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NCAA Basketball Big East BasketballNotre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Begin Crucial Week in Big East Play

Mike DiNovo-US Presswire

This could be a week that defines the season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Fighting Irish face two of the elite teams in the Big East Conference, and in the country for that matter.

Tonight, Notre Dame travels to New York to take on the number-six ranked Syracuse Orange. Syracuse is coming off of back-to-back tough losses at the hands of the Villanova Wildcats and Pittsburgh Panthers on consecutive Saturdays.

Despite the loss to the Panthers, Syracuse is still in first place in the Big East, with a very impressive record of 18-3 overall and 6-2 in Big East Conference play. While Syracuse looks to get back on track in conference pla,y the Irish can move into a  tie for first place in the Big East with the victory.

Notre Dame has won three straight conference games after holding off a late DePaul Blue Demons rally that forced overtime on Saturday. Senior forward Jack Cooley posted another outstanding performance in the paint scoring 26 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. Senior Eric Atkins took control in the extra period, scoring the first five points of overtime, and the Irish held on for the eight-point victory.

The Fighting Irish had flashes of greatness on Saturday when the opened a double-digit lead midway through the second half. Their lack of execution at the offensive end down the stretch allowed DePaul to get back into the game, and it was the same execution problems that cost the Irish a victory against Connecticut earlier this month.

The Fighting Irish have won three straight conference games and their bench has provided a spark in each of the victories. Against DePaul, Cameron Biedscheid and Zach Auguste came off the bench scored seven and six points respectively.

Notre Dame will need to play a complete game against the Orange if they want to leave New York with a share of the Big East lead.

The week does not get any easier for Notre Dame, who will travel home to host the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday night. The game will bring the college game day crew of Digger Phelps, Jalen Rose, Rece Davis and Jay Bilas, who will be on hand to see two of the top teams in the Big East battle. Louisville will be back in the top ten when they travel to South Bend after destroying #25 ranked Marquette 70-51 yesterday.

This is a very important week for Notre Dame and their postseason aspirations. The Big East has four teams ranked in the top-25 and four others mentioned in receiving votes category, and the title picture could get a bit clearer this week.