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Daily Word: What's behind the Irish's roller-coaster season?

Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.

1. Notre Dame knocked off North Carolina and Louisville but lost to Georgia Tech and Florida State. What could be accounting for the Fighting Irish's ups and downs this season?

Andy Katz: No one should be surprised. They have been erratic. It has been Notre Dame's calling card all season. Scoring hasn't been an issue, so if the Irish defend consistently, then they are a different team.

John Gasaway: This is not a strong defensive team, and the Irish will usually need a productive night on offense to win. That's usually not a problem with this bunch, but against Florida State, Mike Brey's guys recorded their worst showing on offense of the entire ACC season.

Eamonn Brennan: The Irish are frequently the conference's best offensive team, but their cellar-level defensive work can leave them hanging on nights when the shots don't fall. What's worth noting here is that this was basically the case for Notre Dame last season, too, but it found workarounds and got key stops in its ACC tournament title run and Elite Eight push. That team was better than this one, no question. But all hope is not lost.

2. At 15-14, UCLA will need to win the Pac-12 tournament to go to the NCAA tourney. What went wrong for Steve Alford this season?

Katz: This team was inexperienced and it showed in too many key spots. The Bruins could never build off the momentum of beating Kentucky. How they respond to this down year will be critical to the future of the program. There's no reason why UCLA should have consecutive suspect seasons.

Gasaway: The Bruins aren't out-and-out bad at any facet of the game, but name one thing at which they excelled this season. The only statistical category in which this team stands out in Pac-12 play is that its pace is pretty fast. Otherwise you're looking at a group that's so-so on the boards and never gets to the line. UCLA shot pretty well on the few 3s it has tried, but that was offset by below-average success inside the arc.

Brennan: After seeing them in that upset home win over Kentucky in early December -- or watching their road win at Gonzaga a week later -- I'm not sure if I would have gone so far as to say UCLA would be good. But it seemed reasonable to assume the Bruins at the very least would be the type of team that raised its play against quality opposition all season long. Instead, the Bruins are just . . . meh.

3. Seton Hall has won eight of its past nine games. For those unfamiliar with the Pirates, what can they expect to see from them in the Big Dance?

Katz: A loose, aggressive team that isn't afraid to challenge. The Pirates are a good watch and have the talent to be a second-weekend team.

Gasaway: Very good defense, particularly on the interior. Teams that do that without either a reputation for this kind of thing or a dominant shot-blocker tend to cause spectating confusion, but this is what the Pirates bring to the table. Also, Desi Rodriguez is having an excellent and shamefully under-hyped season as a dual-threat wing.

Brennan: As favorable postseason attributes go, Seton Hall has "stingy defense" and "a high-usage, volume-scoring, blue-chip NBA prospect at guard." With Isaiah Whitehead, the Pirates pair the two, and it's not hard to imagine an ideal scenario where that combination yields a deep tournament run.