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The Journal Gazette

March 09, 2017 1:03 AM

Irish entering tourney rested

After double bye, squad eager to play

Michael J. Lewis | For The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame vs. Virginia

What: ACC Tournament

When: 9 p.m. today

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn

TV: ESPN

NEW YORK – The Beastie Boys had a song in the 1980s called “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” The Notre Dame men’s basketball team refuses to take that advice this week, thanks to the vagaries of the ACC Tournament.

Until today at 9 p.m., the third-seeded Irish will do nothing but sleep, and rest, and try to not to let rust set in, as they wait for their first game in a tournament they won two years ago.

“I love having the time off,” said Irish senior forward V.J. Beachem, a New Haven graduate. “We can rest and watch some other games, and we seem to love playing at night. And we love playing in Brooklyn.”

Indeed, the Irish have made Barclays Center, the site of this week’s tournament, a second home over the past few years. Notre Dame is 5-1 in the building, including two wins in the NCAA Tournament last season, and a pair of wins at the Legends Classic in November.

Beachem especially loves Brooklyn. He scored 33 points in the two NCAA games last year and this season pumped in 28 in the Legends Classic games.

“I love it because the shooting background is so dark, it’s exactly what you want,” Beachem said. “We walk into that arena knowing we’ve had great success and great memories there, and I think that’ll help us this week.”

Irish coach Mike Brey said: “We know Brooklyn, we like Brooklyn, and we’ve done the Brooklyn dance before. Hopefully there’s still some good karma up there for us.”

Notre Dame (23-8) didn’t even know who they’d be playing tonight until late Wednesday, but it’ll be No. 6 seed Virginia, exactly the team the Irish would rather not see.

The Cavaliers have owned the Irish since Notre Dame joined the ACC in 2013, winning all five matchups, including a 71-54 blowout Jan. 24 in South Bend.

“You try not to think too much about us (not having beaten them), because we’ve gotten better since we last played them,” Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia said. “We’ve had trouble against them since I’ve been here.”

Beachem said Virginia’s defense, with its constant hedging on the perimeter, and the Cavaliers’ overall slow pace of play, is difficult to execute against.

“They’ve messed up our ball-screen offense a lot, and we’ve had trouble matching up,” Beachem said. “But we know we can play better against them.”

How Brey deploys his lineup this week in New York will also be key. After alternating between playing a smaller lineup with Rex Pfleuger starting and a bigger lineup featuring Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben, Brey seems to be leaning toward going big tonight.

“We have to get reps with the big lineup,” Brey said. “It’s something that is going to be good for us at times. It would be great to get flowing again offensively.”

If the Irish win tonight, they would play in the semifinals at 9 p.m. Friday.