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Men’s Basketball

Adams: Speculating about Irish men’s basketball schedule

| Monday, September 7, 2020

As an initial disclaimer, I have no inside information on how Notre Dame’s non-conference basketball schedule (or even in-conference for that matter) will play out. Even so, this is, in my mind, a plausible scenario for how it could play out for the Irish.

This isn’t just speculation; it’s actually speculation based on speculation. As a follower of the University of Kentucky basketball program, I have heard a variety of scenarios that are purportedly valid options for their non-conference schedule, and they revolve around creating a bubble for the teams after the fall semester ends (the NCAA did just coin “Battle in the Bubble”™ after all).

One scenario is that they, along with several other blueblood and top-tier programs, get together in a bubble (apparently in Texas) and compete in a round-robin style event before the conference slate starts up. Another is that they do a series of three bubbles: one against teams that compete in the annual Champions Classic (Duke, Kansas and Michigan State), another against teams in the annual CBS Sports Classic (Ohio State, UCLA and North Carolina) and finally a regional bubble against other Kentucky teams (Louisville and the like). The regional bubble could alternatively consist of teams in the Kentucky-Ohio-West Virginia area such as Louisville, Cincinnati, Xavier, West Virginia, etc.

With that concept in mind, I think it would be plausible and worthwhile for Notre Dame to employ a similar methodology in their non-conference scheduling. Let’s brainstorm.

Observer File Photo
Irish junior guard Prentiss Hubb makes a move during Notre Dame’s 80-72 victory over Georgia Tech on Feb. 1 at Purcell Pavilion.

Much like Kentucky has their two Classics, Notre Dame typically partakes in a preseason tournament or early-season classic of their own, this year opting for the Legends Classic. The event includes the Irish along with Eastern Washington, High Point, Liberty, Monmouth, UConn, Southern Cal and Vanderbilt.

I propose simply eliminating the original on-site plan and moving all the teams to Brooklyn to play at the Barclays Center as planned. From there, every team can play seven games — one against every other school. Monmouth will provide some fun if their bench celebrations are half of what they were when they went viral a couple of years ago.

It’s a shame that former Irish 3-point specialist Matt Ryan, who transferred to Vanderbilt after the 2016-17 season, won’t be suiting up with the Commodores for that matchup, but more recent Irish transfer guard D.J. Harvey will be. UConn is similarly interesting given that current Irish graduate student forward Juwan Durham started his career there.

USC provides ND the opportunity to at least play the Trojans in one sport this season (cough, cough). The rest of the schools give the squad a chance to rack up some wins and build chemistry.

Notre Dame also has the advantage of competing in the Crossroads Classic every year. It would also serve as a regional bubble given it is Indianapolis and features four Indiana teams: Notre Dame, Indiana, Butler and Purdue. They could even throw in Ball State, Indiana State and Evansville in there for good measure.

Instead of playing just one other school, the teams could play every other one. Notre Dame owes the Cardinals for a home loss they took in 2017 and the Hoosiers for two bad Crossroads Classic losses in the last three seasons.

It’ll be interesting to see how Purdue looks without Carsen Edwards and Matt Haarms. Butler would probably put up the biggest fight, but I still like everything Notre Dame has to handle them. Plus, I’m still not happy about Evansville beating Kentucky at Rupp Arena last season, so I’d love nothing more than the Irish obliterating them.

So, all that would give Notre Dame no fewer than 10 non-conference games (plus three more possible against Evansville, Indiana State and Ball State) which is how many they played last year with the ACC moving to a 20-game conference schedule. If they play right after finals end starting the week of Nov. 22, then they’ve got about four and a half weeks to play their non-conference schedule before getting a break for Christmas.

The other option would simply be to play regional teams in bordering states like Kentucky would with Ohio and West Virginia schools. If Notre Dame wants to attain tri-state supremacy Dr. Doofenshmirtz-style, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to get the Indiana Crossroads Classic teams, a handful of Illinois squads and those wasteland schools in Ann Arbor and East Lansing.

I say Illinois and not Ohio since I’m assuming UK has already claimed those schools for their bubble. But it’d be cool to see the Irish give the Illini a rematch of 2018’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge as well as to see Notre Dame reignite its rivalry with DePaul.

Loyola University in Chicago is an interesting matchup considering their recent Final Four run and the fact we could see Sister Jean and Fr. Pete McCormick duke it out. Oh, and considering Northern Illinois reportedly precipitated the MAC canceling football, which could have precipitated the Big Ten canceling, I’d also love to see the Irish pulverize the Huskies.

Speaking of the Big Ten, this all hinges on them letting their schools play any sports within the next two years, something I’m not sure they are keen on doing. But that’s why it’s speculation and wishful thinking.

Again, this is all just a series of ideas and suggestions. I have no idea how the college basketball season will turn out for Notre Dame or anyone else. I’m just praying each and every day that I have it to cover and I can watch the Irish taking the court of Purcell Pavilion this spring. Then all will be right with the world or at least for 40 minutes.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden