Sept. 15, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The Notre Dame women's basketball team will play 14 regular-season games against NCAA Championship qualifiers (including four against participants in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four) as part of a demanding 2009-10 schedule that was released Tuesday afternoon following approval by the University's Faculty Board on Athletics. In addition, the Fighting Irish have 15 regular-season home games lined up for the newly-renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center during the upcoming campaign, with Notre Dame also slated to serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in the 2010 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship (March 21 & 23).
Among the marquee matchups on this year's Fighting Irish schedule are a home-and-home series with BIG EAST Conference rival and defending national champion Connecticut (Jan. 16 in Storrs, Conn.; March 1 at Notre Dame), a trip to 2009 national runner-up Louisville (Jan. 19) and a neutral-site contest with '09 Final Four combatant and reigning Big 12 Conference regular-season champion Oklahoma (Nov. 28 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands). The Fighting Irish also will welcome '09 NCAA Sweet 16 participants Vanderbilt (Dec. 31) and Pittsburgh (Feb. 6), as well as defending WNIT champion South Florida (Jan. 12) to Purcell Pavilion this season.
A handful of tip times for Notre Dame's 2009-10 schedule have yet to be announced, due to either pending television considerations (to be released at a later date by the BIG EAST office) or because the host school has not yet determined the start time. The Fighting Irish, who are expected to make several appearances on national and regional television this season, already know they will make at least one national TV appearance in '09-10, with the Jan. 16 contest at Connecticut airing live on ESPN (9 p.m. ET) as the culmination of the first-ever ESPN College GameDay broadcast to be held in conjunction with a women's basketball game. GameDay will air two live one-hour shows from UConn's Gampel Pavilion during the day (11 a.m.-noon and 8-9 p.m. ET), with the latter program leading directly into the broadcast of the Notre Dame-Connecticut game.
What's more, for the third consecutive season, the official Fighting Irish athletics web site (www.UND.com) is planning to produce free live webcasts of several home games that are not selected for commercial television coverage.
Notre Dame also begins its 14th season of full-time commercial radio coverage this fall, as the LeSEA Broadcasting Network and Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) will air every Fighting Irish women's basketball game live to more than 1.35 million listeners in the Michiana area and worldwide on UND.com, with veteran broadcaster Bob Nagle calling the play-by-play.
"I don't think it's an understatement to say this is one of the more challenging schedules we will face in my time at Notre Dame," 23rd-year head coach Muffet McGraw said. "While we like to test ourselves outside of the BIG EAST, which is the best conference in basketball, we feel like were going to get great competition to prepare for the NCAA tournament by playing in the BIG EAST, so we try to challenge ourselves to get ready for that. This year, we have some great teams on the schedule early, highlighted by our Thanksgiving trip to the Virgin Islands, and those games will help prepare us for conference play. The BIG EAST has improved significantly over the last couple of years, to the point where there are no easy games. We have 16 teams and basically anybody can beat anybody, so it is definitely a conference where you've got to be ready every night, especially on the road."
Notre Dame returns all 12 monogram winners from last year's squad that went 22-9 overall (10-6, tied for fourth in the BIG EAST) and advanced to the NCAA Championship for the 14th consecutive season (16th in program history). The Fighting Irish finished the season ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll and were the top vote-getter among other teams receiving votes in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Several media outlets already have placed Notre Dame in their preseason Top 25 polls. ESPN.com women's basketball analyst Charlie Creme ranked the Fighting Irish fifth in the nation in his early preseason poll published back in April, shortly after the Women's Final Four, while Lindy's college basketball preview also penciled Notre Dame at No. 5 in its preseason rankings. Meanwhile, the Athlon college basketball preview rates the Fighting Irish 12th in the nation heading into the 2009-10 season, although the magazine erroneously stated in its rankings that Notre Dame was losing one key player from last year's squad. The Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls will not unveil their preseason rankings until late October.
Notre Dame's 2009-10 schedule opens with a single exhibition contest against NCAA Division II member Indianapolis (Nov. 3, 7 p.m. ET) in the first women's basketball game to be played inside the newly-configured Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which is currently undergoing a $26.3 million renovation. The Fighting Irish then tip off the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 15 with a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup against first-time opponent Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion, before the first of eight games against returning NCAA Sweet 16 qualifiers with a Nov. 19 trip to Michigan State (the program's first visit to the Breslin Center since the 2003-04 season). Notre Dame then wraps up the opening week of the season by welcoming Iona to Purcell Pavilion on Nov. 22 for a 2 p.m. (ET) contest that will be followed that evening by the Fighting Irish men's basketball team playing host to Liberty in the Chicago Invitational Challenge at 7 p.m. (ET).
Notre Dame then embarks on its first regular-season trip outside the continental United States since 1995, when it travels to the U.S. Virgin Islands over the Thanksgiving weekend to compete in the 10th annual Paradise Jam, hosted by Basketball Travelers, Inc., at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports & Fitness Center. The Fighting Irish have been assigned to the "Island" Division for the three-game round-robin tournament, which gets underway on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26), when Notre Dame squares off with defending Mountain West Conference regular-season champion San Diego State at 4:30 p.m. AT (3:30 p.m. ET). The following day, the Fighting Irish will take on Southeastern Conference member South Carolina (2 p.m. AT/1 p.m. ET) before meeting Oklahoma in the tournament finale on Nov. 28 (4:30 p.m. AT/3:30 p.m. ET). While Notre Dame has not faced SDSU or South Carolina since the early 1980s, the Fighting Irish battled OU just two seasons ago in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Championship, with Notre Dame pulling out a 79-75 overtime victory at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
Following their trip to the Caribbean, the Fighting Irish will return home for much of December, playing five of their six games during the month at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame opens a four-game homestand (its longest regularly-scheduled hosting run since 1999-2000) on Dec. 2 by entertaining Eastern Michigan in a 7 p.m. (ET) tilt, before IPFW (Dec. 8, 7 p.m. ET) and Valparaiso (Dec. 12, 2 p.m. ET) also come to town prior to the University's final exam break. After the eight-day study layoff, defending Atlantic 10 Conference champion Charlotte makes its first-ever appearance at Purcell Pavilion on Dec. 20, with that 1 p.m. (ET) matchup being the last before Christmas. That game with the 49ers also ushers in a grueling stretch that will see the Fighting Irish play five consecutive '09 NCAA Championship qualifiers and seven in an eight-game span, with four of those seven coming against teams that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 or beyond last season.
Notre Dame returns from its nine-day Christmas break with a Dec. 29 road game at the reigning Conference USA tournament champion Central Florida, which gave North Carolina all it wanted before falling by five points in the first round of last year's NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish then ring in the new year with a New Year's Eve matinee (2 p.m. ET) against defending SEC tournament champion (and Sweet 16 participant) Vanderbilt at Purcell Pavilion, marking just the second time the Commodores will play at Notre Dame, and their first visit in two decades. Last year's matchup between the Fighting Irish and Vanderbilt was wildly entertaining, as Notre Dame posted a school-record 18-point second-half comeback en route to a 59-57 victory at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
The Fighting Irish will close out their non-conference schedule on Jan. 4, with a Monday night trip to Purdue (7 p.m. ET). Notre Dame is in the midst of a series-best three-game winning streak and has taken four of the past five matchups with their in-state rivals, including last season's 62-51 conquest in South Bend.
The BIG EAST sent 12 teams to postseason play last year, including seven to the NCAA Championship, with the conference winning both the NCAA and WNIT titles (the first league ever to pull off that feat). The Fighting Irish will open their BIG EAST slate with a pair of home games, as Villanova (Jan. 9) and WNIT champion South Florida (Jan. 12) coming to Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame then faces a rugged mid-January two-game swing against the two combatants in last year's NCAA national championship game, first visiting Connecticut for the aforementioned ESPN College GameDay matchup on Jan. 16, followed by a trip to reigning national runner-up Louisville on Jan. 19 for a 7 p.m. (ET) battle at Freedom Hall.
The Fighting Irish come back to campus for conference tussles with West Virginia (Jan. 24) and Providence (Jan. 27) before another two-game road trip, this time in a little more than a 48-hour span at Syracuse (Jan. 30) and Rutgers (Feb. 1). The Scarlet Knights advanced to last year's NCAA Sweet 16, as did Pittsburgh, which Notre Dame returns home to play on Feb. 6. A mid-week journey down to Cincinnati (Feb. 9) sets the table for a Valentine's Day contest at home against DePaul, before the Fighting Irish play three of their last four February games on the road at St. John's (Feb. 16), Georgetown (Feb. 20) and Seton Hall (Feb. 27). The St. John's game will have a little added flavor, as the Red Storm announced Tuesday that former Fighting Irish All-America point guard and 2006 Notre Dame graduate Megan Duffy has been named an assistant on head coach Kim Barnes-Arico's staff.
Two of Notre Dame's last three regular-season contests are penciled for Purcell Pavilion, with Marquette stopping by on Feb. 23 before Connecticut comes calling on Monday, March 1, for the regular-season finale.
The 2010 BIG EAST Championship is scheduled for March 5-9 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., marking the seventh consecutive season the conference tournament will be held at a neutral site. Once again this year, all 16 BIG EAST teams will participate in the event, with the top eight teams earning a first-round bye, and the top four seeds garnering a second-round bye.
The vast majority of 2009-10 season ticket packages for the complete 16-game Notre Dame women's basketball home schedule have been sold, putting the Fighting Irish in position to become just the second women's basketball program in history to sell out every regular-season game (Connecticut did so earlier this decade). However, a limited number of season tickets have been freed up and went on sale Tuesday morning -- they are 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 ordering on-line with a major credit card at www.UND.com/tickets.
Packages are $58 per person for individuals and $46 per person for full-time Notre Dame faculty/staff, while four-ticket "Fan Packs" are $162 for individuals and $130 for faculty/staff. Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and Holy Cross students are admitted free for all regular-season home games.
Should any single-game tickets remain for the 2009-10 Notre Dame women's basketball home schedule, those will go on sale Oct. 20. In addition, a limited number of tickets for each home game may become available during the week prior to, or the day of that contest due to visiting team returns and other considerations.
Ticket packages for the 2010 NCAA Championship first- and second-round games to be played at Notre Dame's Purcell Pavilion, will go on sale Oct. 1 (same purchase methods as listed above), priced at $32 for adults and $22 for youths college age and under. These tickets will be good for three sessions -- two first-round sessions on March 21, and one second-round session on March 23. Single-session tickets will not go on sale until the week prior to the NCAA tournament games at Purcell Pavilion, following the announcement of the 64-team NCAA Championship field.
With all Fighting Irish ticket purchases, standard processing fees and service charges do apply.
2009-10 IRISH SCHEDULE NOTES: Eight of Notre Dame's opponents were ranked in either the Associated Press or ESPN/USA Today polls at the end of last season (#1/1 Connecticut, #4/4 Oklahoma, #7/2 Louisville, #14/8 Vanderbilt, #15/15 Pittsburgh, #rv/16 Purdue, #-/21 Rutgers and #-/22 Michigan State), while four others were receiving votes in one or both polls at the close of the 2008-09 campaign (#rv/- Villanova, #rv/- DePaul, #-/rv San Diego State and #-/rv South Florida) ... six upcoming Fighting Irish opponents won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conferences last year (Central Florida - Conference USA tournament; Charlotte - Atlantic 10 tournament; Connecticut - BIG EAST regular season/tournament; Oklahoma - Big 12 regular season; San Diego State - Mountain West regular season; Vanderbilt - Southeastern tournament) ... in addition to the rigorous schedule in the BIG EAST (ranked the nation's third-toughest conference, according to CollegeRPI.com prior to '09 NCAA Tournament), Notre Dame will face teams from 11 different conferences, including seven in the top 12 nationally, during non-league play: #1 Big 12, #4 SEC, #5 Big Ten, #7 Atlantic 10, #8 Mountain West, #11 Conference USA and #12 Mid-American ... all told, 22 of the 28 regular-season opponents on Notre Dame's schedule had a record of .500 or better last season, with 13 posting 20-win seasons (two more ended up with 19 victories), seven registering 25-win campaigns (another had 24 victories), and three reaching the 30-win plateau ... this year's Fighting Irish opponents amassed a combined record of 562-361 (.609) last season.