Sept. 1, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The 2011 NCAA national runner-up Notre Dame women’s basketball team is poised to take on representatives from each of the nation’s top six conferences, and will play up to 19 regular-season games against teams that qualified for postseason play last year (including 16 NCAA Championship qualifiers and four NCAA Elite Eight participants) as part of a demanding 2011-12 schedule that was released Thursday afternoon following approval by the University’s Faculty Board on Athletics.
In addition, the Fighting Irish may face up to six first-time opponents during their non-conference slate, and they could play a school-record 18 home games (including first- and second-round contests in the 2012 NCAA Championship) inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center during the upcoming campaign.
What’s more, Notre Dame is in position to make at least 11 national or regional television appearances in 2011-12, highlighted by a second consecutive CBS matchup with BIG EAST Conference rival Connecticut (Jan. 7 at Purcell Pavilion) and six games on the ESPN family of networks, three of which are slated as part of ESPN’s Big Monday lineup (the second-most appearances by any team next season).
Once again, Notre Dame and Connecticut will play a home-and-home series this season as part of the latest chapters in one of the nation’s premier women’s college basketball rivalries. Last year, the two schools met a record-setting four times, with the Huskies winning the first three meetings (twice by single digits, the latter in the BIG EAST Championship final) before the Fighting Irish earned the most valuable victory, 72-63 at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.
Among the other marquee matchups on this year’s Notre Dame women’s basketball schedule are a Jan. 23 ESPN2 Big Monday home date with Southeastern Conference champion Tennessee (whom the Fighting Irish defeated 73-59 in last year’s NCAA Dayton Regional final), as well as a first-ever visit to Purcell Pavilion by SEC runner-up Kentucky on Dec. 18, with ESPNU set to broadcast that game live.
Notre Dame also previously announced its participation in two non-conference tournaments, competing in the Preseason WNIT (where 2011 NCAA Elite Eight participant Baylor could be on the docket for the title game that will be televised on the CBS Sports Network) and the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend (with last year’s WNIT runner-up USC serving as the first-round opponent and a potential game with another of last year’s Elite Eight teams, Duke, on day two).
These contests don’t even include a rigorous BIG EAST schedule that will have the Fighting Irish playing six of the other top eight conference teams from last season on the road. Collectively, the BIG EAST had a record-setting nine schools qualify for the 2011 NCAA Championship, with five advancing to the Sweet 16, and two (Notre Dame and Connecticut) reaching the Final Four.
A handful of tip times for Notre Dame’s 2011-12 schedule have yet to be announced, due to either pending non-conference television considerations or because the host school has not yet determined the start time. The Fighting Irish have played in 197 televised games during the past 11 seasons, including a school-record 30 TV contests last year.
In addition, for the fifth consecutive season, the official Fighting Irish athletics web site (www.UND.com) is planning to produce free live webcasts of all home games that are not selected for commercial television coverage.
Notre Dame also begins its 16th season of full-time commercial radio coverage this fall, as the LeSEA Broadcasting Network and Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) will air every Fighting Irish women’s basketball game live to more than 1.4 million listeners in the Michiana area and worldwide on UND.com, with veteran broadcaster Bob Nagle calling the play-by-play.
“From top to bottom, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many teams with a tougher schedule than the one we’re going to play this season,” 25th-year Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We will be tested right from the opening tipoff, both from the opponents we play and the compact nature of the schedule, with so many games in a short span of time, many of them involving significant travel. We’re excited about the quality of opponents on the schedule, especially those that are coming to Purcell Pavilion this season, and it’s a testament to the success of our program that we will be making so many national TV appearances, including games on CBS and ESPN’s Big Monday.”
Notre Dame will have four starters and nine monogram winners returning this fall from last year’s club that posted a 31-8 record, advancing to its third NCAA Women’s Final Four and second national championship game. The Fighting Irish finished the season ranked second in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll and ninth in the year-end Associated Press poll (extending their streak of appearance in the AP poll to a school-record 77 weeks).
Notre Dame’s 2011-12 schedule gets underway Nov. 2 with a 7 p.m. (ET) exhibition contest against the defending Canadian national champions, the University of Windsor (Ontario) at Purcell Pavilion. The Lancers are coming off a 34-2 campaign that ended with their first Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national title, ending a 19-year run of domination by schools from western Canada.
The Fighting Irish tip off the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11, playing host to Akron at 7 p.m. (ET) in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. The 16-team tournament features a bracket format, although teams are guaranteed to play at least three games in the event (consolation ladders are formed from those teams that fall in the tournament’s early rounds). With a victory over Akron, Notre Dame would be the site of a Preseason WNIT quarterfinal on Nov. 13 (2 p.m. (ET) against the winner of the Detroit-Indiana State first-round game. If tournament seeds hold, the Fighting Irish would welcome Hartford to Purcell Pavilion for a semifinal contest on Nov. 17 (7 p.m. ET), and the aforementioned matchup with Baylor in the title game on Nov. 20 (likely to be played at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET in Waco, Texas). Notre Dame visited Waco for the first time just last season, falling to Baylor, 76-65.
Notre Dame last played in the Preseason WNIT in 2007, earning victories at home over Miami and Western Kentucky (78-59) in the first two rounds before dropping a 75-59 decision at Maryland in the semifinals. The Fighting Irish won the tournament title in 2004 with four consecutive wins at Purcell Pavilion, including victories over No. 6 Duke (76-65) and No. 10/9 Ohio State (66-62) in its final two contests.
The first time Notre Dame competed in the Preseason WNIT came in 1996, when the Fighting Irish took third-place honors on the strength of wins over Kent State at home, at No. 6 Iowa (61-50) and vs. No. 8/12 North Carolina State (64-53) in the consolation final after losing to No. 3/2 Tennessee (72-59) in the semifinals, with the last two rounds played at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.
Following the Preseason WNIT, Notre Dame will play a tournament on Thanksgiving weekend for the third consecutive year, as the Fighting Irish head to Freeport, Bahamas (located on Grand Bahama Island), for the first time in school history to compete in the Junkanoo Jam, hosted by Basketball Travelers. Notre Dame will take on USC in the opening round of the tournament on Nov. 25 (time to be determined) at St. Georges High School. The other first-round contest will see perennial powerhouse Duke and reigning Big South Conference champion Gardner-Webb square off, with the winners and losers matching up on Nov. 26.
The Fighting Irish will play USC for the 10th time in series history, with Notre Dame holding a 7-2 edge on the Trojans. The teams have not met since Nov. 24, 2006, when USC earned a 69-58 win over the Fighting Irish at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, snapping Notre Dame’s seven-game series winning streak.
On the other side of the bracket, the Fighting Irish are 4-1 all-time against Duke, most recently defeating the Blue Devils in the 2004 Preseason WNIT semifinals (76-65) at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame has not faced Gardner-Webb in women’s basketball to date.
Travel packages for fans wishing to attend this year’s Junkanoo Jam are available by going on-line to the Basketball Travelers web site (www.basketballtravelers.com).
This year’s trip to the Bahamas marks the second time in three years the Fighting Irish have ventured to the Caribbean for a Thanksgiving weekend tournament. In 2009, Notre Dame competed at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, defeating No. 23/24 San Diego State (84-79), South Carolina (78-55) and No. 20/17 Oklahoma (81-71) to win the Island Division championship.
The Fighting Irish open the month of December by playing host to Pennsylvania on Dec. 2, the first time Notre Dame will face the Quakers (or any Ivy League school) since Dec. 18, 1981, when the Fighting Irish defeated Penn, 62-47 at the Penn Holiday Tournament in Philadelphia. Two days later, Notre Dame makes its first-ever visit to Omaha, Neb., for a matchup with Creighton before the BIG EAST schedule gets underway Dec. 7 when Marquette comes to Purcell Pavilion.
Following a visit to in-state rival Purdue on Dec. 10, the Fighting Irish will play three consecutive home games after the final exam break, beginning with Kentucky (Dec. 18) and also included matchups with defending Conference USA champion Central Florida (Dec. 20) and first-time opponent Longwood (Dec. 28), with the latter squad featuring first-year assistant coach and former Notre Dame All-America guard Lindsay Schrader (’10) on the Lancers’ staff. Notre Dame wraps up the calendar year on Dec. 30 with a trip to Macon, Ga., for its first meeting with Mercer, as the Fighting Irish travel to the home state of senior guard Fraderica Miller (Atlanta, Ga./The Marist School).
Notre Dame will open the balance of its BIG EAST schedule with three of its first four games on the road, beginning Jan. 4 at Seton Hall. Connecticut comes to Purcell Pavilion three days later for the CBS nationally-televised game, before the Fighting Irish turn around and head out to NCAA Sweet 16 participant Georgetown (Jan. 10, CBS Sports Network) and Cincinnati (Jan. 14). Three home games in a six-day span are up next for Notre Dame, as Pittsburgh and Villanova come to town before the non-conference Big Monday tussle with Tennessee on Jan. 23. A tricky two-game road swing to NCAA Championship second-round participants St. John’s (Jan. 28, BIG EAST Network) and Rutgers (Jan. 31, CBS Sports Network) round out the calendar’s first month.
Notre Dame opens February with three of four at Purcell Pavilion, starting with an ESPNU matchup with 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 qualifier and Midwest regional rival DePaul on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5) and mixing in West Virginia (Feb. 12) and Providence (Feb. 14) around a road contest at two-time WNIT quarterfinalist Syracuse (Feb. 7). The WVU game also will be televised live on ESPNU and it will be the annual Notre Dame Pink Zone contest, as the Fighting Irish raise money for breast cancer research and awareness in the South Bend community and look to challenge last year’s record-setting donation total of more than $130,000.
A challenging stretch run sees Notre Dame venture to another of last year’s Sweet 16 participants, Louisville, for a Feb. 20 matinee on ESPN Big Monday, followed by a Senior Day contest against South Florida on Feb. 25 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish cap the regular season with a return encounter at Connecticut, taking on the Huskies at 9 p.m. (ET) Feb. 27 on ESPN2 Big Monday from the XL Center in Hartford.
Less than a week later, Notre Dame will be back at the XL Center for the 2012 BIG EAST Championship, which is scheduled for March 2-6, marking the ninth consecutive season the conference tournament will be held at a neutral site. Once again this year, all 16 BIG EAST teams will participate in the event, with the top eight teams earning a first-round bye, and the top four seeds garnering a second-round bye.
Notre Dame also will play host to first- and second-round games in the 2012 NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion on March 18 and 20, with the Fighting Irish guaranteed to play on their home court if they are selected for the tournament. The Fighting Irish have played a total of 10 NCAA postseason contests at Purcell Pavilion in seven previous seasons, going a combined 8-2 at home in NCAA tournament play. The last time Notre Dame was a host site for NCAA Championship first- and second-round games was 2010, when the Fighting Irish defeated Cleveland State (86-58) and Vermont (84-66) en route to a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16.
The vast majority of 2011-12 season ticket packages for the 17-game regular-season Notre Dame women’s basketball home schedule (including the exhibition contest) have been sold, as the Fighting Irish look to build upon last year’s school-record attendance average of 8,553 fans per game, which ranked fifth in the nation and included five sellouts. However, a limited number of season tickets have been freed up and will go on sale Sept. 20 — they are available by contacting Notre Dame’s Murnane Family Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356 or visiting the ticket windows inside Gate 9 of the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion. Tickets also can be ordered on-line 24 hours a day with a major credit card at www.UND.com/tickets.
Packages start as low as $60 per person for individuals and $48 per person for full-time Notre Dame faculty/staff, while four-ticket “Fan Packs” are as low as $170 ($136 for faculty/staff). Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students are admitted free for all home games (while supplies last).
Any remaining single-game tickets for the 2011-12 Notre Dame women’s basketball home schedule will go on sale Oct. 18. In addition, 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.
Tickets for the 2012 NCAA Championship are sold separately, with Fighting Irish season ticket holders currently eligible to purchase all-session (three-game) tournament admissions for $27 per person ($17 for youths college age and under). The general public may purchase NCAA Championship tickets for the games at Purcell Pavilion beginning on Oct. 1 at a cost of $32 per person ($22 for youths college age and under).
With all Fighting Irish ticket purchases, standard processing fees and service charges do apply.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women’s basketball page at UND.com.
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2011-12 IRISH SCHEDULE NOTES: Ten of Notre Dame’s potential opponents were ranked in either the Associated Press or ESPN/USA Today polls at the end of last season — #1/3 Connecticut, #3/5 Baylor*, #4/6 Tennessee, #6/7 Duke**, #8/13 UCLA*, #10/10 DePaul, #17/22 Kentucky, #22/14 Georgetown, #24/25 Marquette and #19 (ESPN/USA Today) Louisville, while three others were receiving votes in both polls at the close of the 2010-11 campaign (Rutgers, St. John’s and West Virginia) … in addition to the rigorous schedule in the BIG EAST (ranked the nation’s third-toughest conference, according to CollegeRPI.com prior to ’11 NCAA Championship), Notre Dame could meet teams from as many as 13 other conferences (plus Division I independent Longwood), including the rest of the top six (aka the BCS conferences) and nine of the other top 13 nationally, during non-league play: #1 Big 12, #2 ACC, #4 SEC, #5 Big Ten, #6 Pac-10/Pac-12, #8 Missouri Valley, #9 Conference USA, #12 Mid-American and #14 Horizon League … all told, 17 regular-season opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule had 20-win seasons, with eight registering 25-win campaigns (four others had 24 wins) and four topping the 30-win mark … four potential opponents won regular-season conference titles (Baylor *- Big 12; Duke** – ACC; Connecticut – BIG EAST; Tennessee – SEC), while six claimed their conference tournament championship (Hartford* – America East; Baylor* – Big 12; Duke** – ACC/Gardner-Webb** – Big South; Central Florida – Conference USA; Connecticut – BIG EAST; Tennessee – SEC). (* – potential Preseason WNIT opponent; ** – potential Junkanoo Jam opponent)