March 4, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - There is an odd dynamic to a tournament where things simultaneously get quieter as the competition heats up. The No. 3 Notre Dame women’s basketball team arrived on the coast of South Carolina Wednesday night one of three teams staying in its oceanside hotel, constantly bumping into its ACC peers. Saturday morning, the Irish are the only ones still here.
Conversely, the action down the road at Coastal Carolina’s HTC Center has only ratcheted up a notch as the 15 teams have been pared down to just four still standing with a shot at the ACC Tournament title as the event hits Saturday’s semifinals.
The top-seeded Irish will face off against fifth-seed No. 14/13 Louisville at noon followed by a matchup of seventh-seeded No. 16 Miami and No. 13/11 Duke, the third-seed. There will be more parking spaces and press row spots available today at the HTC Center. There will be even more of them on Sunday for the championship game when just two teams remain. But, will the Irish or Cardinals be one of the lucky squads experiencing that more-spacious but more pressure-filled setting?
About the Cardinals
Louisville stands at 27-6 on the season and has advanced to today’s semifinal with wins over Clemson and NC State. The Cardinals can claim a pair of first-team all-ACC selections in Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen along with a second-team all-conferece pick in Mariya Moore. Jeff Walz is in his 10th year coaching the Cardinals and claims a 259-91 record.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 13-4, including wins in each of the last 10 meetings. The teams have met four times in the postseason with Louisville claiming a win in the 1991 WNIT (the first-ever game between the schools) and Notre Dame taking three BIG EAST tournament contests.
The active 10-game winning streak against the Cardinals ties for the third-longest by the Irish against any ACC foe, trailing Notre Dame’s 18 straight wins over Syracuse and 12 over Duke while matching its active 10-game winning streak over Boston College.
On Feb. 6, in an ESPN2 “Big Monday” contest, Arike Ogunbowale poured in 22 points to help the Irish past Louisville, 85-66, at Purcell Pavilion. She was one of five Notre Dame players in double figures, including two off of the bench - Jackie Young (16) and Kathryn Westbeld (14). Myisha Hines-Allen was limited to just one minute played for the Cardinals but Asia Durr made up for it, scoring 31 points.
Consistent ACC Success For Irish
Since joining the ACC for the 2013-14 season, Notre Dame has been the league’s top program, compiling a 62-2 regular season record and winning four consecutive outright regular season and three tournament championships. The Irish are 72-2 in ACC competition, including league tournaments.
The Irish maintain an active streak of 32 consecutive home wins in ACC play, part of an overall streak of 42 consecutive home league wins including the final years of Notre Dame’s BIG EAST membership.
Notre Dame’s current 10-game ACC Tournament winning streak is the longest since North Carolina won 13 in a row from 2005-09.
The Irish have lost no more than one ACC league game each of the past four years - the longest such streak in conference history. Duke went three consecutive years from 2002-04 with no more than one ACC loss per season.
The first loss came at Miami on Jan. 8, 2015, and the Irish won all 29 regular season games and 35 games in a row vs. ACC teams including conference tournament play until the Dec. 29, 2016, loss at NC State.
The 35-game ACC streak including tournament games is the 15th-longest in NCAA history and the second-longest in ACC history behind a 51-game run by Duke from 2001-04.
The 29-game ACC regular season winning streak is the 24th-longest such streak in NCAA history and the second-longest in ACC history behind just a 42-game run by Duke from 2001-04.
Conference Tournament Success
The Irish ride a 13-game conference tournament winning streak into Conway, including a perfect 10-0 mark in ACC play. Overall, Notre Dame is 46-19 in conference tournament play, including its time in the MCC (now Horizon League), BIG EAST and ACC.
The Irish are vying for their 10th conference tournament championship and fifth in a row. Nationally, only Notre Dame, Albany (America East) and Baylor (Big 12) have won their conference tournament each of the past four years.
Notre Dame is playing a conference tournament on a neutral floor for just the fourth time - all coming in the ACC era.
Irish Among Hottest Teams in the Country
Notre Dame rode an 11-game winning streak into the ACC Tournament. As of Monday, that tied Ohio State for the longest active winning streak nationally. The Irish have not lost since a Jan. 16 setback at Tennessee.
The Irish also won each of their last 15 ACC games of the year. The run ties New Mexico State (WAC) for the fourth-longest active conference winning streak in the country.
Helping the Irish to these runs has been its success away from Purcell Pavilion. The Irish went 12-2 on the road this year. As of Monday, only UConn (14) and Belmont (13) had more road wins in 2016-17.
Irish Aiming For ACC, National History
The Irish have claimed their sixth consecutive outright regular season conference title and are now in position to extend a couple of historic tournament championship streaks.
The Irish are vying for their fourth consecutive dual outright ACC regular season and tournament championships, a feat only previously accomplished in the league by Duke from 2001-04.
Including the final days of BIG EAST membership, Notre Dame is looking for five consecutive dual outright regular season and conference tournament championships, a feat no one else can actively claim.
Looking at the handful of others to accomplish these feats:
FOUR STRAIGHT OUTRIGHT ACC REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS
Notre Dame (2014-17)
2012-17 OUTRIGHT REGULAR SEASON CONFERENCE CHAMPS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
FOUR STRAIGHT ACC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIPS
North Carolina (2005-08)
2013-16 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
Albany (America East)
Baylor (Big 12)
4x OUTRIGHT ACC REGULAR SEASON & TOURNAMENT CHAMPS
2013-16 CONFERENCE REGULAR & TOURN. CHAMPIONS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
How to Watch/Listen
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli on the call.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Saturday's game is available here.
Bob Nagle returns for his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame's local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The direct link to the radio call is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame's women's basketball and men's golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.