Name: University of Notre Dame du Lac
Du Lac? Really? I mean, if you want to trust Wikipedia. It’s not like it’s on any official letter head from Notre Dame at this point. In any case, it’s a French language thing. Notre Dame is French for Our Lady, so obviously, it has to be Our Lady of something. Let’s move along to a new section before we get out of control here and start overlapping....
Founded: The Bishop of Vincennes handed over some land to Rev. Edward Sorin in 1842 to build a college. Technically, he didn’t do that, starting off with a primary and secondary school, but the state of Indiana gave the school a college charter in 1844. The control of the land dates back to the 1830s when Rev. Stephen Badin started missionary work to the Potowatomi tribe in the area, and he named the mission after the local lake, Lake Saint Mary. While the lake is now split in two, Saint Josephs Lake and Saint Marys Lake, the whole thing ties together with the school being named after the original mission: Our Lady of the Lake. I presume the Mary in question is the Blessed Mother, particularly with the other lake bearing the name of Jesus’ other parent.
Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
I thought it was in South Bend? This is one of those “we gave them their own zip code, so we gave them their own unincorporated area” situations. Yes, it’s in South Bend, but officially, the mail goes to Notre Dame, zip code 46556
Enrollment: According to their official filings for the 2022-23 school year, 13,105 students, with 8,971 undergraduates.
Nickname: Fighting Irish
Why “Fighting Irish”? A fantastic question since Fr. Sorin was French. Even Notre Dame isn’t 100% clear on how it happened, attributing a little bit to Civil War history, and a little bit to apocryphal locker room stories, and a little bit to choosing to steer away from particularly anti-Catholic sentiment into merely cartoonish stereotypes about the Irish. It became official in 1927 when university president Rev. Matthew Walsh signed off on it.
I don’t know about Irish, but Fighting is fine by me after this: In 1924, Notre Dame students — including future Four Horsemen member Harry Stuhldreher — banded together to literally physically fight the Ku Klux Klan out of South Bend and off UND’s campus.
This is Brian Kelly’s fault: I am going to tell you that Notre Dame’s official athletics website has, under their About heading, a section titled Aerial Lift Safety, and I am going to let you click on that and read it and then do follow up reading on it if you do not know what this is about.
The Worst Greek Rush Week In The Country: Notre Dame has zero fraternities or sororities. None. Zip. Zilch. Why? They choose to accentuate their random freshman year housing assignments and refuse to approve any charters for Greek social organizations on campus.
Golden Domers: I think anyone who’s been following college athletics long enough has heard Notre Dame fans and alumni referred to as Domers one way or another, but it does have a little bit of truth and honesty to it. The dome in question is the Main Building on campus (that’s really the name), and the top of the building is an actual golden dome. The dome is gilded with actual gold leaf, and the dome must be regilded from time to time to maintain its appearance. The leftover leaf from the regilding process is used not only in the gold paint on the football team’s helmets, but on UND’s diplomas as well. That’s actually really cool.
Interestingly, it is a campus superstition that enrolled undergraduate students are not allowed to use the front steps to the Main Building. I saw one story that alleges that this dates back to a student cutting class and relaxing on the steps and being threatened with expulsion if they did not get to where they belonged. Notre Dame claims it has to do with 19th century porch etiquette, so I know which story I prefer.
Notable Alumni: No one.
Oh, come on now, do the bit. Okay, fine.
Regis Flipping Philbin; Ted Adams, co-founder, publisher, and CEO of IDW Publishing; G. Simon Harak, S.J., former Director of Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking; author Nicholas Sparks, best known for A Walk To Remember & The Notebook; Meredith Black, Marquette head women’s lacrosse coach; actor Mark Consuelos, most recently known for his role as Hiram Lodge on Riverdale; James E. Muller, 1985 Nobel Peace Prize recipient as the co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; screenwriter Stephen McFeely, best known for his work with writing partner Christopher Markus on the Narnia movies as well as the Captain America/Avengers movies; John Murphy, the inventor of the first LAN; television producer Don Ohlmeyer, the first producer of Monday Night Football; Josiah Bartlett, former President of the United States; Eric F. Wieschaus, 1995 Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine recipient for his work involving the genetic control of embryonic development; the founding members of the band Umphrey’s McGee; Megan Duffy, Marquette head women’s basketball coach; Julius Nieuwland, the inventor of neoprene; Adolfo Calero, Nicaraguan rebel leader; Larry Williams, former Marquette athletic director; talk show host Phil Donahue; Jim Andrews and John McMeel, co-founders of Universal Press Syndicate; noted acting That Guy William Mapother; and finally, United States Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Honorary Degrees Conferred: Probably a lot of them because it’s a very old school, but I want to focus on one in particular: Li’l Sebastian, the miniature horse on Parks & Recreation has an honorary (albeit fictional) degree from Notre Dame. This entertains me for multiple reasons, one of which is this is clearly show creator Michael Schur giving a shoutout to his father-in-law, Regis Philbin. This also gives me an excuse to drop in this tribute to Li’l Sebastian.
Shouts to Mouse Rat.
Last Season: 11-21, with a 3-17 record in ACC play. That was the third losing season in five years, and that got head coach Mike Brey sent on his way after over two decades on the sidelines.
Final 2022-23 KenPom.com Ranking: #166, their lowest finish in KenPom history (going back to 1997) and first sub-100 finish since 1999.
This Year So Far: 4-4 overall and 0-1 in ACC action already with a neutral site overtime victory over Oklahoma State at Barclays Center as their only Major Six win of the year. They’re 0-3 against the rest of the M6 teams that they’ve played, and they have a 71-61 home loss to Western Carolina.
Current KenPom Ranking & Projection: #170, and projected to go 11-20 overall with a 5-15 mark in the ACC. That would tie Notre Dame for last place with Noted Historical Disaster Louisville.
Current T-Rank Ranking & Projection: #199, and projected to go 10-21 with a 4-16 mark in the ACC. That would leave them in dead last in the league, one game behind Noted Historical Disaster Louisville.
Returning Stats Leaders
Points: Matt Zona, 1.7 ppg
Rebounds: Matt Zona, 1.4 rpg
Assists: Matt Zona, 0.3 apg
Remember when I said they had a coaching change? Yeah.
Actual Stats Leaders
Points: Markus Burton, 15.1 ppg
Rebounds: Tae Davis, 6.3 rpg
Assists: Markus Burton, 3.9 apg
Shooters? Okay, look, I’m not going to say no, because Northwestern transfer Julian Roper is hitting 33% of his 3.4 attempts per game. He shot 37% in 44 games with the Wildcats, including 42% last season, so he can clearly fill it up.
But other than Roper? Whoooooooooboy. Sophomore J.R. Konieczny is shooting 32% this year after essentially not playing at all last season for the Irish. Freshman Carey Booth is hitting on just 31% of his 3.6 attempts per game, and classmate Braeden Shrewsberry is really on the struggle bus at 30% on 6.3 attempts per game. Freshman Markus Burton is Notre Dame’s leading scorer, but he’s shooting just 19% on 3.3 attempts per game.
As a team, the Irish are shooting just 28.1% from behind the three-point line, and that currently ranks #316 in the country. It’s real bad.
Bigs? This situation isn’t as bad as Notre Dame’s shooting situation, but it’s not great, either. Kebba Njie wins the trophy as Biggest Dude at 6’10” and 254 pounds. The Penn State transfer has stepped into the starting lineup over the past three games after missing the first four contests of the season and he’s averaging 5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 24 minutes a game. I wouldn’t say he’s doing a particularly great job of being Biggest Dude, because he’s got rebounding rates (according to KenPom) that aren’t that far off from what Stevie Mitchell is doing for Marquette.
Matt Zona, the returning all-everything leader, is 6’9” and 252 pounds, but he lost his spot in the starting five and the rotation when Njie got on the floor. Now he’s back to his minuscule role from last season.
Carey Booth was a top 60 prospect in the Class of 2023, and he stands 6’9” tall. He is, however, Tall Man, not Big Man, at a listed weight of 203 pounds. Booth has come off the bench for the Irish in every game this season, and to his credit in his somewhat limited minutes, he’s one of the best rebounders in the country. He’s only averaging 4.1 per game, but KenPom ranks him at #36 in the country in defensive rebounding rate. Booth is also #219 in the country in block rate, although Njie would have him beat in the rankings if he had played enough minutes to qualify.
We have to include Tae Davis in this section if for no other reason that he’s leading the team in rebounding. Davis is listed at 6’9” tall and just 208 pounds. He is a top 300 offensive rebounder though, and given Marquette’s relative problems on the glass on both ends, he will have to earn MU’s attention. If you’re thinking that name is familiar, you’re right. Davis was at Seton Hall last season, averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13 minutes a game for the Pirates.
Head Coach: Micah Shrewsberry, in his first season at Notre Dame and his third as a Division 1 head coach. The former Purdue and Butler assistant coach has a D1 record of 41-35 and took Penn State to the NCAA tournament in his second season in State College, the first for the Nittany Lions since 2011.
What To Watch For: We can’t take anything away from last year’s game against Notre Dame in terms of trying to figure out how this contest will go. In addition to making the change from Mike Brey to Micah Shrewsberry, the Irish shed all of their top seven scorers, who also doubled as the top seven in rebounding and assists.... and were pretty much the only seven men to play all year long. So: Completely different system, completely different players.
We can say that Micah Shrewsberry’s teams are relatively defensively oriented, or at the very least, that’s the only real consistency in his three squads, including this year in South Bend. They do a good job ending possesions after one shot, they do a good job keeping you off the free throw line, and they do a pretty good job making your life hard when you’re shooting inside the three-point line. One thing that his teams do not do? Force turnovers. The current Irish team is the best of his three D1 squads, creating a turnover on just 15.9% of possessions, and that currently ranks #273 in the country.
I wanted to make sure I focused on telling you that the defense was reasonably competent..... because Notre Dame’s offense is very poor. You probably guessed that from the shooting discussion earlier. ND ranks no better than #227 in the country in any of the Four Factors, although they are a middle of the country team at two-point shooting, credit where credit is due. They get shots blocked a lot, they turn it over a lot, they don’t hit shots from long range, they don’t get to the free throw line, they don’t create second chances. MU did an incredible job stringing together stops against Texas, recording three different skunks — six stops in a row — on Wednesday night. That was against a Longhorns team that is still top 30 in offensive efficiency according to KenPom after facing Marquette. If the Golden Eagles come to Fiserv on Saturday with that same kind of defensive intensity? Against KP’s #246 offense? Things could get out of control in a hurry.
All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads, 81-38.
WAIT, WHAT? Couple of things, the series started in 1920, so it’s had over 100 years to stack up encounters. Given the timeframes we’re talking about for couple of relatively nearby Catholic schools, they played each other a lot because travel was weird and bad relative to today’s modern standards. Next, Marquette won the first two meetings and then Notre Dame won the next 12 and 14 of the next 15. So that’s 14-3 out of the gate right there. Then, between 1983 and 1992, Notre Dame won 17 of 18, including 12 in a row between 1983 and 1989. Look at that, 31-4.