Monday, March 12, 2001

Irish back in NCAAs after 11 years




By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Notre Dame is the sixth seed, and Xavier is the 11th seed. But this NCAA Tournament stuff is a whole new thing for the Irish. When the Notre Dame takes Xavier Friday in Kansas City, it will be the first appearance in big tournament for the Irish in 11 years.

        It been so long that Irish weren't concerned with where and what seed as much as seeing “Notre Dame” flash on the bracket.

        “Given where the program's been,” said coach Mike Brey, “that was a great draw.”

NOTRE DAME FACTS
  • About the school: Location — South Bend, Ind.; Nickname — Fighting Irish; Colors: Blue and gold.
  • Record: 19-9 (11-5 conference)
  • Bid: At-large
  • Coach: Mike Brey (19-10, first year; 108-61 overall, sixth year)
  • Key players: Troy Murphy, a 6-11 junior, is the star. He averages 22.6 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. Was a consensus All-American as a sophomore. Ryan Humphrey, a 6-8 senior, is athletic and strong. He averages 14.3 points and 9.0 rebounds. Guards Matt Carroll (42.4 percent) and Martin Ingelsby (45.5 percent) are deadly 3-point shooters.
  • Notable: This is Notre Dame's first NCAA appearance in 11 years. The Irish are 14-3 vs. Xavier. The last victory came in last year's NIT 76-64. The Irish use a six-man rotation — starters Murphy, Humphrey, Ingelsby, Carroll and David Graves and sixth man Harold Swanagan.
        But Brey expects the excitement of getting to tournament to wear off well before Friday.

        “Six players who play all our minutes have played in a lot of big games,” he said.

        Xavier and Notre Dame are familiar with one another. They met last year in the NIT — with Notre Dame winning 76-64.

        Notre Dame star Troy Murphy welcomed the rematch.

        “It's just funny because we've played them and some of the guys, you're familiar with their games and things. It was just cool,” Murphy said. “It's better to play them rather than some team you've never heard of.”

        Brey did not coach that game. Matt Doherty, who left for the North Carolina job after one season at Notre Dame, did.

        But Brey is familiar with Xavier.

        “I know a lot about them,” he said. “Skip Prosser is a good friend of mine. He's a great college coach. This is a different, better Xavier team than last year.”

        So is Notre Dame.

        Murphy, a first team All-American last year, is having another big year: 22.6 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.

        But Murphy has gotten help inside from Ryan Humphrey, a transfer from Oklahoma. Humphrey, a 6-8, 223-pounder, averages 14.3 points and 9.0 rebounds a game. The other forward, David Graves, averages 13.9 points a game.

        Guards Matt Carroll and Martin Ingelsby both shoot well over 40 percent from 3 range.

        Notre Dame and Xavier had two common opponents: Miami and UC. Both beat UC — XU 69-67, ND 69-51. XU beat Miami 68-54; ND lost to Miami 73-64.

        Notre Dame, like Xavier, comes in struggling a bit. The Irish lost their final two regular season games to Connecticut and Georgetown, then were bounced in the first round of the Big East tourney by Pittsburgh.

        “I think momentum going into the NCAA tournament is overrated,” Brey said. “There are teams that lose in the first round of their conference tournament, they get into the NCAA tournament and take off. There are teams that win their conference tournament championship and they get nailed in the first round.”

Cincinnati.com tournament coverage



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