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Notre Dame

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Move excites Irish coaches

– As hard as it would have been to believe a few years ago, Notre Dame found a more challenging basketball conference to navigate when it announced it will leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

With the Big East losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC next year, the Irish will jump into a conference that is already filled with powerhouse programs Duke and North Carolina.

It’s a move, which could come as early as the 2013-14 season, that Brey said keeps Notre Dame in college’s best basketball league.

“We are very well aware of the challenge,” Brey, a three-time Big East coach of the year, said Wednesday. “I think what is neat is what the moniker the Big East had the last couple years – we’re getting eight bids, we’re getting nine bids, 10 bids, I think that’s going to flip to the ACC.”

Notre Dame women’s coach Muffet McGraw, whose team won the last two Big East regular-season titles and reached the NCAA women’s title game the past two seasons, sees bigger challenges awaiting her team in the ACC team as well.

The Irish raised their profile to one of the best in women’s basketball thanks to their rivalry with Connecticut.

But when Notre Dame moves to the ACC, McGraw said there will be challenges as great as UConn on a more consistent basis, and the Irish will look to keep the Huskies on the schedule every year.

“The Big East is a great conference at the top, but I think when you look at the ACC, top to bottom, a very, very strong league,” McGraw said.

Keeping UConn on the schedule will also keep Notre Dame’s slate one of the toughest in the country.

The Irish, who released their 2012-13 schedule Thursday, will open this season against Ohio State on the USS Yorktown in the Carrier Classic in Charleston, S.C.

The Irish will also play host to reigning women’s champion Baylor on Dec. 5, and they have two league games against UConn, traveling to Storrs, Conn., on Jan. 5 and playing host to the Huskies on March 4. Notre Dame could play 19 opponents who played in the postseason last year.

“There will be a lot of challenges for us, but it’s a schedule that should be both highly beneficial for us and entertaining for our fans,” McGraw said in a statement.