It seemed so unlikely at many points throughout what often felt like a rollercoaster of a season, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish managed to secure a double-bye for the ACC Tournament. Further, the Irish actually finished better than the OFD staff predicted they would finish by one spot with their fifth-place finish.
Let's be honest about that double-bye, though; the Irish needed a little bit of luck to get there:
- Without Louisville's self-ban for this postseason, Notre Dame would just be a regular old five seed in the ACC Tournament. Special shoutout to Andre McGee for his efforts and Tom Jurich for deciding to screw over Damion Lee and Trey Lewis in hopes of mitigating the Cardinals' future punishments.
- The schedule-makers in the very unbalanced ACC scheduling system did the Irish a huge solid by giving them home-and-home series against both Wake Forest and Boston College.
- Even entering Saturday evening, Notre Dame needed help from a North Carolina team that already lost to Duke at home. The Tar Heels were able to get it done, though, allowing the Irish to tie their record back up with the Blue Devils and earn the higher seed.
But still, Notre Dame ultimately earned that double-bye by going into Durham back in January and beating the Blue Devils behind a season-best 95-point effort. Let's also give them credit for big, big wins against UNC and Louisville, as well as a road win at 10-win Clemson and tough home win over 10-win Virginia Tech.
The Irish also battled some identity crises, plenty of lineup juggling, and even an injury to Demetrius Jackson along the way, so scratching and clawing their way to 11 wins in this conference is no small feat. Though Notre Dame only really finished in the "meets expectations" column, you certainly can't be faulted for finding plenty of reasons to give Mike Brey credit for a season that looked like it might start going south.
Plenty of work left to be done, however, as March Madness rolls around and the Irish look to defend their ACC Championship. They will take on the winner of Duke and NC State/Wake Forest on Thursday at 2pm (ESPN). Should they move on from there, Notre Dame would likely take on UNC, who the Irish have beaten in three straight games, rather than Virginia or Miami, both of whom dominated them in the regular season.
We'll have plenty of coverage of the ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. throughout the week.