Irish To Receive Road Test

Notre Dame's inaugural appearance in the annual Big Ten ACC Challenge takes them to Iowa City for a matchup with the No. 23-ranked Hawkeyes.

Already with an unexpected blemish on its 2013 non-conference slate, Notre Dame can ill-afford to begin the Big Ten portion of it's schedule with a loss to 7-1 Iowa tonight.

The Irish face in-state rival Indiana on December 14 in Indianapolis then one-week later take on Ohio State in Madison Square Garden. A challenging stretch, but of the three Big 10 foes on tap for Mike Brey's crew, tonight's contest with Iowa is the only one played as a true road contest.

A win would put an early notch on the team's NCAA Tournament ledger. but it won't be easy.

"I'm not sure about that," said Brey when asked what he's seen to indicate his team is ready for battle in raucous Carver-Hawkeye arena. "That's why I'm really interested to see how we respond.

"I think our veteran guys are excited for a big challenge on the road. They've played in a lot of big games. Some of our newer faces, some of our less experienced guys, I'm interested to see how they respond."

The Hawkeyes have been tested with two overtime battles during a three-day, three-game "Battle 4 Atlantis" Tournament over Thanksgiving Weekend. Iowa opened with an extra session victory over Xavier, 77-74, then ripped UTEP 89-53, assisting on 22 of their 31 field goals. The championship game saw head coach Fran McCaffery's veteran squad drop an 88-83 decision to Villanova in another overtime contest.

In basketball parlance, Iowa's defeat is viewed as a much "better loss" than Notre Dame's slip against 12-point underdog Iowa State on November 16.

A former 11-season assistant for both Digger Phelps and John MacLoed at Notre Dame, McCaffery is 60-50 in his fourth season at the school. He guided the Hawkeyes to a runner-up finish in last season's National Invitation Tournament.

"I don't know if anyone gives us much of a shot over there given how they're playing while we're probably trying to still figure it out," said Brey. "Nothing's a better feeling than winning on the road. Can we be poised enough? Can we be mentally tough enough? Can we be physically tough enough? Waiting to see it for two hours tomorrow night."

Notre Dame won just four of nine league road games last season after previously taking 10 of 18, one of the better two year marks in the former Big East Conference. The game marks Notre Dame's first in the annual Big 10/ACC Challenge.

"We're certainly aware that this is the first time that we will be representing the Conference in some capacity," said Brey. "It's heightened our awareness and urgency of being part of the league and we feel a responsibility. We're excited to be part of this as we are playing for Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast Conference."

Notre Dame will likely use it's newfound three-guad starting lineup Tuesday night. Freshman Demetrius Jackson joins senior Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant in the backcourt with junior swingman Pat Connaughton asked to play against bigger forwards defensively. 5th-year senior center Garrick Sherman will man the middle.

The game will be televised on ESPN2. Tip-off is at 9:15 (ET) Top Stories