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Gigantic expectations are fitting for Notre Dame men’s basketball

Notre Dame sixth-year senior Scott Martsaid winning Big East championship is primary goal for Irish. | Frank FranklII~AP

Notre Dame sixth-year senior Scott Martin said winning the Big East championship is a primary goal for the Irish. | Frank Franklin II~AP

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Updated: November 13, 2012 6:35AM



SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Scott Martin turned 24 on Sunday. Age brings a lot of things — experience, wisdom, selflessness, character and, yes, humor.

“It’s like sometimes I’m the team dad,” the Notre Dame sixth-year senior said. “Most of the time, I have a great time with the guys. They make me feel young again.”

Age brings one other thing, though — urgency. There’s no seventh year awaiting Martin. He won’t be on the court whenever Notre Dame officially joins the ­Atlantic Coast Conference. For him, it’s now or never.

“I really, really want to get a Big East championship,” the swingman said. “Being close — we were second and third the last couple years — it gives you something to shoot for. It’s the close-but-no-cigar idea. You can see it, but you can’t quite get to it. So that’s a goal.”

This year, it’s a realistic goal. The Irish return all their starters from last year’s surprising team, which won 22 games and posted a 13-5 mark in the rugged Big East before another early NCAA tournament flameout, a first-round loss to Xavier.

Coach Mike Brey adds 6-10, 246-pound Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman, a senior, and an intriguing freshman class that could force Brey to open up his usually tight rotation.

“When we came back from the Xavier loss in the NCAA tournament, the next day we talked about chasing a regular-season championship in the Big East,” Brey said. “We’ve been pretty darn close to that. We’ve been in the mix before. It’s a realistic thing.”

The expectations are big in South Bend. That’s fitting because so is the team.

“Our team is gigantic,” said senior forward Jack Cooley, coming off a breakthrough season. “I look around, we could have four people above 6-8 on the court.”

Aside from Cooley and Sherman, Martin stands 6-8, and emerging senior Tom Knight is 6-10. Brey also expects hyper-athletic freshman Zach Auguste (6-10) and playmaking freshman Cameron Beidscheid (6-7) to play significant roles. Even Notre Dame’s star two-guard, Jerian Grant, is no shrimp at 6-5.

With so much size and so much experience, the Irish feel comfortable both running the floor, or running their clock-killing “Burn” offense. That versatility is just one more reason the Irish feel they’re destined to make a run at a championship and get off the Big East schneid — right before they get off the Big East masthead.



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