Mike Brey said it would be more difficult to win on the road as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference than it was as a part of the Big East.
In the Big East, Notre Dame would play at places such as Madison Square Garden in New York, the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, and the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. – NBA arenas where the fans in attendance were almost as likely to be cheering for the Irish as they were the “home team.”
In the ACC, it’s places like Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke), the Dean E. Smith Center (North Carolina), John Paul Jones Arena (Virginia) and Sunday’s venue – the PNC Arena (North Carolina State) – where No. 8 Notre Dame (19-2, 7-1) pulled off the improbable again with an 81-78 overtime victory over the Wolfpack (13-8, 4-4).
Partisan road venues with no place to hide and nary a blue & gold pompon to be found.
But with Sunday’s thrilling win over the Wolfpack, in which the Irish overcame an 18-point deficit, that’s now four road games – North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State – without a smudge on the record. All the more astonishing when you consider that last year, Notre Dame’s only road victory in ACC play came at Boston College.
Since Mike Brey took over at Notre Dame prior to the 2000-01 season, the Irish have finished over .500 on the road in conference play just five out of 14 seasons, including a mere three over the previous 12 seasons.
With the 4-0 start on the road this year, it marks the first since Notre Dame joined the Big East in 1995-96 that the Irish have come out of the gate unbeaten through the first four road trips.
In 2001-02 – Brey’s second season with the Irish – Notre Dame won four of its first five road games, only to lose two of the last three to finish 5-3 for the second straight season. In 2012-13, Notre Dame won three of its first four games away from Purcell Pavilion, but stumbled on four of the last five road trips to finish 4-5.
In addition to Brey’s first two years with the Irish, Notre Dame finished above .500 in league play on the road in 2007-08 (5-4), 2010-11 (5-4) and 2011-12 (5-4).
Brey is now 55-68 on the road in conference play during his 15 seasons with the Irish. Nine of those victories came against ranked opponents. Excluding last year’s series of single-digit road losses in ACC play, the Irish are 18-13 on the road in league play in four of the last five seasons.
How long can the Irish keep the road magic going? First, there’s a little matter of taking on No. 5 Duke (17-2, 4-2) at Purcell Pavilion with the Blue Devils coming off a come-from-behind victory over St. John’s to give head coach Mike Krzyzewski his 1,000th victory.
After that, it’s a trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Jan. 31. The Petersen Events Center has swallowed up many an opponent the last decade. But in the last four seasons, the Panthers are downright vulnerable at home with a 16-15 record against conference opponents since the 2011-12 season, including 2-2 this season.
Notre Dame has been an integral part of the Panthers’ home woes as the Irish knocked off No. 2 Pittsburgh, 56-51, in 2011 and again in 2013 by a 51-42 count.
After Pittsburgh, Notre Dame’s final four ACC road games are at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, Boston College’s Conte Forum, and Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.
Notre Dame hasn’t played against the Blue Devils in Durham since 1994. The Irish are 0-6 all-time at Duke.
The trip to Clemson, S.C., will be Notre Dame’s first.
Notre Dame is 3-6 all-time against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, but the Irish snagged their only ACC road victory last season against the Eagles, 73-69.
The Irish are 2-10 against the Cardinals in Louisville, but one of those victories came in double overtime in 2012.