During the 2014-15 academic year, Notre Dame became “Basketball U.” more than at any other time in its history.
Head coach Mike Brey’s men finished 32-6 and No. 5 in the USA Today poll after the NCAA Tournament, while recent Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame selection Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish were 36-3 and No. 2 after losing to UConn in the title game. Their combined 68-9 record (.883) was the nation’s best.
The next season (2015-16) the men finished No. 17 and became the lone program to reach the Elite Eight the last two seasons. The women finished 33-2 after getting upset in the Sweet 16, but the duo was still was one of the three or four most lethal men’s and women’s basketball tandems in the country.
Now that the 2016-17 has ended, for the third year in a row the two Notre Dame basketball programs combined for one of the top five seasons together on the hardwood. The men finished No. 20 in the final USA Today rankings — the first time it had three consecutive top-20 finishes since 1979-81. The women, although upset in the Elite Eight, finished No. 5.
Here is our 2016-17 top 10 based on NCAA Tournament success, regular season achievement of both equally measured, and quality victories against top opponents:
1. South Carolina
Men: 26-11, No. 6
Women: 33-4, No. 1
It’s an ultra-special year when both basketball teams advance to the Final Four like the Gamecocks did. The women winning the school’s first national title in basketball, men or women, was the icing.
Men: 33-6, No. 3
Women: 23-14, No. 16
The men advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 1939 (when they won it all) despite losing one of their top players to injury was a coup. The women, with nine freshmen and sophomores, came out of nowhere to upset No. 7 seed Temple, No. 2 seed Duke and No. 3 seed Maryland to advance to the Elite Eight.
Men: 27-8, No. 12
Women: 33-4, No. 6
Both were viable national title contenders throughout the season before the men lost in the Sweet 16, while the women for the fourth straight year were toppled in the Elite Eight.
Men: 31-5, No. 9
Women: 25-9, No. 13
With both teams finishing in the top 15, advancing to the Sweet 16 and having less than 10 losses, the Bruins edge Notre Dame in our “Final Four,” although the Irish did post more overall wins and the same amount of defeats. Flip a coin.
5. Notre Dame
Men: 26-10, No. 20
Women: 33-4, No. 5
The men finished runner-up in the ACC Tournament while the women won both the ACC regular-season and tournament crowns a fourth straight season. Bit of a letdown when the men didn’t make it to the second weekend this time and the women squandered a 16-point second-half lead in the Elite Eight.
Men: 37-2, No. 2
Women: 26-7, not ranked
The combined winning percentage (.875) was the best and almost matched Notre Dame’s two years ago, but for the Zags it wasn’t against a Power Five conference slate. Mark Few’s men advanced to the Final Four for a first in school history. The women lost in the first round, but did upset Stanford early in the year.
Men: 28-9, No. 13
Women: 28-6, No. 15
Second-round NCAA Tournament losses as the No. 2 seed for both put a damper on quality regular seasons, although the men had their ebbs and flows with a number of issues.
8. Florida State
Men: 26-9, No. 24
Women: 28-7, No. 7
One of four ACC teams in our top 10 (but the Seminoles were only 1-3 against Notre Dame). Both were top-10 regulars a good portion of the regular season before the men bowed out in the second round and the women advanced to the Elite Eight.
Men: 25-9, No. 14
Women: 29-8, No. 12
Just like Duke, the No. 2-seeded men were ousted in the second round, while the women were drubbed by 34 points by Baylor in the Sweet 16. They were a combined 1-2 against the Irish, and 0-2 versus FSU.
Men: 32-6, No. 5
Women: 22-11, No. 25
John Calipari’s Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to national champ North Carolina in the Elite Eight, while the women lost on their home court in the second round.
10t. West Virginia
Men: 28-9, No. 11
Women: 24-11, No. 20
The men were runner-up in the Big 12 Tournament and moved on to the Sweet 16 after defeating Notre Dame. The women won the Big 12 Tournament but lost in the second round of the Big Dance.
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