When little brothers step into the spotlight

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Odds are you’ll hear Tyler Hansbrough and J.R. Smith mentioned once or twice Wednesday night.

Mostly because their younger brothers are tearing it up in college.

Louisville’s Chris Smith and Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough face off tonight when the No. 16 Cardinals play at the No. 9 Irish. The teams are two of the nation’s surprise teams, and those star siblings are one of the big reasons why. So they got the feature treatment in this fun AP feature.

Smith’s brother was a straight-to-the-NBA star who now plays for the Denver Nuggets. It took a while, but Chris found his own niche out from his brother’s spotlight.

“When I was younger, I would get caught up in the hype like you’ve got to do a spectacular dunk, your brother was on ESPN last night. Now it really doesn’t matter. He’s doing his thing. I do my own thing,” Smith told the AP.

He’s averaging 9.8 points per game while playing a fair chunk of minutes for Rick Pitino’s squad. At 6-2, he teams with Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva to form one of the country’s dynamic backcourts.

But when it comes to brothers, Smith’s can’t compare with Hansbrough’s. At least in college.

North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough made his mark as one of the 2000s’ best players, earning All-America accolades, a Player of the Year award and four All-ACC honors. He capped his career as the conference’s all-time scoring leader, two Final Fours and a national title.

How can Ben compete with that? He can’t. So he took a page from Tyler’s repertoire: a relentless approach.

“There’s one thing I’ve taken away from him is his work ethic and dedication to his game,” Ben Hansbrough told the AP. “I have been able to translate that into my game. He’s taught me that talent is nothing if you don’t put in the work.”

The 6-3 Irish guard is averaging 17.2 points, four assists a game and hitting 41 percent from beyond the arc. He’s got nerves of steel, too. In an upset at Pitt two weeks ago, Notre Dame ran play after play for Hansbrough down the stretch – and he converted ‘em all.

Take a bow, bros, and enjoy the spotlight tonight. Well, the leftover spotlight you get from Duke-UNC and Syracuse-Georgetown. That’s how it goes as a younger brother, I guess. 

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.