Monday, January 7, 2013

Does Notre Dame Have Another Championship Contender In Basketball?

Could Notre Dame's basketball team also be a contender for a national title? (

Notre Dame's football team is hours away from possibly winning the BCS National Championship.

This is an impressive feat that will cause a lot of green beer (or Gatorade, for you under-21 fans) to be flowing in celebration tonight. It would also mean the Irish would be halfway toward accomplishing an even more difficult feat: winning the BCS National Championship and Men's Basketball NCAA Tournament in the same year.

But does Notre Dame's basketball team have what it takes to cut down the nets in Atlanta? Only one school, Florida in 2006, has been able to pull this off, proving how difficult the task is. Notre Dame is the only school in this year's football championship with a possibility for a basketball title. Sorry, Alabama, but you're 8-5 with losses to Tulane and Mercer. Plus you're 225th in the country in points per game (65.5) and 260th in rebounding (33 per game). It's just not happening this year.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, has quietly started the season 13-1 and is moving up the top-25 while riding an 11-game winning streak. The schedule hasn't posed many challenges, but the Irish do have wins against Kentucky (which looked better when it happened) and BYU on a neutral site. Senior Jack Cooley has been fantastic this season, leading the team in points (15.5 per game) and rebounds (11.4).

Some serious questions still remain with the Irish, first of which is Notre Dame has yet to play a true road game this season, with three games being on neutral sites. Second is what happens when the Irish are seriously tested? Their only game against a ranked team was Kentucky, which is just now working its way back into the top-25.

Conference play seems to answer all of the remaining questions, and the Big East is certainly the place to find answers. It may soon be dissipating into oblivion, but the Big East had five teams ranked in the top-25 before Monday's rankings were released, and Notre Dame will play a total of seven ranked teams (Louisville and Cincinnati twice) in conference play.

Question marks aside, this Irish team has the foundation for success. Notre Dame has experienced upperclassmen, balanced scoring (five players averaging nine or more points per game) that makes the Irish a scoring threat as a whole (averaging 77.6 ppg) and they are unselfish (No. 1 in the country in assists with 19.9 per game).

The Irish are not on anyone's short list for national champion picks, but neither was the football team at the beginning of the season (insert 'Luck of the Irish' jokes here). The basketball team will take the court hours before the football team tonight for a tough road test against Cincinnati.

Notre Dame football's championship fate will be decided by the end of the night. We'll have to wait until March for the basketball team's fate. While the football championship alone will have a big impact on the school, adding a basketball championship to it this year would put in an elite and historic class.

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