Irish headed to NCAA Tournament as seven-seed

Irish headed to NCAA Tournament as seven-seed
March 17, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Mark Strotman

A strong finish to the 2012-'13 season helped Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish earn a seven-seed in the West region of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. They will face off against the No. 10-seeded Iowa State Cyclones on Friday in Dayton.

The Irish began the season 14-1, led by senior Jack Cooley and junior guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, before dropping three of four to fall to 3-3 in the Big East. But things changed when Louisville came to town and the Irish defeated the Cardinals--named the tournament's overall No. 1 seed--in a five-overtime thriller, 105-101. That began a 7-4 stretch to end the season, which helped them grab a top-4 seed in the Big East Tournament, where they defeated Marquette before falling to Louisville in the semifinals.

Ten-seeds have given the Irish trouble of late. Last year Brey's group, also a seven-seed, was ousted in the second round by tenth-seeded Xavier, and the year before that the second-seeded Irish fell to No. 10 Florida State in the third round.

Grant wound up leading the Irish in points per game (13.4), but it was the senior Cooley who did the dirty work. Named to the All-Big East first team, Cooley averaged 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in almost 30 minutes per game and while he struggled down the stretch, will be the engine that makes the Irish go against Iowa State.

The Cyclones are led by seniors Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee, and have wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State this season.

The Irish are one of eight Big East teams to make the NCAA Tournament, joining Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Villanova.