March 16, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
Notre Dame is exactly where it hoped to be all season long. Friday night, the NCAA Championship will open with the Irish playing before a friendly crowd at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center and carrying a No. 1 seed.
Notre Dame (30-3) will begin its march through the bracket with a contest against No. 16-seed Robert Morris (22-10). The Irish and Colonials will start their game at about 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Preceding the contest, No. 8-seed Green Bay faces No. 9-seed Purdue at 5 p.m. with the two winners to square off Sunday night in the second round of the tournament.
Here is some more information about the game:
About the Colonials
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Robert Morris is making its fifth appearance in the NCAAs and its third in the last four years. Last season, the Colonials drew UConn in the opening round and fell to the Huskies at Gampel Pavilion. Robert Morris enters March Madness on a hot streak, winning 16 of its last 17 contests starting with a Jan. 9 victory over LIU Brooklyn.
Anna Niki Stamolamprou was named the MVP of the Northeast Conference Tournament after averaging 17.7 points per game in the Colonials' three wins. She tallied 23 points, with nine rebounds and five assists, in the championship game win over Bryant. Stamolamprou, also the NEC's regular season player of the year, averaged 16.5 points per game to lead Robert Morris during the year. Megan Smith (10.8 ppg) was the only other Colonial to average in double figures. Long-time RMU assistant Charlie Buscaglia is in his first season as head coach of the Colonials and earned the NEC's coach of the year accolade.
Notre Dame and Robert Morris have only met once before, coming under the identical circumstance of a first round NCAA Championship matchup between No. 1 and No. 16 seeds. The Irish claimed a 93-42 win over the Colonials on March 22, 2014, at Toledo's Savage Arena. In that game, five Irish players scored in double figures led by Michaela Mabrey's 16. Three active Notre Dame team members played in that contest. Lindsay Allen started and had seven assists while scoring two points. Kristina Nelson scored two points while Diamond Thompson did not score.
The Irish are 3-1 all-time against the Northeast Conference and 3-0 under Muffet McGraw. In addition to the 2014 win over Robert Morris, the Irish defeated St. Francis (Pa.) during the regular season in 2007 and 2012, both at home. Notre Dame dropped a 57-44 game to Mount Saint Mary's at the Palestra during the 1981 Penn Holiday Tournament.
Notre Dame in the NCAAs
Notre Dame is making its 24th appearance in the NCAA Championship and its 22nd in a row. The Irish stand at 53-22 all-time in NCAA play, highlighted by the 2001 national championship.
Notre Dame has advanced to seven Final Fours (including a run of five straight from 2011-15) and five national championship games. The Irish have advanced to seven Eight Eights and 14 Sweet 16s, including each of the last seven. The Irish have won at least one game in 19 of their previous 23 trips to the NCAAs, including each of the last seven since a first round loss to Minnesota in 2009.
Notre Dame's 22 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances are the fourth-longest active streak in the nation and the fifth-longest of all-time. The 53 NCAA wins by the Irish are the seventh-most of any school, as is Notre Dame's .707 winning percentage (minimum of 20 games).
Notre Dame has had success once reaching the tournament field. Its seven Final Four appearances are the fifth-most of any school. Only Tennessee (18), UConn (17), Stanford (12) and Louisiana Tech (10) have been to more.
Notre Dame as a No. 1 Seed
This is the seventh time that Notre Dame has claimed a No. 1-seed and the sixth year in a row. The Irish are 27-5 all-time when playing as a top seed with four of the losses coming to fellow No. 1 seeds.
Notre Dame first found itself on the top line in 2001 and went on to claim the national championship. The current run of six-straight years as a No. 1-seed began in 2012. Over that time, the Irish have advanced to four Final Fours and made three appearances in the national championship game.
Home Sweet Home
This year marks the 12th time that Notre Dame has played host to NCAA Championship action and the fourth in a row.
The Irish are 16-2 during NCAA play at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, including wins in each of their last 10 contests. Curiously, both of the losses have come against Minnesota with the Golden Gophers upsetting the Irish in both 1994 and 2009 during games that matched seventh-seeded Notre Dame and 10th-seeded Minnesota.
Ten of the 12 years where Notre Dame has hosted, the games were first and second round matchups. The lone exceptions came in 1983 and 2014 when the Irish played host to a regional. In 2014, Notre Dame downed Oklahoma State and Baylor to advance to the Final Four in Nashville, Tennessee. Serving a neutral site in 1983, Georgia beat Tennessee to advance to the Final Four in Norfolk, Virginia, after beating Indiana and Ole Miss, respectively.
Luck of the Irish
The Fighting Irish will be playing on St. Patrick's Day for the sixth time and own a 3-2 record on the special date. This marks the first St. Patrick's Day game for the Irish since a 2002 loss at Tennessee in the NCAA second round.
Notre Dame's most noteworthy St. Patrick's Day encounter came on 1997 when the sixth-seeded Irish knocked off third-seeded Texas at the Irwin Center to advance to the program's first Sweet 16 en route to its first Final Four.
Just like their current scenario, the Irish began their march to the 2001 national championship with a March 17 "one vs. 16" home game in the first round of the NCAA Championship. That day, Notre Dame downed Alcorn State, 98-49.
Irish Net 30 Wins
Notre Dame claimed its 30th win of the season when the Irish beat Duke to win the ACC championship on March 5. It marked the seventh consecutive 30-win season for Notre Dame and the ninth in school history, joining the 1996-97 and 2000-01 squads. Nationally, only UConn has a longer active streak of 30-win seasons at 12. Baylor matches the Irish with a streak that began in 2010-11.
The 2016-17 Irish stand at 30-3 on the year. This high rate of success is becoming routine. This is the sixth consecutive year where Notre Dame has started a season 30-3 or better. The 2010-11 team was the last one to win less than 30 of its first 33 games and that squad still stood at a solid 26-7 at this late-season juncture.
This season marks the 11th year in a row and the 23rd time in the past 24 years in which Notre Dame has won at least 20 games. It marks the 12th Irish team to win at least 25 games in a season, all coming under Muffet McGraw's tutelage.
The Irish also won at least 10 league games this season. Notre Dame has claimed double-digit league wins in 20 of its 21 years in the BIG EAST and ACC combined, going 8-8 in 2005-06 league play for the lone exception.
How to Watch/Listen
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 with Paul Sunderland and Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault handling the call. The game will be shown in its entirety in Indiana, Chicago and Pittsburgh while also included in the nationwide "whip-around" national feed of the tournament on ESPN2. It will also be streamed online at WatchESPN.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Friday's game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in 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 audio link for the broadcast 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.