Sept. 10, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame women's basketball team will play at least 13 games against teams that advanced to postseason play last year, including 11 against NCAA Tournament qualifiers (and five vs. NCAA Sweet 16 participants), as part of a demanding 2007-08 schedule that was released Monday following approval by the University's Faculty Board on Athletics. The cornerstone of this year's Irish docket is a slate of 16 regular-season home games that includes contests with defending NCAA national champion Tennessee and reigning BIG EAST Conference regular-season champion and NCAA regional finalist Connecticut. In fact, Notre Dame is one of only two schools in the country (along with DePaul) that will feature both Tennessee and Connecticut on its '07-08 home schedule.
The Irish also will play host to at least two games in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), beginning with the Nov. 9 season opener against Miami (Ohio) at the Joyce Center. With a victory, Notre Dame would face either perennial Sun Belt Conference power Western Kentucky or Atlantic Sun Conference runner-up East Tennessee State in the tournament quarterfinals on Nov. 13, also at the Joyce Center. The Preseason WNIT has changed its format this season, moving from its traditional single elimination bracket to a three-game guarantee format, with all games still played at campus sites. Some of the other marquee teams in this year's field are: NCAA Final Four qualifier LSU, 2006 NCAA national champion Maryland and 2005 NCAA national runner-up Michigan State.
A handful of tip times for Notre Dame's road schedule have yet to be determined by the host school. In addition, the Irish are expected to make several appearances on national and regional television this season, although the complete BIG EAST television package has not yet be released by the conference office.
"We've put together another challenging schedule that's going to test us right from the start," 21st-year Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "There are a lot of different styles of play in this year's schedule, which can only benefit us when we get into the BIG EAST season and then when postseason play gets going. Our home schedule is also going to be one of the best in the country, and one that I think our fans are really going to enjoy."
Notre Dame retains eight monogram winners and three starters from its 2006-07 squad that compiled a 20-12 record (10-6 in the BIG EAST) and made its 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Irish then advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to top-seeded (and second-ranked) North Carolina, 60-51. Notre Dame returns more than 80 percent of its offensive production from that club, led by senior All-America guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) and senior point guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne). In addition, the Irish welcome back junior guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett), who was the team's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 before missing all of last season with a knee injury.
Some media outlets already have placed Notre Dame in their preseason Top 25 polls. Lindy's College Basketball Annual recently slotted the Irish at No. 19 in its preview issue (currently on newsstands), while ESPN.com women's basketball analyst Mechelle Voepel ranked Notre Dame 24th in the nation in her early preseason poll published back in April. The Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls will not unveil their preseason rankings until late October. Last year, the Irish were third among others receiving votes in the final ESPN/USA Today poll with 50 points (good for 28th if the poll were extended).
Notre Dame's 2007-08 schedule opens with a pair of exhibition games against NCAA Division II squads, as Southern Indiana (Nov. 1) and Hillsdale (Nov. 5) make their way to the Joyce Center. The Irish then tip off the regular season with the Preseason WNIT, which continues through Nov. 18. Following the conclusion of that tournament, Notre Dame will play six of its remaining 11 non-conference games at home, with all but one of the road contests coming within a four-hour drive of South Bend.
Some of the other non-conference highlights for the Irish include: a post-Thanksgiving visit by former BIG EAST rival Boston College (Nov. 24), a home matchup with Michigan for the second time in three years (Dec. 2), and back-to-back road contests at NCAA Sweet 16 qualifier Bowling Green (Dec. 5) and NCAA regional finalist Purdue (Dec. 8). Notre Dame also will play host to a pair of first-time opponents in Canisius (Nov. 27) and Saint Francis (Pa.) (Dec. 29), and will travel to Richmond (Jan. 2) before the Tennessee game wraps up the non-conference slate.
The BIG EAST sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, with seven of those squads posting at least one victory during their postseason run. The conference could be even tougher in 2007-08, with the Irish welcoming Connecticut to town (Jan. 27) and venturing to NCAA national runner-up Rutgers (Feb. 19) during the 16-game BIG EAST gauntlet. The UConn game will be the centerpiece in a three-game late January homestand for Notre Dame, which will play six of eight games at the Joyce Center during the heart of the conference schedule. However, the Irish will spend much of the regular season's final month on the road, with the Rutgers game spotlighting a three-game late-February junket. For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame will face DePaul twice during conference play, hosting the Blue Demons on Jan. 22 and venturing to Chicago on Feb. 24.
The 2008 BIG EAST Championship is scheduled for March 8-11 at the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center, marking the fifth consecutive season the conference tournament will be held at a neutral site.
Season ticket packages for the complete 18-game Notre Dame women's basketball home schedule are currently available by contacting the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356, visiting the ticket windows on the second floor of the Joyce Center (via Gate 1) or by clicking here and ordering on-line with a major credit card. The full ticket pricing structure for Irish women's basketball games also can be found here.
Season ticket holders will receive numerous benefits, including a complimentary copy of the official '07-08 Irish women's basketball media guide (available in November), the official Notre Dame women's basketball season ticket holder lime green t-shirt, invitations to several special events tailored exclusively for season ticket holders, four issues of the official Irish women's basketball fan newsletter, and more.
The Irish also will be debuting a special "Triple Threat" ticket package this season, offering fans the chance to purchase tickets to the Tennessee and Connecticut games, as well as a third "wild card" contest of their choosing, for a total price of $15 ($5 per game). The "Triple Threat Pack" goes on sale Oct. 9, while single-game tickets for the 2007-08 Notre Dame women's basketball season will be available beginning Oct. 23.
2007-08 IRISH SCHEDULE NOTES: Seven of Notre Dame's opponents were ranked in either the Associated Press or ESPN/USA Today polls at the end of last season (#3/1 Tennessee, #4/5 Connecticut, #11/7 Purdue, #15/2 Rutgers, #20/15 Bowling Green, #22 (AP) Marquette and #25/24 Louisville); this doesn't include potential Preseason WNIT matchups with #6/14 Maryland (semifinals), #12/4 LSU (final) or #23/25 Michigan State (final) ... five opponents (Bowling Green, Connecticut, Purdue, Rutgers and Tennessee) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conferences ... all told, 15 of the 27 regular-season opponents on Notre Dame's schedule (not counting potential Preseason WNIT opponents) had a record of .500 or better last season, with 11 posting 20-win seasons (and seven registering 25-win campaigns) ... confirmed Irish opponents notched a combined record of 494-358 (.580) last season.