FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame has proven it can adapt on the fly this season.
The Irish have dealt with losing captain Scott Martin, inserting Tom Knight into the starting lineup midway through the season, and putting more emphasis on defense as the season came to a close.
Im really proud of our group because we have come with different things almost weekly, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. When you have high basketball IQ guys and good maturity on the team, obviously the guys that are playing are veteran guys, they are able to digest tweaks, a little bit of a change, things we want to do; they are great students. I think thats where it really starts.
The No. 24 Irishs ability to quickly adapt could come in handy in the Big East tournament, which begins today at Madison Square Garden. Notre Dame (23-8) will play the winner of todays game between No. 11 seed Rutgers (14-15) and No. 14 seed DePaul (11-20) at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday after earning a bye as the No. 6 seed.
Its great to have a team that has that experience of things going wrong, because in the postseason, a lot of things can go wrong, Irish forward Jack Cooley said. Being able to handle it very calm is huge.
Notre Dame was able to handle pretty easily having Knight step into the starting lineup in place of Martin, whose career ended because of a knee injury, even though it meant changing from playing with four guards around Cooley to going to a two-forward, three-guard lineup.
I think we did a good job of bringing Tom in, Notre Dame point guard Eric Atkins said. Hes always been a guy that has been here and been a good player for us for three years.
He was practicing every day and now hes finally had his chance to step up. I think hes doing a great job in that role.
Along with changing their lineup, the Irish also changed the way they played defense late in the season. In three of Notre Dames final five games, the Irish held their opponents to 42 points or less.
The Irish enter the conference tournament giving up 62.9 points per game.
We are taking pride in getting stops and letting good defense feed our offense, Knight said. It may be different from normal Notre Dame basketball, but its a recipe to win and thats all we care about it.
Now Notre Dame will try to use its ability to adapt and commitment to defense to capture the Big East tourney title.
Throughout my four years here, weve had a lot of times where weve faced adversity, and our program has just done a good job of handling it, Cooley said.