When Notre Dame takes the floor in November, it will have four starters and nine monogram recipients back from last season's 35-2 squad that advanced to the NCAA Women's Final Four for the third consecutive season (fifth overall) and was ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The Fighting Irish, who also welcome in a four-player freshman class ranked as high as third in the nation by multiple outlets, also are coming off a sweep of the BIG EAST Conference regular-season and tournament titles in their final season in that league (and its last at its former configuration), winning their second consecutive BIG EAST regular-season crown (third overall) and earning their first-ever BIG EAST Championship trophy.
Through the years, Notre Dame has felt right at home when squaring off with some of the nation's top programs, and that will be no different in 2013-14, as the Fighting Irish will play more than half their games (15) against 14 teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Championship, and 10 against squads that were ranked or receiving votes in the final AP and/or ESPN-USA Todaypolls last year (including seven games against teams ranked 13th or better in the year-end AP poll).
Highlighting that group of top-flight opponents is 2013 NCAA Elite Eight participant and reigning ACC champion Duke, which Notre Dame will face in a home-and-home series (Feb. 2 in Durham, N.C.; Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion), with both games televised live on ESPN as part of that network's new Sunday afternoon women's basketball package. Last year, the Fighting Irish eliminated Duke from the NCAA Championship, earning an 87-76 victory over the Blue Devils in the NCAA Norfolk Regional final.
"Our schedule is an extremely challenging one and it's set up in such a way that is going to prepare us for the conference season and then the postseason," Notre Dame's Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "Between the various styles of play and some unfamiliar environments, especially in a brand-new conference, and not to mention experiencing some quick turnarounds, we're going to be tested both physically and mentally, and that should be very beneficial to us at the season moves on."
Notre Dame also has been at home on television, whether through commercial means or through the growing Internet live-streaming market. That will continue to be the case in 2013-14, as the Fighting Irish make a minimum of 18 TV appearances (both commercial and on the WatchND multimedia platform at UND.com), including the aforementioned two ESPN games against Duke and two more contests on the ESPN2 "Big Monday" package, with road games in consecutive weeks at non-conference foe and Elite Eight qualifier Tennessee (Jan. 20) and Sweet 16 participant Maryland (Jan. 27). The Fighting Irish have won all six "Big Monday" games they have played in the past two seasons, winning twice each over Tennessee, Connecticut and Louisville. Overall, Notre Dame has played in 257 televised games in the past 14 seasons (1999-2000 to present), including 175 national TV contests, an average of 18 TV games and 12 national broadcasts during that span.
"It never gets old to play on TV and it's especially big that we're among the elite programs when it comes to the number of games we have televised each year," senior All-America guard Kayla McBride said. "Anyone who says they don't get excited or have the adrenaline flowing even more when they're on TV is lying. As a competitor, you want to play on the biggest stages and under the brightest lights. That's one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame and it's part of why we've been able to have so much success as a team for such a long period of time."
When it comes to Notre Dame women's basketball, home is all about Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish slated to play 15 regular-season games in its legendary home facility, adding the visit from Duke with appearances by NCAA second-round qualifiers North Carolina, UCLA and Michigan State. Purcell Pavilion also will add another page in its ever-growing history book on Jan. 5, when the Fighting Irish play host to Clemson in the program's first-ever ACC regular-season game (as well as their first matchup with the Tigers, one of five new opponents on this year's Notre Dame's schedule).
Throughout its 36-year history of hosting women's basketball games, Purcell Pavilion has built a reputation as one of the nation's toughest venues, with the Fighting Irish posting a 384-90 (.810) all-time record at home, including a 64-4 (.941) mark since 2009-10. What's more, Notre Dame has arguably the country's fastest-growing fan base, with the Fighting Irish average attendance growing more than 35 percent in the past eight seasons, and the program setting new records for average attendance and ranking in the top five nationally the past three years (as well as the top 20 for the past 13 years). Last year, the Fighting Irish drew a school-record 8,979 fans per game and recorded a program-best 11 sellouts (part of 36 all-time sellouts, including 30 in the past four years alone).
"Our fans are the best in the country and we want to do all we can to give them the best basketball at Purcell Pavilion," McGraw said. "This year, we have several strong teams coming to town, plus some familiar faces like DePaul and Valparaiso, and a couple of new visitors both inside and outside the conference such as South Dakota State and Georgia Tech. There's something for everyone to enjoy on our home schedule this year."
Coaches & Support Staff