Men’s Basketball (0-0) 11/8 vs. Miami (OH)
Rich: The Irish open up their season against the Redhawks inside Purcell Pavilion, where they have gone 33-3 over the past two seasons. After a disappointing finish in the NCAA Tournament with a second round loss to Iowa State last year (76-58), the Irish will have a fresh start in the ACC against the likes of Duke (with freshman phenom Jabari Parker), as well as 2013 Final Four participant Syracuse. Notre Dame returns four starters and is picked fifth in the ACC preseason poll. The Irish round out the bottom half of the top 25 at 22nd in the USA Today Coaches Poll. A bench combination of sharpshooter Steve Vasturia, hometown hero Demetrius Jackson and explosive combo forward VJ Beachem will ignite the Irish in their regular season opener.
Tim: The Redhawks should not give the Irish any issues in this one. Senior forward Will Felder is the only returning player to average double-digits in points last season. Notre Dame will rely heavily on a three guard lineup including Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins and freshmen Demetrius Jackson to pressure the Redhawks while moving swingman Pat Connaughton down low to fight for rebounds. This one will not be close.
Women’s Basketball (0-0) 11/9 vs. UNC Wilmington
Rich: The Irish lost a heartbreaker in the Final Four last season. To make matters worse, there was no hardware for campus legend Skylar Diggins at the end of her senior year before Tulsa selected the point guard third in the last WNBA draft. However, a 35-2 overall record last season, including an undefeated record in conference play, will propel a team that returns a dynamic trio of Kayla McBride, Natalie Achonwa and Jewell Lloyd. Achonwa led the Irish in rebounds last season with 350, McBride was second in assists and scoring and Lloyd averaged 12.5 points per contest as a freshman. Three freshmen (Kristina Nelson, Taya Reimer and Diamond Thompson) are over 6’3, which will allow the Irish to dominate on the low block. Look for a 20-30 point Notre Dame victory on Saturday.
Tim: Nothing to see here, folks. UNC Wilmington is coming off a 5-26 season and things do not look to be very different for Seahawks this campaign. For the Irish, sophomore Jewell Lloyd will look to continue where she left off last year and pick up the scoring slack left by the departed Skylar Diggins. Coach Muffet McGraw ranks 7th among active NCAA Division I coaches with 714 career wins. Number 715 looks to be just around the corner.
Hockey (6-2) 11/8 and 11/9 vs. #1 Minnesota
Rich: A matchup of heavyweights takes place at Compton Family Ice Arena in a two-game series between two of the top five teams in the nation. The fourth-ranked Irish have received a huge lift in the early going from freshman center Vince Hinostroza, who leads the team in points. Goalie Steven Summerhays has picked up where he left off last season (with 35 starts and four shutouts) by already recording two shutouts and a .936 save percentage in the first 8 games of the year. Two evenly matched teams facing off could lead to a split of the series, which would be a testament to the prowess of the elite teams in college hockey.
Tim: Notre Dame has fielded a very strong team in the last few years, and judging from its hot start this season, that trend is going to continue. Junior Sam Warning leads the Gophers, who got off to an unbeaten start and hold the number one spot in the national polls. However, rankings are not meaningful this early in the year, and the Irish will take advantage of playing on their home ice to sweep the series.
Women’s Soccer (11-7-1) in NCAA First Round (11/15)
Rich: If the Irish didn’t end up with the downturn of a four game losing streak with three of those losses on the road, they would probably be fighting for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Losses to two top-10 teams, Virginia and Virginia Tech, give the Irish valuable experience in high stakes conference play. The Irish have gone 7-5-1 in the ACC this season. It’s a lot to ask of freshmen to carry a team, but second leading scorer Morgan Andrews and keeper Kaela Little (5.2 shutouts) have featured heavily throughout the season. The Irish were knocked out in the NCAA Quarterfinals last season, so another run could be in the works.
Tim: After the experience of the regular season, tournament play is a horse of a different color. Every moment is meaningful, and every game is the most important of the season. Unfortunately for the Irish, their reliance on young players such as Little and Andrews may come back to bite them when the pressure gets ramped up. The Irish will fall after taking many blows, but they will not go down without a fight.
Football (7-2) at Pittsburgh
Rich: Here come the Irish. Notre Dame is back in the BCS standings and has silenced the doubters with four straight victories. Tommy Rees has looked like a legitimate NFL prospect in the last few games with precise passes and five touchdowns against Air Force. The Irish are now finished with the military academies, and face a familiar foe in Pitt. Pitt has been up and down in 2013, but the team has defeated Virginia and Duke this season. The Panthers also lost to then 24th-ranked Virginia Tech by only 10. Rees and favorite target TJ Jones are having career years, and defensive end Stephon Tuitt has been an unblockable force as of late with five sacks on the year. The Irish should hang on against a mediocre opponent.
Tim: In all honesty, there is no way that Pittsburgh should put up a fight against the Irish this year. That being said, over the last 10 years Notre Dame has developed an insidious and alarming ability to make games closer than they ought to be. Putting aside this concern, the Irish should be able to dispatch Pitt with relative ease, as the defense is rounding into form with each passing week and Tommy Rees is turning into an adequate quarterback for a team with BCS bowl game aspirations.
Rich Hidy enjoys tomatoes and canteloupes. So does Tim. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.