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Traffic tie-up forces Notre Dame men's basketball to scrap pre-Virginia practice plans

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

The plan for the Notre Dame men's basketball team was pretty simple - hop an 80-minute charter flight Friday afternoon to Richmond, Va., bus 70 miles to the University of Virginia campus and hold an evening practice at John Paul Jones Arena.

Easy, right?

Wrong.

So wrong.

Little has been easy this year for the Irish, and the regular season's final road trip was no exception.

Mother Nature forced Notre Dame to sit and wait and wait and wait aboard its bus before scrapping their practice plan entirely in advance of Saturday's season finale against top-ranked Virginia (27-2; 16-1 ACC).

A downed power line Friday along Interstate 64, which connects Richmond and Charlottesville, snarled late-afternoon and evening traffic. It kept the Irish traveling party aboard its bus as it idled on the highway for two and a half hours. The expected 90-minute travel time from Richmond International Airport to Charlottesville took over four hours.

Notre Dame originally was scheduled to leave South Bend International Airport on a 2 p.m. charter flight and land around 3:30. According to flightaware.com, it departed at 3:18 and landed in Richmond at 4:37.

Sustained wins that were reported to be 40-50 mph., brought on by Friday's nor'easter that roared up the East Coast, caused the power line near the interstate to snap. One Virginia television station reported that the traffic backup was five miles long.

West-bound traffic eventually shifted to the interstate's east-bound lanes, and then off to a side road.

"It was crazy," said Notre Dame associate athletics communications director Alan Wasielewski.

The interstate reopened just after 9 p.m.

The Irish traveling party arrived at their Charlottesville hotel around 9:15. It was after 11 by the time they finished their pre-game routine of a team meal and Mass. The scouting report was expected to be finalized during breakfast. The plan was to go to John Paul Jones Arena earlier than scheduled to get loose and shoot Saturday in advance of the 4 p.m. tip.

Irish guard Matt Farrell, who drove down with family from his home in New Jersey following his grandfather's funeral Friday morning, arrived at the hotel ahead of the team.

With Notre Dame (18-12; 8-9 ACC) having won its last two road games, Irish coach Mike Brey wanted to stay with the same road itinerary that worked at Boston College and at Wake Forest. Instead of practicing at Purcell Pavilion and then traveling, Notre Dame had traveled to the road city the day before the game before an all-out practice - not just the usual shoot-around - in the opposing arena.

Dealing with travel issues is an annual obstacle for every college basketball team. This year is no exception for Notre Dame. Some members of the Irish traveling party, including Brey, were forced to spend an extra night in Maui in November because of airline issues. Coming back from Boston last month, the Irish charter flight sat on an airport runway for a couple hours before departing.

Notre Dame has not played at John Paul Johns Arena since opening conference play Jan. 2, 2016 with a 77-66 loss.

A downed power line across Interstate 64 and subsequent traffic jam forced the Notre Dame men's basketball team to juggle its road itinerary in advance of Saturday's season finale at top-ranked Virginia (AP File Photo)