Oct. 2, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team will face 17 teams which advanced to postseason play last year, including 12 NCAA Tournament qualifiers and six NCAA Sweet Sixteen teams, as part of a demanding 2003-04 schedule that was released Thursday afternoon.
In addition, Notre Dame has been selected as one of 16 host sites for the first two rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament, to be held March 21 and 23, 2004 at the Joyce Center. Should the Irish stretch their streak of NCAA tourney appearances to nine consecutive years, they will be playing at home for the third time in the last five seasons. Notre Dame reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen as a host school in both 2000 and 2001, going on to win the national championship in the latter campaign.
This year, the Irish have eight monogram winners and four starters back from the ’02-03 club that posted a 21-11 record and made the school’s fifth NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last seven years. Notre Dame also extended its string of consecutive 20-win seasons to 10 in a row, a streak only five other schools in the country can match.
“In order to be successful, you have to play the best teams in the country every year,” 17th-year Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said.
“We’re fortunate to be playing in a conference that has produced the last four national champions, but we also realize we need a tough non-conference schedule to get us ready for March. Our goal is to peak when the postseason rolls around, so the more we can do to prepare ourselves for the BIG EAST season, and the more that prepares us for the NCAA Tournament, the better off we’re going to be.”
The 2003-04 schedule should keep the Irish battle-tested throughout the season, beginning with four road games in the first month of the campaign. Notre Dame will debut at the WBCA Classic Nov. 14 in Boulder, Colo., facing defending WNIT champion Auburn in the opening round at 6 p.m. (MST), with Colorado, an ’03 Sweet Sixteen qualifier, and Old Dominion meeting in the nightcap. The WBCA Classic consolation game is set for Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. (MST), with the championship game to follow at 8:15 p.m. (MST) from the Coors Events Center.
The Irish will open their 13-game home schedule Nov. 21 with a 7 p.m. (EST) contest against defending Mid-Continent Conference champion Valparaiso at the Joyce Center. However, Notre Dame then heads right back on the road to visit Michigan State (Nov. 26) and Tennessee (Nov. 30), both of whom qualified for the NCAA Tournament. UT advanced all the way to the national championship game before being ousted by Connecticut.
Notre Dame will enjoy the comforts of home for much of December, playing three of their five games in the month at the Joyce Center. The Irish will face Big Ten Conference member Wisconsin at home on Dec. 4, before heading to the West Coast for a matchup with Washington three days later. Notre Dame then comes back to the Joyce Center to renew acquaintances with its old Midwestern Collegiate Conference sister Dayton (Dec. 13) before playing host to USC on Dec. 22. A trip to Colorado State on Dec. 29 closes out the 2003 calendar year for the Irish.
Notre Dame’s non-conference schedule winds up with a New Year’s Day matinee at home against Marquette, followed by a visit to Hoosier State rival Purdue on Jan. 4 for the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. The latter contest will be televised live nationally on ESPN2 as part of a doubleheader that also will feature Ohio State taking on Rutgers.
The BIG EAST schedule should be especially formidable this season after the conference sent nine teams to the postseason last year, including seven to the NCAA Tournament and four to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Notre Dame will face five of the other six NCAA qualifiers out of the BIG EAST at home, with each of the other three Sweet Sixteen participants scheduled to come to the Joyce Center this season.
The conference schedule kicks off Jan. 7 at Georgetown in the first of two meetings between the Irish and Hoyas in 2003-04. Notre Dame then will play host to Virginia Tech in its BIG EAST home opener on Jan. 10 before welcoming two-time defending national champion Connecticut to town Jan. 13. Visits by NCAA Elite Eight qualifier Villanova (Jan. 24) and NCAA Sweet Sixteen participant Boston College (Jan. 31), sandwiched around a trip to NCAA qualifier Miami (Jan. 28) highlight the remainder of Notre Dame’s schedule in January, which features 10 games for the first time since 1997.
The Irish open February with a return encounter against Georgetown at the Joyce Center (Feb. 4), before playing three of their next four games on the road. Notre Dame then will play two of its final three games at home against Miami (Feb. 25) and Syracuse (March 2), with an always-challenging trip to BIG EAST runner-up Rutgers set for Feb. 28.
The 2004 BIG EAST Championship is scheduled for March 6-9 at Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center, marking the first time the conference tournament will be held at a neutral site. The BIG EAST title game will be televised live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. (EST) March 9.
Season ticket packages for Irish women’s basketball, as well as individual game tickets for all home contests are available by contacting the Notre Dame Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356 or by visiting the ticket windows on the second floor of the Joyce Center (accessible through Gate 1). Information on purchasing tickets for the first two rounds of the 2004 NCAA Tournament at Notre Dame will be released at a later date.
– ND –
2003-04 IRISH SCHEDULE NOTES: Five of Notre Dame’s opponents were ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls at the end of last season (#1/1 Connecticut, #4/2 Tennessee, #10/7 Purdue, #11/8 Villanova and #25/17 Boston College) – Rutgers was ranked 23rd in the final AP poll and Colorado was 19th in the last ESPN/USA Today poll, while four other teams (Auburn, Old Dominion, Virginia Tech and Washington) were receiving votes in one of the two polls at season’s end … six opponents (Connecticut, Old Dominion, Purdue, Tennessee, Valparaiso and Villanova) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conferences … All told, 19 of the 26 possible opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule had a record of .500 or better last season, with 12 posting 20-win seasons … Irish opponents notched a combined record of 490-313 (.610) last season … Auburn is the only first-time opponent on this year’s schedule.