What does this schedule say about Notre Dame men's basketball team this season?

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Freshman guard J.J. Starling will be a key piece to the Notre Dame men's basketball puzzle this season.

For too many falls to recall, a running text thread between a reporter (this one) and a former member of the Notre Dame men’s basketball coaching staff resurfaces. 

Around the time the Irish football team loses a game, one routinely texts the other to say how it’s officially college basketball season. Basketball and smiley face and thumbs-up emojis included. Football’s fine, but let’s get going with hoops. For the record, this year’s text was sent just shy of 6 p.m. on Saturday when Notre Dame lost its home opener to Marshall. 

It’s all in fun, but the point remains — for some, even on that campus, basketball season can’t get here soon enough. Just after 2 on Tuesday afternoon, it officially arrived. Christmas in September? Yessir. 

The Atlantic Coast Conference finalized the 2022-23 schedule for its 15 teams, including Notre Dame. The weather may say summer/fall, but it's a good time to start thinking of winter, and being inside Purcell Pavilion, new court and all. There, Notre Dame looks to make a repeat run back to the NCAA tournament. 

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In too many recent seasons past, that was but a dream. A hope. A fantasy that rarely was fulfilled. The Irish just weren’t good enough — too inexperienced, too immature, too something to get to where this program needs to be every single season. Many figured that was the case a year ago, then last season happened. 

Notre Dame ripped off 24 overall wins, including a school record 15 in the ACC. It won a pair of NCAA games for the first time since the Elite Eight surprise in 2016. It produced the school’s first-and-done (former Irish guard Blake Wesley). It gained much-needed national traction. It again mattered. Now do it all again, only more, with a veteran core (six fifth-year guys) and as talented a pair of ready-made freshmen (Ven-Allen Lubin, J.J. Starling) as the program’s had since maybe Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody. 

Entering his 23rd season, head coach Mike Brey will tamp down any increased expectation of his group. That’s what he does. He’ll wish the football team gets better and runs off a few consecutive wins so his guys can kind of hide in plain sight on a campus where basketball usually doesn’t matter until at least January. Sometimes, February. Occasionally, not at all. 

Basketball should matter this season — Brey has a roster that’s built to win a lot again. Now he’s got a schedule to plot out the plan of getting back to March, only this time, deeper. 

To get there, the Irish will navigate a six-game grinder/gauntlet in February that includes games against Wake Forest (twice), road trips to Duke (which will be picked first or second in the league preseason poll) and Virginia (which will be picked third or fourth in the preseason poll) and home games against North Carolina (one or two in preseason) and Virginia Tech (maybe three or four). 

You know who gets handed stretches like that? Teams that go 15-5 and finish in second in the league the previous year. That run will basically determine if Notre Dame is NCAA tournament-worthy. Watch. 

The pieces are there. The program’s in a good spot. The non-league schedule is manageable, especially for a veteran team. It might be a little too safe knowing that the challenges are coming quickly in the ACC. Most everything (nine of 11 games) happens at home. Both games away from home are neutral-site affairs against OK teams (Saint Bonaventure, Georgia). 

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The Georgia deal (Dec. 18) was done with the thought that Notre Dame could piggy-back a quick flight to and an extended stay in Atlanta with a league game that week against Georgia Tech. The ACC did give Notre Dame a league road game that week — but in Tallahassee against Florida State. So much for that plan. 

How good can Notre Dame be? So good that opening the season with a league game would’ve been good for this group. They could’ve handled it. The league went that route in 2019 to prop up the ACC Network and the first year of a 20-game league schedule, but they’re not going back there anytime soon. Like, ever. 

It's now three conference games in December. Notre Dame opens Dec. 3 at home against Syracuse. Then Dec. 21 at Florida State, which will be better later than sooner. Then, Dec. 30 or 31 at home again with Miami (Fla.). 

A 3-0 start for the first time since 2017 definitely is doable. ESPN apparently isn’t moved by the Irish potential. Notre Dame is not part of the network’s Big Monday showcase. ESPN’s like, nah, we’re good. 

The league schedule features six repeat opponents, including Boston College and Georgia Tech, who have been “permanent” repeaters since Notre Dame joined the conference in 2013. It’s beyond time to mix it up a little bit. How about Louisville (the closest ACC city to South Bend) twice a year? Or Virginia Tech? The Hokies have become a problem for the Irish, but, man, Mike Young can coach. 

Doing the yearly BC-GT doubles dance has gotten stale. Fast. 

Hitting all four schools along Tobacco Road always is good, especially when three of the trips are in February. That’s usually when there’s a foot of snow here, and sunny and 70-degree temperatures there. Every trip out that way offers hope that winter’s almost over, and that March is near. 

As is another basketball season. Again. Hooray. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.

2022-23 NOTRE DAME MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 

NOVEMBER 

2 Wed. XAVIER (La.) (exhibition), 7 p.m.; 10 Thurs. RADFORD, 7; 13 Sun. YOUNGSTOWN STATE, TBA; 16 Wed. SOUTHERN INDIANA, 7; 18 Fri. LIPSCOMB, 7; 22 Tues. BOWLING GREEN, 7; 25 Fri. vs. St. Bonaventure (Gotham Classic, Elmont, New York), TBA; 30 Wed. MICHIGAN STATE (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), 9. 

DECEMBER 

3 Sat. SYRACUSE; TBA; 7 Wed. BOSTON, 7; 11 Sun. MARQUETTE, TBA; 18 Sun. vs. Georgia (Atlanta), 5:30; 21 Wed. at Florida State, TBA; 27 Tues. JACKSONVILLE, 7; 30-or-31 Fri./Sat. MIAMI (Fla.). 

JANUARY 

3 Tues. at Boston College, TBA; 7 Sat. at North Carolina, TBA; 10 Tues. GEORGIA TECH, TBA; 14 Sat. at Syracuse, TBA; 17 Tues. FLORIDA STATE, TBA; 21 Sat. BOSTON COLLEGE, TBA; 24 Tues. at North Carolina State, TBA; 28 Sat. LOUISVILLE. 

FEBRUARY 

4 Sat. WAKE FOREST, TBA; 8 Wed. at Georgia Tech, TBA; 11 Sat. VIRGINIA TECH, TBA; 14 Tues. at Duke, TBA; 18 Sat. at Virginia, TBA; 22 Wed. NORTH CAROLINA, TBA; 25 Sat. at Wake Forest. 

MARCH 

1 Wed. PITTSBURGH, TBA; 4 Sat. at Clemson, TBA; 7-11 Tues.-Sat. ACC Tournament (Greensboro, N.C.), TBA.