Familiarity breeding success so far for Notre Dame

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25: Zach Auguste #30 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates against the Wisconsin Badgers during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (March 26, 2016) – On the eve of an Elite 8 showdown with North Carolina, Notre Dame keeps finding itself in familiar scenarios.

The Irish have played three games in this year’s NCAA Tournament so far, each of them coming down to the final minute.

“I love our group,” said head coach Mike Brey. “I love our will to win. We have found ways to continually make things interesting, and we’re excited about the challenge tomorrow.”

Brey has continually addressed his team’s underdog role in Philadelphia this week. First, before the Irish’s Sweet 16 showdown with Wisconsin, he alluded to a story he saw where Notre Dame was ranked dead-last among the remaining teams in the tournament. Now that Notre Dame has made the national semifinals, that role is still ever-present.

“We’re ranked ninth of the final eight,” Brey joked. “I thought I saw that, but we’re the toughest team left. We’re the toughest team left in this thing.”

The Irish were underdogs in the Elite 8 a season ago, going up against unbeaten Kentucky. They were written off then, but gave the Wildcats a fierce battle down to the final whistle. No doubt, it’s a similar position in which Notre Dame finds itself this year, facing one-seed and ACC champion North Carolina.

“So many people talked about ‘you were in this position last year playing Kentucky,'” explained Brey. “Kentucky was young. I always felt good about that one. This one worries me more because they (UNC) are men. They’ve been together a while, and they’ve played like veterans.”

The six-seed Irish are scheduled to tip off against the one-seed Tar Heels at 8:49 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

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