IOWA CITY -- Iowa's quest to upgrade its non-conference schedule just received a major boost from the Big Ten Conference.
The Hawkeyes, fresh from an NIT finals appearance, will play host to Notre Dame as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Dec. 3. The match-up will pit two teams that won 25 games last year. It also will pit Iowa coach Fran McCaffery against a program he assisted for 11 seasons under Digger Phelps and John MacLeod.
“It’s going to be exciting hosting Notre Dame, a successful program that is rich in tradition, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena,” McCaffery said in a statement. “Notre Dame is an extremely well-coached team that has advanced to the last four NCAA tournaments. This will be another good test for our basketball team early in the season.”
The Fighting Irish are making their first appearance in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge after moving from the Big East this year. Notre Dame finished 25-10 last year but was routed in its NCAA tournament appearance by Iowa State 76-58 at Dayton, Ohio. The Irish return 6-foot-5 guard Jerian Grant, a second-team all-Big East selection. Grant led the team in scoring (13.3 ppg), assists (194) and was second in steals (44). Grant scored in double digits 28 times and four times scored at least 20 points.
Combo guard Pat Connaughton, an incoming junior, was named to the Big East all-tournament team in March. He averaged 16.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in three games. He shot 61.5 percent (16-26) from the field and .625 (15-24) from 3-point range. Guard Eric Atkins also returns after averaging 11.2 points last year. The Irish graduated all-Big East first-teamer Jack Cooley, who scored 13.1 points and grabbed 10.1 rebounds a game.
"This is a great non-conference game for us in a very tough environment," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said in a statement. "Fran McCaffery has done a fabulous job with the program there and return all five starters from last season. It will be a very good test for our team and players. I like how our non-conference schedule is shaping up for next year with many tough early-season contests. It certainly will prepare us for the rigors of ACC play."
Iowa returns nearly 93 percent of its scoring from last year, including all-Big Ten third-team selections Devyn Marble and Aaron White. Marble, who will be a senior point guard, earned all-NIT honors after averaging 20.6 points during Iowa's five NIT games. White, an incoming junior forward, led Iowa in rebounding and was one of only four Big Ten players to average at least 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.
The Hawkeyes were one of the final six teams omitted from the NCAA tournament last year, and non-conference strength-of-schedule was a primary factor. Iowa lost its Big Ten-ACC Challenge game to Virginia Tech, which eventually finished last in the ACC. Iowa is only 2-10 all-time in the Challenge and has lost seven straight.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 8-5 and won the schools' last match-up 77-68 as part of the preseason NIT on Nov. 17, 1990 in South Bend. The teams also met in an consolation NCAA game after the 1970 season, in which Iowa won 121-106. The Hawkeyes scored 75 points in the first half against the Irish.
A few of Iowa's games next year are determined. The Hawkeyes will open on Nov. 10 against Nebraska-Omaha. They compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament from Nov. 28-30 at the Bahamas, which includes Kansas, Villanova, Tennessee, USC, Xavier, UTEP and Wake Forest. Iowa also faces Drake in the Big Four Classic on Dec. 7 at Wells Fargo Arena and plays at Iowa State on Dec. 13.
Big Ten-ACC Challenge games:
Tuesday, December 3
Florida State at Minnesota
Illinois at Georgia Tech
Indiana at Syracuse
Michigan at Duke
Notre Dame at Iowa
Penn State at Pittsburgh
Wednesday, December 4
Boston College at Purdue
Maryland at Ohio State
Miami at Nebraska
North Carolina at Michigan State
Northwestern at North Carolina State
Wisconsin at Virginia
Here are the team records in the 143-game series: