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Notre Dame Enters ACC Tournament With Some 'Ammunition' To Make A Run

Notre Dame enters the ACC tournament with an uninspiring record and long odds to win it, but still armed with something dangerous.

Desperate energy.

There’s no X’s and O’s solution for desperate energy. The Irish haven’t had too many highlights in a 10-14 season and 11th-place ACC finish, but they do have that. And that was too much for No. 11 Florida State to handle in Saturday’s regular-season finale.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball junior point guard Prentiss Hubb
Junior point guard Prentiss Hubb and Notre Dame picked off No. 11 Florida State to end the regular season. (ACC)

With questions around head coach Mike Brey’s status reaching an uncomfortable crescendo, Notre Dame played like it wanted to remove all doubt about his standing for next year. In a good way. The Irish were loose and determined. They led one of the ACC’s best teams for all but 29 seconds in an 83-73 win and ended a three-plus year skid against ranked teams. There’s positive momentum for a program that badly needed it.

“We’re here in a better frame of mind than we’ve been in a while,” Brey said.

No better way to head into the ACC tournament, an event normally kind to the Irish. They have won at least one tournament game in six straight years.

“It becomes a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that you’ve had success before and you believe again,” Brey said. “Hopefully we can recapture some of that juice. I’m certainly selling it. Saturday’s performance certainly helps me sell it better. There’s an uptick after a big downtick.

“They came back, rallied for the seniors and did their thing. You do have some ammunition.”

Anyone who’s up against them, though, won’t be caught off guard now. After defeating Florida State, Notre Dame is no longer sitting there like the speed trap no one saw coming. At the same time, desperate energy can still catch an unsuspecting adversary, especially if Notre Dame advances a day or two in the tournament.

“Once you get one in a tournament, you can ride some momentum,” Brey said. “Getting that first one, you feel like you can get on a bit of a roll."

The first one is a Tuesday meeting with Wake Forest (7 p.m. ET, ACCN). The Demon Deacons are the No. 14 seed and rebuilding in their first year under coach Steve Forbes. His first regular season in Winston-Salem ended with a 6-15 record and 3-15 mark in ACC games. It started slowly, with various COVID-19 issues reducing the 2020 portion of the schedule to just three games.

Ten of Wake Forest’s ACC losses were decided by double-digit margins, including the last six. Notre Dame delivered a 79-58 dusting in the teams’ only matchup of the regular season, played on Feb. 2 in South Bend. Wake Forest scored the game’s first basket and never led again.

As its own Feb. 27 loss to last-place Boston College revealed, though, Notre Dame’s in position to overlook no one. Desperate energy can show up anywhere and in anyone this time of year.

No. 11 seed Notre Dame (10-14, 7-11 ACC) vs. No. 14 Wake Forest (6-15, 3-15)

What: ACC Tournament first round

When: Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C.

Series history: Notre Dame leads 7-5

KenPom prediction: Notre Dame 76, Wake Forest 67

Other notes

• The winner of this game plays No. 6 seed North Carolina at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

• Notre Dame is 10-5 in the ACC Tournament since it joined the conference before the 2013-14 season. It is 4-1 when the tournament has been held in Greensboro, N.C.

• Wake Forest is led by junior guard Daivien Williamson, who averages a team-high 12.5 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting (33.3 percent on three-pointers). He also leads the team in assists per game, at 2.6. He’s a transfer who followed Forbes from East Tennessee State.

• Graduate transfer Ian DuBose has only appeared in 10 games for Wake Forest this year and did not play in South Bend, but he has averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per outing. He came from low-major Houston Baptist, where he averaged 19 points per game last season.

• The Demon Deacons were last in the ACC offensive efficiency and second-to-last in defensive efficiency in league games, per KenPom. They take 46.4 percent of the field goal attempts from three-point range, which ranks 19th nationally. They’re 122nd in three-point accuracy, at 34.6 percent.

"They can make 12 [threes] on you easy,” Brey said.

• Junior point guard Prentiss Hubb finished the regular season as Notre Dame’s leading scorer, at 14.7 points, and averaged an ACC-best 6.0 assists per game. He was named a third-team All-ACC selection. He had 10 points and 10 assists in the prior game against Wake Forest.

• Notre Dame held Wake Forest to 0.91 points per possession in their earlier meeting, went 10 of 23 on threes, grabbed nine offensive rebounds and committed only eight turnovers. Forward Juwan Durham had one of his best games of the year, with 18 points 7-of-9 shooting, nine rebounds, four blocks and two assists.



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