After the Notre Dame men’s basketball team finished 25-10, including an 11-7 mark in the Big East Conference, the scenery is about to change drastically. Head coach Mike Brey has warmed to the idea of officially joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in the coming months.
Mike Brey thinks fans will be as excited as he now is to be a part of the ACC.
“I grew up a Maryland fan and was an assistant in the league [at Duke], but I never thought I would be coaching in the ACC at the University of Notre Dame,” he told reporters earlier in May at the league’s spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla. “That’s how crazy expansion is.”
His program’s foray into the ACC includes home games against Duke and North Carolina — Tobacco Road powers and perennial contenders for the national championship.
Notre Dame will face each of the other 14 ACC member schools at least once during the 18-game conference schedule. The Fighting Irish have home-and-away dates with its “partner schools” Boston College and Georgia Tech, and face both North Carolina and Virginia twice during the season.
Purcell Pavilion in South Bend will also host Clemson, Duke, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. Other road opponents are Florida State, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse and Wake Forest.
The 2014 ACC Tournament is scheduled for March 12-16 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. Notre Dame’s entire 2013-14 schedule will be announced at a later date.
Brey has endured a wide array of emotions concerning the conference switch, at one point last year saying he had “buyer’s remorse.” At Amelia Island, nearly two months removed from a season that ended with a loss to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament, he sang a different tune.
“Our AD [Jack Swarbrick] should have his jersey retired to get this done,” Brey said. “Jack Swarbrick was on the front of this for three years now, and to land on our feet in the ACC with all the other stuff that may have happened to us … it’s a grand slam.”
The Irish never managed to win a regular-season crown or Big East Tournament title in their 18 years in a league where Brey said his program forged its identity. Now they hope to hit the ground running in the retooled ACC, which includes fellow former Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse this year and Louisville in 2014-15.
“What this league will become will be the best basketball conference every,” Brey said bluntly.
The ACC Tournament has been held in North Carolina (Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte); Atlanta; Landover, Md.; Washington, D.C.; and Tampa, Fla. With the league’s expansion, cities such as Chicago and New York might one day join that list. For now, the new Big East has a 12-year deal through 2026 to continue playing at Madison Square Garden in New York. That agreement, however, is based on the conference meeting certain benchmarks. The Barclays Center in nearby Brooklyn might be an option for the ACC, which is still interested in one day playing its championship at MSG.
“We’ll have to wait and see on that,” ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN in Amelia Island. “We really don’t have all the information yet as far as future opportunities. We don’t want to prematurely make a decision without having a full scope of information we want to have.”
At Notre Dame’s awards banquet in April, Brey was confident the ACC would end up at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“We’ve got to get the Garden,” he said. “The ACC Tournament has got to get the Garden, and I think within three years there’s a good chance we’ll be up there.”
This summer includes a heavier prep workload in terms of breaking down opponents’ film. Brey said he didn’t even look at film of Georgetown and Pittsburgh last year because “you know what’s coming at you.” His assistants have all been assigned a handful of ACC teams to compile a complete study package for Irish players during the offseason.
The move also affects recruiting as Brey works to bring in a 2014 class focused on big men.
“I’m intrigued about the footprint we’d like to get into,” he said. “The Carolinas and Georgia, since we’re down there, let’s look down there a little more. We’ve actively done that. The thing I’m interested about is, [after being] here 13 years, you’ve battled the Big Ten so much.
“Kids grow up with those Big Ten blinders. We couldn’t beat the Big Ten [in recruiting]. Now that we have the ACC to sell, I’m wondering if some kids that are just so Big Ten brainwashed will go, ‘Wait a minute, Notre Dame is an hour and a half from home, two hours from home, but they’re playing in the ACC? I’m thinking differently.’”