ESPN's College Basketball Gameday set for Notre Dame visit

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

College basketball’s version of the circus returns to town next week, but it will take a whole lot more than acrobats and elephants to top its last appearance in Northern Indiana.

ESPN’s College Basketball Gameday announced late Saturday morning that it will bring its one-hour traveling television show to Purcell Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 6 in advance of that night’s primetime showdown between No. 2 North Carolina and No. 25 Notre Dame at 7 p.m.

The only regular-season game between the teams already is a sellout.

Notre Dame beat North Carolina twice last season, once in early January for the first time ever in Chapel Hill and again in March in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game.

It will be College Gameday’s third visit to Notre Dame and the first since history unfolded in front of the ESPN cameras in a game that started late one Saturday night and didn’t end until early Sunday morning.

The last Gameday visit on Feb. 9, 2013 was capped by the historic five-overtime game between No. 11 Louisville and No. 25 Notre Dame, then both members of the Big East. Irish guard Jerian Grant scored 12 points in 28 seconds to force overtime before power forward Garrick Sherman came off the bench after sitting for the first 43 minutes to score 17 points with six rebounds in 22 minutes during the five extra five-minute periods and help lead the Irish to a 104-101 victory.

It was the longest regular-season game in Big East history. It started just after 9 p.m. and ended after 12:30 a.m.

In the days leading up to that game, Irish coach Mike Brey classified the Gameday experience, which featured former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps as an ESPN analyst, as something better suited for a big top.

“The circus is coming to town, and I’ve got my cotton candy,” Brey told the media earlier that week.

Gameday’s only other visit to Notre Dame also has historical significance. On Jan. 24, 2009, then-No. 3 Connecticut beat No. 19 Notre Dame, which snapped a 45-game home win streak for the Irish. There had been so much hoopla leading into that game that Brey wondered afterward whether he should have taken his team to practice in Chicago for the two days leading into the Big East battle.

Overall, this will be Notre Dame’s fourth-ever appearance on Gameday. The Irish were the opponent for the Feb. 5, 2005 game at Syracuse, which the Orange won 60-57.

Notre Dame’s opponent knows well how to handle the Gameday attention. North Carolina has been part of 11 College Gameday games. That includes five appearances since the 2011-12 season.

North Carolina’s annual season-ending league game against Duke has been part of College Gameday six times, including 2012-14.

The visit to Notre Dame will be College Gameday’s third stop this basketball season. The show made its season debut Jan. 23 at Michigan State for the Big Ten matchup with Maryland, then spent Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., for the non-conference clash between Kansas and Kentucky.

College Gameday’s one-hour show features host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams. It will air from 11 a.m. to noon inside Purcell Pavilion, is free and open to the public.

In 2009, the late-morning show included nearly 4,000 fans. In 2013, barely a few hundred showed up.

The cast of characters has changed, but ESPN's College basketball Gameday remains. The show comes to Notre Dame on Feb. 6 for the Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between No. 25 Notre Dame and No. 2 North Carolina.Tribune File Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES