March Madness: Irish now 2,200 miles and three time zones away from first NCAA game

Tom Noie
ND Insider

A return text message landed just before 7 a.m. eastern time, mere minutes after the Notre Dame men's basketball team did the same three time zones away and a long way away from where its post-season playing journey started.

Notre Dame's Cormac Ryan (5) yells as he reacts to his teammates during a First Four game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament against Rutgers, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Dayton, Ohio. Notre Dame won 89-87 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

"Wheels down out here," wrote Irish coach Mike Brey.

Four hours and 29 minutes after Notre Dame left southwest Ohio following a double-overtime victory over Rutgers in an NCAA Tournament First Four game at University of Dayton Arena, the Irish were California dreaming (of sleep) in San Diego.

Life moves really fast during the NCAA Tournament.

Noie:Irish never stopped believing

According to flightaware.com, Notre Dame left Dayton at 11:11 p.m. Pacific time on a charter 737. The flight out took four hours and 29 minutes and landed at San Diego International Airport at 3:40 local time – 6:40 a.m. back home.

That gave the Irish approximately 32 hours to adjust to the three-time zone change and everything else that comes with playing two NCAA tournament games in three days heading into Friday's first-round contest against No. 6 Alabama at Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University.

Friday's game tips at 1:15 p.m. local time, 4:15 back home.

Quick turnaround for sure, but nobody seemed to care, especially not after Irish graduate power forward Paul Atkinson, Jr. rebounded a Blake Wesley miss and dropped in the game winner with 1.4 seconds remaining back at UD Arena.

Notre Dame's media responsibilities Thursday begin at 5 p.m., Pacific time with an open practice to follow. Any basketball-related activities Thursday likely will be limited after four Irish each played at least 37 minutes against the Scarlet Knights. That included a team- and career-high 46 minutes from Cormac Ryan, who finished with 16 points, three steals two assists and one rebound.

Brey ventured to the back of the charter flight before it left Dayton to let some of those in the traveling party know that sleep is overrated.

Nobody was too worried about that, or about Alabama, before the Irish made a quick retreat from UD Arena early Thursday morning.

"Can't wait," Ryan said when asked about playing Alabama.

"What he said," Atkinson offered.

The Irish traveling party did not experience any late-night travel issues that affected Indiana the previous day. Having beaten Wyoming on Tuesday in a First Four game, Indiana's departure from Dayton for Portland, Oregon was delayed for three hours because the original charter plane wasn't big enough.

Notre Dame has had its share of interesting travel this season.

En route from its Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Boston College in early December, Notre Dame was forced to divert to Gary International Airport because of poor conditions in South Bend. The Irish ultiamtely bused back from Gary.

In early January, Notre Dame was on final approach into South Bend following a win in Atlanta over Georgia Tech when poor visibility forced the plane to divert to Indianapolis. With no hotels or charter buses available because of it was the weekend of the College Football national championship game, the Irish traveling part had to wait for a bus to arrive all the way from South Bend. They finally returned to campus early the next morning. 

The Irish would be OK staying away, at least for a few more days.

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