Considering the sartorial change accompanied Notre Dame's first road win on the Big East schedule Saturday at Seton Hall, it makes sense the Irish (13-10, 4-8) would don the alternates tonight against No. 3 Connecticut. Anything to change Notre Dame's luck against the Huskies would be appreciated considering the Irish are 1-6 at UConn (23-2, 10-2) with those losses coming by an average of 19.7 points.
To understand just how stacked UConn's roster is, consider that Notre Dame's defense of swingman Rudy Gay figures to be more business as usual rather than gimmick. Mike Brey knows there's too much talent elsewhere to overcompensate against the 6-foot-9, 220-pound future NBA lottery pick.
"We're not going to spend a lot of time talking about Rudy Gay. He's a hell of a player," Brey said. "Instead of starting with individuals, which there are certainly a lot of talented ones, you start with things you want to try and limit. When we've had success against them here we've limited transition and limited second shots.
"When they kick it into gear, they can be pretty devastating."
Aside from Gay, coach Jim Calhoun can trot out 6-10 Josh Boone and 6-11 Hilton Armstrong in the post, both of whom rank in Big East's Top 15 in rebounding and Top 5 in blocked shots. Gay leads the Huskies in rebounding at seven boards per game.
UConn's backcourt is good enough that the team's second-leading scorer, Rashad Anderson, comes of the bench. Point guard Marcus Williams averages a league-best eight assists per game.
In other words, at times the Huskies look unbeatable.
Maybe that's why Brey is less concerned about matching-up with UConn than simply keeping Notre Dame's momentum and three-game win streak going. Despite the Huskies' size, Brey plans to start with a four-guard lineup even if that means the 6-4 Russell Carter must block out the 6-10 Boone.
Notre Dame will lose a few rebounds in that match-up, but it could also give Carter openings on the offensive end. Against Seton Hall, Carter ran 6-8 forward Kelly Whitney all over the court and finished with 17 points in Notre Dame's 102-91 win.
Brey would love to duplicate that game plan against UConn, but he's open to going tall too. For one short stretch at Seton Hall, Brey played Torin Francis, Rick Cornett and Rob Kurz together in the frontcourt.
"Where you may cringe because Russ has to block out a Boone or an Armstrong, I think you've got to wait and see how that goes and hope that it's a match-up problem on the other end, which it can be sometimes," Brey said. "Certainly we're going to have to play big. We could end up playing big for 33 minutes of the game."
As for how that lineup will dress, there's less uncertainty there. Brey will leave the jersey choice up to his captains but expects them to go black. Brey first showed Chris Quinn, Francis and Cornett the uniforms in January and originally wanted to use them at Louisville.
"I showed them to the seniors a month ago; they almost fell off their chairs," said Brey, noting the switch won't be permanent. "We've got to be a little in your face with it."