It’s rivalry week(s) here at SB Nation and One Foot Down, and we have other sports with other rivalries, too. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Women’s Basketball team has some rivalries, but maybe not as many as some of the other sports. However, that does not mean that there are not intense, fierce, and competitive rivalries that the women’s team has. On the contrary, there are a couple of pretty good rivalries that we can think of when it comes to this Irish team.
Notre Dame VS Louisville Cardinals
In my post last week, I mentioned that Louisville would be my pick for a main MBB rival, even though picking the biggest rival is tough. However, Louisville seems to be a pretty strong rival for the WBB. Incredibly, though, the teams have only played 32 times ever, beginning in 1991. And, only since 2018 the Cardinals have 4 of their 8 total wins against the Irish all-time. Partly, the success for the Cardinals has come with the resurgance as a conference and national powerhouse. Jeff Walz and his team have made a ton of waves in the women’s basketball world over the last few years. They don’t have any national titles, but they do have 2 ACC titles, in 2018 and in 2020.
The Irish dominated overall when they were both in the Big East, as the 90s and 2000s were a great and dominant time for the Fighting Irish. Additionally, the Irish won the first 4 ACC Titles when both teams were in the conference. But, through some struggles of the Irish and a solid breakthrough from the Cardinals, it has been a bit more even recently.
This was definitely a conference/proximity rivalry, with conference/national title implications with almost every meetings. However, the rivalry really ratchted up when Jeff Walz, Louisville’s head coach, and Muffet McGraw were seen exchanging a tense moment in 2018. Now mind you, the Irish had just lost the ACC Title to the Cardinals, but this moment wasn’t really about the game. Before the ACC Tournament that season, Muffet was upset (and as we all saw with the heroics in the Final Four, rightfully so) that Arike Ogunbowale was not named the ACC Player of the Year. Instead, Louisville’s Asia Durr won the award. Jeff Walz was petty and very upset at Muffet, so he decided to look like an out-of-place, stern man. Muffet didn’t say Asia Durr’s name, calling her “that other player,” and Walz took exception to that.
So, the rivalry has intensified a bit. And, if you thought the name thing would be forgotten, the next time the Cardinals came to Purcell Pavilion after that exchange, the DJ would not relent. They played songs all about knowing names, and it was glorious. This rivalry is still alive and well.
Yes Purcell Pavilion playing all “know my name” songs— One Mask On My Face (@OneFootDown) January 11, 2019
Notre Dame VS UConn Huskies
However, when talking about rivalries in women’s basketball, the one that always comes to mind is Notre Dame-UConn. This isn’t just a rivalry known to Irish and Huskies fans, this is nationally known across all of sports. UConn will always be the main rival for the Irish - the hatred, intensity, passion, and skill within both teams has always been present. Even after the Irish and the Huskies left the Big East to join the ACC and the American Conferences, respectively, the teams have kept scheduling each other for one game a season in the regular season. That leaves room for there to be an inevitable matchup in the NCAA Tournament. But, every season they play, rotating between who hosts each year.
Since 1996, the Irish and the Huskies have met 51 times. In the history of the rivalry, UConn has actually and totally dominated. The Huskies are 38-13 in the series. But, after winning 12 in a row in the 2000s, the Irish stormed back to win 7 of the next 8 matchups from 2011-2013. They met in the regular season, in conference championships, and in Final Fours. UConn went on a streak again of winning 7 in a row before losing 2 of the next three to the Irish. Both of those Irish wins were in the Final Four, the national semis in 2018 (the first of two Arike ice shots) and then again in 2019 to set up back-to-back national title trips for the Irish.
Now, UConn isn’t just an achilles heel for the Irish, they are a monster to all of women’s college basketball. They have been so dominant and so good over the years. That is due in part to Geno Auriemma, the Huskies’ long-time head coach. You have to give it to him, he has been very successful. But, he is a villian in women’s basketball that is actually necessary. He is definitely a villian to Notre Dame fans. He is intense, to say the least. However, his intensity comes off as whining and careless even though that really isn’t the case.
Just like with Louisville, part of the reason why the rivalry is so heated is because of the coaches. Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw are legends in the game. They have so many accolades, championships, and successes to their names. Both are true juggernauts in the sport. However, they have been pretty open in the past about there being respect but not necessarily a friendship between the two. As the two mentioned, there isn’t really a civility to their relationship, and that is just fine. It adds fire to the rivalry, and they don’t need to be friends. The hate is there, and that is what the rivalry is about. UConn has been dominant for so long, and Muffet was trying to take down Goliath. Now, Niele Ivey will take those reins, but it is up to the team to keep that intensity.
The Irish and the Huskies will continue to play each other each season at least for the foreseeable future, which is good. That hate fuels everything so that the competition is the best we will see in women’s college basketball. The Huskies are 100% the Irish’s main rival.