The No.23 and undefeated Notre Dame men’s basketball will take on the No.1 Villanova Wildcats on Saturday in Newark, NJ. It will mark the 11th time in the Mike Brey era that the Irish will take on the defending national champ. In those 11 games the Irish are 7-4, including winners of four straight. The Irish took down Duke twice last season, Kentucky in November 2012, and Connecticut in February of 2012. Notre Dame will look to extend that streak to five on Saturday against the Wildcats.
The Irish’s run of success against the best in college basketball isn’t something that is recent; it has been a theme of the program for years. Notre Dame has been a giant killer on the hardwood. Going back into history, Notre Dame has taken down 14 unbeatens and 11 No.1s. Eight of those 11 wins came against the AP No.1, which is what the official NCAA record book recognizes. According to und.com, Notre Dame’s eight wins over the AP No.1 is tied for fifth most all-time.
Everyone knows about the win in 1974 that snapped UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, but the Irish basketball program has many more historic wins over No.1 that don’t get as much attention. For example the Irish took down Ralph Sampson and No.1 Virginia is 1981. The Irish also beat No.1 North Carolina in 1987, a team that featured Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Here are a few more of Notre Dame’s historic upsets of No.1.
1948 - W - No.1 Kentucky
1954 - W - No.1 Indiana
1971 - W - No.1 UCLA
1977 - W - No.1 San Francisco
1978 - W - No.1 Marquette
1980 - W - No.1 DePaul
In the Mike Brey era alone, the Irish have taken down the No.1 team twice (North Carolina 2016, Syracuse 2012), and two unbeatens (Boston College 2005, Syracuse 2012). Furthermore, the Irish have 20 wins over top 10 opponents in that span, which is more than you can say for the football program - but thats a conversation for another time.
The Irish have become accustomed to taking down the Goliaths of college basketball, even when they are given no chance to. Over the last three seasons Brey has turned Notre Dame into one of the nation’s best programs, and are capable of beating anyone. If the Irish take down No.1 Villanova on Saturday, it should come as a shock to anyone.