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Syracuse vs. Notre Dame: The Orange & The Green

The No. 1 in all the land Syracuse Orange head to South Bend to take on the pesky Notre Dame Fighting Irish this Saturday at 6:00pm ET. The game will be televised on ESPN and the crowd will be loud.

Notre Dame (11-8) wasn't supposed to be very good this year. But like most things in the Big East, that hasn't gone entirely according to plan. The Irish seemed to live up to that title in the non-conference slate, losing games to Missouri, Gonzaga, Maryland and Indiana. Then the Big East slate started and they knocked off then-ranked Pittsburgh and Louisville.

After a 3-1 conference start, the Irish have come back down to Earth with recent losses to UConn and Rutgers. Now at 3-3, they dropped back into a tie for ninth place in the Big East and need a big win to right the ship. They need to do so quickly, three of their next four games include SU, UConn and Marquette.

When Syracuse fans think of Notre Dame, they think of two things. Ugly white guys and lots of points (the 103-97 2007 game comes to mind). This year, however, the Irish are all about the defense.

"I think our defensive chemistry is better than our offensive chemistry," Brey told the Chicago Tribune. "We’re still kind of learning each other offensively and when to be aggressive. But defensively, we’re better. We understand each other, how to rotate. And we’re keeping people for the most part to one-and-done. Saturday morning, that’ll be a great challenge."

With Tim Abromaitis gone this season, the Irish rely on Eric Atkins (13.3 PPG), Jerian Grant (12.8 PPG) and Jack Cooley (10.4 PPG) for their scoring. Cooley also grabs 8.3 rebounds/game.

As you might expect, the Irish still boast a bevy of three-point shooters. They average 19-20 three-point shots a night with Atkins and Grant leading the way. Keep an eye on Scott Martin, though. He's having a dreadful year from long-range but Mike Brey has told him to keep shooting. He'll catch fire one of these days.

SU leads the all-time series against the Irish 24-18 and has won three in a row. The Orange were hoping for a chance to end Notre Dame's 29-game home winning streak Saturday but Connecticut did the honors last week. It was the fourth-longest active run in the country.

Just in case you have parents that root separately for Syracuse and Notre Dame, this one's for you: