Challenging road schedule awaits Notre Dame men's basketball

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

The shortest month of the upcoming college basketball season might eventually feel like one long Atlantic Coast Conference road trip for Notre Dame.

Finalized early Wednesday afternoon, the regular-season schedule has the Irish men away from home for five of their seven games in February. Included in the swing are three-consecutive road games over eight days to end the month.

From mid-February to early March, Notre Dame goes 16 days – seemingly forever during the regular season – between games at Purcell Pavilion.

“The ACC is the best conference in the country and our league games from January through March really prepare us for the postseason,” coach Mike Brey said in a statement. “We’ll navigate some formidable stretches during the winter, but ultimately, those contests are going to make us a better come March.”

It did last year. Notre Dame played five of nine league games on the road in January. It finished the month 7-2 with four road wins.

After limping to a 1-8 road record during its inaugural ACC season in 2013-14, Notre Dame jumped back into its “Road Dawg” mentality a year ago. Rolling to a 14-4 finish in the ACC, the Irish went 7-2 away from home with wins at some of the toughest places in the league to play – Louisville, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

The Irish won a staggering 15 games away from home last year.

Notre Dame’s league schedule opens, naturally, on the road Jan. 2 at Virginia, which has finished first each of the last two regular seasons with an overall league mark of 32-4.

The Irish are 0-3 against the Cavaliers as conference colleagues.

A return visit to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, located on the south end of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., highlights Notre Dame’s non-league schedule. There, the Irishl participate in the eight-team, three-game AdvoCare Invitational, formerly known as the Old Spice Classic. It was there where Notre Dame, led by Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough, won three games in four days to cut down nets after winning the 2010 tournament championship.

AdvoCare play opens Thanksgiving night with a familiar early-season tournament opponent – Monmouth.

Notre Dame beat Monmouth to win the 2001 Hawaii-Pacific Thanksgiving Classic in Honolulu. The teams also met in the first round of the 2007 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There the Irish held the Hawks to 33 points (still the lowest points for an Irish opponent under Brey), in a 43-point victory.

Dayton or Iowa will be a second-round opponent.

Two Big Ten teams highlight December.

Notre Dame visits Illinois (Dec. 2) for the first time since 1954 in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Indiana awaits Dec. 19 in the annual Crossroads Classic contest in Indianapolis. The Irish have won their last three Crossroads games (Purdue (2), Indiana).

Notably missing from the schedule for a team that finished 32-6 overall and tied the school record for most conference wins with 14 last season are any appearances on ESPN’s “Big Monday” showcase. Coming off a 15-17 record a year ago, Notre Dame appeared only once in the prime-time slot. The Irish opened league play last season with their first-ever win at North Carolina.

No “Big Monday” appearances means the always-challenging Saturday-Monday league swings are kept to a minimum. Notre Dame has only one, with a twist at each end.

Notre Dame and North Carolina, which met in March for the conference tournament championship in Greensboro, N.C., play for the only time in the regular season Feb. 6 at Purcell Pavilion. Two nights later, Notre Dame visits Clemson.

Sort of.

With renovations at Littlejohn Coliseum, where Notre Dame played and won for the first time in school history in February, this year’s game with the Tigers will be played at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. The arena was formerly known as the BiLo Center, which hosted the first and second rounds of the 2002 NCAA tournament. That’s where Notre Dame, as a No. 8 seed, nearly beat top-seeded Duke. This year will be the first time the Irish are back in the building since the seven-point loss.

The ACC tournament, which Notre Dame won in March, moves this season to the Verizon Center in downtown Washington.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

Plenty of Atlantic Coast Conference challenges await guard Demetrius Jackson and the Notre Dame men's basketball team this season. The schedule was finalized Wednesday.SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ

2015-16 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE

Home games in CAPS

OCTOBER

30 Fri. ST. FRANCIS (Ill.), 7 p.m. (exhibition).

NOVEMBER

5 Thu. CALDWELL, 7 (exhibition); 13 Fri. ST. FRANCIS (Pa.), TBA; 17 Tue. WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE, 7; 21 Sat. UMASS-LOWELL, 2; 26 Thu. vs. Monmouth, 6:30 (Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (ESPNU): 27 Fri. vs. Dayton or Iowa, 7 or 9 (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.); 29 Sun. vs. TBA, TBA (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.).

DECEMBER

2 Wed. at Illinois (Big Ten/ACC Challenge), 9:15 (ESPN2); 8 Tue. STONY BROOOK, 9 (ESPNU); 13 Sun. LOYOLA (Ill.), 2; 19 Sat. vs. Indiana (Crossroads Classic, Indianapolis) 2 (ESPN2); 21 Mon. YOUNGSTOWN STATE, 7; 29 Tue. LIBERTY, 3 (ESPNU).

JANUARY

2 Sat. at Virginia, 5 p.m. (ESPN2); 7 Thu. at Boston College, TBA; 9 Sat. PITTSBURGH, TBA; 13 Wed. GEORGIA TECH, TBA; 16 Sat. at Duke, 2 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2); 20 Wed. VIRGINIA TECH, TBA; 23 Sat. BOSTON COLLEGE, TBA; 28 Thu. at Syracuse, 7 (ESPN/ESPN2); 31 Sun. WAKE FOREST, TBA.

FEBRUARY

3 Wed. at Miami, Fla., 7 (ESPN2); 6 Sat. NORTH CAROLINA, 2 or 7 (ESPN/ESPN2); 8 Mon. at Clemson (Greenville, S.C.), 9 (ESPNU); 13 Sat. LOUISVILLE, 4/9 p.m., (ESPN/ESPN2); 20 Sat. at Georgia Tech, 8, (ESPN2); 24 Wed. at Wake Forest, TBA; 27 Sat. at Florida State, TBA, (ESPN/ESPN2).

MARCH

2 Wed. MIAMI, 7 (ESPN2); 5 Sat. NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 12 (CBS); 8-12, Tue.-Sat. at ACC Championship (Washington), TBD.