March 8, 2001
NEW YORK – Many wonder if this could be Notre Dame’s year.
Already it has proven to be one with unparalleled success. Just walking into Madison Square Garden, fans are bombarded with reminders of just how successful this year’s Irish squad has been.
Pamphlets are circulating boasting Troy Murphy’s candidacy for player of the year. Alongside regular Big East paraphernalia, are Notre Dame t-shirts hailing the team as Big East regular season champions.
In Wednesday’s play, there was a noticeable absence, the Irish. For the first time since joining the Big East in 1996, the Irish earned a first round bye. Usually, Notre Dame does the one-and-done routine in the opening round.
Instead of the Irish fearing opponents, Notre Dame is the one being feared. Just minutes after defeating Miami, Pittsburgh head coach Ben Howland turned his focus to the Irish.
“We have to do a better job with their other guys,” Howland stated. “We have to do better with Graves, Carroll and Humphrey. Also we have to watch out for Ingelsby who is a great player. We just can’t let them run wild on us.”
If Howland is paying attention to all of the team and not just Murphy then it is a sign that times sure have changed.
Thursday night provides the Irish an opportunity to prove that. Notre Dame takes on Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals. If the Irish advance, it will be another first for them.
“Notre Dame is a great team that has beaten us twice,” Howland said. We are just excited to have the chance to play such a successful program.”
Notre Dame handled Pittsburgh with relative ease during the regular season, beating them by eight or better each time. However, the Irish must adjust their plan from the last few games. The team will have to adjust to a healthy Ricardo Greer.
“Last time we played them in South Bend, my ankle and toe were hurting me,” Greer said. “It was just my luck that my back gave out on me when they came to Pittsburgh. Now I am feeling healthy and can’t wait to play them.”
It is that exact enthusiasm which the Irish should be leery of. Greer posted his best marks in the tournament on Wednesday night scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Regardless of the outcome, history will be made on the floor of Madison Square Garden. Notre Dame is playing for its first semi-final tournament appearance as well as Pittsburgh.
With all the history being made so far this season by the Irish, it seems only appropriate that tonight Mike Brey’s squad will add another accomplishment to its extensive list.