Reconciling BCS loss with 2012 season no easy task for Irish

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Reconciling BCS loss with 2012 season no easy task for Irish

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Notre Dame made major strides in 2012, vaulting the program from the ranks of mediocrity to earning a chance to win a title for the first time since 1988. But that chance materialized into an embarrassing 42-14 loss at the hands of an Alabama team that exposed a wide gap between the two teams on Monday night.

"It's a season that not a lot of people thought we were going to have," offensive lineman Chris Watt said. "Being 12-0 and being No. 1 for a while here was great, but it's hard, too, especially at Notre Dame when that's the expectation, to win a National Championship. It's hard to reconcile a season when you lose."

As Watt explained the loss in that context, his teammates coped with various stages of grief. There was shock, frustration, acceptance -- and then there was Theo Riddick, who couldn't contain his emotions, weeping at his locker next to roommate and close friend Cierre Wood.

"You put so much work in with all your best friends," Riddick said between sobs, "and all you envision is to win, and it just kinda hurts right now.

"I wasn't really prepared to be sad," he added.

For Riddick, the sting of such a thorough loss wasn't mitigated by the gains Notre Dame made in its previous 12 games. His college career is over, as is the case for a dozen other seniors along with tight end Tyler Eifert and possibly Wood.

"We came in here, a bunch of us seniors shed some tears," wide receiver Robby Toma said. "It's been a great four years. Although this really hurts, one day we'll be able to look back on it and be proud of what we did. I have a lot of great memories here, and something that I'll always take with me. I'm just so blessed to be part of this whole experience."

Toma was on the end of the spectrum already looking at the big picture, one in which a single game didn't diminish how he viewed his time at Notre Dame. That's not easy to do, especially with the way Notre Dame lost to Alabama.

"It's a group of seniors who have taken this program to the next level," center Braxston Cave said. "Obviously we didn't finish the way we wanted, but these guys coming back are going to be here to take the next step and finish the right way next year."

There was a positive outlook on 2013 running through the Notre Dame locker room in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, too. Getting to Alabama's level is the goal, although more realistically, establishing a baseline of year-to-year success -- much like Oregon has done under Chip Kelly -- is the next step.

That's a big-picture analysis, though. For now, Notre Dame players are figuring out how a four-touchdown loss in the BCS Championship will look in the face of everything they accomplished from Sept. 1 onward.

"At some point, once you get past the loss, once you can cope with it and learn from it, you gotta say hey, we made it to the National Championship," wide receiver T.J. Jones said. "No other team can say that since the '88 team. And even though we lost, we got the experience so if we go back next year, which will be the goal, we know how to play, we know how to prepare, we know what it's like."

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

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AP

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

College basketball is back on CSN on Saturday as two local teams will be featured in live conference matchups.

In the first matchup at 11 a.m., Eastern Illinois will host Austin Peay in an Ohio Valley Conference clash on CSN+ while the second matchup has Evansville hosting Southern Illinois in a Missouri Valley Conference game at 1 p.m. on CSN.

Eastern Illinois (9-8, 1-3) is coming off of a conference loss to Murray State. Junior guard Montell Goodwin leads the charge for the Panthers as he's averaging 14.8 points per game on the season. Austin Peay (5-13, 1-3) just earned a tight win over SIU-Edwardsville to help end an 11-game losing streak. Junior Josh Robinson is having a strong season despite the losing as he's averaging 21.2 points per game for the Governors.

The second game will be on the main CSN at 1 p.m. as Southern Illinois (10-8, 3-2) tries to bounce back from a loss to Bradley. The Salukis are led by sophomore guard Armon Fletcher as the Edwardsville product leads the team at 13.7 points per game.

Evansville (10-8, 1-4) is coming off of three consecutive losses as the Purple Aces are trying to figure things out at home. Senior Jaylon Brown has been one of the Valley's premier scorers this season as he's putting up 20.9 points per contest.

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

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USA TODAY

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

Missouri Valley Conference basketball is back on CSN on Wednesday as a doubleheader begins at 6 p.m.

In the first game, Loyola will travel to Wichita State to face the Shockers in a 6 p.m. tip while the second game features Northern Iowa traveling to Bradley in a game that tips at 8 p.m.

Loyola (12-5, 2-2) has won two straight games as Chicago products Milton Doyle (Marshall) and Donte Ingram (Simeon) are both playing well. Doyle barely missed a triple-double in a win over Northern Iowa and followed that up with a career-high 35 points in a win over Bradley. Ingram has returned from a knee injury to give the Ramblers a boost as he had 25 in the win over Northern Iowa.

Wichita State (14-3, 4-0) has won five straight as they once again look like one of the Valley's best teams. Junior forward Darral Willis Jr. leads the Shockers in scoring at 12.1 points per game while sophomore Markis McDuffie is putting up 11.8 points per game. 

[RELATED: Complete NCAA coverage]

The second game of the doubleheader features Northern Iowa taking on Bradley. The Panthers (5-10, 0-4) have dropped five straight games as they're struggling to find help for senior guard Jeremy Morgan.

Bradley (7-10, 2-2) is coming off of a home loss to Loyola but they've had a solid bounceback season in head coach Brian Wardle's second year. The Braves only won five games all of last season as the roster has been revamped for this season.

Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces the Bradley offense at 12.2 points per game while junior forward JoJo McGlaston is putting up 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.