Notre Dame men miss NCAA Tournament, earn top NIT seed
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- After a season riddled with injuries, the Notre Dame men's basketball team has been officially been ruled out of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s almost kind of a fitting end to how our season went," said head coach Mike Brey. "We’ve had all kinds of heartbreaking things happen, and on the most important day, it was a heartbreaking day.”
Notre Dame was listed among the "First Four Out" and thus earned a top seed in the NIT bracket instead.
The Irish posted a 20-14 record, but a sub-.500 regular season ACC record and a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season proved too much for the committee to overlook, even with the promise of a newly-healthy roster.
With the return of Bonzie Colson for the final week of the regular season, the Irish received plenty of national recognition and were considered a "unique situation" for the selection committee.
But in the end, potential was not enough to overcome the resume.
“We did what we could do to be in there," said Colson. "We feel like we deserved to be in there, but you can’t complain or hang our heads. Throughout the season, we’ve had a lot of punches thrown at us.”
The Irish also learned that their hopes were dashed in the final hours. Committee chair Bruce Rasmussen said on the national TBS selection show that Notre Dame was the final team left out of the tournament. The Irish were bumped when Davidson upset Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 championship, earning an automatic bid and leaving one less spot.
"They always let you know the real deal," Brey said. "Notre Dame basketball has been the talk since Wednesday. It’s too bad we couldn’t get into the tournament, but I do know we were very fairly and thoroughly looked at. We were in, but the A10 championship knocked us out and as I saw that happen I got mentally prepared for the verdict."
Elsewhere, both Purdue and Butler were included in the NCAA field and could possibly meet in the Round of 32. Michigan and Michigan State both earned three-seeds in the tournament as well.
As for the Irish, the NIT is the final step in this season.
Notre Dame's top seeding set up a matchup with Hampton in the first round, which the Irish will host at Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
“Everything we’ve gone through, we find ways to have fun with each other and battle through everything," said senior guard Matt Farrell. "We have an opportunity, with a brand new season, to chase a championship.”
The Irish have played 11 times in the NIT and made four championship appearances. However, Notre Dame has yet to capture an NIT title, which is a legacy Brey believes his seniors would like to leave.
"To have a championship banner hanging up when they come back for reunions, and to think about the year they went through would be a neat thing. They’re ready to attack it.”