Notre Dame women's basketball: Irish hoops in ESPN’s spotlight


It’s a big compliment with the potential for some big road hazards.

ESPN will showcase the Notre Dame women’s basketball team in three national telecasts against top-five teams on the road in a span of 14 days.

The Irish will play in back-to-back Big Monday games on ESPN2. They travel to preseason No. 3 Tennessee on Jan. 20 (7 p.m. EST), and will play at No. 5 Maryland on Jan. 27 (7 p.m.). Notre Dame will play at No. 2 Duke on Sunday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. EST, in a game scheduled for telecast on ESPN.

“I wish the three of them were at home,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.

Notre Dame will host No. 2 Duke on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m., on ESPN. All of the games are subject to change.

“It’s a compliment to our program,” McGraw said.

“We’ve got four starters back, so I don’t think that they will be fazed by being in spotlight games. They’ll be excited about it.

“It’s important to us to be on national TV. It’s great for recruiting, our alumni, and Notre Dame fans across the country to see us on national TV.”

Notre Dame finished 35-2 last season and reached the Final Four for the third consecutive season.

Notre Dame’s trip to Tennessee will be the second season in a row it heads to Knoxville. The Irish beat Tennessee last season, 77-67, to become the first team in the NCAA era to beat both Connecticut and Tennessee on the road in the same season. It was Notre Dame’s third win in a row over the Volunteers, and first in nine games on Tennessee’s home court.

“We battled that one out,” McGraw said of returning to Knoxville for this season. “We did not want to go back there. We had just been there, but we had a hole in the schedule, and (Tennessee coach Holly Warlick) really wanted us to go there.

“Tennessee offered to come here two years in a row, so that’s the deal. We have a four-year contract, we go there this season, then they come here two years in a row, and then we go back down there.”

McGraw said that the rivalry with Tennessee is an important one in women’s basketball. She said that the Volunteers will be one of the nation’s best teams this season.

“Tennessee is a Final Four-caliber team,” McGraw said. “For us to play that game on the road will be a huge test to see where we are in January.”

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw