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How Far Will Arlington’s Pat Connaughton and Notre Dame Advance During March Madness?

The 6-foot-5 freshman swingman and the Fighting Irish ended the regular season on a 10-2 run, but are they ready for the big dance?

Prior to their game against then No. 1, previously-unbeaten Syracuse back on Saturday, Jan. 21, Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament hopes appeared to be bleak.

The Fighting Irish were struggling to stay “On the Bubble,” with an 11-8 record, including a 2-3 stretch in their last five games.

However, that’s when Notre Dame coach Mike Brey decided to insert a 6-foot-5, high-energy freshman swingman, who once honed his game at , into the starting lineup.

Pat Connaughton, an Arlington native, wouldn’t disappoint, with 7 points and 7 rebounds in his team’s 67-58 home win over the now No.1-seeded Orange.

After the final buzzer sounded, the 19-year-old who played his high school ball at St. John’s Prep in Danvers was lifted on his newly-acquired fans’ shoulders, an image that was captured on the top of ESPN.com that night. Later, he appeared in Sports Illustrated’s “Leading Off” section, giving a celebratory fist pump on the court.

Turning Point

The win proved to be pivotal, as Notre Dame rattled off nine-straight wins and ended the regular season on a 10-2 run.

Connaughton, the former Massachusetts player of the year and state champion, would have two more standout games during the regular season, with 23 points and 11 rebounds in a 76-59 win over then No. 15 Marquette and 21 points and 9 rebounds in a 74-70 overtime win at Villanova. He also led the Fighting Irish with 12 points in their 57-53 overtime win against South Florida in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.

No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Xavier, 9:45 p.m. Friday

Notre Dame (22-11) now enters the NCAA tournament as the No. 7 seed in the South regional. They’ll play No. 10 Xavier (21-12) at 9:45 p.m. Friday, March 16, in the second round (because of the four play-in games) in Greensboro, N.C., with No. 2 Duke presumably looming in the second round on Sunday.

Connaughton, a two-sport athlete, recently told the Chicago Tribune that he’s been listening to his teammates heading into March Madness.

“They’ve told me not to really play any different than I’ve been playing, just kind of as hard as it will be, try to go into it like another game,” he told the Chicago newspaper. “In the days to come, my teammates and coach will tell me more about what to expect and what to be prepared for.”

Connaughton’s 3-pointers are expected to be a key component of Notre Dame’s offense in the tournament, according to the Tribune article.

So the question is:

L Klosterman March 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Our congratulations to Patrick! Well done.
John Waller March 14, 2012 at 01:36 PM
In addition to Connaughton, Arlington's Kelsey Roberson, a 2009 Arlington Catholic graduate, is also a part of March Madness. Roberson is a junior captain on the Bentley women's basketball team, and the Falcons won the D2 East Regional on Monday night, with a 84-73 victory over Holy Family, to advance to the Elite Eight (http://www.boston.com/sports/colleges/womens_basketball/articles/2012/03/13/second_half_surge_carries_bentley_to_the_elite_eight/). Roberson had 8 points in the win. The Falcons will face Central Region champ Wayne State on Tuesday, March 20, in the Elite Eight in San Antonio. See the bracket: http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/basketball-women/d2

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