Notre Dame women's basketball: Tough schedule awaits Irish


Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw looked over the rugged schedule that the Irish will tackle in the 2013-14 season, but she did allow herself one smile.

The smile came when her eyes set on the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, March 5-9, in Greensboro, N.C., a change from the Irish having to play in the Big East Tournament on Connecticut’s home court in Hartford, Conn.

“We get to play on a neutral court for the ACC Tournament,” McGraw said. “We don’t know how to react to that. That’s something new for us. I have to say, that’s a really, really refreshing and pleasant change.”

Notre Dame’s first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference features home-and-home games against preseason No. 2 Duke and Boston College. One particularly rugged stretch has the Irish playing six of eight games on the road. Notre Dame, which was 35-2 last season and played in its third consecutive Final Four, will play 15 games against teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last season.

McGraw also noticed that the Irish finish the regular season at home against No. 2 Duke (Sunday, Feb. 23), and North Carolina (Thursday, Feb. 27), which has the nation’s No. 1 freshman class this season, and on the road against North Carolina State (Sunday, March 2).

“I think that the finish of the regular season is going to be really difficult,” McGraw said. “To end with two probable top-five teams the last couple of games will be tough.

“You can tell that we’re the new kid on the block. We didn’t get any breaks on the schedule. It’s a great league, and when you’re in a great league, you’re schedule is going to look tough. Every game is going to be difficult. The league may have as many as eight teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, that’s half of the league. It will be a challenge, but one that we’re looking forward to. It’s really going to test us.”

Notre Dame opens its ACC era at home on Sunday, Jan. 5, against Clemson. Boston College, Duke, North Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Syracuse also play at Notre Dame. The Irish will be on the road for ACC contests against Duke, Boston College, Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Maryland.

Notre Dame’s non-conference schedule features the return of Michigan State and Michigan to the slate. Michigan State will play at Notre Dame on Monday, Nov. 11, and the Irish will travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan on Saturday, Dec. 14.

“We wanted to play some Big Ten teams,” McGraw said. “Since we weren’t able to continue with Purdue, we wanted to see if we could get Michigan and Michigan State back. We’re excited about having them on the schedule. It’s great to play teams in the Midwest. We can drive to the games. It’s an easy trip for them. There’s a lot of local interest, and it will be great for our fans. Maybe we can get a bus trip for our fans to go there.”

Notre Dame plays an exhibition game against California (Pa.) on Wed., Oct. 30, and opens the season on Saturday, Nov. 9, at home against UNC Wilmington.

DePaul, a member of the revised Big East, will play at Notre Dame on Tuesday, Nov. 26, as the Blue Demons and Irish maintain that long rivalry. Another long-time rival, Valparaiso, plays at Notre Dame on Saturday, Nov. 16. Pac-12 power UCLA will be at Notre Dame on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Non-conference road trips include the Big Monday battle against Tennessee on Jan. 20, and games against Pennsylvania at The Palestra in Philadelphia (Saturday, Nov. 23), and a homecoming game for Irish senior Natalie Achonwa in Toronto against Duquesne (Sunday, Dec. 1). Notre Dame will hit the West coast for a game at Oregon State on Sunday, Dec. 29.

McGraw believes that her team will embrace the challenging schedule.

“We have good leadership, we have four starters back, we have a veteran team,” McGraw said. “We really don’t know what to expect.

“It’s going to be difficult to be the new team who has to learn everybody. We have to learn all these new teams.”

Muffet McGraw

HOME GAMES UPPER CASE, all times Eastern


30 Wed. CALIFORNIA (PA.) (exhibition), 7 p.m.


9 Sat. UNC WILMINGTON, 1 p.m.; 11 Mon. MICHIGAN STATE, 7 p.m.; 16 Sat. VALPARAISO, 2 p.m.; 23 Sat. at Pennsylvania, 3 p.m.; 26 Tues. DePAUL, 7 p.m.


1 Sun. Duquesne at Toronto, TBA; 4 Wed. at Penn State, 7:30 p.m.; 7 Sat. vs. UCLA, 1 p.m; 14 Sat. at Michigan, TBA; 22 Sun. CENTRAL MICHIGAN, 2 p.m.; 29 Sun. at Oregon State, TBA


2 Thurs. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, TBA; 5 Sun. CLEMSON, TBA; 9 Thurs. BOSTON COLLEGE, TBA; 12 Sun. at Virginia, TBA; 16 Thurs. at Pittsburgh, TBA; 20 Mon. at Tennessee, 7 p.m.; 23 Thurs. MIAMI, 8:30 p.m.; 27 Mon. at Maryland, 7 p.m.; 30 Thurs. VIRGINIA TECH, TBA


2 Sun. at Duke, 2 p.m.; 6 Thurs. at Florida State, TBA; 9 Sun. SYRACUSE, 3 p.m.; 13 Thurs. at Boston College, TBA; 17 Mon. GEORGIA TECH, 7 p.m.; 20 Thurs. at Wake Forest, TBA; 23 Sun. DUKE, 1 p.m.; 27 Thurs. NORTH CAROLINA, TBA


2 Sun. at North Carolina State TBA


Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, N.C.)

5 Wed. ACC First Round; 6 Thurs. ACC Second Round TBA; 7 Fri. ACC Quarterfinals TBA; 8 Sat. ACC Semifinals TBA; 9 Sun. ACC Championship, TBA.