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Notre Dame Preview: "Not the Irish!"

NOTRE DAME.

The name USED to evoke fear and awe. Not so much anymore. ND’s 2012 football recruiting class was better than it has been in years, but the days where opponents get nervous at the sound of their fight song are over. Fighting Irish basketball has historically had its share of good teams, too. But they rarely have intimidated their opponents, and certainly not because they have cute green clovers on their jerseys.

I say all of this as a precautionary note as ND comes to the Coliseum tonight to take on our WVU Men’s Basketball squad. The Mountaineers need to play with the intensity that they always seem to bring to games where they fear getting crushed. Notre Dame beat the same Syracuse team to whom we lost.

Notre Dame (15-8 overall & 7-3 in conference) is one of those teams that sneaks up on you. Statistically they are in the bottom 1/4 of the conference in offensive rebounding, scoring and field goal percentage. And yet the keep winning, including a 77-59 stomping of #15 Marquette last Saturday. How do they do it? They shoot three-pointers well and don’t turn the ball over (they have fewer turnovers per game than any other team in the conference).

WVU (16-8) has had plenty of rest of late, having only played one game over the past nine days. The OT win at Providence was desperately needed, as I believe a fourth straight loss (and to the worst team in the league) would’ve had catastrophic consequences on the team’s psyche. As it is, they know they now need three more wins to cement an NCAA tournament bid. A victory tonight against Notre Dame would be a quality win on many levels, not the least of which is to leave us only needing to win two of our last six games to finish league play 9-9.

KJ got his bad game behind him, and thank God he did so against Providence. Truck got his stroke back in the 2nd half against the Friars, and a game-winning 3-pointer has to have snapped him out of the funk he was in. Kilicli played the best game of his WVU career against Providence. I hope that he’s coming of age just in time for a post-season run.

I see a big win for us tonight. Maybe its optimism, possibly its the rest they've had, perhaps it is overconfidence because Huggins is a genius. Or, maybe I just don’t fear Notre Dame anymore. I'll give some props to the Cuse and to the Huskies, "But not the Irish!" (see Blazing Saddles)

I say that while simultaneously hoping our players don’t feel the same way.

Tip off is 9:00 p.m. EST on ESPNU.