Notes: ACC about to get even more interesting for No. 21 Notre Dame men

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

This is how quickly everything turns in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.

On Wednesday morning, No. 21 Notre Dame woke tied with Florida State for fourth place in the league. Just after 11 p.m., having not won or lost or even practiced, Notre Dame jumped into a four-way tie for second.

With just over a week remaining in the regular season, Notre Dame (21-7), No. 10 Duke, No. 19 Florida State and No. 7 Louisville are 10-5 in the league.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this much upheaval,” Brey said. “It’s great for our league. Certainly, it’s great for us. It’s riveting.”

Brey spent Wednesday recruiting in the Boston area, where he sat next to a Big Ten coach during a high school open gym. All the fellow coach from another conference could talk about was what’s happening in Brey’s conference.

“The whole time, he’s like, ‘What’s it like in your league? Your league … oh, my God,’” Brey said. “Quite frankly, the guys in the other Power Six (conference), they’re scared of our league.

“I’m just glad we’re 10-5 right now.”

If No. 8 North Carolina (12-3), now with a two-game lead and in first place, is indeed headed toward its 31st regular-season conference championship, how will the rest of the standings shake out? Specifically, what three teams of the four currently tied for second will successfully navigate their way through one more week and earn one of the four double byes for the upcoming ACC tournament?

What place will the Irish finish? Fourth? Fifth? Second? There are too many scenarios and even more ifs to even consider – the Irish can finish second if … The Irish will finish third if … The Irish will fall to fourth or fifth if ….

“It’s crazy,” said sophomore guard Rex Pflueger. “It’s exciting knowing our schedule going into the end of the regular season and the things that we can do. We’re in a good place.”

An e-mail also circulated this week outlining all the scenarios necessary for Notre Dame to win the league outright.

Learning Mandarin Chinese overnight might have been easier.

If this…

If that…

If this and that…

“I’ve heard that so much this week; I can’t wait to get back to practice,” Brey said Thursday. “It’s driving me crazy with scenarios. Let’s see if we can get our 11th league win.”

So much can happen and likely will between now and the season final March 4 at Louisville, but here’s the easiest route for Notre Dame to earn an additional day off in Brooklyn next month:

• Notre Dame is assured of a finish no lower than fourth (and a subsequent double bye) if it wins its last three regular-season games — Sunday at home to Georgia Tech, Wednesday at home to Boston College and at Louisville.

“With everything that’s happened in the league, all we can do is do our job,” said senior captain V.J. Beachem. “If we win out, it puts us in great position.”

• Notre Dame will be assured of a finish no lower than fourth if it wins two of its final three AND either Duke or Florida State lose two of its final three. The Blue Devils have road games remaining at Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina. The Seminoles, who are 2-5 on the road in league play, travel Saturday to Clemson before a visit next week to Duke.

Brey figured it was going to get nuts above and below Notre Dame in the league standings following last week’s win at North Carolina State. And the league didn’t take long to prove him right.

Not long after the Irish charter flight landed in South Bend, Florida State lost at Pittsburgh, which has spent a chunk of league play at the bottom of the standings. Two nights later, Miami won in overtime at Virginia, which has forgotten how to carry out the most important task of the game – score.

Both losses opened the double-bye door to Notre Dame, which will become the first team in school history to sidestep a four-game league losing streak and still advance to the NCAA tournament when bids are extended March 12.

How will it all shake out?

Stay tuned. It may all change again. Soon.

An easy week

Seven games in 22 days took a collective toll on the Irish, particularly the main four of wings Beachem and Steve Vasturia, power forward Bonzie Colson and guard Matt Farrell.

When the final horn sounded on Saturday’s win over North Carolina State in Raleigh, the Irish couldn’t wait for their bye week and the chance to rest up and be regulars around campus, if only for a short time.

“You could be a typical student where you’re not stressing about too many things at once,” said freshman guard T.J. Gibbs. “We had a great week off. Everybody’s refreshed. Now we can focus back in and really make a move.”

Notre Dame took Sunday and Monday off, scrimmaged a bit Tuesday (Brey worked it alone while the rest of his staff was on the road) and was off again on Wednesday. Practice resumed Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s home game against Georgia Tech.

Colson admitted Thursday that he felt as good as he has all season. It was almost as if the Irish were starting over.

“We feel fresh,” Farrell said. “Guys are excited to be back in here and ready to go.”

Bracket racket

Selection Sunday is just over two weeks away, and Notre Dame remains the highest No. 6 seed according to the latest Bracket Matrix, which tracks as many as 115 different NCAA tournament projections.

Notre Dame is included on all 115 brackets.

Among those is ESPN’s resident “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi, who explained during one radio show earlier this week that one reason he has Notre Dame a 6 – the same seed as last season when it finished 24-12 – was Brey’s historically weak non-conference schedule.

As of Thursday, Notre Dame’s non-league schedule carried a strength of schedule (SOS) of 170. But UCLA (24-3), which is ranked No. 5 and is a No. 4 seed in Lunardi’s latest field, has a non-conference SOS of. … 283.

Two years ago, when Notre Dame won the ACC tournament and earned a No. 3 seed, it carried a non-conference SOS of 327 out of 351 Division I teams.

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A double bye in the Atlantic Coast Conference beckons V.J. Beachem and Notre Dame, who are in a four-way tie for second place with three games to go. (AP File Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)