Notre Dame women's team to play South Carolina in first ever NCAA basketball game in Paris

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame's Sonia Citron (11) keeps the ball in play as coach Niele Ivey watches her feet during the second half of the team's second-round college basketball game against Mississippi State in the women's NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 19, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

SOUTH BEND — Irish basketball in Paris, France?

Oui, oui.

The home of the famed Notre Dame Cathedral will become home to the Notre Dame women for their season opener next November.

Fellow perennial power South Carolina will provide the opponent.

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The Nov. 6 matchup was announced Wednesday morning by both schools. Complete Sports Management is organizing the game at a venue to be named.

“I jumped on board right from the beginning knowing it was going to be something historical,” ND coach Niele Ivey said of being approached last winter about the possibility of her team participating. “I just thought it was an amazing opportunity for our program and for the women’s game in general.”

The contest is billed as the first-ever men’s or women’s NCAA regular-season game in Paris, and the Notre Dame women will be playing a regular-season game anywhere in Europe for the first time.

The Irish have competed in events just outside the U.S. on several occasions over the years, typically during Thanksgiving weekend, and they’ve made summer journeys to far-away locales, but they’ve never been outside North America during the regular season, according to the school.

“It’s the first collegiate game in Paris, men or women, and then for two African-American female coaches to be able to coach on that stage is ground-breaking,” Ivey said, referencing Gamecock boss Dawn Staley, the Naismith Hall of Famer who has won three Olympic gold medals as a player and one as a head coach. “I have so much respect for Dawn. It’s a big challenge, but it’s going to be an awesome experience for our program and for myself.”

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The game’s expected to be televised in the U.S., and travel packages are expected to be offered, with further details to be announced.

Ivey said she anticipates her club spending four full days abroad.

ND, according to the coach, will participate in a community service project as part of the trip, possibly a camp, and “explore Paris, see the sights, connect with the French.”

While the full itinerary is not set, it seems logical that it could include an in-person glimpse of the storied Notre Dame Cathedral that dates back 860 years. The structure, partially destroyed by fire in April 2019, is being rebuilt, but is not expected to fully open until late 2024.

“I’m excited to showcase women’s basketball,” Ivey said. “It’s on the rise, and to be able to do that on the international stage, I think it’s going to be exciting for our players. It’s going to be a life-changing experience.”

Notre Dame guard KK Bransford (14) runs by Maryland guard Elisa Pinzan (12) during the first quarter of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. Saturday, March 25, 2023.

The Irish and South Carolina will be meeting for the first time since Notre Dame’s 92-85 win in November 2017 at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla., to give ND a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.

The Gamecocks are rated No. 7 in ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early Top 25” for next season, while the Irish are No. 10.

The 2022 national champion, South Carolina went wire-to-wire as the nation’s unanimous No. 1 in both major polls this past season before suffering its lone loss, 77-73 to Iowa, in the national semifinals two weeks ago to close 36-1.

Five players from that club were taken in the WNBA draft earlier this week — matching a record set by Tennessee in 2008 and tied by Notre Dame in 2019 — but the Gamecocks are nonetheless expected to remain a force next season.

Mar 31, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks center Kamilla Cardoso (10) controls the ball against Iowa Hawkeyes guard Kate Martin (20) in the second half in semifinals of the women's Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kamilla Cardoso, a 6-7 center who averaged 9.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 18.8 minutes per game off the bench, is among a handful of returnees. The team’s expected to dip into the transfer portal and also has four freshmen ranked from No. 13 to No. 40 by ESPN scheduled to arrive.

“I’m always trying to schedule a hard non-conference schedule, so this game checks the boxes in so many different ways,” Ivey said. “We’ve got a chance to play a Final Four team and a national champion (the year before) as an opener. You get to see where you’re at right away.”

Led by All-American Olivia Miles, the Irish are expected to return their top three scorers and several other key players from this past winter’s 27-6, Sweet 16 club, though Miles’ status for the beginning of the season remains in question after she underwent knee surgery this week.

Feb 23, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Olivia Miles (5) drives to the basket against Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Avyonce Carter (15) in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

ND, which loses center Lauren Ebo and guard Dara Mabrey, is adding guards Hannah Hidalgo and Emma Risch, rated No. 5 and No. 20 by ESPN, and may be utilizing the transfer portal as well.

Ivey said the Paris game will not serve as ND’s Shamrock Classic. Another neutral-site contest remains in the works for that event, which originated last season with the Irish playing California in St. Louis.