BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Growing up, most members of the Michigan men's basketball team were aware of the deep history between Michigan and Notre Dame — on the gridiron, that is.
It’s hard to be a fan of college football without knowing about the tradition between the two schools, even if you play basketball instead of football. Though there isn’t a basketball rivalry, some sort of rivalry will exist on Friday for those who hail from the Hoosier State.
“Our young men, (the Fighting Irish) have a lot of Midwest kids,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We have a lot of Midwest kids. They’ve all played against each other. I think those rivalries probably were formed way before anybody thought it would be a Notre Dame-Michigan game. It might have been eighth grade they played against each other. So it’s a great basketball game. I know that there will be a lot of people tuned in.”
Juniors Zak Irvin, Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan will see many familiar faces on the court Friday, including V.J. Beachem, Demetrius Jackson, Austin Torres and Austin Burgett.
“Growing up in Indiana, you hear about IU basketball, Butler, Purdue and Notre Dame,” Dakich said. “So to actually get a chance to play them — because we don’t play them in the regular season — to get the chance to play them in the first round, I mean, everyone’s looking forward to it.”
Lonergan is looking forward to seeing the improvement in each player since the last time he played against them, noting that Beachem’s game has grown considerably in the past few years.
Dakich, on the other hand, mentioned that he enjoyed watching the football matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Though the rivalry game was discontinued indefinitely starting his junior year of college, he thinks it will be interesting to meet with the Fighting Irish on the hardwood for the first time since 2006.
“To play them in the first round, we know it’s going to be a challenge,” Dakich said. “It should be a great game, and I think we have a lot of (alumni) in this area and they do, too, so it should be fun.”
Senior guard Spike Albrecht, who’s also from Indiana, didn’t get the chance to play with the same athletes throughout high school because of his older age. But he remembers Auguste well from prep school in Massachusetts.
“He’s a really good player,” Albrecht said. “He gave us the business out of prep school. He’s real good. He’s obviously had a great college career and a really good senior season. He’s going to be a tough matchup for us, but they’re just a really good overall team.”
Though Lonergan, Dakich and Albrecht saw the future Fighting Irish occasionally, it wasn’t anywhere near as often as Irvin did. He grew up playing AAU and high school basketball with Beachem, and played on the same all-star team with Jackson in their senior year.
Irvin doesn’t see Beachem and Jackson — both of whom are starters — as often anymore, but talks with them every now and then over the summers when there’s more free time.
Despite going their separate ways, Irvin doesn’t feel any ill will against either of them.
“Especially when you’re old teammates with someone, you always want to see them do well,” Irvin said. “Notre Dame has done really well, especially in the Elite Eight last year.
“I know it’s going to be a tough game for us, and I wish them the best, but once we step on the court, there’s no friends.”