Nov. 16, 2000
From the Associated Press
Notre Dame narrowly missed making the NCAA tournament last season, but will look to amend that in 2000-01 as they open the season hosting Sacred Heart.
The 16th-ranked Irish (22-15, 8-8 Big East) can probably still feel the sting of missing out what would have been its first appearance in the 64-team field since 1990.
With four starters returning from a squad that recorded its first 20-win campaign since the 1988-89 campaign, the team is expected to accomplish more this season.
No player is more important to the Irish’s fortunes than All-American Troy Murphy.
Last season, Murphy became the first Irish player since Adrian Dantley in 1976 to earn first-team All-America honors. He led the Big East in both scoring and rebounding, which marked the first time that a player had led the conference in both categories in the same season.
In addition, Murphy was the only player nationally to finish in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding as he averaged 22.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
New coach Mike Brey, who helped recruit and coach the likes of Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill when he was an assistant at Duke, appreciates what a special player Murphy is.
“I’m very comfortable dealing with a special player, and Troy certainly fits into that category,” Brey says. “He has the whole package. I’m anxious to work with him. What makes Troy so unique is that, besides being a great player, he is a tremendous leader. He enjoys that role and knows how important it is for him to set the tone. He, as much as anyone on this team, wants this program to take the next step.”
Swingman David Graves’ perimeter game should provide the Irish with a solid complement to Murphy’s inside game, as Graves set the school’s single-season three-point mark with 83.
Graves was Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer, and the only other player to average double figures last season, as he netted 13.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest.
Playing Notre Dame for the first time, Sacred Heart (3-25, 2-16 Northeast Conference) is beginning just its second year of Division I play under longtime head coach Dave Bike.
Bike, who begins his 23rd season on the bench for the Pioneers, will be depending heavily on the trio of senior swingman Marijus Kovaliukas, senior point guard Kurt Reis and junior center Tim Welch.