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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, March 12, 2017 10:02 pm

Irish, Bulldogs draw on previous tourney experience

Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette

The Notre Dame and Butler men’s basketball teams will be relying on experience as they enter into the fray that is the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

The Irish, the fifth seed in the West Region, will be facing No. 12 Princeton in Buffalo, New York, while the Bulldogs, the No. 4 seed in the South Region, will travel to Milwaukee to face No. 13 Winthrop.

Notre Dame is entering the tournament with Elite Eight appearances in 2015 and 2016 and is making its 12th tournament appearance in the 17 years under head coach Mike Brey, seventh in the last eight years.

"We’re a very confident team whether it be what we’ve done in the regular season or in the postseason in the past," Notre Dame senior V.J. Beachem said in a press conference. "Although we can draw on those experiences, that doesn’t separate from anyone else as far as the fact that we still have to lace them up Thursday whether we’re playing Princeton or whoever else.

"We just try to take it game-by-game and try to get the win and worry about it after that. From the outside, people may expect a little more from us once the postseason comes around, but as far as us, personally, great confidence because we’ve been able to do that before and can draw from the experience. It’s not like we’re putting any pressure on ourselves or anything like that."

Brey has already prepared a scouting report for the Tigers, winners of the Ivy League tournament over Yale.

"There’s a lot of touches," Brey said of the Princeton offense. "They like to enter everything on that elbow. You’re guarding spacing, but we guard spacing every day when we guard ourselves. You guard shooting on the perimeter, we guard shooting every day because that’s our personnel. Back-cutting, they’re famous for a lot of back-cutting. Well, we cut a lot, so we guard cutting. We’re Princetonish without the predictable movement. Ours is free-flowing."

Brey is adamant that this year’s Irish squad is the best defensive team he has had.

"We’ve been able to digest a scouting report and an opponent’s tendencies offensively," he said, "and our main guys have been good at talking through it, switching it when we’ve had to, so I feel like we can prepare well for this. They have a little bit of pride sitting down and defending people."

Butler enters its third consecutive tournament under coach Chris Holtmann with its highest seed in program history having previously been a No. 5 seed in 2007 and 2010.

The Bulldogs are one of seven Big East teams in the field and is 12-5 against tournament teams.

Winthrop (26-6) won the Big South Conference tournament to earn its automatic bid to the tournament.

areichel@jg.net