FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame is ready to help carry the banner for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Irish (5-1) dive into their first Big Ten/ACC Challenge with a game at No. 23 Iowa (7-2) tonight.
It is the first time Notre Dame will represent the ACC on a big stage since joining the conference in every sport, except football and hockey, in July.
You do feel responsibility, coach Mike Brey said Monday. You’re excited about representing the ACC officially. I think it heightens your sense of awareness and sense of urgency, that not only are you playing for Notre Dame on the jersey, but you are playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
I think all of us, our players included, we’ve watched the ACC/Big Ten Challenge over the years, that’s been the thing to watch this week of basketball. Now we are part of it.
The Irish didn’t get an easy part of the Challenge, which the ACC leads 10-3-1.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 2-1 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, picking up a 77-74 overtime win over Xavier and an 89-53 win over UTEP. Iowa fell 88-83 in overtime to Villanova on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes are holding opponents to 34 percent shooting, and Roy Devyn Marble leads the team with 16.8 points, four assists and 2.6 steals a game.
Their defensive field-goal percentage stuff is off the charts. People are just not scoring the ball, Brey said. We’ve got to attack their zone. We got to drive their zone. We got to attack their press. We can’t play with the ball over our head against these big guys. I think we’ve got to run, especially the group that starts the game.
Notre Dame is expected to start a four-guard lineup of Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Demetrius Jackson around center Garrick Sherman like it did in Sunday’s 101-67 home win over Cornell.
And while that lineup helped the Irish to their highest offensive output of the season, tonight will be the first time the team will play on the road after starting the season with six games in Purcell Pavilion.
I’m hoping my veteran guys can really help all of us with that and help our young guys with that, Brey said of the team’s first road game. These veteran guys have played on the road a lot. The first time this group goes into the road, I’m excited, I’m anxious, I’m worried, I’m a little bit of everything as we go into this thing. Who are we going to be? Can we do it for 40 minutes? How do we react when Iowa makes a run? We have to call a timeout, and we come out of a timeout, can we be poised? Can we answer back? Who’s going to give us stuff off the bench in this atmosphere?
I think for any coach going on the road for the first time, you are anxious to see it, you are worried about it, you are excited about it, all of the above.