Notre Dame draws Saint Mary's in Maui Invitational opener

Tom Noie
ND Insider

The logical, made-for-television, must-see matchup in the first round of the 2021 Maui Jim Maui Invitational was right there and waiting for Notre Dame.

That would be Butler, a program whose campus is barely two hours away from South Bend, but one the Irish haven’t played since 2015. Match ‘em up in Maui, regardless of the five-hour time difference, and the Hoosier State would take note.

It would be the teams’ first meeting since the 2015 NCAA tournament. It would be their first regular season meeting since 2006.

Easy, right?

Nope.

11/28/2017: Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey enjoys the spoils of victory after his team defeated Wichita State in the Maui Invitational championship last Wednesday, in Lahaina, Hawaii. The victory propelled the Irish to No. 5 in the AssociatedPress poll. AP Photo/MARCO GARCIA

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey reacts after his team defeated Wichita State 67-66 in an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Instead, Maui Invitational tournament chairman Dave Odom, the former Wake Forest coach who oversees scheduling, went a different direction.

Notre Dame opens the Maui Invitational against Saint Mary’s on Monday, Nov. 22 at the Lahaina Civic Center. Tip time is (approximately) 11:30 p.m. in Indiana (6:30 on the island).

Notre Dame will face either Oregon or host Chaminade in the second round. The other half of the eight-team bracket includes Texas A&M against Wisconsin and, sigh, Butler against Houston.

The tournament runs the first three days of Thanksgiving week.

Notre Dame’s last two visits to Maui have delivered championship game appearances. In 2008, Notre Dame beat Indiana and then-No. 2 Texas before losing to top-ranked North Carolina, which also would go on to win the NCAA tournament. In 2017, Notre Dame beat host Chaminade and boat-raced LSU (92-53) before beating then-No. 6 Wichita State.

Afterward, Irish coach Mike Brey flexed in the locker room with his shirt off and lei around his neck. He also coached the entire week in shorts and T-shirts. Days later, Notre Dame would rocket to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll.

Notre Dame looks to become the ninth team to win more than one Maui Invitational title. Atlantic Coast Conference colleague Duke has won the most (5).

This will be the first meeting since 1981 between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, and the third all-time. Notre Dame has won both previous meetings.

The Gaels finished 14-10 overall, 4-6 and fourth place in the West Coast Conference last season.

Notre Dame’s complete men’s basketball schedule usually is finalized in early to mid-September.

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI