Notes: Notre Dame's Ivey keeps close eye on son Jaden at Purdue as NCAA tournaments rolls on
SOUTH BEND — Niele Ivey couldn’t attend in person — she’s got her own basketball team to prepare this time around — but the Notre Dame coach was planning on being present in heart when son Jaden’s Purdue Boilermakers lined up for their NCAA Tournament men’s game Friday afternoon against Yale.
She intended to be equipped with at least three P’s, too.
“I will have our meeting room set up with the projector, a bag of popcorn and I’ll just be cheering for him,” Ivey said of watching the game on TV. “I’ll have my Purdue shirt on and rooting for him and hopefully sending out good vibes to him and the team.”
One of the first things Ivey did earlier this week upon getting the itinerary for her team’s trip to Oklahoma for its first-round women’s game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Massachusetts was check on Friday’s assigned practice time.
The Irish were set to go from 12:30 to 2 p.m. ET, while the Boilermakers’ game in Milwaukee was set to tip at 2. Not perfect, but close enough.
A year ago, in Ivey’s rookie season, ND did not make the NCAA Tourney field, so there was no conflict in attending then-freshman Jaden’s first-round game for the Boilers in Indianapolis, one that ultimately wound up a 78-69 upset loss to 13th seed North Texas.
This time, she’s embracing what it means that she can’t watch her son in person.
“It’s a great (problem to have),” Ivey said. “We’ve had to sacrifice a lot for both our careers, so he’s missed some things for me and I’ve missed a lot for him, but we’re living our dreams. Both of our dreams were to go to the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully be able to compete for a national championship.
“That’s the quest he’s on, that’s the quest I'm on, so we’re both living our purpose, and we both understand this is part of it.”
Besides, Ivey’s done a dizzying job overall of being able to squeeze in some in-person attendance at Jaden’s games over the last two seasons, those instances now at more than a dozen.
She admitted to getting chills Wednesday when she saw photos of her son and the Boilers loading onto a bus to head to Milwaukee for their game just a couple hours before she and the Irish were slated to depart for Norman, Okla.
“I think that’s pretty special,” Ivey said, “that we’re both embarking on this journey, the NCAA, together.”
Cooking with Coquese
Not only has Irish assistant Coquese Washington coached UMass’ top player in star forward Sam Breen, but if ND and Oklahoma each make it to the second round, she’ll go up against a half-dozen faces who are even more recently familiar.
That’s because after stepping aside in 2019 at Penn State — where she was head coach for 12 years, including the first season-plus of Breen’s collegiate career — Washington spent 2019-20 as an assistant to now-retired Sherri Coale at OU.
She then circled back to alma mater Notre Dame in May 2020, shortly after Ivey was hired as head coach.
“I would only leave a program like Oklahoma for one reason, to return home,” Washington said at the time.
Washington capped her Irish playing career in 1993 and was later an ND assistant for eight years from 1999 to 2007 before landing the top spot at Penn State.
Washington’s first two seasons of her first tenure as an ND assistant included Ivey’s last two as a player, capped by the 2001 national title.
“Coquese has done a phenomenal job,” Ivey said this week. “She’s such a bright light. She brings so much wisdom and guidance, and I’m fortunate to have her.”
Breen, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, departed Penn State four games into her sophomore season in December 2018 and later expressed that she wasn’t sure she wanted to continue with basketball before landing at UMass and flourishing.
Washington was out at Penn State at the end of that same season.
“Obviously, it’s a small world,” Breen said Friday of winding up going against her original head coach in her first-ever NCAA Tourney game.
“I haven’t had too much of a relationship with her since I left, but no hard feelings or anything really,” Breen said. “I’m sure once we see each other, we’re gonna say hi, whatever, but I’m in a fifth year now, so it’s been kind of a while since I’ve seen her, but that’s gonna be super exciting. Definitely a small world, cool to be on the opposing side, but yeah, we’ll see.”
No. 5 seed ND (22-8) versus No. 12 seed UMass (26-6) stacks up as a virtual tossup — at least based on some of the subjective takes available through the HerHoopStats.com statistical service.
The matchup remains tight based on more objective metrics as well.
The bottom line for HHS is a 51.9% chance of victory for the Irish on a neutral court, and it’s a pinch surprising that it’s even that high given that HHS ranks ND 30th overall among 356 Division I teams and the Minutewomen No. 32.
As for more objective, as well as tempo-free, takes, Notre Dame is 49th of 356 Division I teams in points per possession, 69th on the defensive side and 42nd in margin.
UMass comes in at 27th, 97th and 32nd.
Tempo aside, the teams also happen to rank smack next to each other in margin per game at 39th for the Minutewomen (10.8) and 40th for ND (10.4).
It is notable when looking at the two teams’ schedules, albeit not surprising, that the top four opponents faced and nine of the top 11 belong to the Irish, based on HHS ratings.
Overall, ND’s schedule comes in at 28th-toughest, UMass’ 70th.
Among other close numbers, each team averages 40.5 rebounds, although the Minutewomen have a plus 8.4 margin to plus 4.8 for the Irish.
WHO: No. 5 seed Notre Dame (22-8) vs. No. 12 seed Massachusetts (26-6) in NCAA Tournament first-round Bridgeport Region game.
WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET.
WHERE: Lloyd Noble Center (11,528), Norman, Okla.
LISTEN: WQLQ (99.9 FM).