Sept. 15, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
Matchups with both of the 2016 national finalists and a potential meeting with a third 2016 Final Four team highlight a typically ambitious 2016-17 Notre Dame women’s basketball schedule announced on Thursday afternoon.
The Irish will be well-prepared for their quest for a fourth consecutive ACC regular season and tournament championship double, facing a non-conference slate which features at least five of last year’s NCAA Tournament teams. Overall, Notre Dame’s 2016-17 slate includes seven teams which were ranked in the final AP poll and nine teams which made the NCAA Tournament, in addition to potential opponents in the Preseason WNIT.
Although Notre Dame has a streak of 78 consecutive regular-season games drawing at least 8,000 fans to 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, season tickets do remain available. They can be purchased online right here at UND.com, over the phone at (574) 631-7356, or in person at the Murnane Family Ticket Office.
Led by 2016 All-American Brianna Turner and 2016 Nancy Lieberman Award finalist Lindsay Allen, the regular-season kicks off on Friday, Nov. 11 as the Irish play host to Central Michigan in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT. This tournament could potentially conclude with a clash between Notre Dame and 2016 NCAA semifinalist Washington on Nov. 20 at Purcell Pavilion if seeds hold true.
Fans at Purcell Pavilion will be treated to up to 15 regular-season home games, including a visit from national champion Connecticut (Dec. 7) and that potential visit by Final Four participant Washington. NCAA Tournament selections Louisville (Feb. 6) and Florida State (Feb. 26) highlight the home portions of the ACC schedule along with a visit by the potent Duke Blue Devils on Jan. 26.
It all leads up to the 2017 NCAA Tournament which culminates on April 2 in Dallas. The Irish will be aiming to make the 64-team field for the 22nd consecutive year — the fifth-longest such streak in NCAA history. Once again, the first two rounds will be held on campus sites of high seeds giving the Irish an opportunity to play host to its opening contests March 17-20.
“I like the challenge of playing one of the toughest schedules in the country,” said Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw as she enters her milestone 30th year at the Notre Dame helm. “Our non conference slate prepares us for the ACC and the ACC prepares us for the NCAA tournament. We will be tested in some hostile environments and we are bringing some great teams to Purcell. I know our fans are ready for another exciting season.”
Below are some notes about the 2016-17 Notre Dame schedule.
– Dates and location have not yet been determined for the historic 40th annual ACC Tournament, but the Irish will be shooting for their fourth tournament title in four years as a member of the league. Should the Irish also claim their fourth consecutive ACC regular season title, Notre Dame would join Duke (2001-04) as the only teams to sweep the ACC regular-season and postseason titles for four consecutive years.
– The Irish take a six game road trip from Dec. 10 through Jan. 2, playing at DePaul (Dec. 10), Toledo (Dec. 18), Michigan State (Dec. 20), Chattanooga (Dec. 27), NC State (Dec. 29) and Georgia Tech (Jan. 2). This marks the longest road trip in school history. The previous record was five consecutive road games Dec. 30, 1983, to Jan. 15, 1984, as the Irish traversed the U.S. going to Boston College, East Carolina, Xavier, Louisiana Tech and SMU. Notre Dame has played four straight road games several times in the Muffet McGraw era, most recently a run from Dec. 28, 2008, to Jan. 6, 2009, with the Irish sweeping four straight contests at Charlotte, Vanderbilt, Seton Hall and DePaul.
– Notre Dame will travel to Iowa for its annual contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The series with the Hawkeyes is an unusual one. It will be the third meeting between the sides all-time, all occurring as a part of a larger tournament and in Iowa City. The Irish faced the Hawkeyes on their home floor in both the 1996 Preseason WNIT and the 2013 NCAA Championship, winning each matchup.
– Muffet McGraw will face one of her mentors on Dec. 27 when the Irish head to Chattanooga. McGraw was an assistant under current Mocs head coach Jim Foster at St. Joseph’s, her alma mater, from 1980-82 before taking her first head coaching job the following year at Lehigh.
– History will be on the line when two of women’s basketball’s elite programs collide on ESPN2’s “Big Monday” Jan. 16 as the Irish face the Tennessee Lady Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena. Notre Dame has won each of the last six meetings against Tennessee, starting with a win in the 2011 Elite Eight.
– What has grown into perhaps the top rivalry in the sport will reignite at Purcell Pavilion on Dec. 7 in a national ESPN2 telecast. The Irish hold a 7-6 lead over UConn since beating the Huskies at the 2011 NCAA Final Four.
– All-American forward Brianna Turner will have a homecoming game when Notre Dame travels to Houston on Nov. 22 for a neutral site game against Louisiana-Lafayette at the Campbell Center. Turner grew up in the Houston suburb of Pearland and attended Manvel High School where she was named the Gatorade national player of the year.
– Notre Dame opens ACC play on Dec. 29 at NC State’s recently-renovated Reynolds Coliseum. The Irish begin their march towards a fourth consecutive ACC regular-season title on a floor where they won in both 2014 and 2015.
– The Irish are 47-1 in ACC play since joining the league. Notre Dame will get a chance to avenge the lone loss when it returns to Miami on Jan. 8, two years the day after the Hurricanes downed the Irish at the BankUnited Center.
– Notre Dame’s two home-and-home league opponents will remain the same in Boston College and Georgia Tech.
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.