Big East Tournament: 10 Reasons Notre Dame Will Bring It Home

John RozumCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2011

Big East Tournament: 10 Reasons Notre Dame Will Bring It Home

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    This year Notre Dame's men's basketball team earned the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament.

    Ever since joining the Big East back in 1996, the Irish have yet to make a finals appearance, let alone win the conference.

    Under head coach Mike Brey, Notre Dame has tied their best 14-4 conference record and 25 win mark for the regular season.

    Also, the current No. 4 national ranking is the best the university has seen since the days of Digger Phelps.

    With all this being said, here are 10 reasons the Irish can bring home their first Big East conference tournament championship.

Mike Brey

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    Easily the best Irish men's basketball coach since Digger Phelps, and one Final Four appearance could put him on the same pedestal.

    A two-time Big East Coach of the Year (2007 and 2008), Brey could win that again in 2011.

    With this being his 11th year at Notre Dame, Brey has led the Irish to the dance seven times and has a Big East record of 231-116.

    Not to mention there have been five consecutive 20-win seasons in South Bend.

    Plus, you've got to love the fact that they now have "Mike Brey Night" at the Joyce Center where students show up and dress as the head coach.

Ben Hansbrough

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    Following in the steps of Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough is a candidate for Big East Player of the Year.

    He currently averages 18.5 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game in addition to putting in 35 minutes a night.

    Also, he shoots 49 percent from the field, 45 percent from downtown and 81 percent from the line.

    Now, based just on stats, it's tough to compare him to his brother, but just from basketball perspective, he is every bit as great of a college player as Tyler.

    He's also one of six seniors which leads us into the next reason. 

With Age Comes Wisdom

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    Six seniors on Notre Dame, and five have played in 26 or more games with three being in all 30.

    Come tournament time, whether its Big East or NCAA, the Irish have the senior leadership to make a lot of noise.

    As for credentials?

    Ben Hansbrough was the lone UNANIMOUS first team All-Big East selection while Tim Abromaitis was selected to third team.

    For as big as the Big East literally is with 16 teams, having two seniors selections is worth noting.

Team Chemistry

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    Okay, so the seniors have great leadership.

    And their high level of play with one another has given Mike Brey the luxury of the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament and a No. 4 ranking in the NCAA.

    Now how does that affect the younger players?

    It creates synergy throughout the team and enhances everyone's level of play, which then gives Mike Brey confidence in is his younger players such as Eric Atkins, Jack Cooley and Joey Brooks.

    Atkins is a freshman, while Cooley and Brooks are sophomores, and getting experience early is key.

    As we see on the next slide. Check it out.

Depth

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    Underclassmen Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley each have appeared in all 30 games while Joey Brooks has appeared in 24.

    With five seniors taking the primary load of time, it's important to have younger players step up.

    Atkins averages 25.9 minutes per game, and when Ben Hansbrough fouled out at UConn, he grew up before our eyes.

    It was a defining moment for the freshman, and his confidence should spread through the youngsters like wild fire.

    As for Cooley and Brooks, they combine for 18.5 minutes and 5.4 points per game.

    Obviously their stats are low, but in only being sophomores who play with some legitimate seniors, you can't expect much more.

    Thus, having eight players of out 12 who have received ample amount of playing time bodes well for late in the season.

Record vs Big East Beasts

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    The Big East currently has seven ranked teams.

    And counting everyone's current ranking, the Irish have a 7-2 record versus the Big East.

    The biggest win on the year?

    The ONLY team to go into Pittsburgh and beat the Panthers.

    They also swept the Connecticut Huskies, split with St. John's and beat Georgetown, Villanova and Louisville.

    The early conference loss at Syracuse was an eye-opener, and the Irish have since drastically improved.

    They know how to play against—and beat—the best. Now they have to do it when it matters most.

Scoring Offense

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    Third-best scoring offense in the Big East behind Marquette and Providence, averaging 75.5 points per game.

    With Ben Hansbrough consistently on fire from the field, downtown, and on the line, opponents have a lot to handle.

    Add in Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott continually putting up solid numbers while also dominating the boards, and the Irish look like the Big East favorites.

    Notre Dame also ranks fifth in the Big East with a 46.4 field goal percentage, fourth from the line at 72.3 percent and first from three-point range at 39.2 percent.

Rebound Margin

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    The Irish rank second in the conference to only No. 1 seed Pittsburgh with a rebound margin of 5.1

    It may not be one of the sexy stats so to speak, i.e. points, steals, blocks, etc...

    But, think about your team being down at the end of the game needing to make a run.

    We've all been there, screaming at the television for our team to grab the board for another 35 seconds on the shot clock or to get on the fast break.

    Taking a rebound and getting into the fast break or resetting the shot clock are momentum changers that sometimes go overlooked.

    Usually a big three, an "and one" or a devastating blocked shot receives more recognition, but rebounds can slowly diminish the opponent.

    If you can dominate the boards and not give second-chance opportunities while on D, and get them while on O, how much better are your chances at winning? 

Assists/Turnover Ratio

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    First in the Big East, fourth in the country with an assist/turnover ratio of 1.53.

    Also, the Irish currently have a total of 500 assists which ranks fifth in the Big East, and only 326 turnovers, ranking them first in the conference and tenth in the NCAA.

    As for their per game average?

    They're ranked third in the conference and 12th in the country with 16.7 assists.

    The even better stat is their 10.9 turnovers per game, which ranks first for the least in the Big East and 13th in the country.

    If they keep dishing the ball around to find the open shot, the Irish could go a long way.

Building a Legacy

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    Notre Dame has never won a Big East regular season or conference tournament title.

    And yet, they rank in the NCAA top 10 for all-time tournament bids (29) and the top 15 for total wins and win percentage.

    This year however, could be the year the Irish get over the hump.

    Winning a conference title, whether it be regular season or tournament style, will be a stepping stone leading into the big dance as well as future seasons.

    It helps build confidence heading into the NCAA tournament, helps with recruiting and adds to Mike Brey's repertoire of accomplishments.

    The best part?

    Winning the conference over teams that have outstanding college basketball traditions such as Syracuse, Villanova, Connecticut and Georgetown.