College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 2, 2012
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame assured themselves of a double bye in the upcoming Big East tournament with a timely, 75-69, win on the road at Providence in their final regular season game.
Finishing with a regular season mark of 13-5 in the conference (21-10 overall), the Irish are in third place, with Georgetown and South Florida a half game back. The Hoyas and Bulls both play Saturday, but the Irish and Hoyas get the tie-breaker in case both teams win as they've both beaten South Florida during the regular season.
If South Florida wins their noon game vs. West Virginia and the Hoyas lose at Marquette, the Bulls would finish fourth and receive the automatic double bye.
For #20 Notre Dame, the win was essential after dropping back-to-back road games last week at St. John's and Georgetown, capping a remarkable mid-season turnaround. The Irish were just 3-3 in Big East games before embarking on a nine-game winning streak which included handing #2 Syracuse their only loss of the season.
In Friday's victory, center Jack Cooley was the unstoppable force in the middle, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, his tenth double-double of the season and a career high in scoring. Cooley was 10-for-15 from the field and 7-9 from the foul line. Seven of his rebounds came on the offensive end.
NOTABLE: Conference tournaments got underway in many of the smaller conferences Friday. The Horizon, Colonial, West Coast, Ohio Valley, Missouri Valley and Southern conferences all had opening round battles. Three ranked teams - Murray State, Creighton and Wichita State - each advanced in their respective tourneys.
Saturday offers a loaded slate of games, with more conferences starting tournaments and many ranked teams playing in their final regular season contests. The most-anticipated games will be at Syracuse, where the Orange host #19 Louisville at 4:00 pm ET, and at Durham, NC, where the #4 Duke Blue Devils host the #6 North Carolina Tar Heels, the winner to take possession of the ACC regular season title and a #1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. Opening tip is 7:00 pm ET.