March 5, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Fittingly, the last team standing between No. 3 Notre Dame women’s basketball and an exalted piece of ACC history which can only be claimed by Duke, are the Blue Devils themselves. Only Duke, from 2001-04, has previously doubled up winning the ferocious conference’s regular season championship outright and its tournament championship four years in a row.
Notre Dame would join that very short list with a win on Sunday over the No. 13/11 Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament’s championship game. The Irish are 11-0 in ACC Tournament play since joining the league, but the team has some work to do if that run will continue into next season against an experience Duke squad which has beaten two ranked teams already this week (No. 21 Syracuse and No. 16 Miami) to reach the ACC final.
About the Blue Devils
Duke is 27-4 on the season and went 13-3 in league play. The Blue Devils’ fortunes shifted this year with the arrival of Maryland transfer Lexie Brown. The veteran guard is averaging 18.4 points per game and has 113 assists. Brown has complemented Rebecca Greenwell nicely as she boasts 16.5 points per game. It adds up to an impressive +19.0 scoring margin for Duke which is outscoring opponents by an average of 73.7 points per game to 54.7. Joanne P. McCallie is 588-217 in 25 years as a head coach and 272-69 in her 10 years at Duke.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 14-1, and has won each of the last 12 meetings since an 80-62 Blue Devil victory on Nov. 22, 1997 at Cameron Indoor Arena. At 15 games, the Duke series is by far Notre Dame’s longest against any ACC school which was not also once a fellow member of the BIG EAST Conference, doubling the eight-game histories against Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
The Irish hold an 8-0 record against Duke since Notre Dame joined the ACC for the 2013-14 season, recording a 5-0 record in regular-season contests and a 3-0 record in the ACC Tournament. The Irish and Blue Devils have yet to miss each other in the league’s annual showcase, colliding in the 2014 final, 2015 semifinals and 2016 quarterfinals.
Duke is the third school Notre Dame has ever faced in four consecutive conference championships, joining Dayton (1990-93 MCC) and UConn (1996-99 and 2010-13 BIG EAST). In addition to the three ACC Tournament games, Notre Dame and Duke have met on two other instances in the postseason. The Irish downed the Blue Devils, 87-76, in a 2013 NCAA Elite Eight game played in Norfolk, Virginia. Notre Dame also beat Duke, 74-67 in the 1986 WNIT semifinals.
On Jan. 26 at Notre Dame, Brianna Turner scored 25 points with 12 rebounds while Lindsay Allen contributed a career-high-tying 12 assists as the Irish beat Duke, 62-58. Both teams shot under 40% in the evenly-played defense-heavy battle.
Irish Shoot For 30, McGraw Shoots For 850
Notre Dame is in search of its 30th win of the season on Sunday. It would mark the seventh consecutive 30-win season for Notre Dame and the ninth in school history, joining the 1996-97 and 2000-01 squads.
Nationally, only UConn has a longer active streak of 30-win seasons at 12. Baylor matches the Irish with a streak that began in 2010-11.
A win would also be the 850th of Muffet McGraw’s coaching career. She would become the 10th Division I coach to reach this milestone and the sixth woman. McGraw stands sixth among all active Division I coaches in wins with her 849.
Consistent ACC Success For Irish
Since joining the ACC for the 2013-14 season, Notre Dame has been the league’s top program, compiling a 62-2 regular season record and winning four consecutive outright regular season and three tournament championships. The Irish are 73-2 in ACC competition, including league tournaments.
The Irish maintain an active streak of 32 consecutive home wins in ACC play, part of an overall streak of 42 consecutive home league wins including the final years of Notre Dame’s BIG EAST membership.
Notre Dame’s current 11-game ACC Tournament winning streak is the longest since North Carolina won 13 in a row from 2005-09.
The Irish have lost no more than one ACC league game each of the past four years – the longest such streak in conference history. Duke went three consecutive years from 2002-04 with no more than one ACC loss per season.
The first loss came at Miami on Jan. 8, 2015, and the Irish won all 29 regular season games and 35 games in a row vs. ACC teams including conference tournament play until the Dec. 29, 2016, loss at NC State.
The 35-game ACC streak including tournament games is the 15th-longest in NCAA history and the second-longest in ACC history behind a 51-game run by Duke from 2001-04.
The 29-game ACC regular season winning streak is the 24th-longest such streak in NCAA history and the second-longest in ACC history behind just a 42-game run by Duke from 2001-04.
Conference Tournament Success
The Irish ride a 14-game conference tournament winning streak into Sunday’s game, including a perfect 11-0 mark in ACC play. Overall, Notre Dame is 47-19 in conference tournament play, including its time in the MCC (now Horizon League), BIG EAST and ACC.
The Irish are vying for their 10th conference tournament championship and fifth in a row. Nationally, only Notre Dame, Albany (America East) and Baylor (Big 12) have won their conference tournament each of the past four years.
Notre Dame is playing a conference tournament on a neutral floor for just the fourth time – all coming in the ACC era.
Irish Among Hottest Teams in the Country
Notre Dame currently rides a 13-game winning streak which stands as the seventh-longest active winning streak nationally after Ohio State’s loss to Purdue on Saturday. The Irish have not lost since a Jan. 16 setback at Tennessee.
The Irish also won each of their last 15 ACC games of the year. The run ties New Mexico State (WAC) for the fourth-longest active conference winning streak in the country.
Helping the Irish to these runs has been its success away from Purcell Pavilion. The Irish went 12-2 on the road this year. As of Monday, only UConn (14) and Belmont (13) had more road wins in 2016-17.
Irish Aiming For ACC, National History
The Irish have claimed their sixth consecutive outright regular season conference title and are now in position to extend a couple of historic tournament championship streaks.
The Irish are vying for their fourth consecutive dual outright ACC regular season and tournament championships, a feat only previously accomplished in the league by Duke from 2001-04.
Including the final days of BIG EAST membership, Notre Dame is looking for five consecutive dual outright regular season and conference tournament championships, a feat no one else can actively claim.
Looking at the handful of others to accomplish these feats:
FOUR STRAIGHT OUTRIGHT ACC REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS
Notre Dame (2014-17)
2012-17 OUTRIGHT REGULAR SEASON CONFERENCE CHAMPS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
FOUR STRAIGHT ACC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIPS
North Carolina (2005-08)
2013-16 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
Albany (America East)
Baylor (Big 12)
4x OUTRIGHT ACC REGULAR SEASON & TOURNAMENT CHAMPS
2013-16 CONFERENCE REGULAR & TOURN. CHAMPIONS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
How to Watch/Listen
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli on the call.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Sunday’s game is available here.
Bob Nagle returns for his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The direct link to the radio call is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.