In what could only be described as a dominant inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (29-0, 16-0) entered Sunday with just one more regular season accomplishment left. The Irish completed their mission, finishing their undefeated season with a no-doubter on the road at the 13th-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack (24-6, 11-5).
This is the first undefeated regular season in program history and surpasses the 2000-2001 squad's 23-0 as the best start to a season. That team went on to have some postseason success, if I remember correctly.
En route to their 29-0 record, Notre Dame won all but two games by double-digits. Their 53% field goal percentage is best in the country, and their 88 points per game is topped only by Oregon, all this despite a top ten strength of schedule.
If RPI is your thing, the Irish are first in the country over otherwise-undisputed number one UConn, thanks in large part to the differences in schedule strength (although I won't hate on the Huskies' 37 point-per-game scoring margin).
In Sunday's game against the Wolfpack, the Irish held just an eight-point lead at the half before exploding in the second half, leading by as much as 30 before settling in with the 24-point victory.
Notre Dame was led by senior Natalie Achonwa with her 19 points and 6 boards. Second in line was Jewell Loyd with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Achonwa and Loyd were joined in double-figures by Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride, each of whom tallied 12. The All-American and legitimate National Player of the Year candidate McBride filled up the stat sheet in addition to her 12 points, adding 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and a block.
The Wolfpack was led by Miah Spencer and her 18 points off the bench. She was joined in double-digits by Kody Burke (15) and Markeisha Gatling (12).
The ACC tournament starts in Greensboro on Wednesday, but Notre Dame, by virtue of being a top four seed, has a double bye and will not play until Friday. The Irish are, of course, the substantial favorite and an absolute lock for a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which looks like a collision course in the Final Four with the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies.
Congrats to Muffet McGraw and the Irish for a remarkable regular season!