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NCAA Bracket 2012: How Notre Dame Basketball Got To March Madness

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished third in the Big East without Tim Abromaitis. Can they make an NCAA tournament run without him as well?

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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were ranked No. 9 in the Big East Preseason writers' poll, but Mike Brey's team put together a fantastic run in conference play, as they went 13-5 to finish third in the Big East. The Irish got off to a terrific start in conference play with a home win over Pittsburgh and they picked up a signature home win over the Syracuse Orange, whose only regular season loss this season was to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame had two other massive wins for its tournament resume, winning at Louisville and Connecticut. Its losses to St. Johns and Rutgers were slightly concerning, but both losses came on the road. The Irish only lost one game at home in conference, against Connecticut when the Huskies were ranked No. 16 in the country.

Though Notre Dame has no truly embarrassing losses on its resume, it did have a couple of bad non-conference losses at home against the Maryland Terrapins and the Georgia Bulldogs, both of whom finished with losing records in their conferences.

Incredibly, Notre Dame finished third in the Big East without its best player. Tim Abromaitis blew out his ACL in November, and without him, the team has sunk well into the triple digits in Division I in rebounding. Jack Cooley is doing well to pick up the slack, however. The big junior power forward is averaging 12.5 points and nine rebounds per game, and his best game of the season came in the last regular season game of the year against Providence.

The Fighting Irish outlasted South Florida in overtime of the Big East Tournament quarterfinals, but they shot just 11 percent from three in a 64-50 loss to Louisville a night later.

Notre Dame was rewarded with a No. 7 seed in the South region. The Fighting Irish will face Xavier in the Second Round.

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For more on the Fighting Irish, head over to Notre Dame blog One Foot Down. For more on the 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket, stay with SB Nation's Selection Sunday StoryStream, and stick around SB Nation's NCAA Tournament hub for a complete printable NCAA Tournament bracket and tons of analysis on who was snubbed, who got the best bracket, and who will make it all the way to New Orleans and the Final Four.

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