Notre Dame Basketball: Big East Title Within Reach; Legend Austin Carr Honored

otis criblecoblisContributor IFebruary 28, 2011

NEW YORK - MARCH 12: Ben Hansbrough #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish handles the ball against John Flowers #41 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the semifinal of the 2010 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish men’s basketball team extended its undefeated home winning streak to 16 Saturday night by beating back a determined Seton Hall team, 60-48.

The 23-5 Irish are still alone in second place in the Big East at 12-4, one game behind league-leading Pittsburgh (25-4; 13-3), who lost in overtime to No. 16 Louisville on Sunday.

With its final home game Monday night against No. 19 Villanova (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN3, ND Radio Network), Notre Dame has a chance to make school history with their first-ever regular season Big East championship.

Should the Irish win their final two games (on Saturday they play at No. 14 Connecticut, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2, ND Radio Network) and Pittsburgh lose one of its final two contests (Wednesday at South Florida; Saturday at home against Villanova), Notre Dame and Pitt would tie for the championship with 14-4 conference records.

In that scenario, the Irish would earn the title based on their win over the fourth-ranked Panthers on January 24.

Last Saturday’s game was certainly a great win for Notre Dame, but it was the halftime celebration that made the evening especially memorable, when legendary Irish hoops star Austin Carr was inducted into Notre Dame's “Ring of Honor.”

A second honor was also bestowed upon the 63-year-old Carr, as the lower concourse of the Purcell Pavilion was named the “Austin Carr Concourse.”

Notre Dame has had more than its share of basketball stars, but Carr was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.

The likes of Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott and Tim Abromaitis notwithstanding, the Irish have been blessed with many great players such as Adrian Dantley, John Shumate, Kelly Tripucka, John Paxson, Toby Knight and David Rivers, who was sighted at last Saturday night’s game.

But Carr stands alone as the best player ever to wear the Irish uniform and one of the greatest players in the history of college basketball. In fact, Carr is among ESPN's elite "25 Greatest Players in College Basketball," which also includes legends like Lew Alcindor, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

Carr, a consensus All-American and Hall of Fame inductee, played three seasons and 74 games for John Dee’s Irish (1968-71), and 40 years later he still holds the school career scoring marks for points (2,560) and per-game average (34.6).

A 6'4" guard from Mackin High School in Washington, D.C., Carr ranks as the greatest scorer in NCAA Tournament history with a 41.3 PPG career scoring average (in seven contests). His single-game record of 61 points against Ohio University in a first-round NCAA Tournament game still stands, and of the six 50-plus scoring records in the NCAA Tournament, Carr owns three of them.

He recorded 22 double-doubles during his career and scored 20 or more points in each game during his junior and senior seasons—58 straight contests—and in 70 of 74 career games.

In his junior and senior seasons, Carr averaged 38.1 and 37.9 points, respectively.

And this was before the NCAA adopted the three-point line!

"Austin Carr left an indelible mark on Notre Dame and the entire University community during the time he spent here as a student-athlete," said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics. "His athletic exploits and achievements on the basketball court were truly remarkable and exceptional. He is a true Notre Dame man and has carried himself with great dignity and class throughout his entire life."

"Austin loves and cares about this University, and...we are able to honor his legacy and all that he has meant to Notre Dame and our basketball program in a very unique and special way."

Today, Carr works as the director of community relations for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team for which he played during most of his NBA career, and he also works as an announcer for Cavaliers games on Fox TV Sports Ohio.

Carr not only deserves the “Ring of Honor” banner now hanging inside the Purcell Pavilion; he deserves a monument too.