The hoops schedule for the ACC was released yesterday, so the full schedule for the 2014-2015 Notre Dame Fighting Irish season was finally made available to the public. The Irish need a bounce-back year in a bad way after last season's train wreck in their inaugural ACC season.
Some instant reactions reading through the schedule:
- Notre Dame caught a nice break in the 4 teams they drew to play twice in ACC play (Duke, Clemson, Boston College, and Georgia Tech). If I am not mistaken, the latter two, both of whom joined the Irish at the bottom of the conference last season, will be on the schedule twice every year. Clemson was a bubble tournament team last year but is not exactly a March fixture, while Duke is Duke (they had to draw someone good!).
- The non-conference schedule leaves quite a bit to be desired, although given the conference schedule, I'm not sure that this is such a bad thing. Michigan State is Michigan State, while Providence is the defending Big East champion and Massachusetts was a 6 seed in last year's NCAA tournament. But there is a big drop-off from there, as the Irish take on struggling Purdue in the Crossroads Classic and the rest of the slate is full of really terrible low-major schools. That really stands out compared to last year, when Notre Dame played some compelling mid-majors (Indiana State, State, Delaware) that they simply avoided this season.
- There do not seem to be any inequities in the home/away split for Notre Dame in ACC play. They host Virginia and Syracuse, while they visit North Carolina and Louisville.
Here are some of the most interesting games on the schedule this season:
- 11/22/14-11/23/14 vs. UMass and Providence (Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament in Connecticut) - It certainly isn't the most high-profile early season tournament, but the Irish play two quality teams, both of whom made the NCAA Tournament last season. Both games are very winnable and would likely look good come March, so it might be a perfect middle ground for an Irish team that simply needs a great non-conference season.
- 12/03/14 vs. Michigan State - Certainly the toughest non-conference game as the Irish host the Spartans in the ACC/B1G Challenge. Michigan State is expected to be down a bit this year, but they still figure to be a top 25 team (when are they not?) and have a dynamite duo with Denzel Valentine and Brandon Dawson. A home win here could really put Notre Dame on the map.
- 12/20/14 vs. Purdue (Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis) - Butler and Notre Dame have won 5 of 6 Crossroads Classic games against the B1G's Hoosier State contingent. The Irish look to win their third straight Crossroads Classic game against a Purdue squad that also stumbled to a 15-17 record last season.
- 01/05/15 at North Carolina - Notre Dame nearly pulled off the upset last season in Chapel Hill long after the season had gone off the rails. The Irish look to finish where they came up short last year in their lone appearance on ESPN's Big Monday.
- 01/25/15 at North Carolina State - Sure, there are sexier games on the schedule, but the Irish simply have to win games like this, including on the road, if they want to take part in March Madness this time around. They struggled mightily, especially in the first halves of games, against middle-of-the-road ACC teams last season, and that has to change. This matchup is one I have pegged as a sign of Notre Dame's fate come March.
- 01/28/15 vs. Duke - The Blue Devils return to the Purcell Pavilion, where they were upset by the Irish last season even after Jerian Grant's suspension from the team, in one of the very few quality Irish victories. Can the Irish do it again?
- 02/24/15 vs. Syracuse - Syracuse has not been back to South Bend since the Irish beat the #1 Orange back in January of 2012 in one of the biggest wins in program history. With a weak non-conference schedule, Notre Dame is going to need to win one of these tough home ACC games for their March resume.
- 03/04/15 at Louisville - The rivalry renews after a one-year hiatus as Louisville joins the ACC. Expect this one to go to overtime.