Having a record of 13-18 overall and 3-15 in ACC conference play, Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going into the ACC Tournament with nothing to lose. The Fighting Irish should enter their matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Tuesday afternoon with the mindset that they are going to play hard and leave everything they have out on the court.
This season has had its share of challenging moments for the Fighting Irish. Whether it be losing to Radford at home in the third game of the season or losing leader Rex Pflueger for the year after an injury suffered in a game where the Fighting Irish beat Purdue, the many young and inexperienced players for Notre Dame were forced to play heavy minutes in what is viewed as one of, if not the best, conference in the entire country.
Relying on many young faces to contribute paired with having veteran players T.J. Gibbs and John Mooney figuring out how to be leaders, Mike Brey knew that this season was not going to be easy. However, the only way to build towards the future is to get players experience playing on the court in big moments. While figuring out how to close games down the stretch needs practice, as Notre Dame lost 11 games by seven points or less, there is no question that they are a group that is going to play hard until the final buzzer sounds.
Building a culture and foundation for the future where the expectation is to play hard every game no matter what the outcome bodes well for the Fighting Irish for next season and beyond that. In their game versus Georgia Tech, if Notre Dame shares the ball on offense, limits their turnovers, and plays with active hands on defense then a win is very much in the realm of possibility. In two matchups this season facing the Yellow Jackets, Notre Dame lost 61-63 on the road and won 69-59 at home.
If they were to beat Georgia Tech, the Fighting Irish would advance to play the Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday night, who beat them 75-61 in Louisville on March 3rd. In what would be a tougher matchup for the Irish, it would be considered a major upset if they were to beat the Cardinals.
With no pressure to win any games in the ACC Tournament as the 15 seed, closing out the season playing hard for 40 minutes is all any Notre Dame fan could ask for. With all the contributing players from this year returning next season, as well as the injured Rex Pflueger, excitement should be high after a summer for everyone to get better and build more team chemistry.
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