A few days after Irish fans breathed a sigh of relief with the news that V.J. Beachem would be returning to school for his senior season, another announcement added to fans' anticipation of the new season. Notre Dame announced that on December 10th, the Irish will face former Big East rival and defending National Champions Villanova in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. This adds another marquee game on the east coast for ND as they are already slated to play in the Legend's Classic with Colorado, Texas, and Northwestern. The game against Villanova will be at noon ET on CBS leading into the network's coverage of the Army-Navy Game.
Despite the losses of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, the Wildcats will still be a strong team next season. They return Title Game hero Kris Jenkins who, like Beachem, initially declared for the NBA Draft before deciding to return to school. The junior averaged 13.6 ppg last season from the wing playing over 28 minutes per game. The Wildcats are waiting to hear whether Josh Hart will be back next season. Hart was Nova's leading scorer at 15.5 ppg last season. Unlike Beachem and Jenkins, Hart was invited to the NBA Scouting Combine. He has yet to hire an agent, and his decision will come sometime after the event which will be held next week in Chicago.
With the addition of Villanova, the meaty portion of the Irish non-conference schedule looks to be nearly complete. The Irish will face Purdue in the Crossroads Classic, as well as one other Big Ten opponent in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. With the Nova game and two more games in the Legend's Classic, the Irish will face five high-major opponents in the 2016 non-conference season. This is higher than usual for a Notre Dame team under Mike Brey (four last year, three in 2014/15 and 13/14) . With the always daunting ACC schedule to follow, the Irish will have plenty of chances to put together a nice NCAA Tournament resume.