Sleeping with the Enemy: The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame

No rest for the weary as the mighty warriors of the Potomac gear up for a big battle with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish tonight on Senior Night at Verizon, and as usual we here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON are bringing you everything you need to know about Georgetown's next opponent. Special thanks to our fine lad Rakes of Mallow for providing answers to our hard-hitting questions. Rakes of Mallow, this Guinness is for you. On with it.

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Irish eyes have had much to smile about this year. via www.thesportsbank.net

Are you guys actually serious with this team? Do you pinch yourself daily?

I've watched the second half of our comeback against Villanova and our mega-run against West Virginia from Wednesday twice, and it still doesn't make any sense. The only way you can rationalize is to use it as the ultimate example of how you can control a college basketball game with great guard play, which is not something you really expect when your backcourt rotation consists of two sophomores, a redshirt freshman and a true frosh. Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant are absolutely brilliant, hitting threes and getting into the lane on one end while disrupting passing lanes and taking away open shots on the other. Even when they've struggled for long periods of the game, they both have tremendous feels for the big moments, as they've continually hit big shot after big shot when the team needs it.

The best example of this might be at West Virginia a couple weeks ago. The Irish were an eye-bleedingly bad 2-for-18 from behind the arc and trailing by three with two and a half minutes left. The next few possessions went Eric Atkins three (tie game), Jerian Grant steal, Grant three (up three), missed jumper by Truck Bryant, Scott Martin three assisted by Grant (up six). In 90 seconds the team went from on the ropes to in complete control.

It doesn't seem like freshmen and sophomores who weren't top recruits (both guys were decent prospects coming out of high school, but we're not talking about a Jten-star backcourt) should be doing this, but they are, with Jack Cooley's transformation from generic Harangody doppelganger to All-Big East forward taking care of things inside.

More fun with the Irish after The Jump:

Have you bought a mock turtleneck in honor of Mike Brey yet? Speaking of the mock turtleneck, it blows my mind that the Notre Dame student section doesn't all dress up like him every single game. That'd be awesome.

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I work out! via media.trb.com

Your wish will be fulfilled when we play Providence in the final game of the season, as the Leprechaun Legion is requesting everyone wear a mock turtleneck and blazer in honor of their coach. Brey has actually busted out a - deep breath - collared shirt a couple times this year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him wearing one in DC, since he used them at UConn and West Virginia earlier in the year.

Be honest, is there a farm in Nowhere, Indiana that develops goofy white bangers that are transported to Notre Dame to destroy the world? If said farm doesn't exist, what would you name it?

I saw it posited somewhere that there's actually a crevasse where the Irish have found a treasure trove of frozen cavemen, which they've rationed so that it's possible to thaw one out every three years and throw him in the post. The farm theory is certainly seems valid as well. I could see Mike Brey making a triennial trip to Big Country Ranch to pick up his new awkward power forward, feeding him sugar cubes on the ride home.

How far does Notre Dame go in the NCAA Tournament? Do you need a Sweet 16 berth to feel good about this season or has it been awesome enough already that even a second round exit wouldn't sully it?

This goes back to Question 1, as I have no idea and would like an idiot trying to extrapolate what we've seen these last three months into tournament time. I think we're playing well enough that we'll get a beatable first round opponent, but after that, it's all about matchups and seeing if this Big East voodoo will work out in the wild.

As far as needing a Sweet 16 berth to feel good about this season, it has absolutely been awesome enough already. When you consider what Notre Dame lost between graduation and injuries (four starters from last year's top ten team) and what is walking in the door next year (three Top 100 recruits, two freshman and a Michigan State transfer), this was the ultimate transition year for Brey to just roll the ball out there and let his young kids take their lumps. Even a first round loss, as sad as it would be, wouldn't wipe away knocking off undefeated Syracuse or coming back from twenty down at Villanova.

What has been the most surprising aspect of this season? What has been the most disappointing aspect?

This is not the answer I thought I would give, but I think I will say the Big East opener against Pitt. Jamie Dixon's lads were coming off a loss to Wagner, but everyone still thought they were going to be your typical, top-of-the-Big East Panthers. Notre Dame was 8-5 on the season, having lost every game of consequence. I actually took my dad to the game as his Christmas gift, and as we watched Notre Dame turn a halftime deficit into a double-digit win, it was the first of many times this season I've thought "How is this happening? This doesn't make any sense." Other acceptable answers would be the Syracuse win or coming back from down twenty at Villanova.

Most disappointing? The loss at St. John's Saturday was kind of a downer. The Irish went 4-for-31 from three in a three-point loss, and most of those looks were wide open. It'll be interesting to see how the team bounces back emotionally, as a young squad hasn't had to deal with a loss in over a month.

Do you find it odd that Mike Brey, after this season, will have won 4 out of the last 6 Big East Coach of the Year titles without having reached a Sweet 16?

It is incredibly odd that he keeps winning these, and I think it has a lot to do with the writers doing a terrible job of making their preseason picks. Last year's Notre Dame team clearly had a lot of potential before the season started, but were still picked to be average in the league. When they ended up a game out of first place, you almost have to give the award to their coach. Meanwhile, the other teams that generally finish near the top are always picked to be there, while almost all of the teams picked to finish near the bottom stay in the cellar. The Irish are one of the few teams to consistently be upwardly mobile from a middling preseason projection to high actual finish, and Brey gets rewarded for that.

You've been tasked with starting your own college basketball program. Who is your first choice of Big East coaches to run it? Who is your last choice?

My last choice is your defending national champ, Jim Calhoun. He's old, he's having health problems, he's a cheater and he's incapable of graduating players. No thanks.

First choice is a little tougher. It seems like you go with Boeheim, Huggins or Pitino, but if you're looking for the long-term, I'm not sure what their expiration date as coaches is (Pitino already expressed that he wants to retire in a few years). Jamie Dixon and Jay Wright might have been the answer just twelve months ago, but that year has not been kind to them. JT3 leaves me a little cold, and I wouldn't trust any of the new guys, just because I haven't seen enough from them.

If you're just going for a short run, I think you go with Pitino, who has proven he can win at multiple stops, as opposed to Boeheim's consistently orange background. If I wanted to get someone who could be there for a decade-plus, I think I go with Brey or Buzz Williams, although with a combined two Sweet Sixteens between them, you're not guaranteed postseason glory.

It's your last meal in South Bend, Indiana. Where are you going and what are you ordering?

The one food item South Bend does very well is pizza, and my first choice is always Rocco's, a nice, family-owned restaurant a couple miles from campus. I'll keep it simple with pepperoni pizza, cheesy bread and a few cold ones.

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Documented. via dailyhomerenotips.com

If you could take any Big East player from another roster and insert him on Notre Dame, who would it be?

Considering he would give me size, three-point shooting and the ability to make Justified references, I'm going with Marquette's Jae Crowder. It would be very enjoyable to put Cooley down on the block and then surround the arc with Atkins, Grant, Pat Connaughton and Crowder, or to go big and play Scott Martin at the three with Cooley and Crowder as the other bigs.

Who ends up winning the Big East Tournament? Who ends up in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament and who cuts down the nets?

I want to see how they look in their couple games at Cincinnati and against your Hoyas, but I really like Marquette. They have two genuine bad-asses in Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, and it seems like Syracuse has been leaking a little oil the last couple weeks. It looks like the Irish's prospective Big East bracket could be Louisville, Marquette/Georgetown and then Syracuse, which is positively absurd.

As far as the NCAA's, I'm going to take Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke (I've found that I enjoy picking Duke to do well in the tournament, as the amount of joy I get from their elimination always trumps any sadness I get from bracket damage) and Marquette (I really like that team). Kentucky cuts down the nets, proving that cheating does indeed win and there is no justice in this cruel, cruel world of ours.

Complete this sentence. I would jump for joy if [INSERT BIG EAST TEAM] lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Considering Syracuse will be a number one seed, it would be awfully cool for a sixteen to knock them off. Jim Boeheim coached the first team to lose to a fifteen seed, so it would only make sense he has the distinct honor of giving a sixteen seed their first win.

Who's better - Jack Cooley or Luke Harangody? I am still fully convinced that the 2009-2010 Notre Dame team would have been better off without Harangody in the NCAA Tournament.

This is going to end up being its own expansive post, likely next spring when Jack Cooley is getting ready to don a giant cap and gown. Harangody won Big East Player of the Year as a sophomore and is one of the most prolific players in both school and league history, but his defensive liabilities (part of this was scheme, as he was expected to do a lot of the scoring on the other end) leave the door open for Cooley. I think when all is said and done, Harangody might have had the better career, but Cooley will be the guy you'd want anchoring your defense and manning the post on offense.

How do you see this game playing out? What is the final score?

This game triggers a couple of KenPom red flags for me. First off, the Hoyas are comfortable playing at a slow pace, so the Burn doesn't really bother them. Secondly, you guys are big, and actually use that size (38th in effective height). Nightmare scenario is Hoyas use their size to get Cooley in foul trouble, and either Atkins or Grant do something stupid and relegate themselves to the bench at the same time. The Irish start slow like they did against Nova and St. John's, only Georgetown is too good of a basketball team to let them crawl back in.

Georgetown has the home court, but the Verizon Center isn't the most intimidating atmosphere, especially with a healthy amount of Irish alums in the area (I was at the game in '09, fun times). The last time JT3 beat Brey was in January of 2008, and I think the Irish manage to keep that streak going in a very, very close one.

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