ACC schedule set for Notre Dame women's basketball

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — The Atlantic Coast Conference is planning a divisional format for the 2020-21 women’s basketball season, and Notre Dame will be part of the North Division — the one that stacks up as most loaded.

The conference revealed the new alignment and the 20-game league schedules for each of its 15 schools on Wednesday.

The No. 22-ranked Irish are joined in the North by fifth-ranked defending ACC regular-season champion Louisville, No. 23 Syracuse, Boston College and Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame tips its conference season on Sunday, Dec. 13 at home against Georgia Tech. The Irish still have not released their non-league schedule, but that portion is expected to include four games — three at home — with the first contest no sooner than Friday, Nov. 27, according to associate athletic communications director Josh Bates.

Bates also said Wednesday that a decision has not been made regarding how many fans, if any, will be allowed to attend home games during the pandemic.

He said ND could reveal its non-league schedule before the week is over. The announcement is pending the signing of all contracts.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s conference slate is not only loaded based on division, but also backloaded overall — perhaps a best-case scenario for a young, but promising, team like the Irish.

Four of the final seven contests consist of home-and-home matchups with Louisville — including the regular-season finale on Sunday, Feb. 28 at Purcell Pavilion — a trip to No. 8 North Carolina State and a visit from Syracuse. Teams will play their four division opponents twice each.

They’ll also play two other selected teams twice each. For the Irish, those games include a home-and-home against Virginia Tech and a pair of home matchups against Georgia Tech. That gives ND 11 league home games and nine on the road. In all, six teams will play either an extra home or extra road game. The ACC did not explain why.

Notre Dame will end up with some reunion-themed matchups.

For junior guard Dara Mabrey, the two matchups with the Hokies — Dec. 17 at home and Jan. 21 in Blacksburg — send her against the program from which she transferred after last season. On Sunday, Jan. 31, Notre Dame will host Duke, where ex-Irish star Beth Cunningham has landed as a Blue Devil assistant after spending the last eight seasons on the ND bench. That game will also pit the league’s two high-profile rookie head coaches — Notre Dame’s Niele Ivey and Duke’s Kara Lawson — against each other.

Game times were not included in the ACC’s initial schedule release. The league also did not immediately detail how the divisional alignment would affect seedings for the conference tournament. However, when the conference previously considered a similar alignment, discussion included three of the four double byes going to the division champs and the other to the remaining team with the best league record.

The ACC Tourney is planned for March 3-7 in Greensboro, N.C.

The Irish were picked to finish fourth in the ACC by media earlier this week, but slotted just sixth by the league’s coaches. Louisville, North Carolina State and Syracuse were listed 1-2-3 in each poll, as conducted by the conference.

Five of Notre Dame’s six double opponents landed in the top nine in both polls. Those same five foes — Louisville, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Syracuse — all finished in the top eight in last season’s standings. The Irish tied for ninth place at 8-10.

This season’s Central Division will consist of Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. The South Division includes Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami and Wake Forest.

Notre Dame’s Mikayla Vaughn (30) reaches for a loose ball as North Carolina’s Leah Church (20) and Malu Tshitenge Feb. 27 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend. The ACC announced its 2020-21 conference schedules Wednesday.

(Home games in caps)

DECEMBER

Sun. 13 — GEORGIA TECH. Thur. 17 — VIRGINIA TECH. Sun. 20 — at Clemson. Thur. 31 — at Miami.

JANUARY

Sun. 3 — GEORGIA TECH. Thur. 7 — at Boston College. Sun. 10 — at Syracuse. Thur. 14 — PITTSBURGH. Sun. 17 — BOSTON COLLEGE. Thur. 21 — at Virginia Tech. Sun. 24 — at North Carolina. Thur. 28 — WAKE FOREST. Sun. 31 — DUKE.

FEBRUARY

Sun. 7 — at Louisville. Thur. 11 — VIRGINIA. Mon. 15 — at North Carolina State. Thur. 18 — SYRACUSE. Mon. 22 — at Pittsburgh. Thur. 25 — FLORIDA STATE. Sun. 28 — LOUISVILLE.

Note: Notre Dame has not released its non-conference schedule, which is expected to include four games