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No letup for Notre Dame

Notre Dame's start to Big East play was a grind of three consecutive top-10 opponents.

But conference play doesn't get easier for the No. 14 Irish (13-2, 2-1) as they move on in January.

Notre Dame's next six games are against opponents who started league play without a loss, starting with a Saturday-Monday dip against surprising Big East leader St. John's (10-3, 3-0) at home then a road game against Marquette (11-4, 2-0).

"I did tell somebody the other day, I said, 'Well God, you get through those (first three games), we got St. John's coming in and we gotta go to Milwaukee and then we got to go back (to St. John's,' " Brey said during Thursday's news conference. "… What I've tried to talk to our guys about is I told them we will have three Saturday-Mondays coming and here's our first one."

Notre Dame has two Saturday-Monday stretches over the three weeks with a Sunday-Wednesday combo in the middle.

After playing Marquette, Notre Dame does get a five-day layoff before traveling to play St. John's again. That game is in New York with a noon tip off on Jan. 16 and is followed by a home game against undefeated Cincinnati (14-0, 2-0) at home Jan. 19.

The Red Storm have started Big East play as good as any team, beating West Virginia and Providence and then knocking off No. 13 Georgetown 61-58 Monday.

"They look like the team that beat us last year," said Brey, whose team fell 69-68 to St. John's at home last season. "When you have older guys – they are us times two, we have five seniors they have 10 – and a group that got better under (former coach Norm Roberts), Steve (Lavin) has done a really good job putting his personality on the group, getting them to believe.

"We really respect them, and we respected them before the season started because they had success against us. I do think they are a confident bunch. They feel it is their time, and I told our guys quickly after the Connecticut game, we are playing the hottest team in the league Saturday and a team that beat us in our gym last year."

After playing Cincinnati, Notre Dame has another Saturday-Monday stretch in which it plays host to Marquette and than travels to No. 5 Pittsburgh (14-1, 2-0).

And just to make matters harder for the Irish, they will likely be playing their next six games without do-everything forward Carleton Scott, who is sidelined with a tear in his left hamstring.

Despite being down a player, the Irish have an innate confidence they can win like they did at the start of league play when players said it isn't a surprise that they were able to defeat Georgetown and No. 8 Connecticut. Notre Dame's lone league loss was to No. 4 Syracuse.

"I think the evolution of that was in the summer," Brey said of the team expecting to be able to defeat top-10 teams. "When you have Scott and (Tyrone) Nash, (Ben) Hansbrough and (Tim) Abromaitis, and I really think you can add Martin in there because he was going into his fourth year. You have some older guys that in the summer workouts talked about goals and dreams and all of those things. There was a pretty good momentum by the time we officially started Oct. 15, because of some leadership in the summer."

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