The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team is ranked 21st this week, with an NCAA Tournament bid all but secured as the season enters the home stretch.
While the squad performed very well over the weekend in a dominant 95-64 win against North Carolina, the next opponent won’t be vanquished so easily.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to the Carrier Dome on Sunday ranked seventh, with a 23-3 overall record (11-1 in the ACC). As they have been for nearly a decade, they’re a top-10 team with Final Four aspirations.
Syracuse knows all too well how difficult it’s been to face the Irish — and particularly, how difficult it is to beat them. The Orange women haven’t done so since the 2002 Big East Tournament, an 84-79 win over a Notre Dame squad ranked 21st.
Since that win, it’s been 17 straight losses, many of them lopsided, for the Orange against their conference rivals. ND’s been ranked in 12 of those matchups, and was a top-10 team in 10 of those. They were among the top five for the last seven in a row.
Still, each year and each team is different, and SU is far more battle-tested than normal this season.
Syracuse carried over plenty of talent from last year’s Final Four run, which featured a major upset over South Carolina. They’ve also faced nine ranked teams in 2016-17, going 4-5 in those contests. SU had won two in a row against top 25 foes before last Friday’s 17-point loss to Duke.
When the teams tip off at 5 p.m. on Sunday, it will be a matchup of two quality ACC squads, but the Orange will still be battling their own history too. The losing streak against Notre Dame is one factor. The struggles against top-10 foes another (0-3 this year, and 2-13 in their last 15 regular season games dating back to 2013-14).
If SU has a shot to get back to the Final Four, a strong showing (even in a loss) against the Irish could go a very long way.