SOUTH BEND — Christmas is coming up and while the University Park Mall may have been one place to be Sunday afternoon, the hottest place to be in South Bend was the University of Notre Dame campus.
The excitement began at noon with the announcement of the College Football Playoff and the Fighting Irish taking the No. 3 spot, setting up a matchup with the No. 2 Clemson Tigers, Sunday Dec. 29 at 4 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The announcement of the was followed by player availability at 1:30 p.m. and then a press conference by Irish head coach Brian Kelly at 2 p.m.
“We have an hour and a 45 minutes to take it right up to the women’s basketball game. Get you guys ready for UConn vs. Notre Dame. I just want to be there for the handshake (laughter). Football coaches like that, handshake before the game,” Kelly said in a press release from the press conference.
Kelly was referring to the fact that the No.1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish were hosting the No. 2 UConn Huskies Sunday at 4 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.
“This a pretty big day here. I think the basketball team has a better chance of winning. I watched Alabama play last night and I’m not sure the Irish can beat them,” Middlebury resident Roger Hellinga said. “Alabama showed they are a comeback team last night. Their No. 2 quarterback won the game for them and he looked to be just as good as the No. 1.
“The women’s game should be a good one. Marina Mabrey (Irish senior) is back and she showed her fight the other night by getting the opening tip and hitting a 3-pointer.
“All this is happening today, because this is where the power is.”
Bill Edwards of South Bend also enjoyed the excitement on the Notre Dame campus Sunday.
“There are a lot of things happening here today and I’m glad to see it,” he said. “I was glad to see we are still in the top four in football.
“I feel good about the women’s chances this afternoon. Notre Dame is not intimidated anymore.”
Millie Novotny of Elkhart is a season ticker holder for the ND women’s games.
“What is happening here today is amazing. This is what we live for, Notre Dame is a great school and one that keeps academics ahead of athletics,” she said. “Muffet McGraw is the greatest basketball coach ever. She was once asked if she would like to coach the football team and she just kind of laughed it of.”
Unfortunately for the Irish fans, things didn’t go as hoped for the women’s basketball team as they suffered their first loss of the season by an 89-71 score.
Greg Keim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN