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Does Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team even have a prayer?

“… But I love our group.  I love our will to win.” – Mike Brey, Notre Dame MBB HC

Last Friday night, Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team pulled off an incredible victory when it showed tenacity by remaining steadfast in a competitive match up that took place at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.  The question lots of folks are wondering today is whether or not ND can do it again when they face the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels.

A quick glance at the stats for Notre Dame’s men’s basketball ‘best performances’ includes some great runs but none of those best performances include a championship. North Carolina, on the other hand has won the NCAA championship in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, and 2009. So what about this year? Does Notre Dame even have a prayer?

Many of the sports reporters here in Philadelphia, including some who cover Notre Dame, have expressed wonder that the team has managed to make it to the Elite 8. In fact, last night I happened to meet up with one of the reporters who cover the team while we were both taking in the Villanova-Kansas game, and he expressed how surprised he is that Notre Dame has come so far. “It’s not that they are not good but the question is whether they are good enough. I really thought Wisconsin was on its way to winning on Friday night, I was shocked Notre Dame won,” he said.

One of the things I noticed while watching all of the teams that showed up here in Philadelphia for the 2016 NCAA Regional is that Notre Dame is taking the tournament very seriously. Even during practice they seem to have their eye on the prize. Yesterday, Coach Mike Brey, shared how thrilled he is to be back in the position to advance to the Final Four. “We’re thrilled to be back in this position again a year later, with a chance to go to a Final Four. We know we play a team that I think is playing the best in the country right now. They seem to have put it all together. And we certainly saw it up close and personal in Washington D.C. in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament,” Brey shared, during yesterday’s press conference.

While it might be unlikely that Notre Dame will be victorious tonight, any statistician will tell you, and there is always a chance. Although many have picked UNC to win it all, when it comes to March Madness, anything is possible. President Obama had Kansas beating UNC in the championship game on his bracket. Those who are following the madness know that last night Kansas lost. In a game that many experts and several Villanova fans expected the Wildcats to choke, Villanova managed to pull off a stunning victory in a game that had ‘Nova fans glued to their seats until the final seconds. No doubt, Carolina was also paying close attention to last night’s game as well.

Most experts, including those in Vegas, are giving Notre Dame at least nine points and predict the total to be somewhere around 154. Two weeks ago, Carolina crushed the Irish by a score of 78-47 and earned a spot in the ACC Tournament final. Only back in February, it was Notre Dame who managed to rally when they beat UNC by a score of 80-76 in a game where Demetrius Jackson scored 19 points. In that game, Notre Dame, had trailed by as much as 15.

Can Notre Dame pull off a victory today? Of course, but it won’t be easy. To quote the words of ND Head Coach, Mike Brey, “We have found ways to continually make things interesting and we’re excited about the challenge…” Tonight’s game will definitely be interesting and if Notre Dame can pull off a victory tonight, there’s no telling what the team can “will itself” to do should it continue on to Houston.

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Michelle has been a sports writer and analyst for many years. Now, as host of Neutral Court, sponsored by In The Zone, Michelle brings a new sports topic to the debate floor with each episode.
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