Head coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish are one of seven BIG EAST teams that appear in the <i>USA Today/ESPN Preseason Coaches' Poll.

Irish Debut At No. 9 In USA Today/ESPN Preseason Coaches' Poll

Oct. 30, 2008

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men’s basketball team will take a top-10 ranking into the 2008-09 campaign as the Irish debuted at No. 9 in the USA Today/ESPN Preseason Coaches’ Poll. That is the highest preseason ranking ever for the Fighting Irish in the coaches’ poll.

Notre Dame is joined in the top 10 by three other BIG EAST teams. Connecticut is second followed by Louisville at No. 3, while Pittsburgh is sixth. Overall, there are seven BIG EAST teams in the top 25. That is the most of any conference in the nation. Marquette (17), Georgetown (18) and Villanova (25) round out the ranked BIG EAST squads. North Carolina tops the poll at No. 1.

Prior to this season, the highest USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches’ poll ranking for the Irish occurred in 2000-01 when they were 17th. The poll began back in 1991-92 as the CNN/USA Today poll. The last time the Irish were ranked in the preseason coaches’ poll was in 2004-05 as they were voted 21st nationally. Notre Dame’s highest-ever preseason ranking in any poll was third in the 1978-79 Associated Press poll.

Notre Dame returns four starters from last season’s squad that went 25-8 and fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Washington State. Back for Notre Dame is the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year and the 2008-09 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year in Luke Harangody (Schererville, Ind.), a junior forward. Fellow preseason all-conference selection Kyle McAlarney (Staten Island, N.Y.) returns for his senior season in the Irish backcourt.

Head coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish open exhibition play on Friday, Oct. 31 against Briar Cliff (Iowa). Tip-off is set for 9:00 p.m. (ET) in the Joyce Center.