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Michigan, Notre Dame have rare meeting in NCAA Tournament

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman of the Michigan Wolverines shoots against

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman of the Michigan Wolverines shoots against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 16, 2016 in Dayton, Ohio. Credit: Getty Images/ Joe Robbins

NCAA Tournament victories are ones players never forget. But often they don’t get much time to enjoy them.

Just look at Michigan. Zak Irvin hit a last-minute three-pointer to put the Wolverines (22-12) up for good as they defeated Tulsa in a First Four match in Dayton, Ohio. Just 75 minutes later they were boarding a plane for New York because No. 6 Notre Dame (21-11) awaits in an East Regional first-round game Friday night at Barclays Center.

The Wolverines left Dayton at about 1:30 a.m., landed at LaGuardia Airport around 3 a.m. and were in their hotel an hour later. Clearly it was a blur as Irvin mistook their Manhattan hotel for being in Brooklyn. The noon wake-up call was the latest of Michigan’s season, but left enough time for a walk through before Thursday night’s practice.

“Not even 24 hours ago we were getting ready to play a game, not knowing if we were going back to Ann Arbor or making this trip to Brooklyn,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “This has certainly been unique.”

Michigan vs. Notre Dame conjures great gridiron images, but not so much in basketball. This will be just the teams’ third NCAA Tournament meeting. The last one was 40 years ago.

While the Wolverines were thrilled to be in New York, so too was Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.

“This is a great town for us. This is a great Notre Dame town and really being in the city now for a day, it reminds me of my old Big East days this time of year,” Brey said. “We practiced at John Jay yesterday. We always used that gym when we were here for the Big East Tournament. So there’s a little bit of a Big East feel and familiarity for me.

“But there’s no question – for our fans and our subway alums in this town — this is a great Notre Dame town. I just hope they make curfew tonight on St. Patrick’s Day, but I doubt that will happen.”

The Fighting Irish are coming off a blowout ACC Tournament loss to North Carolina, what Brey called a “burn the tape kind of game.” But he maintained confidence because this is largely the same team that took Kentucky to the wire before losing by two in the Elite Eight last season.

“There’s a group in that locker room that got accustomed to advance,” he said, “and I hope they certainly remember how that feels.”

New York Sports