations.

This season's team is going on the road and beating tough teams at the end of games. That's something you expect from a team of veteran starters, guys who have been playing together for years. But this team is starting two sophomores and a freshman, and every member of the starting lineup could return next year.

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Making it to the NCAA tournament seemed like a pipe dream. Now, the student body is debating how high we should be ranked in next week's top 25.

What could have been a down year has turned into a showcase for Mike Brey's ability to reload and retool his team. The Irish have grown as a team, using Brey's burn offense to slow down the clock and make big plays with little time left on the shot clock. They've dictated the pace and tempo of games, and managed to hang with the best in the Big East.

Somehow, Notre Dame is 8-3 in the Big East. Somehow, this team seems like a safe bet to make it to the NCAA tournament. Somehow, Brey has done it again.

A team that wasn't supposed to come together and be good until next year or the year after that (by the way, imagine how good this team will be with more time to develop) is ready to compete - and not just to compete, but to win - right now.

As a fan, I can't believe what I'm watching. This mixture of defense, chemistry, and clutch shooting has been absolutely unbelievable.

I am loving every second of this season, and I am going to follow these players as far as they can take us. The way this team has been playing lately, I wouldn't be surprised if this ride lasts all the way into March Madness.

And once you make it there, anything can happen, right?

- Tom McGuire ('14)

Journeys With Jack

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5975546.jpeg UND.com's Jack Nolan takes Irish fans inside the men's basketball program ...

I first started announcing Notre Dame men's basketball games in 1982. During the past 30 years I have had the pleasure of describing to Irish fans the exploits of many outstanding Notre Dame teams, but no Irish team during the past three decades has consistently exceeded my expectations more than this year's squad.

When the team walked off the floor after losing at Gonzaga by 20 points in November, no one - and I mean no one - could have expected them to go on to beat five ranked teams by the first weekend in February. But that is exactly what has happened. (And as I write this, Notre Dame and Ohio State are the only teams in the nation to beat five ranked teams this season. The Buckeyes are ranked third in both of this week's polls. The Irish are still not ranked in either polls!)

This is probably just fine with a Notre Dame team that likes to "stay under the radar." However, attention is starting to be paid to the team's efforts as Mike Brey's squad did receive enough votes to rank 26th in both polls this week.

An argument can be made that Brey is turning in the best coaching job of his career with a team that lost a John Wooden Award candidate in Tim Abromaitis the day after Thanksgiving. That says a lot when you consider that Brey is the reigning National Coach of the Year (the only Notre Dame men's basketball coach to win the award) and also picked up his third BIG EAST Coach of Year Award last season - an award voted on by the coaches he competes against every night in conference play.

This year's team is winning by controlling the tempo on both ends of the floor and by imposing its will on the opposition. It is not an easy way to win. Brey's constant focus on pushing his players to get better every day, to always deliver a complete effort while also making sure the players remain confident on both ends of the floor makes winning this way possible. His ability to know what buttons to push and when to push those buttons has been extremely impressive.

A few examples: In the days leading up to the BIG EAST opener against No. 22 Pittsburgh, Brey added a catch-and-shoot three-point drill to practice. Against the Panthers, Alex Dragicevich scored a career-high 22 points including a career-high four three-pointers in the second half when the Irish broke open a close game to build a 17-point lead before cruising to a 72-59 win.

Brey and his staff, a staff he often praises, have come up with some great game plans this season. After a tough loss at Cincinnati during a five-day road trip after the Pitt win, the team regrouped and worked on a game plan to control No. 10 Louisville's attacking transition offense, in particular point guard Peyton Siva. The Irish ended up winning in double overtime, handing Louisville what was only its fourth loss ever at the Yum Center. Even more, Siva was held to four points during regulation.

No. 1 Syracuse came to Notre Dame with the Irish on a two-game losing streak. During the days leading up to the game, Brey resurrected an old three-point shooting drill in which the team splits in two groups and competes against each other. The Irish shot 50% from three-point land against the Orange in the game, which included six three-pointers from four different players in the first half as Notre Dame built an 18-point lead on the way to beating the nation's top ranked team.

The following week on the road at Seton Hall, Brey sensed something was out of whack with the team's end of shoot-around free throw drill, so he changed it. Brey made the team march up and down the floor to each basket for four different repetitions of the shooting drill until the team made 80 percent of its free throws. That night the Irish hit 24 of 32 free throws on the way to handing the Pirates their first home loss of the season.

It is just a coincidence that the three drills cited have involved offense, because this year's Notre Dame team has raised the most eyebrows by winning with defense. Brey's Notre Dame's teams have always had an offensive identity, and that has led some observers to assume Brey does not spend a whole lot of time working with his team on the defensive end of the floor.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hear It From a Student - The Sixth Man

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If there is anything these last two men's hoops home games may prove, there's a reason everyone is talking about the Irish home court advantage. When the student section is filled, the lights go out, and the intro video starts playing, I always get full body chills.

But as magnificent as the sixth man has been in the last two weeks, these games have proven even more than home court advantage.

I have confessed before that I am extremely partial to Notre Dame basketball. More so - blasphemously - than I am to Notre Dame football. There is hope for the underdog of basketball in a way that there is none for the underdog of football.

This year's basketball team was the definition of the underdog - young and inexperienced with a heavy weight on Tim Abromaitis, who was supposed to put up 20 points per game. When Abro fell to a season-ending ACL injury, it seemed like the final blow to an already shaky Irish team.

Yet here we are, in February, looking at a group of young and inexperienced boys who are playing like men. They have a chemistry that is something to behold. They have a drive and a passion that is fun to watch. That is the thing about college basketball: a season can take a turn for the better. Starting out a football season 0-2 is a death sentence. A basketball team can take a stumble in the beginning and then take down the nation's No. 1 team.

This team always had my love, but now they have earned my respect. It deserves a full student section, it deserves a spot in the polls, it deserves the March Madness that is now looming. And as that sixth man, we absolutely need to be behind it 100 percent for every game for the rest of the season.

- Lauren Chval ('13)
WVU Coliseum.jpg

On Wednesday, the Notre Dame men's basketball team will look to add to its growing NCAA Tournament resume. Head coach Mike Brey's squad will try for its fifth consecutive win and third straight victory away from the Purcell Pavilion when it travels 437 miles east to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers. As many others have learned however, leaving Morgantown, W. Va. with a 'W' is no easy task.

The Mountaineers' home arena, the WVU Coliseum opened in 1970 (two years after the Joyce Center) and has developed a reputation as one of the toughest venues in college basketball. The raucous environment is due in part to the dedicated and passionate West Virginia fans, who made headlines in Feb. 2010, when the profanity and foul chants from the university's student section were loud enough to be heard on television.

Later that month, in a game against rival Pittsburgh, the students threw "T-shirts, plastic bottles and other debris onto the court."

Since the start of the 2006-07 season, the Mountaineers' men's basketball team has compiled a 78-11 record on its home floor (.876 winning percentage). Meanwhile, Notre Dame leads the all-time series 25-12, but has lost its last three trips to the WVU Coliseum. The Irish last won at West Virginia in 2005, when Colin Falls ('07) had five three-pointers and 19 points, lifting Notre Dame to a 70-57 victory.

With a 9 pm ET start, the fans in Morgantown will have plenty of time to get rowdy for the nationally televised game (ESPNU). Notre Dame is 15-8 overall and 7-3 in the BIG EAST (4th place), while West Virginia is 16-8 this season and 6-5 in the conference (8th place). That being said, it's a pivotal game for both teams as they gear up for the home stretch of the regular season and make their statement for a ticket to the Big Dance in March.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. Marquette

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Notre Dame continues BIG EAST Conference action this afternoon at Purcell Pavilion when it takes on #15 Marquette at 1:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will 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.

Memorable Against Marquette

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Buzzer Beater 3's Never Get Old

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Event Calendar

November 15
1:00 PM
Bucknell
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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November 15
1:00 PM
Syracuse Final
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

ESPN3
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November 15
1:00 PM
Miami
Coral Gables, Fla.

ESPN3
Live Stats
November 15
All Day
Bulldog Scramble
Athens, Georgia (Dan Magill Tennis Center)
November 15
All Day
USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships
Flushing, N.Y. (USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center)
November 17
7:00 PM
Milwaukee
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN3
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November 18
7:00 PM
Toledo
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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November 19
TBA
NCAA First Round
Campus Sites
November 20
TBA
vs. TBD
Campus sites

Interactive Bracket
November 20
7:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)
November 20
7:15 PM
UMass-Lowell
Lowell, Mass. (Tsongas Center)

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November 20
All Day
Boilermaker Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 20
All Day
Boilermaker Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 21
7:30 PM
Boston College
Boston, Mass.(Fenway Park)

NBCSN
Game Week Central
Uniform Gallery Photos
Shamrock Series Merchandise
November 21
2:00 PM
UMass-Lowell
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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November 21
3:00 PM
South Dakota State
Brookings, S.D. (Frost Arena)

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November 21
12:00 PM
NCAA Championship
Louisville, Ky. (EP Tom Sawyer State Park)
November 21
7:05 PM
UMass-Lowell
Lowell, Mass. (Tsongas Center)

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November 21
All Day
Boilermaker Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 21
All Day
Boilermaker Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 22
TBA
NCAA Second Round
Campus Sites
November 22
TBA
NCAA Third Round
Campus Sites

Interactive Bracket
November 22
1:00 PM
Clemson
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)
November 22
All Day
Boilermaker Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 22
All Day
Boilermaker Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 23
8:00 PM
Valparaiso
Valpraraiso, Ind. (Athletics-Recreation Center)

ESPN3
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