Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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46 FEBRUARY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY MATT JONES N otre Dame's 2-0 start in Atlan- tic Coast Conference play had 17th-year head coach Mike Brey telling his players to be greedy. A 3-0 start to league play? That had the Irish playing with house money. "We played in the Big East when it was the best league, and we play in the ACC when it's the best league," Brey said. "Anytime you can get a 2-0 start, 3-0 start is obviously huge." With wins by one point, seven points and five points — all games that came down to the final minute — Notre Dame began its conference season with three victories against Pittsburgh, then-No. 9 Louisville and Clemson, respectively. It was just the second 3-0 start in league play for the Irish under Brey. Notre Dame also achieved the feat in 2014-15. Notre Dame (14-2 overall) was one of just six major power con- ference teams to start league play 3-0 this year. The only other undefeated ACC team as of Jan. 9 was Florida State. "We're 3-0 by the skin of our teeth, three skin-of-the-teeth ones," Brey said after a 75-70 come-from-behind victory over Clemson Jan. 7. "It may not be skin of the teeth, because we really kind of believe when we get into these situations. It's part of the culture. "I'm not shocked because I knew the league was really balanced and people would be taking punches," he added. "I certainly expected to take one or two already. I am thrilled that we're sitting at 3-0. "It's a great way to start this league." The Irish were ranked No. 20 in the nation by the Associated Press after they defeated Louisville — a 77-70 win at Purcell Pavilion — and Clemson. According to Brey, the fast start in league play essentially can- celed out missed opportunities for wins over No. 1 Villanova and No. 15 Purdue, games in which Notre Dame led by double-digit points. And it starts with the culture in the locker room with captains like senior guard Steve Vasturia. "We're just a fearless team," Vas- turia said. "We're not afraid of a challenge. We've done a really good job of staying together as a group. I think when you're playing close games you're going to have some ups and downs, but being able to stay together, stick together, bounce back after a tough play, bounce back after a tough defensive possession, it's key to being a good team and winning games. "Our confidence is extremely high, and we can take that and continue to get better." The win over Clemson came in Brey's 700th as a Division I head coach. Brey was 469-231 over the 700 games in 22 seasons at Delaware and Notre Dame. "Thank God my faculties are good and I have a good memory," Brey said. "I'll be with one of my Delaware guys and they'll bring up a game against Northeastern and I'll remember the plays. I'll even remember what I said. "I've been really fortunate to be in this profession as long as I am. I've had really good players and great assistants." Can Brey coach another 700 games? HOUSE MONEY Irish jump out to 3-0 start in ultra-competitive ACC Notre Dame opened ACC action with wins over Pittsburgh, Louisville and Clemson, marking just the second time in 17 years under head coach Mike Brey it has started 3-0 in conference play. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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