Yesterday, I took a look at Notre Dame's Lacrosse, Soccer, Baseball, Rowing and Volleyball squads and how they'll fit in with the ACC. Now I'm going to take a look at the rest of the sports that will be joining us for conference play.
In case you're reading this article without reading the other one first, I'm focusing on two things. The first is how well does Notre Dame's squad fit in with the other ACC squads in that particular sport. The second is how does their addition affect the numbers game as far as possibilities for conference tournament, championships and divisions.
Before we get to the first sport, I wanted to throw out one stat just to take a little jab at the Big East while talking about what Notre Dame is bringing. Since joining the Big East in 1995, Notre Dame has won 116 conference titles, which is more than any other school in the league. By comparison, Virginia has only 105 conference titles and we've been a member of the ACC since 1953. So we're definitely taking the cream of the crop from the Big
With that out of the way, let's get to it. I'll start with one of the biggies - men's basketball.
Notre Dame is a good basketball school. They don't exactly have the history that the football squad has, but they've been quite solid lately. They've made it to the NCAA tournament eight times recently, beginning with 2001. They haven't made it to the Final Four or anything. But they've been a lot more consistent than some schools in the ACC that will remain nameless. Regardless, they're a good addition talent-wise.
Numbers-wise... it's awkward. ACC basketball is already in a bad scheduling place after losing the round-robin. But as one of our local sports reporters said earlier today - that ship has sailed. With Syracuse and Pitt coming in next year and bringing the total to 14 teams, adding a 15th isn't really the end of the world. We're already so far out of whack from the round-robin that this doesn't change much.
For the ACC tournament it does make it a tad awkward that you would only have one team with a bye in the first round. I don't really like that. That'll be corrected when we get a 16th team (though that screws up all the other things that adding Notre Dame made better). Or I suppose they might do some sort of weird Big East style play-in rounds with multiple byes. But I like those even less. Ugh. Can we get rid of some basketball schools?
Verdict: A positive addition talent-wise that I don't like numbers-wise.
The Irish women are an elite program. They've made the NCAA tournament every year since 1996. They've been the national runner up the last two years. They won the whole thing back in 2001. Needless to say, this is a great addition to ACC women's basketball.
The scheduling issues are the same as they are for the men. Twelve to fourteen to fifteen. I assume their solution for the tournament will be the same. I assume my reaction will be the same.
Verdict: a huge addition talent-wise that I don't like numbers-wise.
Cross Country and Track and Field
This is another place where Notre Dame is quite solid. The men finished in the top 25 ten of the last twelve years in cross country, finishing as high as third in 2005. The women's cross country group finished in the top 25 eight of the last ten years, finishing as high as third in 2002.
The Irish aren't quite as good in track & field - eight combined top 25 finishes in the last thirteen years between the men and women in both indoor and outdoor. Though the men's indoor team finished twelfth this past year so hopefully that means they're on the upswing.
There's no scheduling issues with these sports.
As an aside, did you know that Virginia hosted the NCAA Championships for Cross Country back in 1987?
Verdict: A very positive addition.
The Notre Dame men's golf team has finished in the top 25 five times since 2004, including as high as sixth this past year. They'll fit right in with the top of the ACC.
Like Cross County and Track and Field, the number of teams in the conference makes no difference.
Verdict: A positive addition.
The women's golf team is a little bit behind the men's team. They've made the NCAA regionals many times, but have only made it to the NCAA championship once - in 2011. It appears that they're a competitive squad, so it's not a bad addition by any stretch. Just doesn't add too much.
As with the men, the number of teams in the conference makes no difference.
Verdict: A neutral addition.
The Irish softball team has been a very consistent team. They've made the NCAA tournament every year since 1999. They haven't managed to advance past the regional stage in any of those years, but that's some serious consistency at a high level of play. The ACC could certainly use more teams like that.
Notre Dame is combining with the Orange and Panthers to take the ACC from an eight team league to an eleven team league. That's an awkward number for a tournament. Eight is so much better. Eleven isn't good enough to split into divisions either. So we're going to have another weird tournament. Ugh.
Verdict: A positive addition even if the tournament is going to be awkward.
Swimming & Diving
These two programs have been kind of all over the place for the last ten years. They've been ranked in the top 25 several times, they've had several swimmers compete in the NCAAs. But they're not really pushing the limits. They're not likely to challenge Virginia for supremacy any time soon, but they might make things interesting a couple of times.
This is another sport where the number of teams really doesn't make much of a difference.
Verdict: A neutral addition.
This is kind of an interesting story. They've been to the NCAA tournament 21 of the last 22 years. One of those years (1991) they made it to the championship match. They also won the whole thing back in 1959. So yeah, they're definitely an above-average squad here.
Neither Pitt nor Syracuse has a men's tennis team (anyone else find that odd?!?), so Notre Dame will become the 13th ACC men's tennis team. Awkward. Again. I'm guessing that just means one team gets left out of the tournament. Probably not Notre Dame.
Verdict: Positive addition
Much like the men's team, they've been a consistent squad. The women's tennis team has made the NCAA tournament seventeen consecutive years. They've made it to the final four three times. That's a solid squad.
Pitt and Syracuse do have women's tennis teams (thanks Title IX). So we're moving from twelve teams to fifteen. At least that's not as awkward as thirteen. I guess someone will get a bye or three squads won't make the tournament. Who knows. Regardless, it's not an even number.
Verdict: Positive addition
This half of the look at Notre Dame's "other" sports was a lot more up and down than the first half. But overall, once again, the Irish are bringing many good squads to the ACC and overall I can say with certainty that this is a positive move for the ACC regardless of whatever people want to argue about with football.