Notre Dame women could play up to a dozen ranked opponents

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw a few weeks ago described her team’s regular-season schedule as “ridiculous” in terms of toughness.

That toughness was only further verified when the preseason top-25 coaches’ poll was revealed late last week.

The fifth-ranked Irish will face up to a whopping dozen programs rated in that poll, including No. 1 UConn on Dec. 3 in Hartford, Conn., and possibly No. 2 South Carolina in the Nov. 26 title game of the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.

A closer look at the schedules of each of the teams ranked in the poll’s top 10 suggests that indeed it’s either ND or UConn that boasts the most demanding slate of all.

Not only do the Irish potentially face off with both Nos. 1 and 2, but just four of their 12 possible games against fellow preseason rated teams will come at home. Six others will be true road contests, while the remaining two are part of that Gulf Coast event.

Looking down the road, ND’s Atlantic Coast Conference schedule is notably challenging as well.

The three highest-rated teams in the ACC behind the Irish are No. 10 Louisville, No. 12 Duke and No. 14 Florida State, and Notre Dame will have to face each of them on the road this season with no return matchup at home.

As for the Huskies, they exactly match ND in that they have up to 12 games on their schedule against preseason top-25 clubs.

Further, while the Irish face top-10 teams just three times, UConn boasts five such matchups, including a trip to Columbia, S.C., to face those No. 2 Gamecocks.

On the other hand, six of the Huskies’ dozen games against rated teams will be home or virtual home games. Five others will be true road games and one at a neutral site.

Among other teams rated in the top 10 of the coaches’ poll, South Carolina has up to nine games slotted against top-25 clubs, No. 3 Baylor has seven, No. 4 Mississippi State has merely four, No. 6 Texas has 10, No. 7 UCLA has 11, No. 8 Ohio State has 10, No. 9 Stanford has 13 and No. 10 Louisville has eight.

While Stanford does eclipse ND and UConn by one in terms of possible top-25 matchups, four of those are against fellow Pac-12 clubs Cal and Washington, a pair of teams that narrowly made it into the poll tied at No. 25.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw looks on during a first-round game against Robert Morris in the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, March 17, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 79-49. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)