March 14, 2001

From the Associated Press

GAME: No. 11 Xavier (21-7) vs. No. 6 Notre Dame (19-9).
REGION: Midwest, first round
TIME: Friday, 10:25 p.m. EST.
SITE: Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo.

Notre Dame will play in its first NCAA tournament in more than a decade as the Irish face Xavier in the first round on Friday.

The Irish were expecting more than a No. 6 seed when they clinched the Big East West division crown with two games to play in the regular season. But after three straight losses, including a first-round upset by Pittsburgh in the Big East tourney, Notre Dame is thankful for the chance to face No. 11 Xavier at Kemper Arena.

“We’re moving on to bigger and better things,” said small forward David Graves. “This is a revitalization for us.”

Before its current losing skid, Notre Dame had won a school-record eight straight games. Irish coach Mike Brey believes the end-of-season slump will have no lingering affect on his team.

“You can throw out the whole momentum thing, it’s a whole new world,” Brey said. “There’ll be teams that finish strong that will get on a roll. There’ll be teams that finish strong that will be gone in the first round.”

Notre Dame, which last played in the NCAA tournament in 1990, is 14-3 lifetime against Xavier and has taken 11 of the last 12 contests, including one in last season’s postseason NIT.

The Musketeers are led by Atlantic-10 player of the year, center David West, whose presence in the middle could allow Xavier to beat the Irish.

“(He) was our game plan all year to get us 21 wins,” said point guard Maurice McAfee said. “He wasn’t the player of the year in the Atlantic 10 for nothing.”

The Musketeers were beaten by George Washington, 83-74, in the first round of their conference tournament. Like Notre Dame, Xavier closed with a 6-4 record over its last 10 games.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Xavier – F Lloyd Price (9.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg), F Kevin Frey (11.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), C David West (17.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg), G McAfee (9.5 ppg, 4.9 apg) G Romain Sato (11.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Notre Dame – F Ryan Humphrey (14.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg ), F Troy Murphy (22.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg), C Harold Swanagan (4.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), G Martin Ingelsby ( 8.0 ppg, 6.7 apg ), G Matt Carroll (12.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Xavier – At-large bid, Atlantic-10 Conference. Notre Dame – At-large bid, Big East Conference.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Xavier – 6-12, 12 years. Notre Dame – 25-24, 24 years.