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Game 1 Preview: Fordham

Game 4:#15/14 Notre Dame vs #16/21 Michigan State
When:Thursday, Nov. 14 | 8 p.m. ET
Where:Purcell Pavilion (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Watch:ACCN
Listen:PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1
Live Scoring:Live Scoring
Social:@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish
Tickets:Buy Tickets Online

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A new era is upon the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, as the No. 16/14 Fighting Irish get their season underway on Tuesday, November 5. The Irish will start the year away from home, traveling to the Bronx to square off with Fordham. Tip inside Rose Hill Gymnasium is set for 7 p.m. ET, with the contest streaming on ESPN+.

SEASON OPENERS

The Irish will look to keep an impressive streak rolling on Tuesday. If victorious against Fordham, the Irish will have won 25 consecutive season openers, dating back to Nov. 30, 1994. In addition, Tuesday will mark the first true road season opener for the Irish since opening in Baton Rouge in 2008, downing LSU by the score of 62-53.

WHAT WE’VE LOST

The Irish said goodbye to an entire starting five: Arike Ogunbowale, Jackie Young, Marina Mabrey, Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner  – as the five went down as the most prolific scoring group in NCAA Division I history. The ND quintet amassed a total of 10,230 points, becoming the first starting five to ever accumulate 10,000 points or more.

When looking at last year’s points alone, the Irish have lost 3,201 points of their 3,454 team total. That equates to 92.7 percent of their offense, which (for Power Five schools) ranks only behind the 2017-18 Ohio State Buckeyes. In addition, the Irish have lost 82.1 ppg, which ranks as the most all-time.

Then the group went on to make WNBA Draft history – becoming the first starting five to not only be drafted but do so in the first 20 picks. Fast forward again and Ogunbowale, Young and Turner were all named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team, thus bestowing Notre Dame with the honor of becoming the first program to have three selections.

CHANGE IN COACHING

Out of 349 NCAA Division I women’s basketball programs at the start of the 2018-19 season, Notre Dame was one of just six whose head coach and three assistant coaches were together for seven consecutive seasons. However, change also hit the coaching staff for the 2019-20 season. This past summer, Niele Ivey accepted an assistant coaching position with the Memphis Grizzlies, becoming the ninth active NBA female coach.

Enter a last name Notre Dame fans know all too well – Mabrey. Michaela ensures that a Mabrey will be on Notre Dame’s campus for the eighth straight year. A 2016 alumna, her younger sister, Marina, just graduated in 2019. Mabrey has spent one year coaching stints at Miami, Miami (Ohio) and LSU.

FRESHMEN STARTERS

If Coach McGraw were to start both Anaya Peoples and Sam Brunelle on Tuesday, it would mark a very rare moment in program history in which two freshmen started. The last time that happened on a season opener– Nov. 18, 2001, when freshmen Teresa Borton and Jacqueline Batteast started against Valparaiso. And in that moment back in 2001, it marked the the first time in 20 years two freshmen had started.

OUTSIDE THE AP TOP-10

Both the preseason AP and Coaches polls have been released and the Irish check in at No. 16 and No. 14, respectively. Therefore, Notre Dame’s 163 week streak of being ranked inside the AP top-10 has come to an end. The 163 consecutive weeks ranked second behind UConn. However, the Irish do maintain their 232 straight weeks inside the AP top-25, which ranks third.

FRESH FIVE

Speaking of unique starting scenarios – given all the change heading into game one against Fordham, no matter who starts, the Irish will have a starting five in which all five players have never started in an Irish uniform.

GILBERT-PEOPLES CONNECTION

Irish fans can expect immediate on-court chemistry between guards Katlyn Gilbert and Anaya Peoples. Gilbert, from the Indianapolis area, and Peoples from Danville, Illinois, have played together every summer since they were seven and six years old, respectively. The duo first played on FBC together and later finished playing with Midwest Elite in Chicago.

NEW TEAM, SAME SCHEDULE

Coach McGraw has never shied away from having a challenging schedule. In fact, the Irish have boasted both the No. 1 strength of schedule and No. 1 RPI the past two seasons. This year, despite all the new faces, the scheduling philosophy remains the same.

All-in-all, the Irish face 10 teams ranked inside the preseason AP top-25. The breakdown:

Five Non-Conference – #25 Michigan, #23 Minnesota, #18 DePaul, #17 Michigan St, #5 UConn.

Five Conference – #21 Syracuse, #18 Miami, #14 NC State, #12 Florida St, #9 Louisville.

1,000 PROGRAM WINS

The Irish will being the 2019-20 season just one win away from 1,000 victories in program history. If successful against Fordham, the Irish will become the 13th team to reach the 1,000-win milestone. The teams right in front of the Irish are as follows:
No. 12 Maryland – 1,001 wins
No. 11 Western Kentucky – 1,004 wins
No. 10 Green Bay – 1,005 wins

CHERYL MILLER AWARD WATCH LIST

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced its watch list for the 2020 Cheryl Miller Award, with freshman Sam Brunelle making the cut. The Cheryl Miller Award Watch List recognizes the top 20 small forwards in the country. 

This marks the second consecutive year the Irish have had a representative on the Cheryl Miller Award Watch List. Last season, Jackie Young was a top-five finalist for the award.

ACC NEWCOMER WATCH LIST

The Atlantic Coast Conference named freshmen Anaya Peoples and Sam Brunelle to its Newcomer Watch List, claiming two of the five spots on both the Blue Ribbon media poll and the coaches poll.

— ND —