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Mike Brey in ‘familiar territory’ as Notre Dame enters Year 2 in the ACC

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BOSTON — Notre Dame’s debut in the ACC did not go as planned. Rare home losses to Indiana State and North Dakota State set an ominous tone early in the season. It got worse before conference play even began when Jerian Grant, who was averaging 19.0 points and 6.2 assists per game, withdrew from the university. That all resulted in the Fighting Irish failing to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years.

Head coach Mike Brey, who is entering his 15th season, is turning to past experiences as the Fighting Irish enter Year 2 as members of arguably the best conference in college basketball. When Brey was hired at Notre Dame in 2000, he was inheriting a team that had a 35-53 record in the Big East, not once having a record above .500.

“We were fighting for an identity [in the Big East],” Brey told NBCSports.com on June 28 at The Basketball Tournament championship game at Boston University. “We’re in familiar territory right now, fighting for an identity in this ACC. I don’t know if I have the answers for what it is yet, but I got a little better feel than the first year.

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“The league is only going to get better, it’s getting deeper. You’re trying to get a feel for teams. When you’re in the Big East as long as we were, you had a book on how Georgetown played. A book on how Syracuse played. Now you’re flying blind. I think we have a little better feel for systems and styles of play. I think that’s going to benefit us in Year 2.”

In conference, Notre Dame had only one win over an NCAA tournament bound opponent with a 79-77 upset win over Duke. It won’t get easier next season with Duke, North Carolina and Virginia projected to be in the preseason top 10. That doesn’t include the conference’s newest member, Louisville, which figures to contend immediately.

Brey should have plenty of intel on the Cardinals, including a thrilling five overtime win back on Feb. 9, 2013. Though, Louisville would defeat Notre Dame two times later in the season, en route to a national championship.

The biggest advantage the Fighting Irish have heading into the 2014-2015 season is the return of its back court, Grant and Pat Connaughton. The Balitmore Orioles drafted Connaughton in the fourth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, but will allow him to finish is playing career on the hardwood. Grant was readmitted in May. The Irish will also benefit from rising sophomore guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia both seeing more than 22 minutes per game as freshmen.

MORE: Chris Collins still optimistic about Northwestern’s future

Notre Dame has the pieces to finish in the top half of the ACC standings. If Notre Dame was still a member of the old Big East, Brey would be optimistic this summer, instead it’s a bit of a precarious feeling as the ACC only received six tournament bids last March. Brey’s suggestion has been for the ACC to play 20 conference games. The old Big East was the first to go to 18 games in 2008, which helped improve the RPI for bubble teams in search of an at-large bid.

“I hope we can get this thing to eight and nine bids because that’s what earmarked the Big East as the best,” he said.

Notre Dame finished 15-17 (6-12 ACC) last season, but are ranked as the seventh-best team, according to College Basketball Talk’s early conference power rankings.

BUBBLE BANTER: Today’s key bubble games

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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HERE IS THE FULL SCHEDULE OF BUBBLE GAMES TODAY. THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AND NIGHT.

Florida State at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
George Washington at VCU, 12:00 p.m.
Cincinnati at Memphis, 12:00 p.m.
Temple at UCF, 12:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s at Fordhan, 2:00 p.m.
New Mexico at San Diego State, 4:00 p.m.
Pacific at BYU, 4:00 p.m.
No. 25 South Carolina at No. 8 Texas A&M 4:00 p.m.
Clemson at Virginia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
Cal at Stanford, 4:00 p.m.
Valparaiso at UIC, 4:00 p.m.
Butler at St. John’s, 4:30 p.m.
No. 23 Arizona at Washington, 4:30 p.m.
Auburn at Georgia, 5:30 p.m.
Mississippi State at LSU, 6:00 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, 8:00 p.m.
Colorado at Oregon State, 8:30 p.m.
Georgetown at Seton Hall, 9:00 p.m.
Saint Mary’s at San Diego, 9:00 p.m.
Gonzaga at Pepperdine, 12:00 a.m.

Sherrod sets consecutive field goals record as Yale beats Columbia 86-72

Yale forward Brandon Sherrod (35) comes down with an offensive rebound between SMU's Markus Kennedy (5), Nic Moore (11) and Shake Milton (1) diuring the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) Brandon Sherrod scored 25 points — and set the Division I single-season record for consecutive field goals made — to help Yale beat Columbia 86-72 Friday and take over sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings.

Justin Sears added 27 points for the Bulldogs (14-5, 5-0), who have won nine in a row, their longest win streak since closing the 1961-62 regular season with nine-straight wins.

Sherrod made his first five field-goal attempts, extending his streak of consecutive field goals made to 30 and breaking the Division I single-season record of 26 straight previously held by Eastern Michigan’s James Thompson and Bowling Green’s Torian Oglesby.

He hadn’t missed a field goal since January 16th.

Two foul shots by Sherrod sparked a 12-0 run by Yale that made it 72-58 with 3:40 left.

The Bulldogs made 14 of 16 free throws in the final three minutes to seal it.

Maodo Lo had 21 points and a career-high seven steals for Columbia (15-7, 4-1), which had its six-game win streak snapped.