Notre Dame, Illinois meet yet again in men's hoops as part of ACC/Big Ten Challenge
When Notre Dame joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013, the possibilities of future men’s basketball matchups in the league’s annual Big Ten challenge seemed endless.
Notre Dame might visit Wisconsin for the first time since 1967. Or play in Minnesota’s famed Williams Arena for the first time since 1969. How about a quick ride across the Toll Road to play at Northwestern for the first time since 1983? Maybe even a matchup at Crisler Arena against Michigan. Or a reunion at the RAC with old Big East buddy Rutgers.
Yet the more college basketball seasons change, the more the ACC/Big Ten matchups seemingly stay the same, something Notre Dame learned Monday afternoon.
For the third time in its now nine ACC seasons, Notre Dame drew Illinois for the 2021 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. On Nov. 29, five days after playing three games in three days at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, Notre Dame visits State Farm Arena in Champaign in the opening night of the 14-game challenge.
Tip time and television designation remain to be determined.
Illinois finished 24-7 overall, 16-4 in the Big Ten last season. One of four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, Illinois lost in the second round to Loyola of Chicago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Illini closed the season ranked No. 8.
Notre Dame went 11-15 overall, 7-11 in the ACC last season.
Illinois leads the overall series with Notre Dame, 27-15, including 11-2 in Champaign. The Illini have not beaten the Irish since 1973 at Chicago Stadium.
Prior to the teams’ first challenge meeting in Champaign on Dec. 2, 2015, Notre Dame and Illinois had not met in 12 years. Prior to that second round 2003 NCAA Tournament matchup in Indianapolis at the long-since-gone RCA Dome, the teams went 30 years between games. November’s game will mark the third time the teams have played in seven years. The Irish have won each of the previous three games dating back to 2003. They last lost in Champaign in 1954 when the Illini played in Huff Hall.
In their now nine seasons in the ACC, the Irish have played five of the Big Ten’s 14 teams in the annual matchup. Notre Dame has twice played Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State, all home-and-homes. It made a forgettable trip to College Park, Maryland in 2019 to play No. 3 Maryland (a 92-71 loss) and lost (90-85) to then-No. 22 Ohio State in front of select dozens at Purcell Pavilion in December.
Notre Dame has lost its last two in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and is 4-4 in the annual event. The matchups are made for TV and try to avoid having teams play at home or on the road in consecutive seasons.
The ACC leads the all-time challenge overall, first played in 1999, 138-113. The Big Ten has won the challenge each of the last two seasons and four of the previous seven.
Notre Dame has played either Indiana or Purdue every December at the annual Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, which likely ends this season with a game against the Hoosiers. The Irish also could face Wisconsin in one of their three games in Maui.
Notre Dame’s non-league schedule also includes games against Kentucky (home), Howard (away) and Western Michigan (home). The Irish again will play 20 ACC games.
The complete schedule will be finalized sometime in September.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI