Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw begins her 29th season at Notre Dame (and 34th season overall) in 2015-16, leading the Fighting Irish into a challenging schedule that includes 13 opponents that played in last year's NCAA Championship (six that advanced to the Sweet 16 or better).

2015-16 Women's Basketball Schedule To Test Irish

Sept. 16, 2015

2015-16 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Schedule
2015-16 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Schedule (PDF)
2015-16 ACC Composite Women’s Basketball Schedule

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — A trip to the Bahamas, a rematch of the past two NCAA national championship games, the return of a former assistant coach and a visit to the head coach’s alma mater — all that and more highlight the unique and demanding 2015-16 University of Notre Dame women’s basketball schedule that was released Wednesday following approval from the University’s Faculty Board on Athletics and in conjunction with the announcement of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular season slate.

The Fighting Irish, who have advanced to the past five NCAA Women’s Final Fours and reached the NCAA title game four times in that span, could play up to 20 of their 29 regular season games against teams that advanced to the postseason last year, including 13 against NCAA Championship participants. That group is led by three-time defending national champion Connecticut, along with NCAA Elite Eight qualifiers Florida State and Tennessee.

What’s more, Notre Dame will play 12 games against teams that were ranked or receiving votes in the final Associated Press and/or Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today polls last year, highlighted by six games against teams ranked in the top 10 of one or both major national polls at season’s end.

The Fighting Irish also will play 15 home games (14 regular season and one exhibition) in 2015-16. Some of the featured opponents coming to Purcell Pavilion this year include Tennessee, last year’s Big Ten Conference tournament runner-up Ohio State (led by former Notre Dame assistant coach Kevin McGuff), defending Pac-12 Conference regular season champion Oregon State and two-time defending BIG EAST Conference champion DePaul. In conference play, the Fighting Irish will welcome several strong foes to town, including Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Syracuse.

“We have always followed the idea that our non-conference schedule prepares us for the ACC season, and the conference schedule gets us ready for the NCAAs, and this year’s schedule fits that philosophy extremely well,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach.

“We’re going to see many different styles of play during the non-conference season and we’re going to be playing in some unique environments that may take us out of our comfort zone. Between our non-conference and ACC schedules, we’re going to have dealt with most of the challenges we will see in the postseason. Our belief is that by setting up the schedule this way, we’ll be growing and developing throughout the season and peaking when the conference and NCAA tournaments come around in March and April.”

Here are some of the highlights on this year’s Notre Dame women’s basketball schedule:

Rivalry Renewed
It’s become the highest-profile series in women’s college basketball, with Notre Dame and Connecticut squaring off at the NCAA Women’s Final Four each of the past five seasons, including the last two NCAA national championship games. For the second year in a row, these two rivals will meet as part of the Jimmy V Women’s Classic, to be played Dec. 5 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut (live on ESPN at 5:15 p.m. ET). While the Huskies have won the past four meetings between the teams, the Fighting Irish have hold a 7-5 edge over UConn dating back to the 2011 Final Four national semifinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (which coincidentally also is the site of this year’s Final Four).

21 Regular Season TV Appearances
Of those 21 TV games, Notre Dame will play a minimum of nine times on the ESPN family of networks, including the Dec. 5 Jimmy V Classic at Connecticut (live on ESPN) and three appearances on ESPN2’s Big Monday (the Fighting Irish are 11-0 all-time in Big Monday games). Notre Dame also will play three times on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks package. What’s more, any remaining Notre Dame regular season home games not set for commercial broadcast will air live and free of charge on either ESPN3 or the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND (watchnd.tv). Notre Dame has had more than 63 percent of its games (326 of 517) televised — 223 on national TV — during the past 15 years, either commercially or via a free live web stream. Several other games on this year’s schedule also may be chosen for television (and others such as the Jan. 10 North Carolina and Feb. 7 Louisville games set for one of two ESPN outlets), with those determinations made no later than 21 days prior to tipoff.

Bahamas Bound
Notre Dame heads to the Bahamas for the second time in five years as it competes in the Junkanoo Jam, hosted by Basketball Travelers, Inc., in the country’s second largest city, Freeport. The Fighting Irish will face first-time opponent University of Denver in the first round of the tournament’s Freeport Division and then meet either Louisiana Tech or defending WNIT champion UCLA on the second day of the event (Notre Dame hasn’t faced Louisiana Tech since winning the 1990 Texaco-Hawk Classic in Philadelphia, while the Fighting Irish have defeated UCLA the past three seasons). Notre Dame, which has won its last six regular-season games played outside the continental United States and is 11-1 all-time in tournaments run by Basketball Travelers, won the 2011 Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division title with a last-second 56-54 win over Duke. Tickets and travel packages for this year’s Junkanoo Jam can be purchased online at www.junkanoojam.com.

Home Sweet Home
Notre Dame has built Purcell Pavilion into one of the nation’s toughest venues, with the Fighting Irish posting a 419-91 (.822) all-time record at the legendary facility, including a 96-6 (.941) mark since 2009-10. What’s more, Notre Dame has one of the country’s fastest-growing fan bases, with the Fighting Irish average attendance growing more than 35 percent in the past decade, and the program ranking in the top five nationally the past six years (as well as the top 20 for the past 15 years). Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation with 8,544 fans per game, led the country by filling their arena to nearly 95 percent of its capacity, and recorded four sellouts (part of 45 all-time sellouts, including 39 in the past six years alone).

Conference Call
Notre Dame is the two-time defending ACC regular season and tournament champion, just the third conference program to pull off that sweep in consecutive seasons and first since Duke in 2002-03 and 2003-04. The Fighting Irish are 31-1 in ACC regular season games since joining the conference in 2013-14, and are one of three schools in league history to have only one loss in any two-year period (the others being Virginia in 1990-91 and 1991-92, and Duke from 2001-02 through 2003-04).

McGraw Milestone Watch
Head coach Muffet McGraw needs one win to become the second Notre Dame coach in any sport to record 700 career victories (she owns a 699-221 record, entering her 29th season under the Golden Dome). The late Fighting Irish men’s and women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco remains the school’s winningest coach in any sport with a 774-80 combined record from 1962-95. McGraw also is 13 wins shy of becoming the 10th coach in NCAA Division I history to register 800 career victories (she has a 787-252 mark heading into her 34th year as a collegiate coach, the first five at Lehigh University).

McGraw Goes Back To The Beginning
McGraw’s first foray into college basketball began as the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where she led the Hawks to a 59-12 four-year mark, including a 23-5 record and No. 3 national ranking as a senior in 1976-77. Nearly three decades later, McGraw returns to her alma mater, leading Notre Dame into a Dec. 21 matchup with SJU. It will be the first visit to Hawk Hill for McGraw and the Fighting Irish since Dec. 29, 1990, when they defeated Saint Joseph’s, 72-53 to win the Texaco-Hawk Classic, a day after toppling 11th-ranked Louisiana Tech, 71-66 in their tournament opener. The two wins would result in Notre Dame’s first-ever appearance in the Associated Press Top 25 poll two days later.

You Look Familiar
For the second time in Notre Dame’s three-year ACC membership, the Fighting Irish will face a team led by a former Notre Dame assistant coach in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In 2013, Notre Dame earned a 77-67 win at Penn State (piloted by former Fighting Irish point guard/assistant coach and 1992 graduate Coquese Washington). This time around, Notre Dame will take on Ohio State (Dec. 2 at Purcell Pavilion), with the Buckeyes led by Kevin McGuff, who was a member of McGraw’s Fighting Irish coaching staff on the program’s 2001 NCAA national championship team along with Washington and current Notre Dame associate head coach Carol Owens.

Oh The Places We’ll Go
Notre Dame will play a game in the state of South Dakota for the second time in school history (and first in more than 35 years, dating back to 76-61 loss at South Dakota on Jan. 14, 1980) when the Fighting Irish travel to Brookings on Nov. 21 to take on South Dakota State. The teams met two seasons ago, with Notre Dame posting a 94-51 win at Purcell Pavilion. South Dakota is one of 39 U.S. states the Fighting Irish have played in during the program’s 39-year history, leaving only Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming still to be visited (Notre Dame has played teams from all of those states except Mississippi, North Dakota and Wyoming). Interesting side note — former Fighting Irish head baseball coach Dave Schrage now holds the same position at South Dakota State.

Facing The Champs
The Fighting Irish will play five opponents that won either their conference regular season or tournament titles last year. Like Notre Dame in the ACC, Connecticut (American Athletic) and DePaul (BIG EAST) swept both crowns in 2014-15, while Oregon State won the Pac-12 regular season title, Tennessee shared the Southeastern Conference regular season trophy and South Dakota State won the Summit League tournament championship.

Deep In The Heart Of Texas
Led by their sophomore All-America forward and native Texan Brianna Turner, Notre Dame returns to the Lone Star State for the first time since 2012, when it travels to Fort Worth to take on Big 12 Conference member TCU on Dec. 12. It will be the first meeting between the Fighting Irish and Horned Frogs in almost exactly 25 years, dating back to Notre Dame’s 78-67 win over TCU on Dec. 13, 1990, at Purcell Pavilion, This year’s matchup at newly-renovated Schollmaier Arena (formerly Daniel-Meyer Coliseum) will tip off at 11 a.m. CT (noon ET in South Bend) and will be televised on several Fox Sports Net regional affiliates around the country.

Pink Zone/Play4Kay Game Set For Valentine’s Day
It seems appropriate that Notre Dame will hold its annual Pink Zone/Play4Kay breast cancer awareness game on Valentine’s Day, as the Fighting Irish welcome Miami to Purcell Pavilion for a 1 p.m. (ET) contest on Feb. 14 that will air on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks. In the past seven years, Notre Dame has raised more than $850,000 in donations through its Pink Zone game for numerous cancer charities including the locally-based Foundation of Saint Joseph Health System and Riverbend Cancer Services, and the national Kay Yow Cancer Fund. To learn more about Notre Dame’s Pink Zone efforts, contact special events coordinator Sharla Lewis (574-631-5420) or go online to UND.com/pinkzone.

Celebrate Our Seniors
The Fighting Irish will take time to honor senior guards Madison Cable, Hannah Huffman and Michaela Mabrey on Feb. 27 during Senior Day ceremonies prior to Notre Dame’s regular-season finale against Boston College at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish have won 25 of their last 27 Senior Day games and are 32-6 all-time in such contests.

20 Years On The Radio
The 2015-16 campaign will mark the 20th consecutive season every Notre Dame women’s basketball game, home and away, has been broadcast on commercial radio. Once again, the LeSEA Broadcasting Network and Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) will air every Notre Dame women’s basketball game live to more than 1.5 million listeners in the Michiana area and worldwide through the WatchND multimedia platform, with veteran broadcaster Bob Nagle calling the play-by-play.

Notre Dame brings back four starters and 10 monogram recipients from its 2014-15 squad that posted a 36-3 record and advanced to the NCAA Women’s Final Four for the fifth consecutive year (seventh time in school history), while making its fourth trip to the NCAA national championship game in the past five seasons (fifth in school history). The Fighting Irish also were ranked No. 2 in the final 2014-15 Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today polls.

This season, Notre Dame will be paced by a pair of honorable mention All-Americans in junior guard Lindsay Allen (Mitchellville, Md./St. John’s College) and sophomore forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel), as well as 2015 USA Basketball Pan American Games silver medalist and junior forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) and senior sharpshooting guard Michaela Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan).

The returning Notre Dame reserve unit also will be strong, led by sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld (Kettering, Ohio/Kettering Fairmont) and fifth-year senior guard Madison Cable (Mt. Lebanon, Pa./Mt. Lebanon), who sank the game-winning shot for the Fighting Irish with 19 seconds left in their 66-65 win over South Carolina in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals back in April at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

As a team, Notre Dame will return more than 70 percent of its scoring, along with 80 percent of its rebounding and assists from a year ago.

This fall, the Fighting Irish also introduce the nation’s No. 3-ranked incoming freshman class, a three-player group that features three McDonald’s High School All-America guards — McDonald’s High School All-America Game MVP and 2015 Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year Marina Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan), four-time USA Basketball gold medalist and three-time Wisconsin Player of the Year Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels), and 2015 MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year and the reigning Indiana Miss Basketball Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North). In addition, Notre Dame regains the services of junior forward Kristina Nelson (Buford, Ga./Buford), who sat out the 2014-15 season while recovering from shoulder surgery.

Following a nearly 90-percent renewal rate among season ticket holders, a limited number of 2015-16 Notre Dame women’s basketball season ticket packages have been freed up and are now on sale by contacting Notre Dame’s Murnane Family Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356 or visiting the ticket windows inside Gate 9 (Rosenthal Atrium) at Purcell Pavilion. Tickets also can be ordered on-line 24 hours a day with a major credit card at UND.com/buytickets.

Remaining season ticket packages start as low as $65 per person for individuals and $55 per person for full-time Notre Dame faculty/staff, while “Fan Packs” of 4-8 tickets are as low as $220. Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students are admitted free for all home games (while supplies last). These season ticket packages include exclusive opportunities such as priority access for additional tickets and entry to Club Naimoli, as well as tickets for any home games in the 2016 NCAA Championship (contact the ticket office for details).

Single-game tickets for the 2015-16 Notre Dame women’s basketball home schedule will go on sale Oct. 20 (season ticket holders) and Oct. 22 (general public). A limited number of tickets for each home game may become available during the week prior to, or the day of, that contest due to visiting team returns and other considerations.

For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, visit the main women’s basketball page on the University’s official athletics web site (UND.com/ndwbb), sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter page (@ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.

— Chris Masters, Athletics Communications Associate Director