MBB: One more ACC road win for No. 23 Notre Dame?

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Life on the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball road usually is simple and stress-free for Notre Dame junior guard Steve Vasturia.

Preparing to play away from home requires little time and thought for the easy-going Vasturia. He often just throws a change of clothes and something to sleep in in his university-issued UnderArmour backpack, hops the team charter and turns all attention toward what he needs to do on the floor.

Just when everything might start to get a little stale, road trips that sometimes last barely 24 hours are over and Vasturia is back on campus.

Vasturia worked through his usual packing/prep routine earlier this week. He then realized there might be a clothes crisis not even two full days into the team’s first extended tour since he was a senior in high school. A trip that commenced Tuesday concludes with Saturday’s visit to Florida State (16-12; 5-10) and the final ACC regular-season road game for No. 23 Notre Dame (19-8; 10-5).

Vasturia’s wardrobe will be running on fumes by the time the 4 p.m. tip arrives.

“I didn’t pack very well,” one of the team captains admitted as the Irish prepared Thursday afternoon for their charter flight from North Carolina to northern Florida. “I didn’t realize how many days we’d be gone. I wasn’t thinking ahead, but I’ll make it through.''

Same might be said for Notre Dame after it was handed a rare three-game conference road swing. It’s only the eighth time since joining a conference for the start of the 1995-96 season that the Irish have played three straight league road games. The ninth, during the 2008-09 season, included two Big East games (at Pittsburgh and Cincinnati) and a non-league game at UCLA. The Irish staggered through that stretch 0-3.

This is the second time in three years that three in a row on the road has arrived for Notre Dame as a member of the ACC.

“It’s an unbelievable task for the ACC office to figure this thing out,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of scheduling. “It’s hard to complain about it.”

Three-game road swings have been common in the ACC this season. Duke had one. North Carolina had one. Notre Dame is one of seven teams (the league has 15) with three in a row on the road. No team sailed through theirs undefeated. Two schools – Boston College and Wake Forest – went 0-3.

A win Saturday will see Notre Dame finish a three-game trip 2-1 for the third time in school history. It would be the first time since Notre Dame sandwiched a road loss to West Virginia with wins at South Florida and at Providence in 2010-11.

The Irish opened their eight-day odyssey last week in midtown Atlanta with a last-second loss to Georgia Tech. That itinerary was business as usual with the traveling party returning to Northern Indiana early Sunday morning. Following two days of classes during midterm week, Notre Dame departed Tuesday night for Winston-Salem, N.C. After beating Wake Forest in a game that didn’t finish until after 11 p.m. Wednesday, the Irish remained in North Carolina before heading for Tallahassee.

With the quick turnaround, staying out was the only option.

After landing in Tallahassee early Thursday afternoon, Notre Dame worked out in the Florida State practice facility. It had another early-afternoon practice Friday at the Tucker Center before jumping back into the usual road routine of meetings, scouting report notebook sessions, Mass and the Saturday shoot-around.

“It’s definitely different,” Vasturia said of the extended trip. “It’s nice to get to the location where we’re going to play early and have a couple of practices before we actually get on the court for real.”

Notre Dame traded the blizzard-like conditions back home for temperatures that were mild and in the mid-60s. But it’s not all fun and sun for the Irish as they continue to chase one of the four double-byes for next month’s ACC Tournament.

With a demanding academic week back on campus, classwork was just as important as Florida State prep work. An hour after going for 18 points and 12 rebounds in Wednesday’s win, Irish senior captain Zach Auguste went right back to his school work in a hotel conference room. That continued Thursday on the bus ride to the airport. Vasturia spent part of Thursday checking in with his professors about making up any classwork he had missed and touching base with some of his fellow classmates on the group projects they’re working on.

And freshman swingman Matt Ryan had accounting and anthropology homework waiting for him when the Irish landed in Florida.

“It’s a grind that we have stuff to take care of, but we’ll all take care of it,” Ryan said. “I have no complaints about being able to go to Florida while everybody else is back there in the snow. It’s all about staying focused and not treating it like a vacation.”

Once the schoolwork was taken care of, the Irish turned attention to piggy-backing Wednesday’s road win with another to potentially close their conference road schedule at 5-4.

“You get down to the end of the season, you want to grab every win that you can,” Vasturia said. “We know that we’ll finish up with two games at home (against No. 12 Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina State) which is a good thing for us.

“To get the last one on the road would be nice.”

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

Junior guard Steve Vasturia and No. 23 Notre Dame look to close out their Atlantic Coast Conference road schedule Saturday with a win at Florida State. The game caps three road games in eight days for the Irish.Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN

WHO: No. 23 Notre Dame (19-8 overall; 10-5 ACC) vs. Florida State (16-12; 6-10).

WHERE: Donald L. Tucker Center (14,000), Tallahassee, Fla.

WHEN: Saturday at 4 p.m.

TV: ESPN2.

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM).

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI.

WORTH NOTING: Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 13 points and freshman Dwayne Bacon added 12 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double in Thursday’s 80-65 loss at No. 15 Duke. … Florida State has lost five straight ACC games since last winning Feb. 6 against Wake Forest, which capped a four-game win streak. … Bacon (15.6) and Malik Beasley (16.0) are the highest-scoring freshman duo in the country and would currently rank second in ACC history. … The Seminoles average 77.5 points per game, sixth in the ACC, and allow 73.9, 14th in the league. … Coach Leonard Hamilton agreed Wednesday with athletic director and former Irish basketball player Stan Wilcox on a two-year contract extension through the 2018-19 season. Hamilton is the winningest coach in school history (252) and has been at Florida State since 2002. The Seminoles are 3-4 in league play this season. … Florida State was picked in preseason to finish sixth in the ACC with one first-place vote. The Seminoles are in 12th place. … Florida State leads the all-time series 2-1. … This is the first meeting between the teams since they opened conference play Dec. 13, 2014 in South Bend, an 83-63 Notre Dame win. … After going 15-17 overall and 6-12 in the league during its first ACC season in 2013-14, Notre Dame is 51-14 overall, 24-9 in the league play.