Oct. 6, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The Notre Dame women’s basketball team will face at least 12 teams that advanced to postseason play last year, including nine NCAA Tournament qualifiers, as part of a rugged 2004-05 schedule that was released Wednesday. The Irish also are scheduled to play a minimum of four games on national television, including two on ESPN2, with these television arrangements resulting in the delayed release of the schedule.
In addition, Notre Dame will make its second-ever appearance in the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), a 16-team single-elimination event contested at campus sites across the nation. Besides the Irish, the 2004 Preseason WNIT field includes defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion and NCAA Elite Eight participant Duke, as well as the reigning Pac-10 Conference co-champion Arizona and rising Big Ten Conference power Ohio State.
This year, the Irish have seven monogram winners and four starters back from the ’03-04 club that posted a 21-11 record and made the school’s fourth NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in the past five years (second in a row). Notre Dame also collected its 11th consecutive 20-win season and will take a 20-game home winning streak, the eighth-longest active run in the country, into the 2004-05 campaign. In the past month, the Irish have caught the eye of many national publications, all of which have ranked Notre Dame in the top 15 of their respective preseason polls (#10 – SLAM; #11 – Street & Smith’s; #14 – Lindy’s; and #15 – Athlon).
“With the schedule we have lined up, we expect to be tested right from the opening tip this season,” 18th-year Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said.
“Everyone on this team, from the players to the coaches, looks forward to the challenges that this schedule will present. Playing in the Preseason WNIT will give us a good indication of where we stand early in the year and it will help to prepare us for the other strong teams that will come later in the season. We are also excited to be playing in the nation’s toughest conference against some very talented established teams and some other teams that are quickly on the rise.”
The 2004-05 schedule should keep Notre Dame battle-tested throughout the season, beginning with a Preseason WNIT first-round game against Illinois State at the Joyce Center on Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. (ET). ISU went 16-13 last season, a nine-game improvement over the previous campaign. The unusual 9 p.m. time was necessitated by other activities at the arena during the day — the Irish volleyball team will play Pittsburgh at 4 p.m., immediately followed by a football pep rally.
Should Notre Dame defeat Illinois State, the Irish would advance to meet either Nebraska or Western Illinois in the second round of the Preseason WNIT on Nov. 14 at a site to be determined. A matchup with Duke potentially looms in the semifinal round (Nov. 17), while Ohio State or Arizona could be on tap for the Irish should they reach the championship game on Nov. 20.
Notre Dame begins the rest of its regular-season schedule by hosting Colorado State on Nov. 22, continuing a rivalry that has seen each of the previous three games decided by six points or less. The Irish then close out the month of November with a two-game road swing to USC (Nov. 26) and Valparaiso (Nov. 30). The USC game will take place the night before the Notre Dame and USC football teams clash in a 5 p.m. (PT) contest at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Irish will play just five times in December, but each game will provide some unique challenges. Notre Dame will play host to both Michigan State (Dec. 2) and Washington (Dec. 11), with the MSU game slated to be broadcast nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV). Both games will offer the Irish with a chance to avenge road losses to the Spartans and Huskies last season.
Notre Dame also will play the two most common opponents in its history when it visits Dayton (Dec. 9) and Marquette (Dec. 19). The Irish are 21-6 all-time against the Flyers and 25-4 against the Golden Eagles, with both teams having faced Notre Dame regularly during their membership in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. The Irish will travel to another former MCC school, Northern Illinois, on Dec. 30, squaring off with the Huskies for the first time since 1995. It also will serve as a homecoming for Notre Dame associate coach Carol Owens, who was a two-time WBCA/Kodak District IV All-America post player at NIU from 1986-90, setting 13 school records during her storied career.
The Irish will play one final non-conference game on Jan. 16, when they welcome in-state rival Purdue to the Joyce Center for the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge, to be televised nationally by ESPN2.
The BIG EAST schedule should be especially formidable this season after the conference sent nine teams to the postseason last year, including a record-tying eight to the NCAA Tournament and three to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. With the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC, a 12-team league remains with Notre Dame scheduled to meet five teams twice (home and away) and the remaining six once.
Including the Purdue game, the Irish will play six of their nine January games at the Joyce Center. The BIG EAST docket opens with home games against Seton Hall (Jan. 2) and Syracuse (Jan. 5), before Notre Dame embarks on a tough stretch of three consecutive games against NCAA Tournament qualifiers. Three-time defending national champion Connecticut highlights this trio with a Jan. 12 nationally-televised visit (CSTV), marking the Huskies’ first trip back to South Bend since Notre Dame handed them a 66-51 loss last season. The Irish will face UConn a second time on Jan. 30 in Storrs, Conn., with that game scheduled to be shown around the country on ESPN2.
The final month of the regular season will see Notre Dame play five of eight games on the road. The apex of this run will come midway through February when the Irish make back-to-back appearances at NCAA Sweet Sixteen participant Boston College (Feb. 15) and BIG EAST tournament runner-up Rutgers (Feb. 19). Notre Dame also will face a stern test on Senior Day when it plays host to West Virginia (Feb. 26), a team that earned its first NCAA berth since 1992 last year.
The 2005 BIG EAST Championship is scheduled for March 5-8 at Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center, marking the second consecutive season the conference tournament will be held at a neutral site. The BIG EAST title game will be televised live on ESPN at 7 p.m. (ET) March 8.
Season ticket packages for Irish women’s basketball 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).
— ND —
2004-05 IRISH SCHEDULE NOTES (not including potential Preseason WNIT opponents): Five of Notre Dame’s opponents were ranked in either the Associated Press or ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls at the end of last season (#3/9 Purdue, #6/1 Connecticut, #23/14 Boston College, #23 (AP) Michigan State and #25 (AP) Villanova) … four opponents (Boston College, Connecticut, Purdue and Valparaiso) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conferences … all told, 14 of the 21 opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule had a record of .500 or better last season, with nine posting 20-win seasons … Irish opponents notched a combined record of 351-280 (.556) last season.