More Than Luck For These Irish

By Josh Herwitt - October 24, 2007

NEW YORK -- After three straight trips to the NIT, Notre Dame found itself back in the NCAA Tournament with an 11-5 conference record and a fourth-place finish last season.

But after falling to Big South champ Winthrop -- the No. 11 seed out of the Midwest Regional -- in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Fighting Irish return in 2007-08 not nearly the same team as they were a year ago with forward Rusell Carter and guard Colin Falls taking charge in South Bend.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, nevertheless, doesn't see that as too much of a concern for this year's squad.

"I still think we'll be very talented offensively," last year's Big East Coach of the Year said. "We scored it at a high clip. We're still going to be able to score the ball, and I think we'll continue to make big progress defensively, which was the difference between an NIT and an NCAA [Tournament berth]."

With wins over Maryland, Louisville, Villanova and Marquette in 2006-07, the Irish certainly showed that they could defend the key as well as anyone in the Big East.

"Last year was good to us," Brey continued. "We were more physical in our paint, keeping people out of the lane. We don't have to reinvent the wheel because in our league, everybody's trying to get in our lane, and we did a good job keeping them out. Same format, same recipe."

Tory Jackson is another big component to Brey's defense, in large part because the sophomore guard has impecable quickness that allows him to get up the court and pressure ballhandlers for 40 minutes.

"I have not had in my eight years a guy that can pressure the ball like he can," Brey said of Jackson. "We can be a little better in man-to-man because what he brings on the ball.

"We want to force people to use their basketball IQs or lack their of."

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 05:27 PM on October 24, 2007

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