Notre Dame finalizes men's hoops schedule

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Recruiting recently in Kentucky, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey crossed paths with more than a few fans of Louisville basketball.

The conversation exchanges could not have been any more pleasant, something that cannot normally be said about two schools that again call home the same conference.

But Louisville-Notre Dame has become a rivalry with respect.

“I don’t know how many Louisville fans said, ‘Man, we’re playing again Coach! We’re going to be playing more overtimes,’” Brey said last week. “With Louisville fans, it’s such a unique thing with our games against them. It’s unbelievable.

“Their fans love it and they love us. Like, we’re playing again and it’s going to be crazy.”

It often has been.

Following Wednesday’s release of the 2014-15 Notre Dame men’s basketball schedule (see box), it’s official - one of the unlikeliest, craziest, who-would-have-ever-imagined-it conference rivalries in the history of two storied programs is back after a one-year break.

Louisville and Notre Dame meet Wednesday, March 4 at KFC Yum! Center. It will be the teams’ lone regular-season contest, and the final Irish conference road game.

Forty minutes rarely were enough to decide anything when Louisville and Notre Dame met as Big East foes. At least one overtime was required in seven of their 13 games dating back to the first conference clash in 2006 which, naturally, went to overtime. One stretch featured six of eight games, including four straight, which required at least one additional five minutes. One needed more. Many more.

Louisville and Notre Dame played the longest regular-season game in Big East history on Feb. 9, 2013. Five overtimes ended with a 104-101 Irish victory. That was the last time Louisville played at Purcell Pavilion.

“Every single game we play seems to be a multiple-overtime game,” said Cardinals coach Rick Pitino. “I’m sure it will be overtime again with them this year.”

A series that also includes three Big East tournament semifinal matchups took a hiatus last winter. While Notre Dame was trying to figure out its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference – the Irish never really did for myriad reasons before finishing 15-17, 6-12 in conference play and tied for 12th – Louisville was spending its one season in the American Athletic Conference. Coming off a Big East tournament championship and national championship in 2013, the Cardinals finished 15-3 in their only season in the American.

Louisville joined the ACC on July 1 – one year to the day behind Notre Dame. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 20-12. Notre Dame is 2-10 lifetime in Louisville, 1-1 at Yum! Center.

Brey insisted last season that the ACC was the best basketball conference in the country. That thinking hasn’t changed with the departure of ACC charter member (Maryland for the Big Ten) and the addition of Louisville.

“The power of the league is ratcheted up,” he said. “There are opportunities for us to get some good wins.”

Especially at home. Last season, Notre Dame staggered to a 5-4 home record in league play. This year, Duke, Syracuse and Virginia, all teams likely to be picked among the league’s top five, visit South Bend. Prior to ACC play, again starting at home (Dec. 14 against Florida State), Notre Dame hosts perennial conference power Michigan State (Dec. 3) in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

It’s the first visit by Michigan State since 1975.

“The power games coming in are pretty good,” Brey said. “For our home fans, I’m thrilled for them.”

January brings the Irish five of their nine league road games. Notre Dame was 1-8 on the road in ACC play last season.

Notre Dame plays every league team at least once and four twice. Boston College and Georgia Tech remain repeat league opponents. After facing North Carolina and Virginia twice last season, Notre Dame repeats Clemson and Duke this year.

Notre Dame will participate in the 2014 Tip-off Tournament. That delivers home games against Binghamton (Nov. 14) and Navy (Nov. 16) before games against Massachusetts (Nov. 22) and Providence (Nov. 23) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

“I love the tests with UMass and Providence,” Brey said. “Those are two great early tests for us.”

Massachusetts and Providence were NCAA tournament teams in 2014.

The tournament offers a unique matchup of two pre-determined games. Fellow ACC member Florida State is the fourth school in the Final Four bracket in Uncasville. Florida State and Notre Dame cannot face one another outside of the ACC. Both schools agreed to the tournament before Notre Dame joined the ACC.

This regular season marks the first since 1993-94 that Notre Dame will not make at least one visit to Madison Square Garden.

Head coach Mike Brey and the Irish men's basketball team will play five of their nine Atlantic Coast Conference road games in January. (SBT File Photo)

Home games in CAPS

NOVEMBER

Sat. 1 MINNESOTA-DULUTH (exhibition) 2 p.m.; Fri. 7 LEWIS (exhibition), 7; Fri. 14 BINGHAMTON, 9; Sun. 16 NAVY, 2; Wed. 19 COPPIN STATE, 7; Sat. 22 vs. Massachusetts (Uncasville, Conn.), noon (ESPN3); Sun. 23 vs. Providence (Uncasville, Conn.), 2:30 (ESPN2); Wed. 26 GRAMBLING STATE, 7; Sat. 29 CHICAGO STATE, TBA.

DECEMBER

Wed. 3 MICHIGAN STATE, 7:15 (ESPN2); Sat. 6 FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 8; Tues. 9 MOUNT ST. MARY’S, 7; Sat. 13 FLORIDA STATE, 8 (ESPN2); Sat. 20 vs. Purdue (Indianapolis), TBA; Mon. 22 NORTHERN ILLINOIS, 7; Tues. 30 HARTFORD, 7.

JANUARY

Sat. 3 GEORGIA TECH, 2:30 (ACCN); Mon. 5 at North Carolina, 7 (ESPN/ESPN2); Sat. 10 VIRGINIA, 6 (ESPN2); Wed. 14 at Georgia Tech, 7; Sat. 17 MIAMI, Fla., 2 (ESPN/ESPN2); Thurs. 22 at Virginia Tech, 7; Sun. 25 at North Carolina State, 6:30 (ESPNU); Wed. 28 DUKE, 7:30 (ESPN2); Sat. 31 at Pittsburgh, noon (ACCN).

FEBRUARY

Wed. 4 BOSTON COLLEGE, 7; Sat. 7 at Duke, 1 (CBS); Tues. 10 at Clemson, 7 (ESPN2); Tues. 17 WAKE FOREST, 7 (ESPNU); Sat. 21 at Boston College, 4; Tues. 24 SYRACUSE, 8 (ACCN).

MARCH

Wed. 4 at Louisville, 7 (ESPN2); Sat. 7 CLEMSON 4 (ACCN); Tues.-Sat. 10-14 at Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (Greensboro, N.C.), TBD.