Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More Comparisons With '02-'03

So, with over a week between games, I need something to post. Earlier today, I mentioned that the last time the Irish were ranked in the AP top 25 this late in the season was in December 2002, following the BB&T Classic win. Since then, we the fans have endoured two disappointing campaigns in '03-'04 and '04-'05, missing the tournament after being in the preseason rankings.

Why does this season feel so familiar? Perhaps it is because we have been through this before. In 2002, Notre Dame started the season unranked. After a few early wins, the Irish lost in an early season tournament. After an easy win against an overmatched opponent, ND beat Maryland in the BB&T Classic and another top 10 opponent, Texas. Also thrown in was a home win vs. Marquette. Through a 8-1 record against tough nonconference opponents, the Irish leapt to 10th in the AP poll.

How did that team end the season? A 10-6 conference record was good enough for a 5th seed, even with a first round BET loss. A missed last second shot by Dylan Page gave ND a first-round win vs. UW-Milwaukee and the Irish pulled out a 68-60 victory over Illinois to go to the school's first Sweet 16 since 1987.

What does that mean for the present? A similar 10-6 conference record would make Notre Dame a lock for the tournament and a probable high seed. Will we see another Regional Semifinal run? With the right draw and some hot shooters, anything can happen.

Hard to imagine having these thoughts just two weeks ago.

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