March 22, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With the new found success of Irish basketball, Notre Dame head coach Matt Doherty is the recipient of numerous letters.
Some of it is fan mail. Some is not.
One specific letter from former Irish player Peter Crotty caught his attention.
Crotty said he attended a game and noticed the similarities between the 1999-`00 squad and the 1972-’73 squad.
For Doherty and his team that is a tremendous compliment. Crotty’s team went all the way to the finals of the NIT in 1973 and came in second. The team took the game into overtime against Virginia Tech before losing, 91-92.
Some critics believe the NIT is favoring the Irish by allowing Notre Dame to host three home games. Irish players disagree.
“We’ve had a tougher time in this tournament than BYU,” sophomore Troy Murphy said. “We went to war both games and played hard. We’re lucky.”
The Cougars are next up for the Irish. BYU advanced to the third round with wins over Bowling Green and Southern Illinois. Neither of the two contests truly challenged BYU, beating Bowling Green by 27 and Southern Illinois by 25 points.
The big wins by BYU means Notre Dame will not take the Cougars lightly. Doherty’s main approach is to let the team rest after Monday night’s grueling game. The team underwent a light workout on Tuesday. They watched the highlight film of the Xavier game. The Irish also walked through the Cougars offensive and defensive sets.
Doherty also tried to erase any thoughts of his team settling for what they have accomplished so far this year.
“We all know that it is easy to give in when you lose and can say, `Hey, we have had a good year,'” Doherty said. “I want more. It is nice saying that we have won 20 games but I’d like to get 21.”
The Irish record currently stands at 20 wins and 14 losses. It is the most wins for the basketball program since the 1988-`89 season. Doherty and the Irish players are not taking that for granted, nor are they overlooking what a great opportunity the NIT tournament is.
“Everyone would like to go to the NCAA tournament but the fact is we are here and we are going to make the most of it,” Doherty said.
Crotty’s letter reminded Doherty of how he can use this experience to plan for the future.
“You see a lot of teams that do well in the NIT, use it as a springboard for success in the NCAA tournament the next year,” Doherty said. “I hope that is what we can do here.”
Notre Dame faces BYU Wednesday night at 9 p.m. in the Joyce Center. ESPN will cover the game live.